Is Utah #1 in Porn Use?

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It’s not. Not even close. That often-repeated meme arose from Benjamin Edelman's 2009 economics paper "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?" He relied entirely on subscription data from a single top-ten provider of pay-to-view content when he ranked states on porn consumption - ignoring hundreds of other such websites. Why did he choose that one to analyze?

We do know that Edelman's analysis was conducted circa 2007, after free, streaming "tube sites" were operational, and porn viewers were increasingly turning to them. So, Edelman's single data point out of thousands (of free and subscription sites) cannot be presumed to be representative of all US porn users.

Turns out it's not. In fact, other studies and available data rank Utah porn use between 40th and 50th among the states. See:

  1. This peer-reviewed paper: "A review of pornography use research: Methodology and results from four sources." Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace (2015)
  2. Or this easier to read 2014 article: Rethinking Mormons and Porn: Utah 40th in US in New Porn Data
  3. Per capita page views, taken from Pornhub in 2014 (graph below).

The oft-repeated, but unsupported “Utah as number 1” myth often bolsters another spurious meme, namely, that 'religious individuals use more porn than nonreligious individuals.' In fact, the opposite is true. Religiosity predicts far lower rates of porn use.

The preponderance of studies report far lower rates of porn use in religious individuals compared with non-religious individuals. Consider these studies:

  1. Adult Social Bonds and Use of Internet Pornography (2004)
  2. Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults (2008)
  3. Internet pornography use in the context of external and internal religiosity (2010)
  4. “I believe it is wrong but I still do it”: A comparison of religious young men who do versus do not use pornography. (2010)
  5. Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality (2011)
  6. Pornography Use: Who Uses It and How It Is Associated with Couple Outcomes (2012)
  7. U.S. males and pornography, 1973-2010: consumption, predictors, correlates (2013)
  8. Adolescent religiousness as a protective factor against pornography use. (2013)
  9. Religiosity, Parent and Peer Attachment, and Sexual Media Use in Emerging Adults (2013)
  10. United States women and pornography through four decades: exposure, attitudes, behaviors, individual differences (2013)
  11. How does religious attendance shape trajectories of pornography use across adolescence? (2016)
  12. Spousal Religiosity, Religious Bonding, and Pornography Consumption (2016)
  13. How Much More XXX is Generation X Consuming? Evidence of Changing Attitudes and Behaviors Related to Pornography Since 1973. (2016)
  14. Religious and Community Hurdles to Pornography Consumption: A National Study of Emerging Adults (2017)
  15. The Influence of Religiosity and Risk Taking on Cybersex Engagement among Postgraduate Students: A Study in Malaysian Universities (2017)
  16. Explicit Sexual Movie Viewing in the United States According to Selected Marriage and Lifestyle, Work and Financial, Religion and Political Factors (2017)
  17. Pornography Use and Loneliness: A Bi-Directional Recursive Model and Pilot Investigation (2017)
  18. Seeing is (Not) Believing: How ViewingPornography Shapes the Religious Livesof Young Americans (2017)

To take another example, a 2011 paper (“The Cyber Pornography Use Inventory: Comparing a Religious and Secular Sample”) reported the percentage of religious and secular college men who used porn at least once a week:

  • Secular: 54%
  • Religious: 19%

A 2010 study on college-aged religious men “I believe it is wrong but I still do it”: A comparison of religious young men who do versus do not use pornography reported that:

  • 65% of religious young men reported viewing no pornography in the past 12 months
  • 8.6% reported viewing two or three days per month
  • 8.6% reported viewing daily or every other day

In contrast, cross-sectional studies of college-age men report relatively high rates of porn viewing (US - 2008: 87%, China - 2012: 86%, Netherlands - 2013 (age 16) - 73%).

Finally, consider two recent studies investigating religiosity in treatment-seeking sex and porn addicts:

The "Utah Is #1" talking point lingers in mainstream journalism and sexology spin long after the science has proven otherwise. Why?

Finally, recent articles about the Joshua Grubbs studies ("perceived addiction studies") have tried to paint a very misleading picture of what these studies actually reported and what these findings mean. In essence, bloggers, and sometimes Grubbs himself, have claimed that religiosity is strongly related to porn addiction. It's not. In response to these spurious articles, YBOP published this extensive critique of the claims made in the perceived addiction studies and in the related misleading articles.


Page Views Per Capita on Pornhub (2014): Utah is 40th