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Why Americans still can't admit to watching porn
The only thing a new study on porn reveals is how much we lie about it
You sure about that survey response?
You sure about that survey response? (Courtesy Shutterstock)
T

he Pew Internet & American Life project has found that only 12 percent of Americans who go online watch pornographic videos. From which it can be inferred that close to 88 percent of Americans lied to Pew.

To look even closer at the numbers, ladies probably lied a little more than dudes. Twenty-five percent of men said they watched adult videos, while only 8 percent of women said they do. Because most online porn is geared towards men, there is likely a gap between the sexes, but since even Nielsen ratings indicate that one-third of online porn viewers are women, men should only outnumber them two to one.

But bottom line, it's an extreme underestimation for both sexes. It's most likely that many, many Americans are lying through their teeth.

It's really difficult to measure what proportion of the internet is composed of pornographic websites, but it's a lot. In 2010, it was estimated that 12 percent of all websites and 25 percent of all web requests were related to porn. A study out this year (conducted by the admittedly biased porn site Paint Bottle) found that adult websites garner 450 million unique visitors a month, easily outnumbering the combined unique visitors of Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon. And a BuzzFeed article had an even higher estimate, with 220 unique million visitors a day to the major sites alone.

Good Lord! Even the Religion Institute reported than one in five clergy members intentionally search sexually explicit sites.

So, America, if your reverend or rabbi can admit to watching porn, why can't you come clean?

The main takeaway from the Pew study is that most people are still ashamed to admit to watching porn. There is still major stigma, despite porn's pervasiveness, the fact that mainstream businesses have started to advertise on their sites, and the successful porn-to-mainstream crossovers of adult stars like James Deen and Sasha Grey.

What will it take for Americans to finally stop perpetuating a culture of shame around their pornography habits? Give it time.

A June study from Gallup shows pornography is the moral issue with the greatest generational divide. Forty-nine percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 see pornography as morally acceptable, while just 19 percent of Americans over 55 agree.

For now, though, it looks like Americans aren't willing to admit to watching anything online that's racier than this.

Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

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