Dallas may be inhospitable to hipsters, but we're apparently a city filled with porn enthusiasts: Men's Health recently ranked Dallas 15th in a list of the 100 "smuttiest" American cities (Orlando won. Those perverts.)
MH based its rankings on the number of adult DVDs purchased, rented or streamed, square footage of "adult entertainment" stores, Google searches for porn and "percentage of Cinemax-subscribing households."
But before we break out the celebratory porn, let's take a moment to talk about bullshit city-ranking lists, shall we?
Men's Health loves them. So do Travel + Leisure, Forbes, Time, and damn near every other magazine and web publication on the planet, because, as Poynter noted way back in 2009, "list journalism" gets clicks and eyeballs even when the lists are stupid, poorly thought-out or lazily executed, three qualities the smut list efficiently embodies. (And don't you dare go clicking to Sara the Intern's "Ten Awesome Food Items That Aren't Food" list from a while back. That pizza sleeping bag is legit.)
The cycle doesn't end with the original publication printing the list and their commenters getting into a spirited, "Yeah, Tulsa's pretty whorish," "You take that back this minute"-type conversation down below. Instead, other sites write about those lists -- say, right now, for instance -- in a sort of "pageview whoring Ponzi scheme," as my boss put it, which drags on forever and also leads to some unhappy existential pondering: Didn't OKCupid just name us the sixth-sluttiest city? Shouldn't sluts and smut be found in the same place? Or does the presence of sluts obviate the need for smut?
Regardless of how soul-destroyingly terrible these lists are, they're always quite popular, even (especially) in the case of the MH regional perv breakdown, which on second glance is actually a thinly disguised series of ads. The authors only looked at DVDs purchased or streamed from one website, while adult entertainment stores were only tracked using one source. There's also a clunky, shameless plug in the concluding paragraph for an app that prevents your kids from looking at porn on your smartphone, just in case you're confident in your ability to stealthily look at naked people while pretending to check your texts, but have never heard of password protection, are physically unable to stow your gadget out of the reach of the average 5-year-old and just can't wait until you get home, you weirdo.
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It's not just blogs and magazines who perpetuate the popularity of these dumb city lists: Cities dig them too -- the more flattering, less pornographic ones, anyway. They're a chance to for city officials to get in a few superlatives about how awesome their town is. Just ask Plano: We don't think it's any accident that they appear on every list ever created. But in truth, we have no idea exactly how these cities are chosen or ranked, because none of the lists ever provide a detailed report on the exact methodology they use or show their raw data.
Nobody really gives a shit about bad methodology when it's an obviously dumb topic, like smuttiness or impotence (which we're pretty sure has very little do with your ZIP code). But publications that actually purport to rank things like how "green" a city is, how healthy its citizens are or what it's like to live there should probably work a little harder to make their data accessible and their lists somewhat factually based.
So in response to this latest bit of obvious click-desperation from Washboard Abs Quarterly, we say two things: We won't fall for it by re-blogging your smut list, Men's Health! No way! Not this time!
And also: 15th? Are you fucking kidding me? Have you seen our strip clubs? We may not actually have the highest number, as someone who bothered to do the research found, but ours are so nice. Shouldn't strip clubs be counted as a metric of smuttiness? Doesn't Dallas deserve to rank a little higher than those sexless hipsters down in Austin, who came in at number 10, for crying out loud? We demand a recount.