Wednesday, August 02, 2006

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'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.


At 8/02/2006 01:30:00 PM,

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.

I think you may be onto something here. Before my creativity exceeded my curiosity, I spent several minutes searching for Mormon-related themes (i.e. Mormon, missionary, Jesus, garments, etc.) I really wasn't surprised to find Salt Lake (or Provo) at the top of these trend lists.

When I started to think about it more, however, I wondered why Salt Lake came out on top for "Jesus" searches. Salt Lake is full of Christians, sure, but more so than certain cities in the Bible Belt or the Deep South? My initial reaction was socioeconomic - maybe more people in Salt Lake have access to the Internet, or boring jobs that provide them with higher Internet surfing/work productivity ratio.

Katrina (my wife) had a more convincing answer:

Mormons give talks in Church - EVERY WEEK. This fact inevitably leads to an abnormaly high rate of Internet searches for Church-related topics (i.e. Jesus...or even pornography). Pornography talks abound outside of General Conference (with accompanying eye-rolling).

In fact, the top 10 returns for a Google search of Pornography supports this idea:

1. Adult Sites Against Pornography
2. Breaking Pornography Addiction
3. Librarians in Pornography
4. "Internet Pornography" (Wikipedia article)
5. The Pornography Plague
6. TroubledWith Pornography
7. American Family Association Issues
8. Internet Pornography Statistics
9. Victims of Pornography
10. Article criticizing soldiers who exchange pictures of dead Iraqis for free access to Porn site.

These sites are hardly the gateway to the world of Cybersex.

It appears to me that Salt Lake's position at the top of the list is likely due (at least in part) to people's research for their church sermons.

At 8/02/2006 01:43:00 PM,

Hmmmm. I think another explanation might make more sense. SLC has some of the most morally conservative people in the world. Morally conservative people are horrified by the thought of pornography invading every part of our culture so they do what they can to "be prepared" and learn how to fight the stuff. So where do you turn to get info on how to fight pornagraphy and protect your children? The Web. And you use the clinical term for the nasty stuff.

I just checked on this theory and sure enough, a Google search on the clinical term "pornography" brings up mostly sites about the "plague of pornography" and how to overcome addiction and whatnot. So I think that fits my theory perfectly. It is not naive and horny teens in SLC who are looking up the word to see porn sites -- it is conservative and vigilant parents and other adults in SLC who are seeking ways to combat the plague of pornography.

Certainly there probably are a few naive teens that are doing as you describe in SLC, but I bet they are not the driving force. Most teens are not that naive in today's world, and the ones that are probably can't spell that well...  

Posted by Geoff J

At 8/02/2006 01:47:00 PM,

Hehe... I see even I accidentally mispelled "pornography" in one place in my comment... oops.

At 8/02/2006 03:29:00 PM,

Yes, but lest we forget, Salt Lake ranked in the following places for all of the below mentioned searches according to:

“nude” (#1) and “naked” (#2)

“breasts” (#1) and “boobs” (#1)

the lounge-lizardly “hot babes” (#1) and “sexy chicks” (#1)

Salt Lake googlers are #3 in the nation in per-capita searches for “dirty pictures.” And “sex?” #7 — still overachieving!

SLC guys (and we know it’s guys) aren’t in the top ten searching for “missionary position.” Perhaps they’re tired of the double entendre? But “doggy style?” #3 !

At 8/02/2006 05:35:00 PM,

Help me figure something out:

When I searched for "doggy style" in Google Trends, there were only 3 American cities in the top 10 (San Diego #5, Seattle #7, and Chicago #9).

When I adjust the region to only show US cities, Salt Lake appears #1 and San Diego drops to #8...BELOW Seattle.

Maybe we should wait until Google irons out all the wrinkles before drawing too many conclusions. (The disclaimer does say that the results are only based on select samples and that several approximations are used to compute the results).

That being said, I think I'm going to spend the next couple of days looking for a new job. How many times can you run searches for porn, boobs, and doggy style on your company's server before setting off red flags?

At 8/02/2006 05:51:00 PM,

For the record, Chris, I didn't make any such recent post.

At 8/02/2006 06:03:00 PM,


You're right. You didn't post it you implied it in a comment.

Colpa Mia.

I felt especially awkward writing this post on a certain federal agency's computer, so I hear you. Luckily, they neither pay me nor pay attention to me, so ultimately I was ok. But yeah....

At 8/02/2006 09:16:00 PM,

Taylor said what I was thinking. I think (although i intend to do some more extensive research on the subject) that one looking for dirty pictures would search more creative terms than variations of the word pornography.

My question is this, does the "sexually repressive" mormon culture make us more suseptible to pornography than other people? I feel like it does, all of the talks about it in church and conference seem to indicate that it is a huge problem.

Maybe that is just because a lot of other people just don't make that big a deal about it. I mean if you have ever seen Room Raiders on MTV (Yes I have, a lot) every single room has a large stash of porn and it is never really a big deal to anyone. So maybe we just fight it which makes it more noticeable.




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