Red states consume more porn?

According to a new Harvard Business School study, eight of the top ten states in terms of online porn consumption were ones where McCain won in the presidential election. Professor Benjamin Edelman analyzed anonymised credit cards receipts from a large online porn company. Based on their limited data, the largest consumer is Utah. Other interesting possible correlations emerged too that Edelman outlines in his paper, "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?" published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. From New Scientist:
Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code's religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage.

To get a better handle on other associations between social attitudes and pornography consumption, Edelman melded his data with a previous study on public attitudes toward religion.

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour."

"One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you're told you can't have this, then you want it more," Edelman says.
"Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers" (New Scientist),


  1. Not surprising– the last time I drove up the east coast I noticed plenty of Hooters establishments and billboards for strip clubs down south, and the farther north I got, the fewer there were of both.

  2. The clear conclusion to make is that liberals tend to be smarter than conservatives. More liberals download their porn for free, meaning fewer of them show up in this analysis.

    Where’s my grant money, please.

  3. This is hilarious – so old fashioned values apparently include watching porn on the internet now. Basically anything is allowed – except gay marriage. Great, thanks red states and thank you “old fashioned values”.

  4. I did some work with the local cable system. They carried the Spice Channel. I’d usually see it when I visited a head-end. It was porn-lite. Seemed to always imply penetration but never showed it.
    It was strictly pay per view. I learned that the heaviest usage was during the daytime. Housewives?

  5. Is this controlled for how much non-online porn folks buy? I assume the porn-consumption is much closer to the same overall, but folks in Utah are going to a lot less likely to buy a copy of Penthouse at the local 7-11 for fear of their neighbors noticing it.

  6. More to the point, who buys adult entertainment? You meant to say people pay for porn? On the internet? How quaint.

  7. The number one region for consumption of gay furry bondage snuff porn is Yulcolm County, MS. However, it is suspected that one guy named Lud is responsible for most of that.

  8. The late great Frank Zappa said something to the effect that “The more conservative someone is, the more likely they are to have something hidden under their raincoat.”

    He also said “Take the Kama Sutra. How many people died from the Kama Sutra as opposed to the bible. Who wins?”

    We’ve got an evangelist type guy here in Austin who boasts the largest porn collection around. He says he buys it to keep it off the shelves in his crusade against it. Uh hunh…

  9. It seems to be drawing a false conclusion that people in states that voted for Mccain are all church-going republicans, and that they are the ones who are downloading all the porn. After all, even in the reddest of states there is a 35% minority that voted the other way.

    One might just as easily conclude that it is the liberal minority in those states has an increased desire for porn because of their repression, or that in those states the liberal, porn-consuming minority can’t get their porn (or kicks) as easily anyplace except online.

  10. We really should thank our Red State neighbors for keeping the online porn industry in business. Just how most states that pay more federal taxes then they get back are mostly blue states, it appears the states which pay more for porn are red states. Everybody wins!

  11. If I am not mistaken, pron still makes up the largest amount of internet commerce by far. Anybody got any stats on this?

  12. Funny. I’m reading that conservative people are the ones who are being offended by people who say they are lesbian on Xbox Live. When it may very well be those same exact people who watch girl-on-girl porn. LOL

  13. Like it or not, online porn has become a normal part of peoples’ lives, and even their relationships. I wish the study would break it down by type of porn.

    I suppose it’s hypocritical of me to want to know what everyone else is aroused by, and I don’t usually care; but I am extremely curious as to whether the red-state blue-state differences increase by type of porn consumed, particularly homoerotic porn.

    My null-hypothesis is that the anti-gay-relationship red states consume significantly higher amounts than blue-states of gay porn.

  14. I also suspect red states consume alot more of the so-called “bad porn” which these states are sometimes known to ban, e.g. hard S&M, bestiality.

  15. I wouldn’t be surprised, but dude, the study is completely useless if it doesn’t account for folks who view the free stuff.

  16. Wow, so data indicates that certain stereotypical Blue State misconceptions about Red States being repressive, sexually frustrated, and socially repressive places are, you know, wrong. Who would have guessed such a thing could be possible?

    You guys need to get out more.

  17. umm. it looks to me like some of those items are statistically insignificant.

