Last week, I asked a number of sex writers and bloggers to complete a Myers-Briggs Personality Test and provide me with the result. I wanted to see if there was any commonality in the personality of the people who were attracted to writing about sex or were comfortable with sharing their sex lives.
This train of thought was started when at the point my status as an amateur erotica writer was revealed, it was mentioned that I didn’t “look like” one. What does a writer of erotica look like? Indeed, I’m not even completely certain if the commenter was remarking on my personality or my looks, but immediately assumed it was the former and that’s what started these considerations. I wanted to prove that sex writers come from every personality.
I recently did a short Myers-Briggs assessment at work, and I argued a little bit against them then. After all, there are sixteen possible “personality types” (MBTI) whereas in a room of a hundred people there will be a hundred different personalities. Whatever the grouping system applied, it would be crude and full of generalisations, and this didn’t sit too comfortably with me. We are all individuals.
But we put people in loose groupings to arbitrarily box them all the time. Male or female? A binary choice that although many argue as too simplistic, is still prevalent. Or sexuality: still often a choice between straight, gay or bisexual. I identify as predominately straight, but write gay and bisexual erotic fiction. Am I the same heterosexual as the people of the obsessive Straight Pride? What does the term “sex workers” mean? Perhaps anything from phone sex operators to escorts: very different jobs, but termed under the same banner. And so on, we do it consciously and subconsciously all the time: we group, we box, we generalise in order to process the world at large.
Furthermore, these sorts of tests are used everywhere. Some dating agencies use them to match complementary personalities, while they have also popped up in recruitment processes, career advice and even psychological medical analysis: my personality type, INTP, for example has a far higher incidence rate of Schizoid Personality Disorders, while ISTJ has higher OCD rates. MBTI is everywhere: is it such a leap to consider that our personality type may influence our hobbies also?
So to answer the question, are there personality traits that are more prevalent in sex writers, I have cracked open the deep recesses of my A Level Mathematics to construct the data gathering and perform the statistical analysis.
(As an aside, if anyone thinks I have boobed on this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!)
In response to my request, I received 27 responses, although one was split on the initial value and so I have disregarded that particular troublesome dichotomy in the analysis. The Myers-Briggs has four dichotomies that will be analysed separately, due to the sample size. For the purposes of this analysis, I shall not deem anything with a p > 0.005 as being statistically significant.
It should be noted that the population does not split 50/50 on each value, and so I have provided graphs that show what the probability of obtaining the received responses from a random sample of the wider public.
Where do we get our energy? Introversion (I) vs Extraversion (E)
For this, I received 16 Introvert (“I”) personalities (and 10 Extraverts); the chances of this profile of response from the wider population is 7%.
While skewed slightly towards the Introverts, this is not statistically significant. That said, introverts tend to be focused on the “inside world” and can possess greater concentration. Introverts are able to work on the same project for a long length of time, and this could lean more towards the inherent skills required creative writing than Extraverts possess.
How do we learn? Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N)
For this, I received 17 “N” personalities and 10 “S” personalities, despite Sensors being twice as prevalent in the wider population. This was at variance to what would be expected and this profile has a probability value of 0.001.
Put, in another way, if I randomly picked 27,000 people and randomly divided them into 1,000 groups, I would expect just one group to have 17 “N” personalities within it; it’s quite an unusual find and well outside the value of 0.005 I stated I would consider as statistically significant.
How do we make decisions? Feeling (F) vs Thinking (T)
For this measure, there were 17 “F” responses (and 10 “T” values), giving a probability of 5.4% that a random sample of the wider population would produce this dataset.
It’s considered that Feelers are more likely to make decisions based on personal morals, and see the best in people; for writing fiction this could be an advantage, if an author is able to perceive the qualities in all their characters? There’s no statistical significance to the slight skew however.
How do we organise the world? Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P)
For this set there were 15 “P” (and 12 “J” responses), with a probability of 6.4% from a random sample of the wider population.
Again, there’s no significance to the values received. However at a first glance writing would be favoured by Judgers, given the need to construct clear plans and respond to (publishing/blogging) deadlines. That said, Perceivers like the surprise and spontaneity that could easily be satisfied by a clever twist or using their ability to improvise by weaving clever plots into their work.
To recap, out of the four pairs of personality dichotomies, only the N/S values received were significant. But is this unexpected? The “N” personalities (“Intuitives”) tend to prefer describing and conveying concepts in a “figurative and poetic” way, with a desire to see the bigger picture and how everything is connected.
Intuitives are geared more to utilising their creative imagination to achieve tasks and love ideas and possibilities, relishing the prospect of implementing their creativity through art. So while this would appear to be an excellent fit for erotic authors, isn’t some blogging about describing experiences and opinions factually? This would surely be closer to the Sensors that prefer literal descriptions and real-world applications.
And if sex writing is linked to the Intuitive personality types, there is a question as to whether this analysis could be true for all creative writers and not just those that enjoy writing about sex?
There are many flaws in my methodology as I have taken to simplifying the data collection exercise so that it is achievable with the resources at my disposal. There is no control set. There is no selection of participants through a blind, or double-blind, selection process and the sample size is extremely limited. The process of determining personality is subjective, and was conducted by the individual volunteers and not by trained psychologists.
Indeed, despite that I received almost twice as many Intuitives as I would have expected, given the distribution of N/S personalities in society at large, I would still feel hesitant about drawing any firm conclusions. Sure, the data leans towards the premise that Intuitive personalities are more likely to be sex writers but I am not confident enough in the integrity of my study to draw that as a firm conclusion.
However, this study is perfectly repeatable and given more subjects and resources, it could yield firm answers as to whether there is a link between personality types and those that write with erotic subject matter. I’m sure that a link is possible between creative pursuits as a pastime or employment, and personality, but that unless there are far greater resources at my disposal I cannot scientifically conclude that I have proven it.
So, I set out to try and show that there was no commonality between authors of sex material, and have ended up with more questions than answers. I still agree with one commenter on my Twitter feed that a cursory glance around the erotic writers’ conference I attended would be proof that the variety in gender, race, personality and experience was vast. There is no “typical” sex writer. And in the 27 responses, only three of the sixteen personality types were not represented: between them ISTJ, ENTP, ESFP make up around one in four of the wider population.
So am I concluding that around a quarter of society are not suited to writing about erotic matter? No. These tests are great at an individual level but are still generalist in nature. I am an INTP. The worst match for me, apparently, is an ESFJ, which is the personality of my wife. This year we celebrate twelve years together and given what we’ve been through over the years, if we weren’t a good match we’d have definitely split up a long time ago.
What do personality tests prove, eh?
I would like to offer a huge amount of thanks to the 27 people who completed a personality test for me; I could not have done this without you and your time. I’ve put all respondents into a hat and picked one at random for a little token. I’d also like to thank Molly for reading my piece. Again, everyone’s time is so much appreciated.
Featured image from here and used under a CC-license.