Tuesday, January 3, 2006


My father, in an attempt to stimulate debate on a controversial topic (he has loved to engage me in this way for a very long time), asked me what I knew about pornography. Particularly, he wanted to discuss the underlying psychology behind why it is so popular. I told him that I would put my thoughts down in my blog to give him an excuse to get online (I’ve been trying to get him to do THAT for a long time, also).

Before I do this for him, let me say that I don’t have any interest in using this forum solely to express my political beliefs. I think that, over time, this blog will come to be about experiences, not opinions. My opinions and beliefs are my own, and I guard carefully against their inappropriate distribution. I have found that throwing my beliefs out headlong gets in the way of considered discourse and understanding.

First, however, some information about the topic. I took a little time to come up with some basic statistics. I like statistics. Coming up with them on porn is challenging, though, because they get outdated quickly. This industry is growing BY THE DAY, apparently. Here’s what I found by searching different reputable sources through Google…

- Pornography is a $57.0 BILLION industry worldwide, with $12.0B coming from the U.S. Worldwide, adult videos generate about $20.0 BILLION of that total. (Who the hell is watching all these movies? That’s a LOT of movies, don’t you think?).

- There are, as near as I can determine, some 4.2 million pornographic websites (this represents around 12% of the total number of sites on the Internet today).

- Daily, Internet search engines receive over 68 million pornographic search requests (about 25% of all Internet searches).

- The average age at which an American child is exposed to pornography via the Internet is 11 years.

- The largest consumer of Internet pornography is the 12-17 age group.

- By gender, viewers of online pornography represent approximately 72% men and 28% women.

- Only slightly more men than women (20% vs. 13%) admit to accessing pornography on the job.

- Women are far more likely than men to act out behaviors in real life.

- This might seem irrelevant at first, but women favor chat rooms and online services like AOL Instant Messenger twice as much as men.

What does all this mean?

Someone (my father, I think) said that pornography is one of the biggest industries in the world that no one admits to knowing anything about. Based on this information, that would seem to be the case. With $12 BILLION changing hands in this country alone (by the way, that’s a total that exceeds by nearly double the revenue from the 4 major network television companies ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX), a lot of us must know something about it. But what’s the interest?

I would argue, based on my experience and discussions with the kids I teach, that much of the draw for teenagers is simply curiosity. Porn is pervasive online now, and with Internet access so widely available, it is easy to see for themselves what all the fuss is about. That they might keep coming back to look at it is, I would suggest, a function of hormones and the convenience of a means to help them self-regulate them.

The question that I would raise is whether the same is true for adults and, if so, why? Now, I’m not going to delve into this here but, in very general terms, I would offer the thought that it is the same, at least for men, and that the reasons have much to do with the way men and women view the world. Those last two statistics might even offer some explanation. They would seem to suggest that women are much more social creatures that men, that they prefer to talk about things and (again, generally speaking—I’m trying to be politically correct here!) are more interactive with the world.

There it is, Dad.


Anonymous said...

You missed a very important part of the concept. How does one define pornography? The definition is going to be very different for a hardcore Christian than for someone,say from the 70's,who believes that the body is beautiful and that the Karma Sutra is a great book! Also,where would acts of violence without sex fit, into the definition of pornography? Great subject for philosophical disscussion.

Kizz said...

Yeah, I think that, while it's nice of you to have looked up a bunch of stats, without knowing what's being counted they don't say much.

I read fanfic online, I read it at work all the time, it is occasionally of an er, steamy nature. Does that count? Well probably not since it's not generating revenue. Is it only pictures? Well I've only accessed that at work once and I swear it was an accident. I'd only just learned to use Google Image and was looking for dogs how was I to know that some clever and well endowed gentleman had chosen The Great Dane as his stage name?

And where do you put sites like the Good Vibrations store or the Honeysuckle web site in those stats?

There's a ton of reasons for people to look at any of that stuff. I mean, a lot of teenagers don't have a computer of their own and are forced to make do with the Victoria's Secret catalogue. It all works. Before Vic's Secret there was always the sensible bra section of the Sears catalogue.

If you classify porn as pictures then I think you sway it to male consumption because men tend to be more visually oriented. Whereas women might read a romance novel, and if you haven't counted romance novels in the porn stats you're missing some tumescent statistics, let me tell you.

Everybody's doing it, any discussion of why and how seems to be just a way of trying to figure out who's admitting it.

Oh, and $20 billion? Yeah, it's a lot of movies but the shame factor probably factors in. You get one, your mom confiscates it, you buy another. You get one, you throw it away before your wife cleans for spring, you buy another. Plus, they aren't like the LotR series, it's not like you're going to watch the same one over and over and get something new out of it every time.