Internet Porn

Pornography, or porn, is the depiction of sexual content that is viewed with the intent of heightening sexual arousal or pleasure.1 Porn has taken on a wide variety of forms since its inception, from paintings and photographs to magazines and videos. With the expansion of the internet, sexually explicit websites, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and chat rooms are becoming increasingly popular. The internet has dramatically and permanently changed the way that porn is viewed and produced. The effects of internet porn are far-reaching and can be both positive and negative.

Types of Internet Porn

Over the past two decades, internet pornography has become a major industry with growing demand each year. In 2016, Pornhub.com, one of the world’s leading pornography websites, reported that their website received approximately 44,000 visits every minute. In 2017, a Google search for ‘porn’ revealed more than 2 billion websites in 0.33 seconds.2 The internet’s vast and diverseassortment of pornographic content ensures that there is something for everyone. There are several different ways to view internet porn, but the most common are pay sites, tube sites, and cam sites.

Pay Sites

Pay sites operate through a subscription-based model in which members pay to gain access to pornographic photos as well as streaming video content. Some pay sites charge a monthly or yearly fee to view unlimited content, while others are pay-per-view and charge customers for each video or photo they access.3 At the beginning of the 21st century, pay sites were the leading distributors of internet porn, but only about three to five percent of viewers obtain their porn through them today.4 This massive decline in popularity is often attributed to the rise of tube sites. 

Tube Sites

Tube sites offer unlimited free pornographic content to all viewers and are sustained through ad revenue.5 The majority of internet porn viewers use tube sites exclusively due to their lack of cost and accessibility. Pornhub is the largest tube site on the internet today, with over 28.5 billion visits and 4 million videos uploaded every year.6 There are three main forms of pornographic content available on tube sites: amateur porn, teasers, and pirated content. 

Amateur porn is pornographic material that is produced by non-professionals and distributed via tube sites.7 Typically, amateur porn is recorded using a phone, webcam, or video camera. The most common genres of amateur porn are real-life couples having sex on camera and solo scenes involving strip teases or masturbation.7 There is a noticeable difference in quality between amateur and professional porn; however, many users prefer amateur porn because of its realistic nature. Amateur porn performers are real people with average bodies that often have not been surgically enhanced.7 Although some people attempt to sell their amateur porn to tube sites, many opt to upload their content for free.

Teasers are free samples of videos posted by pay sites in attempt to entice users into paying for the full product.5 Few customers would pay for porn without seeing any of the content in advance, thus, pay sites distribute short clips and thumbnail pictures for free as advertisement. Tube sites often take advantage of these teasers by organizing them into compilation videos and thumbnail galleries.8

The most prevalent form of porn available on tube sites is pirated content. Pirated content is any content that is illegally downloaded from a pay site and then posted to a tube site, making it available to unlimited audiences without cost. Essentially, one customer pays for a pornographic video on a pay site and then digitally uploads that content to a tube site.9 Although all forms of piracy are illegal, it is especially difficult to prevent and punish porn piracy due to the seemingly endless quantity of porn on the internet today. Pirated content is the most in-demand form of porn on tube sites because it is full-length, professional quality pornographic content as opposed to amateur porn or brief teasers.Therefore, pirated porn comprises the majority of porn on tube sites today.

Cam Sites

A growing sector of internet pornography is live webcam performances, or “camming” shows. Camming involves live-streaming an erotic performance for an audience in real time.10 Webcam models, commonly referred to as ‘cam girls’ or ‘cam boys’, depending on their gender presentation, often perform in their private residences and connect to their audiences through host websites, such as My Free Cams and Live Jasmin. The majority of webcam models are cisgender women, likely because many popular sites prohibit anyone else from signing up.10 Typical camming sessions involve a chat room in which viewers can communicate with the performer and even pay for certain privileges. Users can also pay extra money to make specific requests of the performer, such as removing more clothing or engaging in certain sexual acts; however, the highest fees are those required to have a private, one-on-one session with the performer.10 Unlike all other forms of internet porn, camming allows viewers to interact with performers instantaneously, providing a more personal and intimate experience, while also providing a fully mediated barrier.10

Webcam performers enjoy the benefits of working from home as well as a greater connection with their audience. Additionally, webcam performers generally earn decent wages and experience good working conditions.10 Although cam shows are live performances, tube sites are still ableto pirate this content by recording webcam sessions and uploading them for free. However, most users enjoy camming performances for their interactive aspect, thus, the demand for pirated webcam sessions is lower than it is for professional, pre-recorded pornography. Additionally, while camming is often described as pornographic, it can also be defined as sex work based on its transactional feature directly between the consumer and the performer.10

Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet Porn

The internet pornography industry is massive and only continues to grow; thus, it is worthwhile to examine the advantages and disadvantages of internet porn. Like all forms of pornography, viewing internet porn can be, and for the most part is, a natural and healthy behavior, so long as it does not become an addiction that negatively impacts a person’s life.

