How Many Women Are Not Admitting to Pew That They Watch Porn?

What Women Really Think
Oct. 11 2013 3:01 PM

How Many Women Are Not Admitting to Pew That They Watch Porn?

Woman_porn
Could be

Photo by CandyBox Images/Shutterstock

The explosion of porn across the Internet is a phenomenon greatly feared and woefully understudied. A new Pew Research Center report on the online viewing habits of 1,003 Americans is the latest attempt to mine a bit of actual data about the pervasiveness of Internet porn. Pew found that just 12 percent of U.S. adults who use the Internet say that they've leveraged it to watch adult videos. Among online video watchers, 25 percent of men and 8 percent of women admitted to checking out some adult programming.

Because the survey was conducted over the telephone, those low percentages “may reflect a reluctance to report the behavior among some adults,” Pew reasons. Nevertheless, the number of Internet users who cop to engaging in the activity has risen markedly in recent years. In 2009, just 7 percent of Internet users said they watched adult videos; in 2007, 6 percent said so; now it’s 12 percent. Unsurprisingly, the percentage is rising as the dead-tree Playboy generation declines and the internet porn generation comes of age: Among people who use the internet—about 15 percent of American adults still don’t—23 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds watch adult videos online, compared to 15 percent of 30-49-year-olds and 3 percent of internet users age 50-plus.

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But the study’s most interesting stat concerns a group of porn viewers still largely marginalized by the adult industry—women. The percentage of female Internet video viewers claiming to watch porn online has grown exponentially over the past few years. In 2010, Pew reported that only 2 percent of female video viewers said they watched adult videos online. Today, 8 percent of those women admit to it. That's an incredible jump in three years' time. And if we think it's likely that more than 25 percent of male video viewers sometimes navigate into smuttier territory—but are just reluctant to admit it over the phone—then it stands to reason that women, who have been repeatedly told that porn is just for boys, would be particularly disincentivized to openly air the details of their online porn habits. Still, those who are invested in centering online porn as a male thing are unlikely to let these numbers get in the way. When XBIZ, an adult industry news publication, reported on Pew's findings today, it headlined its story: "Study Tracks Percentage of Men Watching Porn Online" and emphasized porn's "strong appeal for men" in discussing "the rise in online viewership."

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

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