Sex Ed

What A Decade Of Data From Pornhub Reveals About Our Sexual Interests

November 8, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller

This year, Pornhub celebrated its tenth birthday. To commemorate the occasion, they released some fascinating data on trends in users’ viewing habits. Among other things, over 10 million videos have been posted on the site to date. Also, Pornhub now receives 75 million (!) visitors per day, and the average user spends about 10 minutes there per visit.

You can check out the full report here in all its glory, but keep on reading for a recap of the major highlights and some analysis. Here’s what stood out to me regarding the most popular porn genres on the site:

The most viewed porn category of all time was—drum roll, please—lesbian. Why is that? There are a couple of reasons. First, for many heterosexual men, the idea of watching two women have sex is an extremely popular fantasy. Studies find that straight men have a tendency to see female same-sex behavior as highly erotic, so it makes sense that this would be a particularly popular porn genre among male users.

However, it may surprise you to learn that lesbian isn’t just the most-viewed category among male users—it has also become the most viewed category among female users. This probably isn’t because most of the women visiting Pornhub are lesbians themselves; rather, it may be because women tend to be more sexually fluid than men. As some evidence of this, research has found that, among persons who identify as heterosexual, women are more likely than men to report having experienced same-sex attraction and having masturbated to same-sex fantasies.

However, an alternative possibility is that women’s interest in lesbian porn stems from the same reasons a lot of women are drawn to gay male porn: perhaps the actors seem to be enjoying the sex more, the pleasure appears more genuine, and/or the production value or plotlines are better. This reasoning makes sense in light of research showing that most women who watch gay male porn also watch lesbian porn. Put another way, maybe lesbian porn is just more female friendly than most of the mass-produced heterosexual porn.

The second most viewed porn category of all time was MILF (though it’s worth noting that this was the most viewed category for the years 2012-2014). Relatedly, mature women represented the 5th most viewed category. Why are MILFs and mature women in such great demand in the world of porn? Research suggests that it may stem from heterosexual men being drawn to powerful and confident women—women who are also practiced when it comes to sex and who are willing to take charge in bed. You can learn more about the appeal of the MILF and the psychology behind men’s attraction to mature women here.

One other category from the list worth highlighting is anal sex, which came in at number 7. Anal sex is an activity that has become increasingly popular, with some studies finding that nearly half of men and more than one-third of women today have tried it before—a sizeable increase compared to studies from the 1990s.

As the same time that more people have begun experimenting with anal sex, this activity has also become more commonplace in porn. So, is this because porn is influencing people’s sexual practices, or because people are searching for porn that reflects their desires? There’s probably a bit of both going on.

Porn reflects and shapes our sexual interests to some degree. To be clear, this isn’t to say that anything you happen to see in porn is suddenly going to become a major turn-on to you or that you’re necessarily going to go out and try it. However, to the extent that you see a certain act in porn repeatedly and that act is paired with a state of heightened sexual arousal, masturbation, and orgasm, basic principles of psychological reinforcement tell us that you might very well start to find that act highly arousing.

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Image Source: 123RF/Peter Ksinan

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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