Pornhub Insights for 2017 reveal just what Indian men and women are searching for online

X recalls that when she was in Class VIII, a rumour went around her school: the local cable channel played “blue films” every Saturday, after midnight. Many of the girls decided they would check if the rumour was true, X among them. That Saturday, after the clock had struck 12, she switched the TV on — taking great care not to wake her parents — only to find a blank blue screen on the promised channel. After a long wait yielded no change, she crept back to bed. And thus ended her ‘adventure’ with porn.

X may have been unsuccessful, but most Indians seem not to have shared her fate. Anecdotal evidence indicates that most Indians (male and female) first encounter porn by the age of 12. If you were a product of the ‘80s, your stories about accessing porn might involve video cassettes and rented VCRs; later, floppy disks and then CDs made viewing risque content simpler — although not as simple as browsing porn on your smartphone now is. In 2017, porn consumption in India reportedly rose by 75 percent when mobile data rates dropped, mostly in tier-2 and 3 towns.

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In 2017, porn consumption rose by 75 percent when mobile data rates dropped, mostly in tier-2 and 3 towns

In 2017, porn consumption in India reportedly rose by 75 percent when mobile data rates dropped, mostly in tier-2 and 3 towns. Representational image, courtesy Reuters/Prisma

Indians now account for the third-highest chunk of visitors to Pornhub (up from fifth highest in 2014), one of the biggest porn aggregator sites in the world.

When Pornhub turned 10 in May 2017, it released data collated over the past decade, to commemorate the occasion — a huge trove of stats that described everything from how many visitors logged on in a day (75 million annually, at last count), to the number of videos that were uploaded on the site (10 million), to the sum total of hours that these videos ran for (476,291 in 2016; up from 134 in 2007). There was information about how much time the average user spent on Pornhub (9.46 minutes), what the percentage of male versus female visitors was, and which countries they came from. It also provided all the search categories that had been most popular globally, for men and for women, down the past decade — 'MILF' and 'Lesbian' ranked consistently high, as did 'Amateur'.

Here was a look at human desire — or at least what humans liked to look at, when they thought no one else was looking. It was illuminating, this picture that big data had made available about our porn preferences, about what millions of people around the world were typing into their search bars when they wanted to be aroused.

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The 10 years of Pornhub Insights report prompted many news articles; the catchiest of statistics were picked up, and the trends analysed. Why had ‘cuckold’ suddenly picked up as a search term? Why were women seemingly so fond of ‘massage’ porn? Amid this commentary, a column by Maureen O'Connor, published in New York magazine in June 2017, stood out.

O’Connor called Pornhub Insights ‘the Kinsey Report of our time’. “We are living in a golden age of sexual creativity — an erotic renaissance that is, I believe, unprecedented in human history. Today you can, in a matter of minutes, see more boners than the most orgiastic member of Caligula’s court would see in a lifetime. This is, in itself, enough to revolutionise sexual culture at every level. But seeing isn’t even the whole story — because each of us also has the ability to replicate, share, and reinvent everything we see. Taken as a whole, this vast trove of smut is the Kinsey Report of our time, shedding light on the multiplicity of erotic desires and sexual behaviors in our midst” she wrote.

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Beginning in 1938, zoologist Alfred Kinsey embarked on what is considered among the most comprehensive studies of human sexuality. Or more specifically, American sexuality. Kinsey interviewed thousands of subjects (most of them personally) over a 25-year period. Along with two other colleagues, Kinsey published two books: Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male and Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female, and some of the results he reported (such as 10 percent of the American male population being gay, and half of all married men having extramarital affairs etc) were met with much shock at the time.

Kinsey’s work, while pioneering, was criticised on other grounds as well. Many academicians felt his sample was skewed, as was the methodology itself. And there was always the question of whether or not all those people he interviewed had told him the truth.

Pornhub Insights doesn't suffer from those problems. Of course, the findings are restricted to those who visit the site, but it is still an inordinately large number of people, from all parts of the globe. And while they are quite as likely to be open/hesitant/forthright/reserved in a conversation with another human being (or even while responding to a questionnaire) about what they prefer when it comes to porn, they're not likely to lie when they're searching for it, in private, in the presence of only their screens.

Kinsey would have loved Pornhub Insights.

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On Pornhub Insights, India ranked just below the US, UK and Canada when it came to the countries that generated most traffic in 2016. Pornhub's vice president Corey Price told us that in 2017, India occupied the third rank in terms of viewership. “Due to the size of India, as one of the most populated countries in the world, it has always been a large market for us,” Price told Firstpost.

Pornhub also pulled out India-specific data for 2017 for Firstpost. Here's a look at some of their more non-NSFW results:

Of course, Pornhub provides only numbers and no qualitative data. So it remains in the realm of conjecture why so many Indians seem to be searching for ‘xxx bf pakistan’ videos or those involving ‘neighbour affairs’. Or why, in conjunction with the rest of the world, ‘cuckold’ seems to be a very popular search term here, even as ‘Indian’ and ‘MILF’ remain leading search terms for both men and women.

“I search for 'best friend's mom', or 'friend's hot sister',” a male from the 20-25 age group told us.

Where men and women diverged was in the same sex porn category — this search term was more popular among women than men. In fact, ‘guy on guy’ seemed to be a big no-no for the men we spoke to — with (gang) rape and pedophilia scenarios being other hard limits. Attractive visuals were a must — the caveat being nothing should look 'too artificial'. The porn that they sought out online did ally with what they liked in real life as well. Videos that eased into the sex were preferred, as opposed to 'gonzo' shots.

For women, 'lesbian sex' was closely followed by a search term called ‘female friendly’ among the 'top searched' categories — which makes sense, because these may be less threatening categories to look at, in a scenario where women adult performers can be presented in extremely demeaning situations (think ‘swirlies’, ‘facial abuse’ and suchlike). One woman, in her early 20s, told us that she stopped watching porn more than eight years ago — now she uses only the erotic GIFs from Tumblr, mostly for sexting. "Porn made me believe that foreplay has much less importance than the act, that men can last for hours, that there is no initial awkwardness, and that orgasms for women are easy to achieve," she rued.

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India doesn't have the equivalent of a Kinsey Report. What we have is Dr Mahinder Watsa’s sex column, where anxious Indians — men and women — write in with all manner of queries. One may be tempted to dismiss some of the more outlandish queries as fake, but I've been assured that the majority of these are genuine. The column has run for many years now, and Dr Watsa’s dry responses to these hundreds of queries were compiled into a book (It's Normal!) in 2015. The columns run the gamut from queries about male and female organs (the size and appearance thereof), contraception, safe sex, the advisability of giving in to sexual fantasies, waning sex lives, mismatched libidos, libidos that won't be denied, masturbation (if it's bad, and how much of it is too much) and so on. Put together, they too tell us a story about Indian sexuality — albeit in a limited way, with generalisations difficult to draw.

Pornhub Insights may not tell us so much about the sex lives of Indians as it does about their sexual fantasies — and that there is a difference between what we like to see and what we like to do/have done to us, is fairly well-established. There have been attempts by various media houses, in association with Durex, Nielsen etc to ‘do a Kinsey’ for India. But with results being so widely differing, and no comprehensive academic study in the pipeline, Pornhub Insights is what we'll have to rely on, for some time to come.


Published Date: Sep 30, 2017 06:43 pm | Updated Date: Sep 30, 2017 07:15 pm


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