The oldest joke on the internet is to say, “I bet this is somebody’s fetish!” when doing something totally innocuous, like filming a woman smearing the makeup off a clown’s face with her bare feet. But the truth is, nobody making non-porn wants to know if the audience is secretly using their work to facilitate masturbation. You might be just absolutely going to town on your meat the entire time you’re reading my books but I don’t need to hear about it.
And yet, in an ongoing effort to worsen the lives of every creator on its platform, YouTube has implemented a “most replayed” feature to answer the question, “Are my viewers pleasuring themselves to this?” When you mouseover the play bar at the bottom of most videos, a waveform of hills and valleys now appears:
The hills are where previous viewers saw something that made them pause and/or go back. “But what does this have to do with viewers strumming the ol’ flesh banjo?” you ask. Well, YouTube didn’t come up with this idea on their own, they stole it from Pornhub. No, really — you can see the same waveform below on Pornhub’s erotic massage vignette, “Sensual Suite -Ella Hughes & Laz Fyre *FULL VERSION* Passionate oiled PAWG”:
That little gray hill that our orange playback bar is about to reach is where the lady and her masseuse will take their relationship to another level. That “frequently paused/replayed” feature is specifically for their users to skip right to the “good parts” of a porn video, if they’re not into all the backstory or are simply too pressed for time. You know, like maybe they’re a masked vigilante and, before racing to a hostage crisis, need to quickly finish cranking their hog.*
So on Pornhub, it’s essentially an “Audience Cranked Their Hogs Here” meter and on YouTube, an “Interest” meter. Or, you know, an “Audience Cranked Their Hogs Here” meter. Warning: we’re about to go down a rabbit hole that is not easily escaped.
If you search YouTube for, say, massage techniques to treat sciatica pain, you might get this video from a pair of chiropractors working on a patient in severe discomfort…
…but then you’ll see the replay spike where one of them kind of puts his hand near her crotch…
…as if viewers seeking sciatica relief thought that just maybe they were about to get the same plot turn they enjoyed in “SSEH&LFFVPOP” above. Spoiler: the patient instead recoils in pain, because what he’s doing hurts a lot (unrelated, but note that chiropractors are practicing a form of alternative medicine that many believe to be a scam).
Once I noticed this cursed feature, I became obsessed. On every video I watched, I observed where the interest spikes were, asking myself the same question over and over: “Are people cranking their hogs to this?”
Now, obviously not every single popular replay moment is prurient in nature. On that show where they interview celebrities while forcing them to eat increasingly spicy chicken wings, the replay spikes are right when the guest nearly vomits from eating the hottest wing. On the Hydraulic Press Channel, it’s when the object they’re pressing shatters and nearly kills everyone in the room. In those bizarre animations for toddlers, it’s typically some broad joke like this baby filling its outfit with five pounds of its own feces in “Baby Huggy Wuggy & Baby Player Are So Sad With Poppy Playtime Best Animation Compilation.”
Speaking of which, do you want to know why kid-favorite YouTubers like Logan and Jake Paul just randomly start screaming, for little or no reason? “I’m thinking it’s cocaine, Jason.” I mean, maybe, but it’s also because their little viewers love it. Almost all of the replay spikes you see below are somebody, or everyone, suddenly screaming their lungs out:
But as you probably suspected, what you mostly find is a population that, despite living in an ocean of infinite free pornography, is desperately horny in ways that surprised even me. In this popular YouTuber’s video about thrift store tips, this first spike I’ve captured below is simply other people pausing/replaying to read the on-screen text…
…but then you notice a bigger replay spike later in the video, and…
…it’s exactly ONE SECOND of cleavage, and viewers carefully scrubbing back and forth to catch and preserve that elusive, precious moment forever. In this video about a chainsaw demonstration, one of the hosts wore tight leggings and you can see spikes where viewers paused to look at her butt (in case you think I’m engaging in wild speculation here, just read the top comment):
But, hey, it’s 2022, where else are you going to get a chance to see a woman in leggings? “Jason, we need even sadder examples!” is what none of you are saying and to that I reply, you’re in luck. Accumulating and interpreting internet analytics data is my fetish.
