What Was Popular In Porn In 2018?

Pornhub recently released their 2018 year-in-review of users’ viewing habits and the results were fascinating. Among other things, they reported an average of 92 million site visitors per day in 2018, each of whom stayed for an average of 10 minutes and 13 seconds. Also, users uploaded more than 4.7 million videos—so many, in fact, that it would take 115 years to watch all of them. That’s a lot of porn!

You can check out the full report here in all its glory, but if you’re just after a few highlights and some analysis, here are some of the things that stood out to me during my review of the data.

· The single most popular search term on the site was “lesbian,” which has now topped the list for the fourth year in a row. Why is that? Well, watching two women have sex is an extremely popular fantasy among straight men. 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, lesbian porn isn’t just popular among men—it has also become the most-viewed category among women! This could be due to the fact that women tend to be more sexually fluid than men. Consider 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. In fact, as I report in my book Tell Me What You Want, I found that 59% of women who identify as exclusively straight say they’ve had a same-sex fantasy compared to 26% of straight men who report the same. That said, it’s also possible that women like lesbian porn for the same reasons they tend to like gay male porn: perhaps the actors seem to be enjoying the sex more, the pleasure appears more genuine, and/or the production value and plotlines are better. This makes sense in light of studies finding that most women who watch gay male porn also watch lesbian porn. So maybe lesbian porn is just more female friendly than most of the mass-produced heterosexual porn.

· The second most popular search term in 2018 was “hentai,” just like last year. In case you’re not familiar, Pornhub offers the following definition of hentai: “a subgenre of the Japanese genres of manga and anime, containing overtly sexualized characters and sexually explicit images.” So why is cartoon porn so appealing? Unfortunately, this isn’t something that has earned much research attention (at least not yet), but one possibility is that it offers the opportunity to depict sex acts and fantasies that might otherwise be impossible to show in mainstream porn. Alternatively, perhaps its appeal has more to do with the fact that it offers distraction and an escape from reality.

·  The third most popular search term in 2018 was “MILF” (again, just like it was the previous year). Why are MILFs in such great demand? Many heterosexual men are drawn to powerful and confident women, and that’s precisely the way that women in MILF porn tend to be depicted (e.g., they’re more likely to initiate sex and take a dominant role). So perhaps this is what’s driving so many guys to want to watch MILFs.

· Overall, 29% of visitors to Pornhub in 2018 were female (a 3% increase from the previous year). This shouldn’t be surprising, considering that virtually all porn studies have found that women say they watch less porn than men. However, I’d be careful about drawing too many conclusions from this gender difference. While it might be tempting to see it as evidence that women aren’t as visually aroused as men, research does not support this idea. In fact, studies have found that women are very much responsive to visual sexual stimuli. The gender disparity in porn viewership probably has more to do with the fact that most porn is produced by men, for men. As I discuss in Tell Me What You Want, men’s and women’s sexual fantasies differ in some important ways, so it makes sense that there probably isn’t going to be quite as much porn out there that appeals to women if men are the ones who are making most of it.

· The top-gaining category for the year was “romantic,” which increased by 102%. This is interesting because it suggests that when people are watching porn, they don’t necessarily always want to see just sex. This makes sense in light of how popular romance is as theme in our sexual fantasies (something that’s true for both men and women). More often than not, there’s an emotional element in our fantasies, so perhaps that’s why a lot of people are looking for this component in porn as well, given that porn is a way that many people attempt to vicariously live out their fantasies.

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