Recently published “Click” has interesting insights about web porn use

Everyone knows that church leaders are not immune to sexual temptation, especially the pornography that’s readily available on the Internet. I just read an interesting book on Internet trends that has implications for pastors — for the health of their own souls, and for their awareness of what people in their organizations are struggling with.

Bill Tancer, who leads global research at Hitwise (an online market research company), has written a book about Internet use trends called “Click.” It’s an interesting read, and has some information specifically related to online pornography use. I’ll share a couple of statistics, and then add some of my thoughts.

In the massive database of websites that it tracks and analyzes, Hitwise follows the usage logs of just over 40,000 adult sites. Tancer offers some insight based on the analysis of these sites.

Overall porn use

  • In August 2005, 16% of all web traffic was on these 40,000 adult web sites. In other words, 16% of all web use was focused on 40,000 porn web sites.
  • In August 2007, 10% of all web traffic was on these 40,000 sites. That represents a decrease in porn use, relative to other web traffic. (There are a couple caveats I would throw out, however. See below.)

Time spent on individual porn sites

  • in August 2005, the average time a given user spent on a given adult web site was 5 minutes, 38 seconds.
  • In August 2007, that time had increased to 6 minutes, 29 seconds (an increase of 15%). Tancer suggests that the reason for the increase of time on each site has to do with the increased availability of video on adult web sites.

Percentage of women and men accessing porn sites

  • Of the 40,000 adult web sites Hitwise tracks, 73% of the visitors were male, and 27% were female.
  • Tancer doesn’t relate these figures to specific months of his study, and instead implies that this gender breakdown has remained fairly constant over the last couple years.
  • Some people might be surprised at how high the percentage of female visitors is to adult sites, because of the gender stereotype that women are not as attracted to visual pornography as are men (again see my comments below). But Tancer reminds readers that the adult sites also include erotic story sites, which have a higher percentage of female readers than male.

Some thoughts about these numbers:

A) My perception is that pornography use is not declining, but if anything, that it is increasing. My perception about this is both anecdotal (from the people I do counseling with, and in talking to people after my workshops and presentations), and also comes from other studies I reference here in this blog. I believe the numbers that Hitwise reports show a decrease for two reasons:

(1) Because Hitwise is tracking and comparing the traffic on 40,000 sites, and new sites are springing up every day. Hitwise compares the traffic on these sites for one month in 2007 to the traffic in 2005 … but in the span of two years, thousands of new adult websites have sprung up. So if the numbers of users of these sites remains constant or goes down in a span of time, does that really tell us anything meaningful about what’s happening in terms of porn use as a whole? I don’t think so. It’s likely that users are moving to other sites.

(2) Because Hitwise is comparing the traffic on these sites to web traffic as a whole … which we know has increased dramatically in the past years. More people are now using the web, and are using it for more and more aspects of their lives. So if the traffic on adult sites goes down relative to all traffic, it doesn’t mean that people are looking at less porn, it just means they’re also using the web more for other things too.

B) The gender breakdown of male to female users of adult sites is important to keep in mind. I find that as I present on issues related to sexual sanity, many people approach this challenge (especially related to struggling with the Internet) as mainly an issue for guys. It is not. Let go of your gender stereotypes, and welcome to a world where men and women alike find themselves compulsively using chat rooms, erotic story sites, online “personals,” and visual pornography.

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