A Few Research-Based FACTS About Pornography

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If you search the internet for information about porn and its effects, you’re going to find a whole lot of opinions. Unfortunately, hardly any of those opinions will be based on verifiable information. This can be frustrating to those interested in the truth (as opposed to grandstanding and fear-mongering). Recognizing this, we have collected the latest research about pornography, presenting it below so those who are interested in the truth can know it.

How much porn is out there? A lot.

  • There are more than 2.5 million porn websites.[i]
  • Approximately 12% of all websites offer pornographic content.[ii]
  • The preceding numbers do not consider erotic content on social media, dating and hookup websites/apps, video chat services, etc.

Who is looking at porn? Men, women, and children.

  • A study of 434 adult men found that 99% of study participants looked at porn at least occasionally.[iii]
  • Research conducted in 2017 by PornHub.com (one of the world’s largest porn providers) found a 359% increase in “porn for women” searches.[iv]
  • Porn use among adolescent boys is ubiquitous. When a Canadian researcher tried to study the effects of porn usage on young males, he couldn’t, because he was unable to find any potential study participants who weren’t already looking at porn. No control group = no experiment.[v]
  • Research tells us that that nearly all boys and most girls use porn, though boys tend to look at it earlier and view it more often.[vi]
  • In a study of 16-year-old Swedish boys, 96% admitted they were porn users, with 10% saying they looked at porn every day. Importantly, approximately 1/3 of the daily users said they sometimes watched more porn than they wanted—a common indicator of porn addiction.[vii]
  • Current estimates place the average age of first porn use at 11.[viii]

Why do people look at porn, and does that matter? Motivations for porn use vary widely, and they often overlap. And yes, those reasons do matter.

  • One study found that porn users go online for a variety of reasons: sexual satisfaction (94.4%), to feel arousal (87.2%), to achieve orgasm (86.5%), to alleviate stress (73.8%), to relieve boredom (70.8%), to forget daily problems (53%), to deal with loneliness (44.9%), and to fight depression (38.1%).[ix]
  • Research shows that people who use porn primarily to self-soothe and self-regulate their emotions are significantly more likely to experience problems (like porn addiction) than people who go online primarily to find sexual satisfaction, achieve arousal, and experience orgasm.[x]

How much porn are people looking at? Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

  • One study found that adult male porn users spend an average of 3 hours per week with porn, with answers ranging from 5 minutes per week to 33 hours per week.[xi]
  • A study analyzing more than 400 million worldwide internet searches (representing more than 2 million users) found that approximately 13% of all internet searches are looking for porn.[xii]
  • Approximately 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic in nature.[xiii]
  • Research suggests that porn addicts typically spend at least 11 or 12 hours per week using pornography, with many devoting double or even triple that amount of time to porn.[xiv]

Is there a downside to porn? For some people, yes.

  • Porn use is correlated with decreased marital satisfaction in both the short-term and long-term. This link is stronger with male porn use than with female porn use.[xv]
  • Porn use almost doubles the likelihood of getting divorced in the next four years, increasing the probability from 6% to 11%.[xvi]
  • Heavy porn use among boys is correlated with higher levels of risky sexual behaviors, truancy, relationship problems, smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use.[xvii]
  • Not all porn users feel good about their behavior. One study found that 61.7% felt shame about their porn use, 49% searched for sexual content that did not previously interest them or that they considered disgusting, and 27.6% self-assessed their porn use as problematic.[xviii]
  • Research consistently shows that sex/porn addicts often struggle with real-world sexuality, with the most common issues being porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), delayed ejaculation, and anorgasmia (inability to reach orgasm).[xix] One study of 350 sex/porn addicts found that 26.7% report issues with sexual dysfunction.[xx] A more recent study of sex/porn addicts identified sexual dysfunction in 58% of test subjects.[xxi] An even more recent study of adult men found that approximately 28% of participants self-assessed their porn use as problematic, with PIED listed as a primary consequence.[xxii]

[i] Ogas, O. & Gaddam, S. (2012). A billion wicked thoughts: What the Internet tells us about sexual relationships, p 8. New York, NY: Plume.

[ii] Damania, D. (2014). “Internet pornography statistics,” thedinfographics.com/2011/12/23/internet-pornography-statistics/, accessed May 28, 2014.

[iii] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266.

[iv] https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/5316113/porn-for-women-pornhub-data-2017/.

[v] Liew, J. (2009). All men watch porn, scientists find. The Telegraph. Retrieved Jan 16, 2015 from telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/6709646/All-men-watch-porn-scientists-find.html.

[vi] Sabina, C., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2008). The nature and dynamics of Internet pornography exposure for youth. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6), 691-693.

[vii] Mattebo, M., Tyden, T., Haggstrom-Nordin, E., Nilsson, K.S., & Larsson M. (2013). Pornography consumption, sexual experiences, lifestyles, and self-rated health among male adolescents in Sweden. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 34(7):460-468.

[viii] Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D. (2007). Unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography in a national sample of youth Internet users. Pediatrics, 119(2), 247-257.

[ix] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266.

[x] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266.

[xi] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266.

[xii] Ogas, O. & Gaddam, S. (2012). A billion wicked thoughts: What the Internet tells us about sexual relationships, p 15. New York, NY: Plume.

[xiii] Damania, D. (2014). “Internet pornography statistics,” thedinfographics.com/2011/12/23/internet-pornography-statistics/, accessed May 28, 2014.

[xiv] Cooper, A. Putnam D.E., Planchon, A. & Boies, S.C. (1999). Online Sexual Compulsivity: Getting Tangled in the Net. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity 6(2):79–104.

[xv] Perry, S. L. (2017). Does viewing pornography reduce marital quality over time? Evidence from longitudinal data. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 549-559.

[xvi] Perry, S. L. (2017). Does viewing pornography reduce marital quality over time? Evidence from longitudinal data. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 549-559.

[xvii] Mattebo, M., Tyden, T., Haggstrom-Nordin, E., Nilsson, K.S., & Larsson M. (2013). Pornography consumption, sexual experiences, lifestyles, and self-rated health among male adolescents in Sweden. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 34(7):460-468.

[xviii] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266.

[xix] Rosenberg, K. P., Carnes, P., & O’Connor, S. (2014). Evaluation and treatment of sex addiction. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 40(2), 77-91.

[xx] Hall, P. (2012). Understanding and treating sex addiction: A comprehensive guide for people who struggle with sex addiction and those who want to help them. Routledge.

[xxi] Voon, V., Mole, T. B., Banca, P., Porter, L., Morris, L., Mitchell, S., … & Irvine, M. (2014). Neural correlates of sexual cue reactivity in individuals with and without compulsive sexual behaviours. PloS one, 9(7), e102419.

[xxii] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 257-266.