    0.36% increase in consumption in states where respondents stated “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,”!?!?

    that means approximately nothing.

  18. bryan: don’t look now, but… i happen live in a socially-repressive bible belt red-state, and have for most of my life

  19. I always kind of assumed that the so-called “red states” were the primary consumers of porn in the US, particularly gay porn.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, you understand…

  20. obviously the reds are buying porn because they can’t get real sex. Barring a tiny percentage, porn for most people is a very poor substitute for something they desperately want. The red state predilection for violence, vengeance and general bloody-minded hostility springs from sexual frustration. I thought everyone knew this.

  21. It’s well-founded that wherever you find a repressive culture, you’re going to find more outrageous sexual deviancy. In a rigid, conservative community, porn seems more tantalizing than ever. It represents a kind of animal freedom that your average, well-caged conservative is denied.

    Color me unsurprised. But I don’t think it’s right to call those people “stupid.” That is, itself, a stupid point of view to hold. They were raised to behave a certain way, and it can be very, very difficult to break out of that lifestyle. As time goes by, I think our culture will gradually relax into something more even-headed and moderate.

  22. @tak

    the red staters here are pretty oversexed

    despite a high rate of abortions, we still have the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

    just like with porn, when something becomes socially repressed enough, people begin to wonder about what they spend so much time fighting and obsessing about, and inevitably they “give in” & indulge, without having a clue about what they are getting into

    thus they PAY for porn rather than get it free

    or end up with VD and unwanted pregnancies which they have no idea how to deal with other than continuing to smoke and drink, take dope.. and there you have it – another repressed, unhealthy red state which, under the surface, really has no better values than your blue state

  23. #28 That particular value comes partly from Pew Value Survey combined datasets from 1987-2007, off the cuff, I’d say that’s a big enough dataset to establish where “old-fashioned” values lie and with p=0.004 for the correlation between that and an increase in consumption that’s easily statistically significant (p<0.05). What that means might be up for debate, i.e. whether that's important, but not it's statistical significance; that latter part is just math.

  24. {d’oh!}[continued](where p is less than 0.05). What that means might be up for debate, i.e. whether that’s important, but not it’s statistical significance; that latter part is just math.

  25. There have been studies that show that conservatives give more to charity than liberals. Obviously, the Red Staters aren’t interested in the porn for itself, but by buying it they make it possible for all those Naughty Naked Teens to go to college.

  26. Angusm@38: That depends on what you consider a charity. Church groups don’t necessarily qualify to all modes of thought. Also, is this a % or an overall flat amount? Obviously those who make more $ can afford to give more, and have a bigger incentive to do so (tax deductions, etc.) Most conservatives I know (one side of my family) are more prone to be selfish, and feel justified in this; while the other side (liberal) are more prone to be generous, generally speaking, and don’t feel they have an automatic “get out of Hell free” card. Please show your work.

  27. I’m guessing it’s that the red states can actually afford computers on which to use porn subscriptions, while the blue states are waiting for their grant money to buy their computers. (or maybe they are waiting for their computers and lcd tvs from blue hippo)

  28. Blue States lead in escort sites.
    Red States lead in wife-swapping sites.

    Teller’s Business School study concludes: liberals can’t get a wife and conservatives can’t wait to get away from one.

  29. Well, I live in a Red state, and I can tell you why we consume more porn: all of our good-looking women have moved to Blue states to make money(either through careers or just dating/getting married.)

  30. #15:
    >They have porn on the internet now??

    Yeah! I’m surprised, too. Pleasantly surprised.

    So I might as well get started…

    Does anybody know where I can find pictures of naked women?

    And I’ll make sure to ask in a completely unrelated thread.

    Oh, and I heard there’s something called “usenet.” I’ll ask there, too.

  31. “There have been studies that show that conservatives give more to charity than liberals.”

    Guilt, for buying porn!

    “by buying it they make it possible for all those Naughty Naked Teens to go to college.”

    Girls Gone Wild, Spring Break! Girls with jobs don’t get no spring break.

    Stats are made available because the red people are dumb enough to pay for it, then try and deduct it from their taxes.

  32. People in Blue States know that you can get plenty of porn for free just by breaking the 11th Commandment: though shalt not circumvent Digital Rights Management.

