This Quantum Physicist Used Machine Learning to Map Reddit’s Sexual Fetishes
More than one thousand subreddits, plotted in an interactive tree.
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I have found my new holy text for studying sexualities: A “tree of life” plotting the niche interests served by more than one thousand NSFW subreddits from r/GoneWild, to r/bizarresex, and everything in between.
Piotr Migdal, an independent data science consultant with a PhD in quantum physics, wrote in a description of the project that the tree is a visualization of an existing dataset of NSFW image URLs scraped from Reddit, which was meant to train machine learning models. The result is this tree-graph visualization of where those images are hosted.
Migdal told me in an email that there are 1,505 subreddits in the tree, total. But this tree doesn’t include every single kink and fetish subreddit on Reddit—notable omissions include r/blueberry or any type of fart porn. Perhaps because they weren’t included in the source dataset, or the visualizing process missed them, they’re not on the tree.
Seeing all these subreddits laid bare like this really brings home how varied, complex, and occasionally disturbing our sexual proclivities can be. But this tree isn’t a perfect example of every kinky corner of Reddit—just as it leaves out non-obvious kinks like blueberries, it includes satire porn subreddits like r/ScaryBilbo.
The tree’s broadest categories include terms like “body parts” and “age,” and from there each breaks down into more specific subreddits. “Body parts,” for example, branches into upper and lower body (ass, genitalia, asshole, hips, gap, feet, and legs), and from there breaks down into more specifics (under genitalia: penis, small or large; vulva, hair or labia), head (and hair colors), breasts (large, small and implants, but also from-and-angle like r/SideBoob and r/Underboob), and so on.
Eventually, they boil down to more specific subreddits, like r/girlsinpinkundies, r/hotamputees, and r/showerbeergonewild. There’s a subreddit out there for just about everyone.
“While human sexuality is a delicate subject, I deeply believe it should be discussed... rather than shunned as a taboo topic,” Migdal wrote in the blog post describing the project. Previously, he wrote a guide for straight male “nerds” struggling with romantic relationships, called Dating for Nerds.
“My philosophy is that data visualization is like poetry—and it has two authors, the creator and the viewer,” Migdal told me. A beautiful thought for a work of sublime data-driven perversion.