It is a long-standing question whether human sexual and reproductive cycles are affected predominantly by biology or culture. The study is mixed with respect to whether biological or cultural factors best explain the reproduction cycle phenomenon, with biological explanations dominating the argument.
Biological Factors Vs Cultural Factors
The biological hypothesis proposes that human reproductive cycles are an adaptation to the seasonal cycles caused by hemisphere positioning, while the cultural hypothesis proposes that conception dates vary mostly due to cultural factors, such as vacation schedule or religious holidays.
Worldwide Variations in Sexual Interest
However, for many countries, common records used to investigate these hypotheses are incomplete or unavailable, biasing existing analysis towards primarily Christian countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Here we show that interest in sex peaks sharply online during major cultural and religious celebrations, regardless of hemisphere location. This online interest, when shifted by nine months, corresponds to documented human birth cycles, even after adjusting for numerous factors such as language, season, and amount of free time due to holidays.
“Sex” the most searched term on Google
To measure interest in sex, for each country, the researchers retrieved the frequency by which people searched for the word “sex” using Google Trends (GT) ; henceforth referred to as “sex-searches.” Interestingly, even in countries where English is not an official language, the English term “sex” is either more searched for than the corresponding word in the local languages or they are strongly correlated. Moreover, the terms most associated with searches for “sex” in GT refer to direct interest in sex and pornography. Therefore, GT searches for the term “sex” are a good proxy for interest in sexual behavior in the countries analyzed in this study.
Human sexual behavior is driven by culture
The study further shows that mood, measured independently on Twitter, contains distinct collective emotions associated with those cultural celebrations, and these collective moods correlate with sex search volume outside of these holidays as well. The results provide converging evidence that the cyclic sexual and reproductive behaviour of human populations is mostly driven by culture and that this interest in sex is associated with specific emotions, characteristic of, but not limited to, major cultural and religious celebrations.