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Who Watches Porn and Why

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By sex materials we mean magazines and books, regarded as pornographic by the respondent, wall calendars featuring nudes, sex magazines, sex movies in the cinema and video versions of these, and other sex films or programs on TV. In 1971 only books and magazines regarded as pornographic by the respondent were studied. The above were designated sex materials, because any classification into e.g. pornography and erotica is subjective, telling more about the personal attitude of the respondent towards their acceptability than about their contents.

The only possibility to measure changes in the use of sexual products is offered by the question on the use of magazines and books, classified as pornographic by the respondent him/herself. This comparison does, however, run into some problems. Firstly, the very idea of pornography has changed during the last 20 years. Many magazines regarded as pornographic 20 years ago are no longer generally regarded as such.

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Another, and perhaps more serious problem is that the porn market has changed radically during that same period. The circulation figures of sex magazines have declined since the 1970s, these magazines being replaced by sex videos. A case in point is the magazine Jallu, the circulation of which was very large in 1971, 111,694 copies, but only 13,645 in 1991. However, the total circulation of all sex magazines was 150,000 in 1991. Estimated readership of each copy is five. To measure changes in the use of pornography, all magazines, books and sex videos in the 1992 material must be counted as one batch.

The proportion of those having read or browsed a magazine or book that they regarded as pornographic during the last year was considerably less in 1992 than it was in 1971. Among men, the proportion of users dropped from 82% to 64%, among women from 59% to 30%. When the watching of sex videos during the last year is added, the use of sexual products still decreased, but not as dramatically as the above comparison shows. In 1992, 75% of men under 55 had used a pornographic magazine or book or a sex video or both during the last year. The corresponding figure for women was 41%.

The total use of pornographic products has decreased during the last 20 years also on the basis of this comparison. This might follow from the fact that 20 years ago these products were novelties for the majority of the population, and it was fashionable to test them. Along with their wider availability the market has become saturated, and interest in them has declined slightly.

Young people are significantly heavier consumers of sexual products than older people are. People seem to get fed up with pornographic products when growing older. The percentage of aging people using these products is only one third of that of younger groups. Part continue their consumption through life. From 1971 to 1992 the use of pornography declined in all age groups.

When comparing the use of magazines and books by men and women with the use of sex videos by men and women, both product groups have an approximately equal number of users. Almost as many men and women watch sex videos as read pornographic magazines or books. The number of men using these products is the larger by far in all age groups. According to the 1992 study, 53% of men and 22% of women had watched sex videos, approximately half of these at least a few times.

According to the MC analysis, male gender, young age and the use of alcohol explain reading and browsing of pornographic magazines and books. Marital status, education and religiosity were not related, when allowing for the impact of the first-mentioned. When none of the other variables is controlled, it can be seen that religious people use less pornography than do people that are estranged from religion.

What kind of people, from a sexual standpoint, are the users of pornography? As pornography splits the opinions of especially women, it is interesting to find out what kind of women do use pornography. Pornography is regarded as arousing and not arousing by approximately equal amounts of people.

The first observation is, that women who have read pornographic material during the year support women's right to make sexual initiatives more often than do other women; 70% of these women do so unconditionally. They have taken the initiative to sexual intercourse with their partner more frequently than other women. Of the women who have watched pornographic videos during the last year, 61% regard them as arousing, while this view is shared by only 27% of other women (corresponding figures for men: 80% and 55%). Women watching sex videos had orgasms more frequently than others, they had intercourse with significantly greater regularity, they had had more sex partners during their life, they satisfied their partner manually twice as often as other women and they were versatile users of coital positions.

Of the women that had watched several sex videos during the last year, 89% had an orgasm during their most recent intercourse. Women that watched sex videos found their sex life satisfactory also for this reason. These women regard themselves as more skilful in sexual matters, more active and sexually more attractive than other women. All in all, sex life is important for women who consume pornography, and they have enjoyed it in many ways. Women's attitudes towards pornography may be formed on the basis of their general attitude towards sex in their own life.