  33. “Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage. ”

    Ok, that’s nice, but where’s the correlation between the amount of GAY porn consumed in anti-gay marriage states?

  34. I can explain the inverse relationship between church attendance and porn subscription. It’s pretty uninteresting.

    Church normally takes about 1 to 2 hours. Unless you’re the pastor and lives next door, there’s also commute time of up to 30 minutes each way. All this eats into the free-time-to-consume-porn. I’m sure if you consider other time-consuming events like the superbowl, you’ll find a similar inverse relationship.

  35. Two comments:

    One, my ultra conservative uncle, who was one of those doctors who refused to take Medicaid patients because he didn’t like the idea of people taking state aid (oddly enough, he does supports universal healthcare *shrug*), was a porn addict. It was so bad that, when he was visiting his daughter, she had to unplug the computer to get him to spend time with them. His wife finally gave him an ultimatum: either the computer goes or she goes. Even though it was tempting, he wound up giving his computer away instead.

    To be fair to the people paying for porn, fetish porn is extremely hard to find sometimes. I personally like one niche (not telling you!) that only has three sites, and all three are for-pay. Luckily, there are boards where people will post the pay material, but those tend to get shut down quickly because it attracts people who are *too* violent. *sigh* Maybe I need to wean myself off of that stuff. Not that I pay, but the vast majority of people attracted to this fetish do simply because of lack of material.

  36. You know that repression and conformity breed porn usage. Look at Japan. HEAVY into Porn because their society is so conformist.

    Men there are given lots of porn to keep rape and other sexually driven crimes down.

    In the south the “keeping up with the Jones” also is keeping from even showing outward ‘perversion’ and ‘sin’. What do you think happens when you bottle it all up?

  37. Professor Benjamin Edelman analyzed anonymised credit cards receipts from a large online porn company.

    The assumption is flawed, what this shows is that there are more paying customers for porn in red states vs. blue states. There is a vast amount of free porn on the internet that falls outside the scope of this investigation. And, if you choose to believe political stereotypes, it isn’t that suprising that blue state folks aren’t paying for their porn, they are relying on others to pay for them.

    Or, there is an alternate conclusion that is equally unsupported by this investigationlonely democrats, trapped in red states and surrounded by republicans, turn to internet porn to relieve their stress.

    Credit card receipts don’t include party affiliations.

    All three theories are equally well unsupported by the evidence presented – if they analyzed traffic to/from porn sites then I’d have abit more faith in the theory presented.

    Be wary of any serious conclusion made, since no state is purely republican or democrat – the most “democratic” state in the last election, based on 2008 Presidential Election results, was Vermont at 68%, the most “repiblican” state was Oklahoma at 66%, leading one to the impression that the “minorit” party in each state is greater than 1/3 of the entire population.

  38. Wait a minute – from the article:

    States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.(emphasis added)

    Three point six per thousand? That is significant? That is, for those who had to suffer through an “Outcome-based education”, 0.36%, or about one-third of one percent. Put another way, if in an election one candidate got 49.82% and the other got 50.18%, would anyone reasonably declare that a “landslide”? A “mandate”? No.

  39. niconico…, I’m die-en. Seriously, I’ve got to know please please please tell us.

    #56 free porn:red tube…just have a bottle of bleach nearby to wash your eyeballs with afterwards. and some mantra to clear out your brain of the memory of the images.

  40. Put another way, if in an election one candidate got 49.82% and the other got 50.18%, would anyone reasonably declare that a “landslide”? A “mandate”? No.

    Did you and I live through the same last eight years?

    Just checking.

  41. Would all this mean that Foreclosure signs are wankfuel for the “Kleptocratic Oligarchy?” That’s as their actions seemingly bespeak joy at having authored the pain of others. National social Schadenfreude as explication for the collapse? And from that – Contemplate a horrid thinkability that videos of the homeless might be porn to Madoff et all?And the positing that the indefensible categories of porn are favored by the Red states seems borne out by their police plotter pages..

  42. MDH asked:

    Did you and I live through the same last eight years?

