• • •
Though many people want to argue that technology is neutral and what matters is how people choose to use it, I have always thought this viewpoint naive. A simple overview of the history of pornography in my lifetime shows that the development of new technologies which enable people to access sexually explicit material has completely overwhelmed our human ability to say “no” to such temptations.
I am old enough to remember when no hard-core pornography was readily or openly available and the soft-core variety, such as pin-up magazines, was hidden from view behind counters and had to be requested. X-rated movies were shown in seedy theaters in scary parts of town. Everything changed with the advent of the VCR and video camera, and it hasn’t slowed down since. Pornography has become pervasive, easily accessible by anyone and everyone, and the sexual perspectives and practices it advances have become “mainstreamed,” appearing in every form of media and entertainment. Technology has been a primary driver of fundamental change with regard to our sexual mores.
And now, a frightening article at Extreme Tech by Sebastian Anthony called “Just How Big are Porn Sites?” reveals that we can scarcely imagine the size and power of pornography’s presence on the internet. According to Anthony’s research, only such sites as Google and Facebook can compare with the mammoth scope of websites that purvey pornographic material.
According to Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner, which tracks users across the web with a cookie, dozens of adult destinations populate the top 500 websites. Xvideos, the largest porn site on the web with 4.4 billion page views per month, is three times the size of CNN or ESPN, and twice the size of Reddit. LiveJasmin isn’t much smaller. YouPorn, Tube8, and Pornhub — they’re all vast, vast sites that dwarf almost everything except the Googles and Facebooks of the internet.
Anthony sets forth the technical figures, and they are staggering. An average home internet connection is capable of transferring a couple of megabytes of data per second. In contrast, some pornography sites are capable of transferring 50 gigabytes per second! He points out that, among mainstream sites, only YouTube has this kind of bandwidth.
YouPorn hosts “over 100TB of porn”, and serves “over 100 million” page views per day. All told, this equates to an average of 950 terabytes of data transfer per day, almost all of which is streaming video. This is around 28 petabytes per month, which means our 29PB estimate for Xvideos is on the low side; it probably serves 35 to 40PB per month.
It gets better! At peak time, YouPorn serves 4000 pages per second, equating to burst traffic in the region of 100 gigabytes per second, or 800Gbps. This is equivalent to transferring more than 10 dual-layer DVDs every second.
Sebastian Anthony concludes that “It’s probably not unrealistic to say that porn makes up 30% of the total data transferred across the internet.”
The world in which we live is becoming increasingly saturated with explicit sexual images, and, by the numbers, it appears that the demand for them is staggering and growing as technology continues to advance and make more and more available.
What I am saying is this: Humans have never lived in a world like this before. There has always been lust, and there have always been those who profited from it. Certain societies had whole swaths of people held captive to it: whether through immoral religious practices or the debauchery associated with certain classes. However, access to the most explicit pornography is available 24/7 today to anyone and everyone with an internet connection — and by the statistics quoted in the article above it appears they are accessing it.. What used to happen at the pagan temple is now available in your child’s bedroom and behind the closed doors of people all around the globe.
What does faithful living in Christ mean in such a world?