The Real Pornhub Insights




As Head of Policy and Public Affairs at CEASE, my job requires me to undertake some unusual tasks, and it was with this thought at the back of my mind that I sat down to read the Pornhub Insights Report for 2022.

I was met with a hearty:

“Welcome to Pornhub’s 9th Year in Review, where we bring you 2022’s hottest trends, terms, searches and a recap of everything that happened during the year. Here you will find plenty of colorful infographics filled with data compiled by Pornhub’s intrepid statisticians.”

And this is exactly what it does. Pornhub’s approximately 42 billion yearly views is a data gold mine. In its Year in Review, it cracks open the vault and brings us a break down of viewing habits across the globe. The report covers everything from ‘Most Viewed Categories of 2022’; ‘Most Searched For’ terms; viewing habits of different age groups, genders, and sexual orientations; most popular ‘porn stars’; viewing times; and length of views. It is all there, in – as Pornhub says – ‘colourful infographics’ with a ‘little commentary’. 

Pornography is now so ubiquitous in our lives that Pornhub’s distillation seems just like any other industry or corporation that wants to inform its consumers of its latest news, trends and data. Pornhub markets pornography as fun, sexy and healthy – a normal part of everyone’s lives.

But here is the problem. Pornography is not like any other industry. Despite its veneer of legitimacy, normalisation in current mass media, tv and film, and even (shockingly) some sex education, the pornography industry is a dark, violent, misogynistic industry that is built on the subjugation and torture of women and girls.

Let’s look at the trends so openly celebrated by Pornhub in its 2022 Insights Report. 

‘Group sex’ ranked number three in the ‘searches that defined 2022’ and ‘orgy videos’ were 113% more popular, as was ‘gangbang’ by 88%, than in 2021. 

So, what do these mainstream, easily accessible videos contain? The answer is violence. Women are penetrated by multiple men at the same time and/or one after the other. This penetration includes vaginal, anal, and oral, with ‘double penetration’ (a woman vaginally penetrated by two men at the same time) being hailed as popular among Pornhub’s female viewers. The titles of these videos include words such as ‘destruction’, ‘pain’, ‘rough gangbang’, ‘sexually broken’ and more.

In the ‘Most Viewed Category’ we’re told that ‘Babysitter (18+)’ pornography moved up 18 places in 2022. But let’s not be fooled by the ‘18+’ in that search term. In this genre of pornography, girls who are barely 18 are dressed up in school uniforms, and other teen or childlike clothes and accessories. The words used in the titles of these videos include ‘young’, ‘virgin’, ‘little’, ‘tiny’, ‘babysitter’ and ‘exxxtrasmall’. Closely related to this category and yet suspiciously absent from the data are the genres ‘teen porn’ and ‘incest porn’. According to analysis of 131,738 titles of videos recommended to first-time users on Pornhub, XVideos, and XHamster (the UK’s three most popular pornography sites), the word ‘teen’ was the most frequently occurring word across the entire dataset. Sexual activity between family members i.e. incest, was the most frequent form of sexual violence recommended.

Of course, the pornography industry and its proponents will argue that these videos are not real, that the people in them are actors, performers…‘porn stars’ if you will.

But they are still human, the pain is real, the horrific injuries, particularly those sustained by women, are real. Due to an absence of condom usage the risk of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unwanted pregnancy are all very real. Male performers being forced to take Viagra and steroids, and both male and female performers turning to other drugs to be able to numb the physical and psychological pain, is real. The crimes of human trafficking, exploitation and coercion rampant across the industry are real. 

So too are the individual and societal consequences. A 2020 UK government report stated that: “There is substantial evidence of an association between the use of pornography and harmful sexual attitudes and behaviours towards women”. ‘Teen porn’ and ‘incest porn’ normalise children as objects of sexual desire, and drive the demand for ‘real’ child sexual abuse material.

Recent research from the Children’s Commissioner’s Office found that children access pornography as early as 9 years old, and that 50% of children who had seen pornography had seen it by age 13. It also found that 47% of survey respondents stated that girls expect sex to involve physical aggression, and a further 42% that girls enjoy physically aggressive sex acts. We know from other research that children believe these desired sex acts include anal sex, choking, strangulation, and ejaculating over girls’ bodies. Acts that are all directly taken from mainstream pornography.

Yet, Pornhub, and its Insight Report, with its colourful graphs and snappy commentary, would have us believe that pornography is harmless, a bit of fun, something to rate and review at the end of each year. 

But despite its normalisation and supposed glamour, pornography has devastating real-world consequences for both its consumers and its ‘performers’. After 30 years of research, its correlation to violence against women and girls can no longer be denied. No amount of glitzy bar charts can change the reality of what pornography is – mainstreamed sexual violence. 

And we at CEASE won’t rest until its realities are exposed, the industry is dismantled and we can live in a world free from the brutality of pornography.