Asking Yahoo Answers.

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Despite its incredible growth over the last couple of years, Yahoo Answers still has a reputation as one of the worst places in the history of mankind to look for advice. Unlike its more respectable sister Answers.com, the questions posed to Yahoo Answers are largely asked and answered by average Internet users with a few experts sprinkled in here and there. As the site has grown, more and more people are contributing their opinions on people’s questions about health, pets, travel, and just about anything else you can think of. Yahoo Answers seems to be the realization of the Internet’s long forgotten potential. Remember back when the net was supposed to be the repository of all human knowledge? A sort of intellectual meeting ground where ideas could be created, discussed, and disseminated? A “hive mind” greater than the sum of it’s parts? Well, three seconds on youtube will quickly disabuse anyone that that’s ever going to happen.

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“Daddy, how did you take advantage of the greatest communication tool ever invented?” “I watched a video of a dog riding a skateboard and called it gay!”

But at least Yahoo Answers is trying to live up to the ideals that started the Internet. Aiming to be a virtual coffee shop where anyone with problems large or small can go to get advice from real people, the site certainly has attracted a lot of members. In January 2010 alone, over 24 million people logged on to give advice on everything from toilet training a baby to making stuffed peppers (most important piece of advice? Don’t give a baby stuffed peppers when you’re toilet training him). But is any of it any good? A recent academic study showed that as the site has grown, the accuracy of its answers has decreased; the more people that use it, the worse it is. But we wanted to find out for ourselves. Just how useful is this virtual best friend? Is it the saviour of the Interent? A global kitchen table for the lonely and confused? Or is it just another place for socially maladjusted teenagers to yell “lol! fail!!” at each other? We went to Yahoo Answers with four standard love and sex questions to see just what kind of advice we’d get.

Note: None of the answers have been corrected for spelling or grammar.

Question One: When’s the right time to tell someone you love them?

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The eternal quandary of new couples everywhere is that tricky business of telling someone you love them for the very first time. Throwing out the ‘l bomb’ can be pretty scary when you’re not sure what you’re going to get in return. Figuring out just the right time to say it is one of the first and hardest steps in a relationship. So what did the collective at Yahoo Answers have to say? Here are two answers indicative of the advice we got;

Zac: when your heart tells yourself you do.

Blaaah: when you are ready to live and die for that person and give up anything to be with them…..for real

It’s pretty standard, believe-in-yourself-and-be-strong type of advice. Despite the fact they sounded lifted from a Mariah Carey song, they weren’t necessarily bad pieces of advice. More interesting were the words that someone called Tag23 had to share. After providing links to three love song videos on youtube, Tag23 warned “to be ready if she says I want to be friends” because it’s happened to him. Poor punctuation aside, it’s good advice from someone who’s been in the love trenches, slogging it out for romance. Nobody was nasty, although a guy called Shaun told me not to “drag it out,” nor make it look like I was “putting too much effort into getting my point across.” I’m not sure why he was getting testy about someone he’s never met telling another person he’s never met that they love them. All in all, the advice was harmless and banal. But then again, so was the question. How would the Yahoo Answers answerers responded to something a little saucier?

Question Two: How much masturbation is too much?

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Despite a few bad joke answers, the folks who responded to this question ranged from the serious to the disturbing. sdstl– I’m assuming he was a guy because he knew a lot, a lot, about jizzing- laid out the science of ejaculation and just what it was you were losing every time you spent too long in the bathroom as a teenager. He was also kind enough to provide an unsourced list of possible side effects including “anxiety and stress” as well as “premature hair loss.” I’m not sure where sdstl gets his information, but someone forgot to tell Ron Jeremy that excessive ejaculation causes hair loss.

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He used to be a werewolf.

Besides pseudoscientific warnings, we also got some nasty over-sharing- “I masturbate on average 9 times per day… I’m constantly watching porn!” wrote one enthusiastic answerer. We also got some decent stroking advice. Eric Gees casually advises “no more than once a day… twice sometimes” on special occasions? And Soknee04 gives what is perhaps the most elegant answer possible for a question regarding manually stimulating your penis until you ejaculate. No one “has no real idea of when is too much as long as it does not interfere with ur daily life.” Truer words were never spoken. Although more grammatically correct ones are all the time.

Question Three: How do I ask my partner to try something kinky?

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Even the best sexual relationships need some freshening up from time to time. Things always go gangbusters in the bedroom at the start.   You and your partner are learning about each other and every experience is new. But sooner or later, every bit of skin has been licked and every nook tickled and things just aren’t that awesome anymore. It’s time to introduce something new to the routine. But how do you go about telling your partner that you’d like a little more mustard on your hot dog? The users at Yahoo Answers had plenty of ideas.

Most of the responders were strongly of the opinion that one should just go ahead and ask;

Gabby: straight up and say it with a naughty …voice>??

Tyger_gal: Tell him/her you have a naughty fantasy you want to share with them.

D: I would start a conversation by asking your partner about their fantasies first.

Pretty good advice. Be honest, be open, and be willing to indulge their fantasies as well. Dan Savage would be proud.

Joz, however, advocated a surprise attack strategy. “Dont ask just do it. They will love it reguradless!” This may work if your definition of kinky is feathery plastic handcuffs and a see-through nightie, but what if you’re into something a little more involved? The massive collection of anal beads, black leather face masks, and e-stim paraphernalia under your bed may seem like old hat to you, but the average person is going to freak if the “special surprise” you promised in the bedroom tonight turns out to be a cattle prod and a tub of margarine.

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Don’t judge me! Love me!

GUEST WHO again had similiar advice, but sounded a more cautionary note:

it depends younger generation seems a lot more open so you shouldn’t get popped up side the head or anything like that so just ask maybe when you are cozy up and everything is going good in the relationship.

They make a good point. There is no better time to ask someone to dress up like a clown and spank you repeatedly with beef jerky than when your snuggled together beside a cozy fire.

Question Four: What’s the best way to approach a guy or girl you are interested in?

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Still, before you find someone willing to explore your deepest sexual fantasies with you, you need to find someone willing to split a basket of curly fries. The last question we asked Yahoo Answers was how to muster up the courage and tamp down the fear to approach that special someone for the first time. In our modern, isolating world, interacting with another person for the first time can be awkward and uncomfortable. How does one traverse the social minefield and wade through the suspicion and anxiety that so permeates our twenty-first century existence? Only one piece of advice was given:

use ur legs to walk to them and use ur mouth to say hi

This response, albeit curt and based on a strictly literal interpretation of the questions, demonstrates both the best and worst of Yahoo Answers. On the positive side, it’s no-nonsense advice delivered with a minimum of fuss. On the negative side, it could have been written by a drunken, semi-literate, snarky 14 year old who doesn’t care whether you live or die. Think about the advice you’ve received in your life. Where it comes from is usually just as important as what it is. We need to know that the person who tells us how to treat our partner well actually has experience treating a partner well. We want to get sex advice from someone who’s , you know, had sex. The advice on Yahoo Answers isn’t terrible or damaging, it’s just useless. Good, useful advice comes from people we know and trust. And since Yahoo Answers is full of anonymous posters with no emotional investment in our problems, their advice ends up being more random noise in the already noisy as hell Internet. Yahoo Answers is harmless, sometimes fun, and totally worthless. There are far, far worse things for a website to be.