a ‘back of the napkin’ calculation
As I consider the issue of male porn consumption and the porn industry, a question occurs to me: How many men and boys in the United States watch porn? Let me just be clear that I am not a statistician or an expert in this field; this is just a thought exercise based on available data. Since no one else seems to be making a guess about this, I thought I’d give it a shot. What We Know Here are some useful statistics about males and porn:
- 9 out of 10 men aged 18-26 report using porn
- more than 70% of men ages 18 to 34 visit porn sites in a typical month.
- 93% of boys are exposed to internet porn before the age of 18
- The average age that boys first see porn is 12 years old
What We Don’t Know
We don’t have good figures for men aged 35 and older. In order to make a guess about that group, we need to extrapolate from the existing data. We also don’t have information that tells us how much porn men and boys are watching in the existing studies. Did they just see it once? Are they regular consumers? I’ve heard many men and boys speak about their exposure to porn, and not once have I heard a anyone say “yeah, I saw it once and thought ‘No, that isn’t for me’ and never looked at it again.” The nature of porn is that it is addictive – it’s manufactured to be that way, that’s what makes it profitable. We are already being inundated with and manipulated by sex in our societies at large in the popular culture – in this way we have been groomed for pornography and porn takes it to the next level. It is, of course, possible that a boy sees porn at 12 and then manages to avoid it for a few years before getting totally sucked in. This is all variation that we can’t account for.
What We Might Extrapolate
First, let’s look at the total number of men in the U.S.: 151 million, according to the 2012 census. If the average age that boys see porn is 12, let’s subtract the “0-9 year olds” category (20 million boys), leaving us with about 130 million males. Is it fair to guess that men who use computers are more likely to be looking at porn? Sure, there could be men out there still watching DVD’s and looking at magazines, but the vast majority of porn traffic is happening online where it’s free, anonymous, almost unlimited and easily accessible. We know that men aged 65 and up have a low rate of internet use, about 57%. Let’s just subtract that whole demographic, just to be conservative. Clearly there must be men in that group who watch porn but I will not include them here. If we subtract the 18 million men over 65 from 130 million we get… 112 million men between the ages of 9 and 65. Our data suggests that somewhere between 70% and 93% of boys 12-34 are watching porn. Do we have cause to think men aged 35-65 are dramatically different? I don’t think so. If we take the average of 70% and 93% – let’s call it 80% – does it seem reasonable to guess that 80% of men aged 12 to 65 are watching porn? It does to me. 80% of 112 million is about 90 million men and boys. So this is my best guess: 90 million men and boys – 80% of the men and boys in the U.S. aged 12-65 – are watching (or at have at least been exposed to) hardcore internet pornography. And don’t forget, I’ve left out men over 65 AND made guesses that I believe are very conservative. I suspect that the number is actually higher than this.
What Does This Mean?
If these numbers are accurate (or even close), would this not qualify as a public health epidemic? 90 million men and boys in the U.S. alone being exposed to violent, misogynist, hardcore internet porn? Where women are routinely choked, slapped, degraded, humiliated and abused? With this as the main form of sex education that boys receive as they develop their sexual identities? What if my figure are way off – what if the real numbers are HALF what I’ve calculated? Is that not still a public health epidemic? Wouldn’t 40% (more than a third) of U.S. male’s aged 12-65 being hooked on porn be an issue for our society of catastrophic proportions? Gail Dines make an excellent point in this lecture – what will we do as a society when our doctors and lawyers and judges (and I’ll add politicians and military leaders), have all been addicted to this kind of ideological hatred from the youngest ages? I believe that the time has come for men to:
- Acknowledge publically that porn is harmful
- Stop watching porn and assist other men in doing the same
- Back women in their work to end sexism and male domination (and join them)
- Work on protecting boys and young men (and of course also girls and young women) from exposure to the predatory porn industry
- Take steps to eradicate porn from mainstream culture through education (on the harms of porn) and regulation:
- of porn on the internet, particularly in order to protect children from exposure
- of the porn and sex industries, which are inseparable
You’ve read my guesses – what are your thoughts?  I’m focusing on heterosexual men and straight porn here; gay men make up a little less than 1% of all males in the U.S. (NHIS 2014 statistics) and I would very much like for a gay man to start blogging on the issue of gay men and porn, which is relevant and important.  Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults (from the Journal of Adolescent Research)  Covenant Eyes pornography Statistics, 2014 edition  Covenant Eyes pornography Statistics, 2014 edition  Covenant Eyes pornography Statistics, 2014 edition (note: other statistics suggest that the average age for boys is actually 11 years old, I’ve opted for the more conservative stat.)  Pew Research Center Internet User Demographics