3 minute read

What are the most up-to-date stats on pornography?

Last Updated: October 25, 2021

Ron DeHaas
Ron DeHaas

Ron DeHaas is the president and co-founder of Covenant Eyes. Ron has a BS and an MS in Geology from The Ohio State University and attended the University of Michigan as a Ph.D. candidate. Ron pioneered the concept of Accountability Software and founded Covenant Eyes in the spring of 2000. Today, nearly half a million subscribers enjoy the Screen Accountability that Covenant Eyes provides. Ron also founded Nehemiah Ministries, a 160-acre retreat and counseling center in south-central Michigan for pastors and missionaries.

Where can you get up-to-date stats on pornography?

Over the years, that question has brought hundreds of people to the Covenant Eyes website, looking for pornography statistics. But because of the sensitive nature of the topic, in-depth studies are rare, and many are old.

So where can you get the most up-to-date statistics? At the Set Free Summit, a global event for pastors and ministry leaders!

Josh McDowell Ministries and Covenant Eyes have commissioned the Barna Group to do a major study on pornography, called The Porn Phenomenon.  Based on a survey of 3288 people, we now have up-to-date, accurate statistics on many aspects of pornography use, attitudes about pornography, and demographically sorted differences based on age, gender, and faith.

Here’s a taste–you’ll need to come to the Set Free Summit in Greensboro, NC, April 4-7  to get the entire study! The Set Free Summit will give solutions to the public health crisis of pornography and sex trafficking.

Accountability works: Results for Covenant Eyes users

The Barna study included 527 people who have used Covenant Eyes for more than 5 years.  Many of them use it for protection of their families, and many use it because they want accountability to help them through the struggle.

  • Definition of porn: Among those who use porn, only less than 1/3 of general population adults thought fully nude dancing, fully nude still pictures, sex scenes in a written story, texting about sexual acts with someone you don’t know, or partially nude show constitute porn;  over 2/3 of Covenant Eyes users who have sought out porn considers those things as porn. Covenant Eyes users either originally had, or have grown to have, a more sensitive understanding of what constitutes porn.
  • Addictive nature of porn: Among users of porn, only 55% of general population adults think porn is “definitely” addictive;  94% of Covenant Eyes users think so.
  • Sexting: Covenant Eyes teens and young adults are 1/3 as likely to have sent a nude image over the Internet.
  • Recommended:  More than 3/4 of youth pastors recommend accountability software as a resource for those who struggle with porn, and believe it is effective.

Generational differences

  • When asked to prioritize what people consider to be immoral, adults put “not recycling” pretty near the bottom of their list.  Teens and young adults, however, consider “not recycling” to be more immoral than viewing pornography!
  • 22% of young adults aged 18 to 24 consider porn to be good for society.  8% of that age group actually think it is “very good for society.” Nobody over age 50 thought so.
  • The 18 to 24-year-old group is more likely than any other age group actively to seek out porn (57% at least monthly).  Meanwhile, over 70% of those over 50 say the “never” actively seek out porn.

Increase in porn use = decrease in sensitivity to porn

While there is no cause and effect relationship, it is clear that people who use porn are more likely to think it’s fine to do so – with the exception of Covenant Eyes users, pastors, evangelical Christians, and many people over 50.

  • Data from The Porn Phenomenon shows that the definition of pornography is much different today than it was in the days of Ricky and Lucy sleeping in separate beds with their pajamas on. An image of sexual intercourse is NOT pornography to 21% of adults. A fully nude image that is sexually arousing is NOT pornography to 47% of adults.  A fully nude image is NOT pornography to 76% of adults.
  • Only about 50% of respondents under age 50 who use pornography think that sexual images are “always wrong” if they portray sexual acts that may be forced or painful.
  • Only about 40% of respondents under age 50 who use pornography thought that sexual images are “always wrong” if the images are of someone being depicted in a demeaning way.  Common examples of demeaning images are women wearing dog collars and leashes being led by their masters and even eating and drinking from dog dishes.  Other images show women with foul and obscene labels written on their bodies, or in some cases tattooed on their bodies.  And it really is much worse, but not fit for this writing.  How can 40% of any civilized society think that’s OK?

Differences between faith groupings

  • More than 80% of pastors say that an image that is sexually arousing is porn.  Only about half (53%) of general population adults think so. Makes me wonder about the other 20% of pastors…
  • 73% of pastors feel at least somewhat equipped to deal with pornography when someone comes to them for help.  But only 7% of churches have any program whatsoever.
  • 64% of youth pastors and 57% of pastors struggled with pornography currently or in the past.  54% of youth pastors who currently struggle “live in constant fear of being discovered.”  41% of adult Christians think pastors should resign if they are found using porn; only 8% of pastors think so.  No wonder they live in constant fear!

See you (or your pastor or ministry leader) at the Summit!  Bring a copy of this article to the Covenant Eyes booth at the Summit and get Covenant Eyes for one year free!

  • Comments on: What are the most up-to-date stats on pornography?
    1. Trick

      Great statistics.

      I think this one is the most telling, when it comes to how the plague of pornography must be fought:

      “73% of pastors feel at least somewhat equipped to deal with pornography when someone comes to them for help. But only 7% of churches have any program whatsoever.”

      7% ? The devil has 100% of his “churches” working in the other direction so this needs to change.

      • Jon Rawlson

        I would encourage you to consider releasing the report following your Summitt, via a article in a leading publication, Christian or otherwise. Keeping that report for only your subscribers (of which I am one) limits your outreach on this. There is a growing number of experts in this field now and your report only adds creditability to your organization, increasing awareness.

