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Google’s AI Is Telling People to Use Sex Toys in the Gym

When you become part of a community (or at least lurk in it long enough), you begin to learn that community’s inside jokes. Unless you are an AI, that is, because large language models are not programmed with a sense of humor. Google’s AI overview, trained as it is on Reddit user-generated content, has begun telling people to use sex toys to lift more in the gym. 

(The AI overview, which you may have noticed at the top of your search results lately, is a word salad drawn from the top results for your query. Sometimes it summarizes those results. Sometimes it gets them completely wrong. The AI overview used to be an opt-in feature, but it’s now available by default. You can turn it off (after searching) by clicking on the Web filter, or by adding udm=14 to the end of the URL.)

I search a lot of fitness-related topics, and I’ve noticed that the AI overview doesn’t always understand things correctly. It thinks a small wooden block under your heels is a replacement for a squat rack. But nothing compares to the laugh I had when I realized Google has fully bought into Reddit’s “squat plug” lore. Yes, it’s telling unsuspecting users—who are likely searching because they’re checking whether this is a joke—that people commonly prepare for a heavy squat by inserting a butt plug into their rectum.

At the risk of ruining the joke: squat plugs are a joke

A squat plug is a butt plug supposedly used while squatting heavy weights in the gym. Now, butt plugs are real. They are a type of sex toy. They are made to be inserted via the anus, and importantly are shaped in such a way that they can be easily removed. Their purpose is to provide fun and pleasure in the bedroom. We have a whole article here on how to incorporate toys into anal play. If you’re, you know, curious. 

But squat plugs? This is a joke, 100% a running gag, homegrown on Reddit as far as I can tell. In recent years it has breached containment, with mentions on YouTube and other social platforms. There are two types of people who post about squat plugs:

  • People who are in on the joke, deadpan telling everyone that they are real.

  • People who are asking if squat plugs are really a thing, because they sure do sound like a joke.

Some of the people making the joke are, themselves, strong squatters who use their cred to imply that if you haven’t met anyone who uses a squat plug, it’s because your friends are all too weak to know about them. Elite lifters use them all the time. (They do not. This is all part of the joke.) 

I know this because I have spent far too much time on Reddit. I know some of the people who make these jokes. I have seen, organically, where they come from. May I also remind you that the Merriam-Webster dictionary has quoted me as an authority on shitposts? 

But if you need a higher authority: Here are the technical rules for USA Powerlifting (USAPL). This organization has rules for everything, including a seven-item section on exactly what kinds of undergarments you may and may not wear when you compete. (There’s also a footwear section: Crocs are specifically disallowed.) The lack of even a mention of squat plugs in the rulebook is conclusive proof that they do not exist. I promise you, if squat plugs were real, specific brands of them would be on the IPF approved equipment list. 

What Google’s AI says about squat plugs

Google seems to have swallowed the entirety of Reddit’s squat plug lore. “What is a squat plug?” I asked it. “A squat plug is a device that helps keep the glutes tight while squatting,” it helpfully answers, alongside an image taken from r/GymMemes that shows fitness company logos edited onto images of butt plugs.

The AI overview continues: “Some say that squat plugs are commonplace at the elite level of weight lifting and are necessary for those who want to lift more than 600 pounds.” The sources include a YouTube video and a TikTok from people who are in on the joke, and a Quora post from somebody who is questioning it. 

If you click “show more,” you get, oh god, more. “Some recommend putting the plug in all the way and bracing hard to avoid leaks and messy situations,” Google’s AI cheerfully advises. It did pick up on a redditor calling bullshit, noting as an afterthought: “However, a Reddit user says that butt plugs may cause internal intestinal injury or be uncomfortable, and that they don’t help with lifting.”

Credit: Beth Skwarecki

The lore goes deep. You can ask follow-up questions, and get answers. “Can I use a squat plug for deadlifting?” I asked. At first it gave me an answer about squat briefs, which are a real thing (basically, shorts that can assist in the lift), so I put “squat plug” in quotes and got my answer: yes. In fact, Google’s AI tells me, some sources say “that a vibrating squat plug can be used for variation and to recruit more stabilizers.” 

Worse (better?), it goes on to give instructions on how to use a Rogue squat plug. (Rogue manufactures strength equipment like squat racks and weights; they do not offer a squat plug.) As a source, Google’s AI helpfully links a TikTok “discover” page for “Rogue squat plugs.” It’s full of prank videos, of course, mixed with the occasional tutorial video for how to use actual Rogue branded equipment, like belt squat machines. The instructions for the belt squat are the source for the step-by-step instructions in the screenshot above.

If I ask Google straight up, “Are squat plugs real?” I get a yes. If I ask whether I can use a squat plug for overhead press, I get a yes and a warning that it can “shoot out and disrupt form if it’s not inserted all the way.” 

Finally, I ask it: “Are squat plugs a joke?” It assures me they are not, but adds that “some say that squat plugs are illegal in some states and that sponsors may not want lifters to discuss them publicly.”

Google Ai screenshot:

Credit: Beth Skwarecki

Why is this happening???

An AI is only as good as its training data. Or maybe I should say: It can never be better than its training data, only the same or worse. And a lot of the training data used for Google search results seems to come from Reddit. 

Google has long realized that forums where humans answer each others’ questions are a gold mine for the stuff people actually want to find when they search the web. Reddit is one of the largest and best of these forums—arguably the only good one that still exists. People still log on every day. It’s gotten less usable and less useful over time, as its owners attempt to squeeze money out of it in ways that make the user experience worse, but it’s not dead yet. 

Last year, Reddit started charging for mass access to “its” data (I put that in quotes because Reddit the company did nothing to create this data) and continued with that plan over a protest so large that it shut large portions of the site down for weeks. Reddit execs forced the protesting subs to open up again, replacing (unpaid) moderators with any (still unpaid) warm body who would agree to keep the lights on. And this February, those efforts paid off, in a sense: Google made a deal to pay Reddit for API access. Because Reddit data is that important to its AI. The announcement about the deal squeezed the word “train” into a list of things Google intended to do with the newly acquired data. It was widely understood to be a deal to obtain fodder for AI.  

So maybe the shitposts are in the training data because of this deal, or maybe just because Google ranks Reddit posts highly and the AI draws from highly ranked pages. In any case, this is yet another example of how tech companies are co-opting our desire to hear more from humans, and responding to that by stuffing more AI garbage down our gullet. And if that’s hard to swallow, maybe add some cheese with glue mixed in. That’s a tip Google’s AI got from an old Reddit post. Thank you, u/fucksmith.

Originally Appeared Here

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Early Bird