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While the rest of the world is in uproar about inequalities and violence against women, the porn industry want us to believe that women are watching “extreme” categories like “rough sex” and “hardcore” more than men. Let’s test this then shall we?

What we know.

  • We know that it’s common for those who have been exposed to rough sex in pornography to both desire and engage in those acts, with almost half of viewers then engaging in four or more rough sex behaviours.
    • According to Cordelia Anderson, this process is what we term “normalisation”. It’s when an idea, concept or behaviour becomes an accepted part of societal culture. Once this occurs, it is considered “just the way it is” and becomes viewed as beneficial or preferential.
  • We know that the younger the age at which women were first exposed to pornography, the stronger the associations between women’s submissive behavior and partnered pornography consumption. 
  • We know that men watch porn more frequently than women – in Australia, 85% of young men and 23% of young women watch pornography on a daily or weekly basis.  
  • We know that women who consume porn are more likely to be submissive in their sexual behaviors.
  • We know that just as porn is a script for men that normalises male dominance, it’s also a script for women to accept submission.

Women have shared with me that they feel horrible about being aroused at seeing other women subjected to rough sex acts. Many women experience arousal disorders from compulsive use – check the video below for more info. Women porn consumers also experience loss of intimacy, see others as sexual objects, and escalate viewing to unwanted and extreme materials. Perhaps too, they possess a much deeper level of shame than male consumers, given porn viewing is less typical among women. Links to support can be found here.

Yes, women do watch rough sex porn. For example Alice, a woman in her early twenties, found herself watching increasingly rough porn scenes in an attempt to satiate her ever-increasing desire for stimulation. Like many female porn consumers, it didn’t begin this way. But ‘vanilla’ pornography slowly gave way to more graphic scenes as her brain’s tolerance increased, and porn culture enthusiastically affirmed female submission to male aggression. Alice shared with me that the draw to rougher sex was also made easier by previous abusive relationships, trauma and poor sex education.

What we are told.

Pornhub’s claims that their “rough sex” category is 63 percent more popular with women than it is with men. When I read this in a recent Men’s Health Magazine article called Rough sex porn: More women than men, I knew there had to be more to the story. Pornhub want us to believe women love rough sex more than men. Why? A marketing tactic to convince men that women want it harder and rougher – if they tell you they don’t, women must be lying. 

What we aren’t told.

I called on an another ex-porn user to help me dig deeper and work out how Pornhub had reached this conclusion. And it turns out, it’s not rocket science. 

By Pornhub’s own admission, they use anonymized data provided by Google Analytics so that statisticians are able to build an accurate picture of the demographic makeup of their visitors including their gender, age and even interests. According to my Facebook follower Colin, this data set only includes people that have not opted out of being tracked by Google. He suggests that there would be plenty of men, perhaps the most ‘aggressive’ porn users, that opt out of Google analytics and the likes and watch porn with anonymity.

Backing up his theory, according to a 2017 Quantable article “a survey from Moz + Fractl found 63% of respondents in that 18-34 demographic said they used ad blockers”. Essentially, using blockers prevents Google Analytics from extracting data from site visitors.

Which gender uses blockers? It turns out, the demographic most likely to block are young, male, and internet savvyA 2018 survey on ad blocker usage in the Nordic countries found that “the share of men who used ad blockers was higher than the share of women in all countries”. How much higher? Forbes says that “roughly 81% of ad block users identified themselves as male; 18% identified as female.” Essentially this means that porn consumption activities of the vast majority of men will be undetectable through Google Analytics, whereas women using porn are being tracked by Pornhub and reported as being high consumers of violent material. 

What we can be confident about.

Pornhub is reporting on skewed data. They normalise rough sex and violence towards women, and then state that women love it more. They imply that women are somehow ‘driving’ the demand for brutal acts. Then they publish a story in a major men’s magazine, to help all the men who get off on this violence feel a lot better about their choices. Thankfully, there’s a growing number of men who are waking up to the violence in porn. Guys like Colin.

Women do consume pornography, even rough or hardcore scenes, but PornHub’s proud claim that rough sex porn is 63% more popular with women is clearly skewed data and only serves to normalise violence against women.

Whilst countless people band together around the world to reach equality and address sexual violence against women, the industry spins its lies. The truth is, porn perpetuates power imbalances that often look a lot like rape. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we must be awake.

If you or loved ones are struggling with pornography’s impacts, you need to know that you are not alone. Click through for educational information, resources and links to online support services.

THANK YOU to everyone who has been sharing these blog posts and for all your great feedback.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about, send an email or ASK ME through Vidoyen for a response via video. To enquire about my availability and professional speaking fees to present at your school, in-service, conference, community, youth or church event, enquire via email; or find sexuality education support at Youth Wellbeing Project.
Liz Walker

International authority on porn harms, education and advocacy.