CYBERSPACE - Remember Orrin Hatch? The Utah senator who asks all the candidates for Justice Department positions how vigorously they'll prosecute porn once they're in office?
Well, guess what? According to a study, "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment," published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the state which is responsible for the most adult online content subscriptions - 5.47 subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users - is ... Utah!
The study, which spurred an article in the latest issue of New Scientist, was undertaken by Benjamin Edelman, an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, who notes that the "online adult entertainment has been the target of dozens of bills including three major federal laws" - but he only mentions the Communications Decency Act, COPA and CIPA, missing the PROTECT Act and the Adam Walsh Act, both of which impact the adult Internet. He also confirms that adult video was an important factor to consumers buying their first VCRs, and claims that "at least some studios chose Blu-ray [as their high-def DVD format] upon observing that adult studios favored that format."
Edelman cites marketing research company comScore's software tracking figures from 2008 in stating that in June of that year, 36% of Internet users visit at least one adult website each month, and of that number, the average adult user makes 7.7 visits to adult pay sites per month, even though much free and pirated material is available.
So who's buying all that porn? Edelman obtained a list of credit-card subscriptions, identified only by their zip codes, from a "top-10 seller of adult entertainment" - in fact, a firm Edelman does consulting work for - for the years 2006-2008, and compared that data to the amount of broadband access available in each region of the country to create a map showing per capita online adult subscriptions per state, tracked for each zip code within each state.
Edelman's map and charts show just three states with more than 3.6 adult website subscriptions per 1,000 broadband users: Utah (5.7), Alaska (5.03) and Mississippi (4.30), while the states with 2.9 to 3.6 subscriptions per thousand include Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, West Virginia and Hawaii - most of them Republican strongholds - while those with the least access by broadband users are Montana (1.92), Idaho (1.98) and Tennessee (2.13). (P.Z. Myers of the science weblog Pharyngula opines that perhaps the reason Montanans have so few subscriptions is explained by "the ready availability of all those cows [to] slake their forbidden lusts .") The differences are somewhat smaller when tracking adult subscribers versus population of a state in general, but Utah's still the highest, with 1.69 adult users per 1,000 residents, while West Virginia's the lowest, at 0.50 subscribers. In fact, there's no category Edelman uses - raw population, home Internet users, home broadband users or areas containing more churchgoers - that Utah doesn't come out on top.
"Standard demographic variables like income, age, and education seem to be associated with adult online subscriptions," Edelman writes. "For example, at mean values of other variables considered, a $1,000 increase in average household income in a zip code is associated with a 0.36 percent increase in subscriptions... [S]ubscriptions are particularly widespread where young people are prevalent. A 1 percent increase in residents aged 15-24 (as a proportion of zip code population) yields a 0.19 percent increase in subscriptions at this adult entertainment service. Conversely, the elderly are less likely to subscribe: a 1 percent increase in residents of age 65 or older (as a proportion of zip code population) yields a 0.13 percent reduction in subscriptions. When a zip code hosts a higher proportion of people with college degrees, that zip code has slightly more subscribers to these adult entertainment sites: a 1 percent increase in college graduates is associated with a 0.12 percent increase in subscribers. However, graduate degrees tend to cut in the opposite direction: 1 percent more graduate degrees yields 0.30 percent fewer subscriptions. Even after holding constant income, age, and education, adult entertainment subscriptions are most prevalent in urban areas."
One of the more interesting statistics, however, is the number of adult users in states that are politically conservative.
"Subscriptions are slightly more prevalent in states that have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality," Edelman writes. "In the 27 states where 'defense of marriage' amendments have been adopted (making same-sex marriage, and/or civil unions unconstitutional), subscriptions to this adult entertainment service are weakly more prevalent than in other states... In such states, there were 0.2 more subscribers to this adult web site per thousand broadband households, 11 percent more than in other states."
Moreover, in states where the majority of people agreed with the statements, "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior" and "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," adults users bought approximately 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand residents than states where a majority disagreed with the statements.
While the raw subscription numbers really don't vary very much from state to state, the tiny differences are still interesting, especially considering that eight of the ten states that voted for McCain in the 2008 election are also among the top online porn consumers.
Maybe the Republican National Committee will want to take that into consideration in deciding where to buy advertising for upcoming elections ... and maybe the attorneys representing Michael and Sami Harb, the owners of Movies By Mail, will be interested in the fact that their clients are going to be tried in the state that, by any measure, has the most online porn users per capita.