We all know that the world has become pornified, that the internet has made available to all of us an entire universe of pornographic content. Yet many of the statistics we rely on and commonly quote have become outdated. As technology changes and as new generations grow up, the pornographic landscape inevitably changes. I went looking for updated numbers and want to present some of them to you today. All of these are based on credible studies carried out in 2016 or 2017.
In 2016, people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website (the biggest porn site in the world). That’s 524,000 years of porn or, if you will, around 17,000 complete lifetimes. In that same time people watched 92 billion videos (or an average of 12.5 for every person on earth). Significance: So many people are using so much porn today that it is really impossible to tabulate. But understanding how much is consumed at just one site can at least help us see that this problem is nothing less than epidemic.
At age 11, the average child has already been exposed to explicit pornographic content through the internet. 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet-based pornography during their adolescent years and 22% of the vast quantities of porn consumed by people aged under 18 is consumed by those aged less than 10. Significance: Parents are nothing short of negligent if they take no steps to protect their children from being exposed to pornography.
70% of teens and young adults define porn by its function, not its form. Pornography is not defined first as nudity or even presentations of sexuality, but as anything intended to bring about sexual arousal. Significance: Young adults do not consider things pornographic if they are not explicitly intended to cause arousal, so sex and nudity in movies or television is not considered pornographic, especially if it is an integral element to a story. As Christians we need to teach a thorough theology of the body and of sexuality.
57% of young adults admit to seeking out porn at least once per month. 46% of men admit to the same. Meanwhile, 49% of young adults say that most or all of their friends use porn on a regular basis. Significance: Porn use is rampant across most age categories, but is particularly pronounced among young adults.
96% of young adults are either encouraging, accepting, or neutral in their view toward pornography. (17% talk about porn in a positive way, 43% in an accepting way as if it’s just a reality of life in this world, while 36% don’t consider the morality of it at all.) That leaves only a tiny minority who consider it a negative thing. Only 1 in 20 young adults say their friends consider porn a bad thing. Significance: Early exposure to pornography and the negligence of parents to adequately address it leaves young adults believing pornography is normal and acceptable and its use unremarkable.
61% of pornography is watched on a mobile phone. In the United States that is as high as 70%. Significance: Parents used to believe that putting a computer in a well-trafficked place and installing Covenant Eyes on it would be sufficient to keep their children from accessing pornography. But today pornography is as mobile as our phones and people consume it in complete privacy. They can access it through the family’s wifi connection, through their mobile data connection, or anywhere else they can get onto the internet.
Today, 33% of women aged 25 and under go searching for porn at least once per month. 56% of women in that age group have gone looking for it at least one time in the past (compared to 27% of those aged 25 or older). Significance: Pornography has typically been considered the domain of men, but its use is rising among women. We must be careful not to ostracize young women who may be struggling with porn by speaking about it as if it is an issue that pertains only to men. Our churches must be prepared to help young women who are locked in this struggle just as we’ve been willing to help young men.
62% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image. Meanwhile, 41% have sent one, usually to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Women are more likely to both send and receive these nude images, presumably because it has become part of the dating ritual that women send nude or nearly-nude photos of themselves to boyfriends or potential boyfriends. Significance: Young people are using their digital devices to trade in self-porn; there is immense pressure on young women to send photos of themselves to young men (who, of course, can never be trusted with such photos). Parents must address this with their sons and daughters.
36% of young adults watch pornography to get tips or ideas that they can apply to their own sexual relationships. This increases to 38% in the next oldest demographic, then falls sharply. However, among older people, pornography is more commonly used to “set the mood” for sexual activity with a partner. The most common reasons people use pornography are personal arousal or boredom. Significance: Young people are learning about sex through pornography and then, inevitably, attempting to perform what they have seen on their sexual partners. Yet pornography teaches everything but the reality of sex as God intends it. They are learning from the very worst of teachers!
80% of porn users feel no sense of guilt when using porn. Significance: We know that any sin, when repeated over time, begins to deaden the conscience. Those who at first felt guilt about pornography soon come to find their conscience hardened, then seared. Porn is so available, so common, so celebrated, and so widely-used, that many people have lost even that inner sense that it is wrong.
These numbers prove statistically what we already known anecdotally—that pornography is a significant issue afflicting our society and our church. As Christians we can and must be prepared to help those who are struggling with it and to assure them that they can be forgiven and freed. As parents we can and must take action to protect and equip our children so we can help them overcome and avoid it.
Sources: The primary source for this information was Barna’s study The Porn Phenomenon. I will withhold other sources since they are linked to sites that condone the use of pornography.