While conducting research for a forthcoming book, Dr. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google data scientist, happened upon some startling insights regarding women and their unexpected penchant for violent sex in porn.

According to Vice, who first reported on the data, Davidowitz was given full access to PornHub’s bounty of search statistics. Almost immediately, he found that a woman’s proclivity for hardcore porn was much stronger than a man’s.

“If there is a genre of porn in which violence is perpetrated against a woman, my analysis of the data shows that it almost always appeals disproportionately to women,” he wrote.

While male porn viewers outnumber women three to one, search rates for videos tagged with concerning tags like “painful anal crying”, “extreme brutal gangbang” and “rape” are at least twice as common among women than men.

Research from the University of North Texas and University of Notre Dame found that 52 percent of the women studied had fantasies about forced sex with a man, 32 percent had fantasized about being raped and 28 percent were drawn to forced oral sex. Overall, 62 percent of women reported having at least one fantasy around a forced sex act.

Curious about these unforeseen results, researchers investigated whether these women’s fantasies were influenced to negate feelings of sexual guilt as a response to society’s tendency to slut shame women. Researchers call this reaction “sexual blame avoidance”. Ultimately, they found the opposite was true. Women who reported being less repressed about sex were actually more likely to have rape fantasies and even had higher self-esteem. So scratch that theory.

Vice then spoke to Dr. Raj Persaud, a British psychiatrist and author. “I think it’s probably the case that women who’ve been abused have ended up with a disturbed view of sex,” he said. “People who’ve suffered former psychological trauma or abuse are often in abusive relationships – they repeat the cycle.” He adds that "there are a lot of unknowns, and without speaking to the women who are searching for this porn, [researchers] can’t know whether they have been abused. What the search data shows is there’s a secret side to people’s lives, which psychologists can have difficulty accessing.”

Dr Gail Dines, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College is skeptical as to whether women are searching for this kind of porn on their own volition or are being coerced to. She told Vice, “Until we know how long [the women are] staying on the porn sites, and have actual empirical evidence about what they are doing while on the sites, we don’t know if they’re looking out of interest, or doing it because that’s what their boyfriends or hook-ups want, or if they’re actually masturbating to it.”

So while nobody knows for sure why women are searching for violent or rape-adjacent pornography, what we do know is that the women who fantasize about violent and nonconsentual sex have the healthiest attitudes towards toward the act. Which in itself offers many more questions than answers.