Utah's Porn/Porno/Pornography Problem Revisited
In a recent comment Sheldon implied that Salt Lake sits near the top of the Google Trends list for places with the highest ratio of persons searching the word "pornography." With google's authoritative results before my eyes, I suddenly realized that my biannual eye-rollings at the General Conference talks on the subject may have, in fact, been out of place. Not that I ever disagreed with the concept: I thought (and think) that porn is awful stuff...degrading, destructive, etc. But I guess I just couldn't imagine that it was that big of a problem for most LDS people. (I know, I know....watchmen on the tower...you're right, ok!!)
But having dug into this whole Google Trends thing a little more, I'm not so sure that the Mormon pornography epidemic is what it seems. Check out these two Google Trends searches on variants of pornography: porn and porno. In both of these lists, Salt Lake City is nowhere to be found.
What does this mean? Well I'm no expert on porn-search terminology, but I suspect that there are at least a few possibilities. The first is that a majority of Salt Lakers don't grow up with the same exposure to pornography as do people in other areas (by exposure I don't mean that they don't have equal access; I just imagine that it's not generally assumed that teenage and college-aged boys will be into porn). Due to this lack of exposure, those who do choose to access it may be more likely to use the "official" term, the word they ironically hear from the pulpit.
Now if you assume that the majority of porn-searchers out there don't use that term, it makes sense that Salt Lake heads the field in "pornography" searches. If the vast majority of people looking for pornography don't type in "pornography" to search for it, then any place that does use the term to search out porn, even if the number of searchers are dramatically fewer, will lead the field. Again I'm not an expert in the area, but I think that this assumption makes sense for a few reasons. First, if you're after naked bodies, why take the time and effort to use the proper term when the shortened version will bring the exact same results? Second, I suspect that most people who discuss porn (are there any?) don't use the word pornography in their everyday conversation. To me, using the entire word "pornography" comes across as victorian, more like the word you would use to talk about it in a sociological study or in a church sermon. Finally, the three other cities that beat out Salt Lake are all in India where English is not the first language. I admit that this could be way off from reality, but I can imagine Indian teenagers quickly skimming their Hindi-English dictionaries so they can look at naked american girls and finding the word "pornography" before their faces.
The second option here is that Salt Lake City does indeed have a problem with pornography. This conclusion obviously depends on the assumption that people search porn/porno/pornography at relatively similar rates.
As is so often the case, I imagine that the truth probably lies somewhere between these extremes, that General Conference talks on the subject are given so often for a good reason and that Mormons, like a lot of people, struggle with encroaching temptation.