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Porn Addiction Among College Students

Last Updated: January 19, 2022

Moriah Bowman
Moriah Bowman

Moriah Bowman has been using Covenant Eyes since childhood. As a member of the Covenant Eyes team, she is passionate about writing and fighting pornography in the millennial generation. Moriah has a BA in political communications and plays an active role in fostering children of all ages who need a temporary safe home.

When I moved out after high school and started attending a large, public university, I quickly realized just how big of a problem porn is among college students. What surprised me even more was the fact that no one besides me seemed to think that it was a problem. I dubbed this phenomenon Generation Porn: Single and Too Addicted to Mingle.

Though I have since graduated college, porn addiction among college students continues to be a growing issue. The statistics show we have a serious problem to face. Let’s take a closer look at how big the problem is and why this may be.

The Prevalence of Porn Among College Students (and a Few Reasons Why)

A 2015 global study surveyed 2,690 college students and found that 76.5% had accessed sexual entertainment online, with 30.8% engaging in cybersex.1 Of course, this should be no surprise, with the ease of access via Google and the rise of social media dependency. In 2018, Pornhub self-reported that 61% of their traffic can be attributed to millennials aged 18 to 34.2

1.Everyone seems to be using it.

In 2008, data gathered from 813 college students across 6 campuses found that 67% of men and 49% of women (college-age) agreed that viewing pornography is acceptable. (This same study reported 87% of men and 31% of women to be using pornography).3 This widespread acceptance of porn has only grown since then.

When you’re surrounded day in and day out with something, it’s hard to avoid it. When everyone at a dinner party is eating dessert and you’re on a sugar fast, you may find it much more difficult to hold to that fast. Likewise, when the fashion trends inevitably change and suddenly you see everyone around you wearing mom jeans and baggy sweatshirts, you’re going to follow suit, because well, everyone else is.

Porn use in college is no different, especially if you go to a public university where there is no campus-wide integration of faith and religion. During a time of our lives when we are bombarded with new information, worldviews, and opinions on a daily basis, it’s so easy to fall prey to pornography—and the data show that most students do.

2. It’s easy to access.

Imagine a world without the internet. If you’re a part of Generation Z, you likely cannot recall life without social media, smartphones, and unlimited internet access. With Google, TikTok, and texting at our fingertips 24/7, the dangers of porn are a mere click, tap, and scroll away.

When you move out of your parents’ house and into a dorm or apartment, the accountability and/or parental controls that once kept you distant from temptation are now gone. (This is why we stress the importance of finding an ally before you move out and start college!)

These studies bring us to one conclusion: a LOT of college students are watching porn.

But is it having a negative effect on their academics, relationships, and overall wellbeing?

Is Porn Use in College Really So Bad?

“Watch porn now and quit once you’re in a relationship.”

“Everyone watches porn in college.”

“My significant other doesn’t care if I watch porn.”

“Porn isn’t going to impact me if I regulate how often I view it.”

I’ve heard these justifications for porn use in college over and over, so I think it’s important to address just how addicting porn can be, no matter how old or single you are.

No amount of porn is considered “healthy,” regardless of what today’s pornified culture says. (We cover this topic in more detail in “How Much Porn Is Too Much?”)

Porn use has negative effects in the college years, and it also has negative effects years after students have graduated and “settled down.”

 Mental Health

In 2020, a university in Ohio sent an email survey to all of their students over the age of 18. Of those who responded (1,031):

  • 56.6% reported lifetime pornography use, primarily via the internet.
  • 17% reported severe levels of depression.
  • 20.4% reported severe levels of anxiety.
  • Those who admitted to using pornography reported even higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The Ohio study concluded that there is a strong relationship between pornography use and mental health in college students.4

Sexual and Relational Satisfaction

Another study examined how levels of exposure to sexually explicit materials (SEM) impacted sexual and relationship satisfaction among college students. With 782 students surveyed, the results from the questionnaire found that more frequent SEM use was associated with less sexual and relationship satisfaction.5

 In addition, those who viewed a wide variety of SEM reported sexual preferences for the type of sexual practices they viewed in that pornography.

Academics

Though there is little data on the correlation between porn and grades, research from 2012 found a relationship between porn consumption and poor academic performance, specifically due to the distraction pornography offers from studying, attending class, and completing homework.6

In the same way that porn distracts from a career, family life, etc., it can easily win a tug-of-war game against 8 a.m. classes and late-night exam prep.

Tips to Protect Yourself From the Porn in College

Finding the willpower to say no to porn – in a college environment where porn usage is rampant – won’t be easy, especially when porn and sex are often talked about even in the classroom.

 Here are a few easy steps you can take today to protect yourself from porn while in college:

  • Find a trusted ally to hold you accountable, and meet regularly with him/her!
  • Install Covenant Eyes on each of your devices (phone, laptop, tablet – everything!).
  • Establish a daily routine that doesn’t include porn. This might mean replacing your daily social media scroll with reading, going for a run, etc.
  • Avoid putting yourself in situations that can be triggering. I tended to make poor life choices when I attended parties in college. If something like this causes temptation for you, say no! It might mean you don’t have the typical worldly “college experience,” but the long-term benefits of avoiding this will be so much more influential.
  • Many universities now offer porn addiction counseling services. Check and see if your college offers this!

Just because it seems like everyone is watching porn in college, it doesn’t mean they are. With an ally as your teammate against porn, you can work together to overcome temptation and defeat porn for good.


1 N. Döring, K. Daneback, K. Shaughnessy, et al. “Online Sexual Activity Experiences Among College Students: A Four-Country Comparison,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 46 (2017): 1641–1652. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0656-4

2 Enough is Enough, “Pornography Stats,” accessed January 7 2022. https://enough.org/stats_porn_industry

3 Jason Carroll, Laura Padilla-Walker Carroll, Larry Nelson, Chad Olson, Carolyn Barry, & Stephanie Madsen, “Generation XXXPornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults” Journal of Adolescent Research 23 (2008): 6-30. 10.1177/0743558407306348.

4 C. Camilleri, J.T. Perry, & S. Sammut, “Compulsive Internet Pornography Use and Mental Health: A Cross-Sectional Study in a Sample of University Students in the United States,” Frontiers in psychology11 (2021). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.613244

5 E.M. Morgan, “Associations between young adults’ use of sexually explicit materials and their sexual preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction,” Journal of Sexual Research 48 (2011): 520-30. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2010.543960.

6 Chijioke Ephraim Ohuakanwa, Omeje Joachim Chinweike, Eskay Michael, “Pornography Addiction as Correlate of Psychosocial and Academic Adjustment” US-China Education Review B11 (2012): 907-920. Accessed from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED538840.pdf.

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