Advantages

One of the advantages of internet porn is anonymity.3 Unlike many other forms of porn, it virtually guarantees the anonymity of its users. Nowadays, consumers can purchase and view porn from the comfort of their own homes, preventing any potential embarrassment from buying pornographic material in public retail stores. Some people may worry about the risk of running into somebody they know in such a place (e.g., friend, family member, employer, etc.) and being negatively judged. The anonymity of the internet eliminates much of the stigma surrounding the viewing of pornography. Additionally, the expansion of theinternet has made it easier than ever to access countless different genres and subcategories of porn, specifically less common or niche genres that were previously hard to find or heavily stigmatized.3

Internet porn can also enrich people’s sex lives by giving them the opportunity to add novelty, learn about their bodies, and explore a variety of techniques and sexual interests. For instance, couples can watch pornographic videos together and experiment to add novelty to their sex lives. Watching porn together can be an exciting addition to a couple’s foreplay routine or it can serve as inspiration for acts to try in the future.3

Porn can also be a useful learning tool. Viewers can discover new techniques, positions, and even find inspiration for exciting role play scenarios. However, keep in mind that the porn industry often enhances and alters the natural appearance and abilities of performers.5 Viewers who compare such imagery and activity with reality may find themselves disappointed or confused when real life sexual encounters do not resemble those shown in pornography. Therefore, while porn can be educational, it is not a suitable substitute for comprehensive sex education.

Disadvantages

One of the disadvantages of watching internet pornography is that it is often lower quality than other forms of porn.5 Because the majority of porn viewed online today is available through tube sites, the most accessible content typically consists of short teasers, amateur videos, and content pirated from a pay site. Furthermore, porn production companies have dramatically decreased their production budgets in attempts to save money, leading to less extravagant sets and effects.4

Another major disadvantage of internet pornography is that the expansive availability of free, online pornographic content can make it more likely for an individual to develop an addiction to porn. Although the majority of people never develop an addiction to porn, it is worthwhile to familiarize oneself with some of the indicators of an unhealthy relationship with porn. The following are signs of an internet porn addiction:11

  • An inability to stop watching porn despite previous attempts
  • Losing track of time due to watching porn
  • Withdrawing from socialization with friends and family
  • Requiring more explicit porn to gain the same amount of sexual satisfaction
  • Craving porn and becoming angry when porn is not easily accessible
  • Continuing to view porn even when other aspects of a person’s life, such as one’s job or relationship or friendships, are being negatively impacted11

Watching internet porn rarely becomes problematic. However, fortunately, there are a variety of methods to treat porn addiction. The most popular and successful method involves seeking therapy from a mental health professional who is experienced in treating porn addiction.11 In most cases, self-regulation and moderation are keys to maintaining a healthy relationship with porn. 

The Effect of the Internet on Pornography Industry

Since its inception, the internet has significantly altered the trajectory of the pornography industry. The rise of tube sites and amateur content is responsible for much of this change. Professional porn producers and performers must now compete with the massive quantity of free porn available on tube sites.3 With this increased competition, the earnings for porn actors and production workers have dropped significantly. Wages for female actors have declined from an average of $800 to $600 per average sex scene, while male actors earn even less.12 Due to decreased profits, there has also been a significant decrease in the number of porn production studios. In the last ten years, the number of professional porn studios has dropped from over 200 to around 20 today.3Additionally, there has been an increase in demand for hardcore content, or kinky porn, such as anal sex, BDSM, double and triple penetration, and various fetishes.4 Porn performers have been forced to increase the intensity and violence of their content without earning more in return. Before the recent expansion of the internet, pornography was given official classifications according to the permitted audience; “the rating determined how, where, and to whom [it] could be sold or shown.”13 However, these ratings have become irrelevant with the growth of the online world of pornography. Some porn websites require viewers to state that they are over 18 years old, but these sites do not have any means of authenticating such statements. This means that, so long as they have access to the internet, people of any age can now view pornographic material instantaneously.13 

The internet has also positively impacted the porn industry in several ways. Camming is an entirely new genre of porn that was made possible by the internet’s live-streaming capabilities. For the first time ever, performers can interact with their audiences in real time. Webcam performers are also able to market themselves directly to viewers without the once vital need for studios, agents, contracts, or corporations, giving them increased control over their work. They often report greater workplace satisfaction due to their independence and ability to work from home on their own schedule. They also have the autonomy to decide what acts they choose to perform and even how they will interact with their viewers.9 Another positive effect the internet has had on pornography is the decreased stigmatization of the porn industry. Porn is no longer the taboo, off-limits topic that it once was. The expansion of social media has also allowed porn stars to connect with their audience directly, develop their personal brands, and become more relatable, mainstream figures in society.14 The increased influence of social media has also provided a new platform for performers to advertise their work to wider audiences. Additionally, the invention of smartphones, tablets, and other hand-held devices, which fit in a pocket and can be carried anywhere, have expanded the physical platforms for access to internet pornography. According to data from 2017, cell phone access accounted for 61% of the visits to Pornhub and the estimated number of 2.3 billion smartphones across the world is steadily growing.13 This increased use of the internet on hand-held devices has also led to the creation of new online platforms through which pornography can be accessed. These include social networks, blogs, virtual reality websites, games, and smartphone applications.13

It is difficult to determine whether the internet has positively or negatively impacted the porn industry overall; however, it is undeniable that the effects of the internet on porn are widespread and likely permanent.

