How much time does the world spend watching porn?

Michael Castleman — Perhaps you’re familiar with pornography critics’ allegations: As much as 30 percent of Internet content is porn, and tens of millions of men (and some women) waste much of their lives in endless, mind-numbing, relationship-killing, out-of-control, binge-watching, which leaves their lives in tatters and their partners and families in despair.

Actually, that’s nonsense. Only 4 percent of today’s Internet is porn, and while a tiny fraction of men watches for more than two hours at a sitting, the vast majority of men—and the women who account for 25 percent of the porn audience—treat it like a coffee break, a brief time-out from daily hassles.

How Much of the Internet Is Porn?

The Broadway musical, Avenue Q, is a raunchy send-up of Sesame Street. One puppet character strikes it rich in online porn and leads the cast in the show’s most rollicking number, “The Internet Is For Porn.”

At the dawn of the Internet, that was true, but things have changed. Computational neuroscientists Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., and Sai Gaddam, Ph.D., coauthors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sex and Relationships, explain that the proportion of the Internet devoted to porn depends on the era. During the early Internet (1996-1999), the vast majority of users were young adult men, a group particularly interested in video sex. In 1999, 40 percent of Web searchers involved porn. But since then, as the Web has infiltrated every corner of almost all lives, the proportion of Internet content devoted to porn has fallen substantially. Ogas and Gaddam analyzed the 1 million most visited websites and found that 42,337 were sex-related at just 4.2 percent.

Time Spent Worldwide on Internet Porn?

No one knows for certain. But a reasonable estimate can be deduced from three sources: statistics published by a top porn site, my own tabulation of viewing data for the top 100 porn sites, and studies by University of Montreal researcher Simon Louis Lajeunesse.

But before we go there, one myth must be debunked, the notion that only “bad” men (and women) watch porn. Actually, virtually all men with Internet connections do. For one study, Lajeunesse hoped to compare the sexualattitudes of men who either watched porn or had never seen it. He couldn’t find a single man who hadn’t seen it. To be male is to watch.

Now, about time spent on porn. The world’s second most popular porn site, PornHub, publishes annual audience statistics. For 2019, here’s what Google Analytics showed about time spent there:

Visit duration Share of PornHub visitors

0 to 5 minutes 52 percent

5 to 10 minutes 18 percent

10 to 20 minutes 16 percent

20 to 30 minutes 6 percent

30 to 60 minutes 5 percent

1 hour to 2 hours 1 percent

More than two hours 0.2 percent

More than half of viewers spent less than five minutes per visit, and 86 percent—almost nine out of 10 visitors—spent less than 20 minutes. Only two viewers per 1,000 watched for more than two hours at a time.

Next, I obtained metrics for the world’s top 100 porn sites for the month of April 2020 from SimilarWeb, a company that compiles Web traffic data.

  • The world’s top porn site, XVideos amassed 2.92 billion views among 382 million unique visitors who averaged 12.5 minutes per visit.
  • The number 100 most popular porn site, DrTuber, attracted 27.83 million views from 16 million visitors who watched for an average of 3.5 minutes per visit.
  • Overall, for April 2020, the world’s top 100 sites garnered 14.5 billion views from 3.3 billion unique visitors who spent an average of six minutes watching video sex.

However, as mentioned above, more than 42,000 sites present porn. Are the top 100 representative of all of them? To answer that question, I turned to three friends. One is a mathematician. Another is a computer engineer. The third is a biostatistician. Their consensus estimate: The top 100 sites probably capture the great majority of total porn views. They agreed that visit duration for the top 100 sites very likely extends to all sites—around six minutes per visit.

But there’s a problem. Viewers may stay only 5 to 10 minutes per visit, but some might go to porn sites many times a day, which would increase their viewing time, perhaps substantially.

Fortunately, as part of a 2014 study, the University of Montreal researcher mentioned earlier asked a large group of men how much time they spent on porn. Single guys said they averaged two hours a week (three weekly visits of 40 minutes each), coupled men 34 minutes a week (1.7 weekly visits of 20 minutes). Men watch porn for five to 17 minutes a day.

Of course, it’s likely that some of Lajeunesse’s sample under-estimated their viewing. People often under-estimate engagement in stigmatized behaviors, for example, smoking and drinking. For argument’s sake, let’s presume that the men watched 50 percent more porn than they admitted. That would mean coupled men watch an average of 7.5 minutes a day, single men 25 minutes—still not very much.

Conclusion: The porn-bashers are mistaken. Two men in 1,000 may watch for more than two hours at a time, but for 99.8 percent of men, porn is not some black hole that sucks them into oblivion. It’s more like a coffee break, a little time-out from daily responsibilities—and no threat to civilization or to the well-being of men or their relationships, occupations, or families.

Screen Time: What’s the Difference?

According to Nielsen, the media-tracking company, in 2016, the average American watched television (broadcast, cable, and streaming) 35 hours a week—almost the equivalent of full-time employment. Some viewers call themselves TV addicts and Web sites offer tips for breaking the habit. But television viewing provokes no outrage, no accusations of rending the social fabric.

Millions of men care passionately about NFL football. During usual (non-Covid) seasons, many spend Sunday afternoons and Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights watching games that typically last three hours. If fans view two games on Sundays and all three weeknight games, they watch 15 hours a week. Many women call themselves “football widows” and Internet sites offer support. But televised football prompts no national hand-wringing.

Meanwhile, men watch porn for 7.5 to 25 minutes a day, one to three hours a week, only a small fraction of the time most people spend glued to on-screen entertainment.

What’s the difference between watching porn and TV or football? It’s explicitly sexual and while watching, most men engage in self-sexing, which around 25 percent of women consider appalling and the sex addiction industry calls pathological.

Anti-porn women and the sex addiction industry are mistaken. Self-sexing is normal, natural, healthy, stress-relieving, and great fun. It’s the foundation of satisfying partner lovemaking. Sex therapists recommend it as part of treatment programs for premature ejaculation, arousal difficulties, trouble working up to orgasm, and recovery from childhood sexual abuse. If you have trouble enjoying sex with yourself, it’s very difficult to enjoy it with anyone else.

Yes, there’s tons of porn on the Internet—but so what? The vast majority of those who watch spend no more time viewing than the typical coffee break. The sky hasn’t fallen. Internet porn is not a social crisis, not even close.

P.S. If you are among the tiny proportion of men with problematic relationships to porn, you can find help and support. Consult a sex therapist who employs cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Dwayne Daughtry

Dwayne is NCRSOL's Executive Director.

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