Bible Belt Christians Love Online Porn; Why Google Is a Godsend To Religious Conservatives

In 2012, the New York Times published an article about strip clubs in Tampa. Business at the establishments boomed, the Times reported, when the National Republican Convention came to town, in ways that it didn’t when left-leaning conventioneers descended on the city. One strip club proprietor said daily revenue during the RNC gathering was three times that of the take during the Super Bowl, another high-grossing event for peddlers of sexual titillation.

You could still quibble over what those things meant. Republican convention-goers could simply have higher incomes than their counterparts on the left, making it easier for them to spend bigger bucks. Maybe Democrats and associated groups were just as interested in exotic dancing, but more reluctant to be seen indulging in activities that their political fellows may condemn as misogynistic.

Now, however, thanks to Canadian psychologists Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson, we have a scientifically sound look at the link between lustful interest in sexual imagery on the one hand (pardon the pun), and conservatism and religiosity on the other. The researchers published their paper in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Sexual Behavior and titled it, straightforwardly, Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?

And the answer is: hell yeah.

MacInnis and Hodson scrutinized Google porn-search data and found that, controlled for factors like population, income, and other variables, states where religiosity and conservative ideas are more prevalent also stand out in volume of porn searches.

From the abstract:

[W]e observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state-level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex. These findings were interpreted in terms of the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private internet activity.

Both in 2011 and 2012, whose Google data sets MacInnis and Hodson studied,

increased state religiosity was significantly associated with increased searches for sex, gay sex, porn, free porn, and gay porn.

The Washington Post plotted it on a handy chart:

WugeAJa

Similarly,

Knowing a state’s proportion of conservative citizenry … is a very meaningful and strong predictor of the magnitude of searching for sexual images on the internet.

Some caveats apply, caution the researchers:

Our examination was limited to internet users, a very large but not complete sample of citizens. Further, our examination concerned religiosity/conservatism in the United States, a primarily Christian nation, with a highly polarized left–right political divide. It remains an open question whether similar associations exist outside of the American context.

One interesting clue to that question was offered when, eight years ago, Google Trend numbers began to reveal the enormous appetite for sexual images in Muslim countries — where, according to WikiIslam, sexual proclivities run the gamut from fairly vanilla sex acts to disturbing outlier stuff like bestiality and child porn. (Pakistan is reportedly number one in the world for “pig sex,” “dog sex,” “goat sex,” and “sexy children.”)

Wrote Andrew Sullivan at the time:

Who’s looking for “sex” the most? The countries with the most searches for that word is — surprise! — Pakistan, followed by Egypt, Iran, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. … Arabic is the most popular language for “sex” searches. Islamism, like Christianism, doesn’t conquer sex; it just fetishizes it and forces it underground.

Last year, Mother Jones noted that

[T]he highest number of hits for some of these terms, including “shemale sex,” come not from Pakistan’s cosmopolitan centers, but from Peshawar, a bastion of conservative Islam.

As for the Canadian team, its results are buttressed by a 2009 Harvard study that found a significant correlation between higher religiosity at the state level and the number of citizens who were known to have a paid subscription to a porn site.

Also, in March of this year, the leader in online sexytime, U.S. site Pornhub.com, released the following map, showing the lower 48 states and their populations’ interest in gay porn, specifically.

The majority of states with a high percentage of gay viewers is in the South, where gay marriage is illegal in all states. Dixie loves dicks so much, that the percentage of gay viewers for every single state in the South is higher than the average of the legal gay marriage states.

At number one, holding a record 5.58% gay users, is a state where, funny enough, butt sex is still illegal: Mississippi. Louisiana is closely on its rear at 5.44%, and Georgia with 5.38%.

In their 11-page paper, MacInnes and Hodson didn’t profess a whole lot of surprise over what they discovered:

Our findings… were congruent with the preoccupation hypothesis: although characterized by an outward and vocal opposition to sexual freedom, regions characterized by stronger political right orientations were relatively associated with a greater underlying attraction to sexual content. Employing a novel methodology and focusing on the relatively private and anonymous seeking of sexual content online, our results were in keeping with scientific research in related domains

Collectively, these findings run counter to lay conceptions about political ideology and sexual behavior and represent interesting, meaningful, and frequently replicated associations. Such contradictions provide unique and valuable insights into human nature generally. For instance, consider the reliable, positive associations between religious identification, extrinsic religiosity, or fundamentalism and increased racial prejudice. … Clearly, people fail to ‘‘practice what they preach.’’

A “no shit” is in order.

(Top image via Shutterstock)

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