      • Lisa Eldred

        Jon, I suspect we will release at least the majority of the findings in the weeks following the Summit. We haven’t discussed the exact details; it may be a standalone document, or we may merge it into our Pornography Statistics e-book.

    2. Giles

      I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but when you said “makes me wonder about the 20% of pastors…” It came across write patronising and gave the impression anyone who disagreed with you was wrong and somehow morally less. I’m sure you didn’t mean it though :-) I wouldn’t say that someone in a bikini is a pornographic image just because it is sexually arousing, would you? Or have I missed the point – that’s often the case!

      • Lisa Eldred

        A fair point, Giles. We’re still looking at the results of the full survey, but if it helps, some of the other questions give more context for what we mean by sexually arousing images (e.g. “depicts sex acts”), so it’s possible there’s more to the question than Ron wrote in this post.

      • Shannon

        Harvard University has done a study on women wearing bikini’s. Basically the results showed the more a woman is dressed the more she is looked at as a person verses someone wearing a bikini. When a woman wears a bikini she was looked at as an object rather than a person.

      • Don Dunham

        God created men to be aroused by sight. I don’t know why He did that but He did. I plan on asking about that when I get to heaven. So, because of that we need to guard our eyes against anything that might cause us to sin. As Jesus said if you look at a woman lustfully you’ve committed adultery with her in your heart. In our sex-saturated society there are literally millions of opportunities for Satan to get us to look at women lustfully. We as Christians should be extremely protective of our purity and as such should avoid that temptation at all times if at all possible. Therefore your question about whether or not a picture of a bikini clad woman is porn really boils down to avoidance of any chance for Satan to cause us to stumble and sin in our hearts.

        “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” -Ephesians 5:3 These are sobering words. God calls us to a higher ideal than any of us think we can actually maintain. It takes faith, Christ in our hearts, and the power of the Holy Spirit. But never forget that with God we can do immeasurably more than what we can ask, think, or imagine. Don’t ever settle for less than the very best God has for us. Don’t allow the world to dictate what is and what is not ok. Study the Word and allow God to shape you as an instrument of His glory. To become a living sacrifice pleasing to Him.

      • Denise

        Yes you missed the point. Flesh is flesh. Alluring is alluring. Lust is lust and sin is sin. No matter what it is dressed in if it is a melon it is a melon. The Greek definition of the words making up pornography is lust picture! If it is lustful, it makes it pornography. The devil is crafty. The fruit was good to eat and it wouldn’t make them die. Yeah right. Same here. Study what the bible says everywhere about flesh and lust and especially all those words that are connected to sensuality in the Bible. You’ll be surprised how evil our society is. Study the Adam and Eve account. They were not clothed appropriately once they knew they were naked.

        As for as the the 20% comment, are you using a moral standard from the Bible Giles? I believe he was just stating a fact. God has a standard, he expected the people who say they represent God to hold that standard up not fall into the societies idea of OK.

    3. Updated statistics are exactly what we need to fight this taboo pandemic. All of us anti-porn speakers are using the same old statistics to help drive our points home….sadly we have real-life experiences that we share to confirm the statistics (like all of the 9 year old children seeing porn in our schools and at home while doing homework)… but it will be great to get some new ammunition. Ron, I think I will attend the summit because of this. Thanks!
      John Winstanley
      Covenant Eyes Affiliate
      Speaker • Writer • Internet Safety Coach
      Website: http://www.Explicit-Content.Net

      • Thanks, John! Please look me up at the Summit when you come.
        Ron DeHaas

      • Richard

        Updated statistics are exactly what we need to fight this taboo pandemic.

        The irony is that pornography would have not flourished if Christians didn’t make it taboo in the first place. My father used to say, “Whatever you make taboo will prosper and intensify interest.”

      • Dahveed Bar-Daniel

        Shannon, do you have a link to the Harvard study?

    4. Jim Jung

      I find the way some young women wear skin tight jeans and tight blouses that I personally find arousing and have to avert my eyes from. I know this is the current fashion but I’m sure they don’t realize that it is a temptation to men, even those who don’t have sexual addiction issues. A little modesty can be beneficial to help us keep our minds on Jesus and not what women may be wearing.

    5. Mike

      The U.S. is slipping further down the moral slope every day and as the leader of the world, this can only signal that the times here on earth are bound to get worse before Jesus comes back. Perhaps there will be a revival or the impact of Islam will turn around this area of moral decline. And I don’t have a problem with calling out the pastors that are in the 20% category because it is not a human who are disagreeing about porn, it is God. Am I speaking for God? Please check your Bible.

    6. Janny Dowson

      I’m amazed at how normal kids see porn these days. My 10-year-old son told me a couple of weeks ago that his classmates had watched a pornographic video at a school break. I couldn’t imagine that it was so easy for children to access such content. I honestly believe smething should be done about it. At least every parent has to forbid watching such things or use Pumpic or similar apps to block them. I’m afraid soon it could be considered normal for kids to watch pornography. I definitely don’t want that to happen.

    7. Ron, thanks for these alarming statistics. It breaks my heart. I’ve been there and am so thankful for places like CovenantEyes and Celebrate Recovery for being the main tools in my journey toward freeing. These statistics just rip my heart out. But sadly, I get it.

      Keep up the good work and thank you so much for all you do.

    8. Craig Weir

      These statistics show that there is something very wrong with the theology being taught in church congregations.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *