One of the simplest ways to ease your shame about something is, counterintuitively, to share it out loud. The Kinsey Institute is banking on this idea with its new app The Kinsey Reporter, which anonymously catalogs people's sex acts in an effort to reduce the stigma around sexual behaviors, which some folks may find embarrassing. Claiming things we feel ashamed about aloud can invite compassion, solidarity, and connection from others in ways that may not be expected, but which effectively help us feel less alone in our thoughts, feelings, and desires.
That's where The Kinsey Reporter comes in. After a flopped launch in 2013, the app's researchers — yes, the ones from that Kinsey Institute — want to get the ball rolling again on their data collection. Basically, users download the app, and — completely anonymously and with banking website-level encryptions — can then begin to submit sexual acts they engage in, along with their locations. Researchers behind the app want to collect data on the frequency of certain sex acts, from supposedly "fringe" fetishes to acts as mundane as cuddling, by geographical location to help destigmatize ideas about "deviant" sexual behavior. In addition to reporting their sex acts, users can also see the results of the data collection, with maps, timelines, and charts detailing the frequency and location of different acts.
Because users can report as many times as they want, and the app's anonymity mechanisms do not track reports linked to a single user, researchers can't use the data to figure out things like the average number of people who engage in a certain act. But, since users can catalog things like sexual violence using the "unwanted experience" report, researchers can pinpoint things like, for example, campuses with a high instance of sexual assault.
Users also have control over how precisely they wish to pinpoint their geographical location, either by city/town, state, or region. So, if a user with a marginalized sexual orientation lives in a sparsely populated area, they don't have to worry about outing themselves. The app also doesn't publish its reports in real time, so users in sparsely populated areas don't have to worry about being the sole, obvious report moments after they've plugged in their data.
As Fil Menczer, a research director at Indiana University, where the Kinsey Institute is based, told Daily Dot, "We hope that the complete anonymity might encourage more people to report these behaviors so we can understand them a bit better."
He added that The Kinsey Institute has long been dedicated to researching sexual behaviors that turn out to be completely normal and common, and hopes that this large-scale data collection helps further the cause of destigmatizing sex.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (2)