The Future of Internet Porn

The porn industry has had to adapt to the advent of the internet in order to maintain its popularity and relevance. Virtual reality (VR) is the most recent and groundbreaking advancement in internet pornography. VR is an all-encompassing term used to define a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment.15 A VR user can put on a headset and be instantly immersed in a new, digital environment. Using VR goggles, consumers can now access pornography online and experience the content in three dimensions, as if they are a part of the video.13 Virtual reality is already being used as a method of viewing porn and it is estimated that by 2025, pornography will be the third largest use of VR behind video gaming and sports viewing.16 Virtual reality provides a more realistic and intimate pornographic experience, allowing viewers to feel like they are a part of the scenes they are watching. This gives many consumers an increasedsense of freedom and power.

Despite the technological sophistication of VR pornography, many virtual reality users report feeling a separation from their VR environment. This separation often leads to an emotional and ethical distance from their real-life actions resulting from their VR persona. Virtual participation in pornographic content can diminish one’s sense of individual responsibility or accountability in otherwise inappropriate situations (i.e. when pornographic material may involve exploitation of minors or scenes of sexually explicit violence). Virtual reality may blur the linesbetween the real and the imaginary, which may prevent users from taking responsibility for their actions in real life.16

Concluding Remarks

The internet has undoubtedly changed the ways that people both view and produce pornography. Internet porn provides unprecedented levels of accessibility, affordability, and anonymity, making it easier than ever for people to view porn. The increased availability of porn on the internet benefits the majority of consumers; however, it is worthwhile to note that this may also foster addiction in a small number of viewers. Furthermore, the internet has brought many challenges to the pornography industry. Production companies struggle to combat tube sites’ unlimited free selection of porn, causing many professional porn studios to go out of business. Although the internet has led to the failure of numerous professional studios, it has also fostered new forms of pornography, such as camming and virtual reality. Watching porn is a natural and healthy activity that can have many benefits; however, as with any sexual activity, porn should not interfere with an individual’s relationships, responsibilities, and hobbies. 

References

  1. Nufer, Rebecca. “A Brief Background of Pornography and its Effects on Physical, Psychological, and Emotional Health in Youth.” The BYU Undergraduate Journal in Psychology, vol. 12, issue 1. Brigham Young University: 2017.
  2. Bothe, Beata, et al. “The Development of the Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale.” The Journal of Sex Research. The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality: 2018.
  3. “Pornography: Naked Capitalism.” The Economist. The Economist Group Limited: 2015.
  4. Gradus, R., et al. Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On. Herzog Company: 2017.
  5. Pierrat, Jerome, et al. “Pornocracy: The New Sex Multinationals.” Magneto Presse and Fatalitas Productions: 2017.
  6. “2017 Year in Review.” Pornhub, Pornhub Insights: 2018. 
  7. Tibbals, Chauntelle. “Would You Sell Your Private Sex Tape to a Porn Company?” Men’s Health Magazine: 2015
  8. Mims, Christopher. “How the Internet Porn Business Works.” Business Impact. MIT Technology Review: 2010.
  9. Auerbach, David. “Vampire Porn.” Slate Magazine: 2014.
  10. Henry, Madeline and Pantea Farvid. “Always Hot, Always Live: Computer-Mediated Sex Work in the Era of ‘Camming’.” Women’s Studies Journal, vol. 31, no. 2. Women’s Studies Association of New Zealand: 2017. 
  11. Miller, Leah. “What Is Porn Addiction?” Project Know. Project Know: 2018.
  12. Morris, Chris. “Porn’s Dirtiest Secret: What Everyone Gets Paid.” CNBC. CNBC LLC: 2016.
  13. Ashton, Sarah, et al. “What Does ‘Pornography’ Mean in the Digital Age? Revisiting a Definition for Social Science Researchers.” Porn Studies, vol. 6, issue 2. Taylor and Francis Online: 2019.
  14. Murray, Billy. “How Porn Stars Use Social Media to Elevate Their Brands.” Resource Magazine. ReMag Inc: 2017.
  15. “What Is Virtual Reality?” Virtual Reality Society. VRS: 2017. 
  16. Krueger, Alyson. “Virtual Reality Gets Naughty. The New York Times. The New York Times Company: 2017.

Last updated: 21 January 2020