The Largest Study of Online Porn Just Came Out. The Results Are Disturbing.

Researchers analysed the homepages of three major porn websites, and found 1 in 8 video titles shown to first-time users describe sexual violence.

06 April 2021, 11:47am

A recent study by British researchers—also the largest study of online porn to date—found that one in eight porn videos suggested to first-time users was labelled with text describing sexually violent acts. 

 The study involved researchers taking screenshots of the homepages every hour on the three most popular porn websites in the United Kingdom—Pornhub, XVideos, and XHamster—over a six-month period between 2017 and 2018. In the 131,738 videos surveyed, the researchers looked at the descriptions and titles of the videos and searched for keywords that corresponded with the World Health Organization’s definition of sexual violence but excluded the consensual BDSM titles. While they analysed the description and titles of the videos, they did not look into the content of the videos. 

The findings—published in the latest issue of The British Journal of Criminologyrevealed that more than 8,000 titles of all surveyed referred to physical aggression and forced sexual activity. Furthermore, the most common category of sexually violent videos was found in the 5,785 titles involving sex between family members. The most common keyword found was “stepmother”. Image-based sexual abuse was found in 2,966 titles with keywords including “hidden cams” and “upskirting”. The analysis found common keywords including “forced”, “molest”, “grope”, and “ambush”.  

The word frequency analysis further showed that in videos with coercive and exploitative content, the words “schoolgirl” (17.6 percent), “girl” (9.6 percent) and “teen” (8.8 percent) were the most common. A 2019 study found that when compared with adult performers, “teens” were about five times more likely than adults to be in videos featuring forceful anal, as well as more likely to be in videos where the male performer ejaculated in their mouth or on their face. The study also noted that videos featuring teens might be played by adult actors or those 18 and above, but in some cases, they can include underage actors too. The lack of regulation can also put the viewers in a tricky position—they don’t know how old the actors in the videos are, and the punishment for possession of child sexual abuse material is serious. Furthermore, even if the actors are playing teenage characters in the videos, the storylines often involve an underage person who is often coerced or tricked into sex. Titles like “Daddy, I don’t wanna go to school!” and keywords such as “pigtails”, “braces”, and “homework” often point out the role of a young teenager.

The new study also said this content was found with little to no age verification process and was easy for first-time users to access. Another disturbing aspect the researchers found was the easy access to revenge porn and rape videos. Rape, they noted, was often described rather than using specific terms. Examples illustrating this are actual titles like “She Woke Up Being Fucked” or “Surprise Anal, That was no accident!” 

The term “leaked” also showed results for what constitutes as revenge porn and rape. The danger here is that videos containing sexual violence are being packaged in a way to pass them off as socially acceptable, leading to a disconnect for the viewers on the boundaries between sex and sexual violence. Pornhub, however, has defended the allegations. “Consenting adults are entitled to their own sexual preferences, as long as they are legal and consensual, and all kinks that meet these criteria are welcome on Pornhub,” said a spokesman for Pornhub to the BBC. But Fiona Vera-Gray, a legal research fellow and co-author of the study, told the BBC that sexually violent material “eroticised non-consent” and distorted “the boundary between sexual pleasure and sexual violence”.

Last week, Pornhub released its first-ever transparency report that stated the site removed 653,465 pieces of potentially infringing content. In December 2020, the website removed videos uploaded from unverified sources and banned all unverified users after claims that the website was hosting child sexual abuse material. In response, Visa and Mastercard suspended services to Pornhub which remain in effect till today. In February, the site announced that they will use “secure biometric technology” to verify the users. 

As of yesterday, 10 more victims of sex trafficking operation Girls Do Porn joined the lawsuit against Pornhub’s parent company Mindgeek for more than $40 million, taking the total number of plaintiffs to 50. The lawsuit alleges that the platform knew about the producers' criminal activities years ago—and continued to host their non-consensual imagery on the site. 

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Tagged:

porn, violence, research, xvideos, pornhub, XHamster

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