PORN SURVEY RESULTS: including Cambridge’s most porn-obsessed faculty

We asked. Over a thousand of you answered.

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The Tab presents: Part II of the results to our Porn Survey.

The basics

In findings that one hundred percent, completely, totally astonished and amazed us, men watch porn a lot more frequently than women. Wow. If the results of this are anything to go by – and let’s be frank, this is a self-selecting Google form survey – three in four men will have watched porn at least twice in the past week, as compared to one in five women.

Cantabs have upped the ante on their porn intake. Since 2011, the percentage watching porn daily has tripled to 17.5%.

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About a third of stressed out Cantabs thought they’d been advantaged by porn, saying it felt good, was a form of stress relief and helped them to relax. One student said: “Good study break. Made me a better engineer.” Another told us: “Helps relieve headaches, stress, etc. Often used in a similar way to a cup of tea”.

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Off to “have a cup of tea”?

Critics of porn tended to raise four general issues: problems of an industry controlled by “white men”, effects on relationships, concerns about addiction and standards of beauty or sexual performance. Several students related personal stories about the effect of porn on their lives.

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Nick Cowen, a researcher for Backlash and the author of Millian Liberalism and Extreme Pornography, told us: “I think the current generation of students seem to have better attitudes to sex than my own generation and that my generation, in turn, is better than the generation that came of age in the 90s. Young people are more tolerant of sexual difference, less likely to think that coercive sexual behaviour is ever acceptable, less likely to rush into sexual encounters and know more about safe sex.”

Backlash "defends freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults".

Backlash “defends freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults”.

“When politicians try to problematise young people’s sexual activity, I believe they are often projecting problems of their own generation onto the ‘youth of today’ as part of a classic moral panic. Actually, the youth of today are, in some ways at least, much more sensible when it comes to sexuality than those older than them. I can’t say whether wider access to pornography has contributed directly to this situation, but I can say it does not seem to have stopped this benign scenario from happening.”

Porn as a form of sex ed

Many respondents focused on porn as a form of education and learning about their own sexuality, with one in four saying they use porn to “learn about sex”. Over half said they’d tried things they’d seen in porn in real life. LGBT students highlighted that it was an important form of sexual education in the context of schools that weren’t willing to teach about gay sex.

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Age of first seeing porn

Most were exposed to porn at fairly young ages. By the time they were fifteen, 80% of respondents had seen porn. Cambridge women were, on average, almost fourteen when they first saw porn, while Cambridge men were, on average, twelve.

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Only 27% said porn was covered in sex ed at school. Rae Langton, a fellow at Newnham and feminist philosopher, commenting on some of the responses sent to us, said: “This ‘false sex education’ as one person put it, hurts many people, women and men alike, as some of the more thoughtful responses show: often the actors, as some respondents suspect (‘not always sure if acting is entirely consensual’); often women more generally, when ‘rough sex and objectification’ have become a ‘norm expected’.”

“The men who encounter addiction” are also hurt. “This is the opposite of liberty (‘without any control’, ‘a need just randomly overcomes me’), so that ‘what it took to stimulate me eventually became more and more extreme’ and for sex itself, when porn-driven expectations manage to spoil sex with real people, making it not a joy, but a ‘less than pleasant’ ordeal.”

How porn-obsessed is your faculty?

In a departure from our time-honoured tradition of making tenuous and fairly socially unproductive comparisons between colleges, we compiled the following graph of porn usage by faculty:

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All the land economists who replied to our survey said they watched porn daily or more than once a week. We can only surmise that such sexual frustration is the natural consequence of hanging out with sheep and/or in the Pitt Club.

Meanwhile, only a third of classicists – remarkably chaste – watch porn more than once a week, preferring the notoriously erotic poetry of Catullus, as several classicist Tab writers reminded us.

How chaste is your faculty?

Not really related to porn if we’re going to be honest. But you’re probably curious so we thought we’d chuck it in. 17% of Cantabs overall said they were virgins. In a revelation that in no way confirms any subject stereotypes whatsoever, mathmos have the highest percentage of virgins among their ranks, just edging out Physics and Chemistry, Biology and Engineering students. We’re really shocked by this. Really.

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Is porn still taboo?

More than half of respondents said they’d felt ashamed of their porn-watching. A lot of students worried they were too reliant on porn, and more than a third of men in total said they “find it hard” to stop watching porn, as compared to one in ten women. Of those men who said they watched porn daily, 54% said they found it hard to stop.

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We asked Erika Lust, indie erotic film director, for her views. “Although porn is still viewed as taboo for many from the older generations, it’s a huge part of our culture, whether we like it or not. Especially for the younger generation. Sex is one of the most carnal parts of being a human being, which breeds curiosity of course! It’s completely natural to feel that way when you are growing up.”

“So with such easy access to the internet and poor sex education in schools, young people turn to internet pornography to find out more. Porn is a discourse on sexuality. It has the power for education, inspiration and arousal IF it’s been made with ethical values. But the truth is, it’s a worry that many young people might be learning bad values about sex, sexuality and women from watching mainstream porn made by chauvinistic white middle-class men. But this is what can make proving it’s right to watch porn a bit of a conundrum.”

Feminism

Only a small proportion of respondents told us that they didn’t consider themselves feminists. Women were more likely to identify as feminist than men.

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Langton, who is famous for her work on porn and objectification, said: “What I find heartening is that that around 80% of respondents want to describe themselves as feminists. That is great news. The same proportion [given the option between right and wrong] say that using pornography is ‘right’—giving light-hearted, ‘whatever floats your boat’ reasons.”

She said “the responses are remarkably frank, and thoughtful, and honest”. She hoped the answers would “be part of a wider conversation about the mismatch between the taken-for-granted feminism, and the taken-for-granted porn use.  Anyone who cares about women, and about freedom, and about sex might want to find out more about the damage porn may be doing to what they care about. Some possible starting points: Gary Wilson’s TED talk ‘The Great Porn Experiment‘, Ran Gavrieli’s TED talk “Why I stopped watching porn’, and the Cambridge Union debate last year.”

And finally: Does true love still exist in the post-ironic age?

Although the overwhelming majority of students are romantics at heart, women were less likely to believe in true love than men. We make absolutely no judgement as to whether that is related to the quality of the options available to Cambridge women.

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Stay tuned for Part 3: Cantabs’ Comments with gems like “It’s a visual aid for sex like idk a dildo for the eyes or something”.

PSA FOR STATISTICIANS: To save you time, we’ve prepared a short passage you can copy and paste into the comment section: “Typical Tab. So statistically illiterate. This is a self-selecting, flawed survey conducted via Google Forms, with no way of preventing repeat entries. It’s not even peer-reviewed. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”