    Yes, but let’s be clear – you are obviously talking about the 2000 and 2004 US presidential elections (I assume the 2008 election is off the table, and that’s fine). In 2000, one candidate got 47.9% of the popular vote while his opponent got 48.4% – that’s a 0.5% difference, neither side called it a landslide or a mandate (as I recall, but it was 8 years ago!). In the 2004 one candidate got 48.3% of the popular vote and the other got 50.7% – a 2.4% difference, again, neither a landslide nor a mandate as I recall.

    If you want to go back a bit further, a case for a landslide or mandate could be made for either the 1980 or 1984 elections. In the 1980 election, one candidate got 41.0% of the popular vote while the other got 50.7% – a 10.7% difference, I think this is arguably a mandate, though it maynot classify as a landslide. In the 1984 election one candidate got 40.6% of the popular vote, the other candidate got 58.8% – a difference of 18.2%, clearly a landslide and a mandate.

    And, of course, for the fun of it, and to be complete, let’s look at the 2008 election: one candidate got 45.7% while the other got 52.9%, a difference of 7.2%, a clear victory, maybe even a mandate, but not a landslide.

    Of course, opinions vary, and in my original post I choose not to refer to prior elections, but I think my point still stands – a 0.36% difference is neither a landslide nor a mandate. The closest election in the previous nine years was the 2000 election, and that had a difference of 0.5% – did either the Republicans or the Democrats call that a mandate or landslide? No, as I recall they refered to that as a close popular vote that led to an electoral college victory for one candidate.

    It’s interesting to note that Al Franken is currently leading in his Senate race against incumbent Norm Coleman, where with 2,862,041 votes cast (it seems), Franken’s lead is currently at 225 votes, or less than a 0.01% difference.

    Of course, U.S. Presidents aren’t elected by popular vote, so these are just examples of past elections and how they were perceived.

    All the above numbers are from Wikipedia, and as we all know, there are lies, damn lies, and Wikipedia entries.

  43. Re: #64 (sorry if the beginning posted already) — Bush & Friends did call it a mandate a number of times. See “Media echoed conservative claim on Bush ‘mandate,'” which cites e.g. Dick Cheney, who said on Nov. 3, 2004, that “President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation’s future and the nation responded by giving him a mandate.” The source cited there, ABC, is now a dead link, but the same quote can be found on MSNBC. (That is of course a different question from what actually is a mandate, but still, the claim was made.)

  44. EDINBLACK – Well, I wouldn’t call the 2.4% margin of victory in the popular vote in the 2004 election a mandate, but I accept that Cheney might have said that (hey, it was 5 years ago!).

    I only considered the popular vote (an admitedly useless number when we have the Electoral College in place), but if you look at the Electoral results for that election, we see a greater difference (286 vs. 251 electoral votes) – in terms of Electoral votes, maybe that was/is a mandate.

  45. I think some of the increase may be related to conservatives views on marriage. If you’re conservative, you’re more likely to have most of your sex inside of marriage. Conservatives are more likely to have less partners and less opportunity for sexual exploration. Porn is a way to sort of experiment with things that you can’t actually experiment with. Fantasy with porn is an outlet for indulging in things you can’t do because you’re married or would never really engage in but find intriguing to imagine yourself involved in.

    You might want to see if your conservative spouse might be interested in certain acts and practices, but they might be inexperienced with them,too, and porn can serve as a talking point to see if they might be interested in trying it. It can be inspiring for folks that have been married a long time,too. When things get a little dull in the bedroom after years and years of sex with the same partner, porn could open up some new communication and give some neat new ideas for spicing things up.

  46. TAKUAN – From the article you linked to, which was based on the same info discussed above:

    Utah is the country’s single biggest consumer of online porn. You’ve got to love those Mormons.

    I thought there were non-Mormons in Utah as well as Mormons, does this study claim that only Mormons are consuming porn, or that only Mormons are paying for porn? No, this study identifies that Utah has the most credit card receipts for paying for Porn…

    Nothing else is proven, and even if there are more Mormons in Utah than non-Mormons (Despite Mormons being a minority in Salt Lake City, they represent 60.7% of the population of Utah), there is nothing to prove that Mormons consume paid porn at a rate any greater than any other group either in Utah or the country.