One of my favorite film analysis channels is Pop Culture Detective, they do extremely smart, even-handed examinations of sexist film tropes like this excellent video about movies that treat non-consensual voyeurism as charming. So, of course, the big replay spike is viewers pausing and rewatching one of the clips they use as a negative example of sexist voyeurism, because it features exactly two seconds of a woman’s butt in a modest two-piece swimsuit:
Meanwhile, their most popular video is about the problematic, “hot girl is too naive to know what sex is” trope. The big replay spike on that one is viewers carefully going frame-by-frame to see if they can glimpse a nude Amy Adams in the 2007 PG-rated Disney film Enchanted, because there’s a gag where she’s briefly naked behind a towel…
…and who knows, maybe you’ll be the first guy in fifteen years to notice the editors accidentally left in two frames of vulva.
Okay, enough of that — let’s just accept that any glimpse of female skin, regardless of context, is going to trigger a hog-crank spike.
Instead, let’s move on to ASMR, which I’ve always assumed to be intended as relief for uncranked hogs, but I actually don’t see replay spikes where there’s the equivalent of a “money shot” (the spikes I find are always when the speaker whispers too quietly and the viewers go back to try to hear it). But then in this one, there’s a moment where the whispering young woman scratches a match for a while and then, finally, lights it. And there’s your replay spike:
Is… that a thing? Are there people who crank their hogs to… fire? Matches? Women lighting matches on fire? Here, let me google it:
Oh, so it’s a whole genre. Huh. You learn something new every day. So, if you’ve ever made a video where you lit a match, go look at your replay trends! Or don’t!
All right, let’s spin the wheel again. What’s the least-sexy activity you can imagine? Wood carving? Great, let’s try it. In this video about a guy making a bowl, the replay spikes are whenever he cuts out the inside of the bowl with a chisel:
Now let’s randomly grab another bowl-carving video and see if it’s a trend. Yep! There’s your spike!
People are just straight up scrubbing around to find the “Chiseling out the bowl” money shot. Let’s try this video about the carving of a big wooden spoon — do we find a big replay spike at the point he chisels out the part of the spoon that’s kind of a bowl? We sure do!
“But Jason, are you saying people are cranking their hogs to this, or just that they just enjoy that bit the most?” My brothers and sisters in Christ, I do not know. Once again the internet has granted me just enough insight into my fellow humans to be tormented, but not enough to be enlightened. Side note: In any kind of video dealing with clay/sculpting/etc, the replayed money shot is when they cut the clay by slicing it with a wire.
…which incidentally is also true for cheese-making videos. Again, only a very crass person would suggest that viewers are closing out of those videos the moment they put the wire away, sweaty and spent. That person just happens to be me.
And then you have Mukbang, the enormously popular genre in which hosts eat gigantic piles of food. This is a known fetish for some and, sure enough, you can always find replay spikes at the exact moment the host shoves a big sloppy wad of food into their mouth.
Nothing weird about that. But then I switch over to what is unironically my favorite YouTube channel, the one with the kid in vintage suits who reviews fast food. And then I see that the first big replay spikes are when he bites and chews. Not when he gives his review verdict, or even when he shows off the food — it’s specifically when he bites it.
Again: Are people cranking their hogs to this? I don’t know! In this outdoor cooking channel’s “Ultimate Steak” video, the only big replay spike is when the guy feeds a hunk of meat to his dog. Not the finished product of the recipe, not the prep — the money shot is a close-up of the dog chewing some meat. Is… is that a thing?
“Speaking of dogs, go look at the replay trends on dog grooming videos!” says a strange voice from the darkness outside my window. Sure, why not. I would predict the money shot there would be the part where they show off the freshly-cleaned dog, or some other satisfying moment of accomplishment. Or, you know, it could be the moment they lift up the dog’s leg to shave its crotch:
I don’t know, man. Maybe they just wanted to see the technique. I’m sure it’s not easy to shave a dog’s crotch, especially if you’re planning to do it as a prank on their owner or something. Either way, I’m done. Feel free to start tracking these trends yourself and report the results in the comments. This is your problem now.
Hey, for the very first time I am offering SIGNED COPIES of my upcoming novel (no extra cost), If This Book Exists, You’re in the Wrong Universe. Normal unsigned hardcover or ebook copies are at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop. Or anywhere else they sell books.