The Internet has connected people on many fronts. It has also rendered access to adult content so ubiquitous that it is almost a truism that everyone with web access has seen pornography online.
According to Similairweb, Pornhub is the 6th most popular website in the United States, trailing only Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and Yahoo, and ranking ahead of Twitter and eBay. In fact, three of the top ten most popular websites in America feature adult content.
When comparing websites, giving heavier weight to duration on a page vs number of page visits might yield somewhat different results; but even factoring in the potential for variance, it is indisputable that pornography is indeed one of the most commonly sought after “goods and services” available online.
Astonishingly, Pornhub compiles and aggregates an exhaustive amount of user data via its Pornhub Insights tool. The wealth of available information is staggering. Here is a snippet of what we found for the year 2018, the last full year for which data has been compiled:
• Visits to Pornhub totaled 33.5 billion over the course of 2018, an increase of 5 billion visits over 2017.
• Pornhub’s servers served up 30.3 billion searches, or 962 searches per second.
• Pornhub’s amateurs, models and content partners uploaded an incredible 4.79 million new videos, creating over 1 million hours of new content to enjoy on the site.
• The average visit duration in the United States was 10 minutes and 37 seconds. On a more granular level, users in Mississippi, South Carolina & Arkansas spent ~10% > average on the site, while users in Kansas, Nebraska & Utah logged ~10% < the mean.
• The most popular times to view porn was between 4pm – 5pm & 10PM – 1AM.
• ~28% of Pornhub’s users were women, a 3% increase from 2017.
• 25-34 year olds made up the highest percentage of users, at 35%. The average age of Pornhub viewers is 36.
• During the NFL Super Bowl, Pornhub traffic plunged 26%. During Thanksgiving people apparently ate their feelings instead; traffic dropped 13%. Nobody wanted to be “that guy” on New Year's Eve, when visits to the site dropped by 38%.
• Kim Kardashian’s sex tape is still Pornhub’s most watched video of all time with 195 million views.
Does the fact that so many men (and women) consume online porn prove that people’s appetite for it has materially increased since before the late 1990s, when pornography migrated away from videotapes and onto PC’s around the world? No. The demand for porn was always there; however, it was latent. Indeed, it is impotent, err rather, important that we understand and appreciate the following:
In 1970s, the only realistic way to passively consume pornography was in a XXX theatre. Usually, these venues were clustered in seedy, sometimes dangerous neighborhoods (think Times Square in New York City before it was re-developed) adorned with cheap electronics stores, fast-food joints and bus terminals. Typically, for the price of an arcade game (25c), a patron was treated to a snippet of hard-core pornography in the form of a film or live show.
Often these venues were unclean. Customers were sometimes exposed to a prior patron’s bodily fluids on their seat or viewing screen. In the surrounding areas, there was no shortage of prostitutes, willing johns, and drug dealers peddling illicit substances to customers who choose to derive their pleasure in an altered state of arousal.
If you patronized one of these venues, you were considered a freak, a weirdo, or worse. You were looked upon as a sub-human that lived in the underbelly of society; a social deviant with a compromised moral compass. Seemingly “normal” people would never go to one of those revolting places.
VHS vs Betamax & Porn in The Privacy of Your Own Home, Sort of.
By the mid 1980s, VHS had triumphed in its fierce battle with Betamax that began a decade earlier. “The main determining factor between Betamax and VHS was the cost of the recorders and recording time…Betamax is, in theory, a superior recording format over VHS due to resolution, slightly superior sound, and a more stable image; Betamax recorders were also of higher quality…However these differences were negligible to consumers, and thus did not justify either the extra cost of a Betamax VCR or Betamax's shorter recording time….Although Betamax initially owned 100% of the market in 1975 (as VHS did not launch until the following year) the perceived value of longer recording times eventually tipped the balance in favor of VHS.”
While going to a brick and mortar XXX theatre was still an option, the standardization of VHS ushered in a new, more civilized realm of possibilities for people to satisfy their appetite for a skin flick. Consumers became more comfortable purchasing a VCR player – they needn’t risk buying the wrong format – and subsequently, the home video rental market grew exponentially. Communities across America quickly became dotted with mom and pop VHS rental stores and large chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.
Many adults who came of age in the 1980s and early 1990s remember walking, peeking, or sneaking into the “back room” of a Blockbuster, that mysterious place in the part of the store separated by curtains with a sign that read, “under 18 not permitted.” Behind those curtains was a diverse selection of pornography. Of course, one’s intention could be cloaked under the veil of “normalcy.” For one need only tell their friends, or justify to themselves, that the objective of their trip to Blockbuster was to rent Robocop. But the excitement of slipping into the room behind the curtains was exhilarating for some people (we know, not you). The video store was also a place that teenagers – usually boys – got their first look at this genre. Indeed, many teens hated going to the video store with their parents; heaven forbid they get caught having a gander.
In the 1980s, though the demand was probably more or less constant, the total addressable market for porn grew. Consumers who wanted to watch porn but were unwilling to travel to a XXX theatre were able to satiate their craving via VHS, in the privacy of their own home. In the 80s, porn was still a bit taboo. A customer was still considered off-beat (which was an upgrade from the “deadbeats” who patronized XXX theaters) if they actually went through the process of venturing into “that section” of the video store, browsing hundreds of titles, choosing a film with a ridiculous title – some of the best include, Porn on the 4th of July, Breast Side Story, Beverly Hills 9021-ho! & Yank My Doodle, It’s A Dandy! – and enduring the embarrassment of making eye contact with the cashier.
200 Mbps Per Second
Today, as evidenced by the data provided at the beginning of this post, the attitudes and acceptance of pornography have changed; porn has gone mainstream. One is no longer labeled a deviant or looked down upon if they allocate ~10 minutes every so often to satisfy their craving for a dose of online porn. Indeed, one need only a high-speed internet connection to join the tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of people around the globe from all races, religions and ethnicities who’ve already partaken. In fact, the consumption of porn – unless it becomes addictive - is now considered rather unremarkable. (While the topic of online porn addiction is well beyond the scope of this article, we were rather comforted and a bit surprised to learn that despite stories of lives being compromised and relationships ruined, online porn addiction is actually quite rare).
Regarding the consumption of pornography, decades ago people wanted to do what they do today without a second thought, but until the negative social stigmatism was arbitraged away by technology, most consumers were unwilling to consume the product. But it wasn’t because they did not fancy it; the demand was always there.