    (Utah) ranks 47th in teenage pregnancy, last in percentage of births out of wedlock, last in number of abortions per capita, and last in percentage of teen pregnancies terminated in abortion. Statistics relating to pregnancies and abortions may be artificially low from teenagers going out of state for abortions because of parental notification requirements


    According to Internal Revenue Service tax returns, Utahns rank first among all U.S. states in the proportion of income given to charity by the wealthy.

    I agree – You’ve got to love those Mormons!

    1. According to Internal Revenue Service tax returns, Utahns rank first among all U.S. states in the proportion of income given to charity by the wealthy.

      Since the Mormon church and its front groups qualify as a charities, that argument is spurious.

  47. is denying people the right to marry a charity? How did they siphon those tax free funds through anyway?

  48. Tim, but if there was only one subscription per thousand people, on average, then 3.6subs p/k would be 3.6 times as many..

  49. TAKUAN said:

    is denying people the right to marry a charity?

    Come on, if you want to bring up Mormons and marriages, why not go for the low-hanging fruit and attack them for polygamy? That is the greatest FUD argument I’ve heard against them, despite it being against the law (here in the US), and the LDS church discontinued any formal tolerance of the practice in the 1890 decree and reinforced the ban in 1910.

    Or their “Special Underware” aka “Temple Garment”?

    Surely LDS is neither the only, nor the largest church that denies some individuals the right to be married inside their churches – if you want to make that assertion you’ll need to be a bit more specific about who they allow to marry in their churches and how that is different from many other world religions.

    ANTINOUS said:

    Since the Mormon church and its front groups qualify as a charities, that argument is spurious.

    I don’t see this as spurious – a donation is a reduction in personal assets, and the fact that they donate to the church of their choice in larger amounts than residents of other states donate to either their churches or other charities still counts.

    ARKIZZLE said:

    Tim, but if there was only one subscription per thousand people, on average, then 3.6subs p/k would be 3.6 times as many..

    At the risk of breaking all know rules of engagement here on the Internet, let me agree that you make a good point. Thanks.

  50. More important than the ‘repressed minority’ hypothesis is the fact that a sizable proportion of the possible porn-consuming public *did not vote* in the last election, and indeed are unregistered and largely unpolitical in the conventional sense. The fact is we could construct more hypotheses about whats really going on than the number of people reading this article. He’s an economist, he’ll get tenure partly on this basis, and you can all go back to arguing about what of only the two major political parties is somehow more sexually deviant. I say libertarians watch dominatrix and male greens watch teen lesbian.

  51. going out of the way to raise and spend better than twenty million bucks is not “low hanging fruit”.
    Yegods, if they’d given me half that I could have done a literally infinite amount more public good no matter how I spent it. Just who was helped by a vicious, unwarranted attack on the least-defended?

  52. TAKUAN said:

    Yegods, if they’d given me half that I could have done a literally infinite amount more public good no matter how I spent it.[emphasis added]

    Really? A “literally infinite” amount of anything on half of $20 Million dollars doesn’t seem possible (unless we are talking swizzle sticks)

    A few questions though, as you seem sincerely upset about something I can’t quite pick out:

    – What $20 Million was raised and spent?

    – Who exactly are the “least-defended” you are defending?

    I could guess, but I want to be sure. My guess is that you are upset that the Mormon Church helped raise $20 Million supporting their opposition to gay marriage in California? Link to LA Times story.

    BTW, Political Contributions are not tax deductable.

  53. you mean this part? yup.

    it was the latest in an escalating campaign directed against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its role in marshaling millions of dollars in contributions from its members for the successful campaign to take away same-sex marriage rights.

    Members of the Mormon church, who were strongly urged by church leaders to contribute to the Proposition 8 campaign, had an undeniable role in the measure’s victory. Opponents of Proposition 8 have accused the church of discriminating against homosexuals, but the backlash against the denomination has also sparked accusations of discrimination.

    During the campaign, a website established by Proposition 8 opponents used campaign finance data and other public records to track Mormon political contributions to the Yes-on-8 campaign. Opponents estimated that members of the church had given more than $20 million, but the amount is difficult to confirm since the state does not track the religious affiliation of donors.

  54. TAKUAN – I can’t help but think you wanted to add a “yet” to the end of your previous post…

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