Retailers, of course. Forrester Research projects that Internet sex sites will generate over $1 billion this year, and that's in the United States alone. And in 1998, in one of the best uses of rounding off in statistical history, Datamonitor reported that adult sites accounted for 69 percent of the online consumer market in the U.S. and Western Europe (www.datamonitor.com). According to sextracker.com, the number of free adult Web sites grew from 22,100 in 1997 to 280,300 last year. (For the same period, pay sex sites grew from 230 to 1,100.) As for end users, a 1999 study cited in the Journal of the American Psychological Association found that while 86 percent of American men were likely to click on sex sites, only 14 percent of American women were likely to do so (www.apa.org). Clearly, adult Webmasters and mistresses need to find ways of attracting women to their erotic sites. Nearly 79 percent of respondents who visit sex sites did so only at home, while some 12.7 percent did so both at work and home, exhibiting an admirable balance of vicarious idleness. The majority (64 percent) of visitors to sex sites were married, with 17 percent living with a partner.
That study, â€œSexuality on the Internet: From Sexual Exploration to Pathological Expression,â€? a 1999 report by Alvin Cooper and Coralie R. Scherer of the San Jose, California-based Marital and Sexuality Centre, solicited responses from visitors to MSNBC's Web site. (The FOX network's Web site wasn't used because respondents were required to be literate.) Those who chose to participate were directed to an online questionnaire at another URL, where cookies were used to block multiple submissions from the same person. This system could have been circumvented by people using different computers to fill out more than one questionnaire â€” leaving the entire study at the mercy of those suffering from online-poll addiction. (In fact, the survey's methodology has been criticized because the respondents were â€œself-selected,â€? which is either an indication of non-random sampling or just another euphemism.)
Respondents were first asked how many hours they spent online each week. The most frequent response â€” 30 percent â€” was between 1 and 10 hours a week. Almost as many (27 percent) spent between 11 and 20 hours a week, and 8 percent surfed more than 51 hours every week. The next question concerned how much time online was spent in sexual pursuits. In response, 92 percent logged in under 11 hours a week, with 47 percent reporting less than 1 hour. The Cooper/Scherer report found that the number of sexual compulsives online paralleled that in the general population, so the hue and cry about an epidemic of cybersex addiction, although terrific press, is misplaced. (Although â€œMP3â€? has replaced â€œsexâ€? as the most common word used in search engines, you don't see very many articles about â€œdigital music addiction,â€? or doctors calling MP3 the â€œcrack cocaineâ€? of music addiction.)
A 2000 Zogby International survey of 1,031 adults found that 20.8 percent visited a sexually-oriented Web site â€” 31.9 percent of men and 10.5 percent of the women polled (www.zogby.com). The lower percentages may be attributed to the fact that, while the Cooper/Scherer study polled those already online, Zogby bugged people at home for their answers. It's one thing to tell about your cybersex habits in an online form, another to fess up to a real live person.
In a 1999 CBS.MarketWatch.com poll, 23 percent of respondents felt that the Internet's worst feature was pornography. (Obviously these people never heard of Java.) Just 17 percent of those polled copped to ever having visited a Web site with adult-only content â€” a dubious finding, considering that entering the word â€œdoggieâ€? in any reputable search engine will get you at least half a dozen porn sites. Again, the fact that this was a telephone poll may be responsible for the 17 percent figure â€” the Cooper/Scherer study found that 75 percent of those who enjoy adult Internet sites don't tell anyone about it.
Why don't they tell? In the Cooper/Scherer's report, 87 percent of users claimed they felt neither shame nor guilt. Perhaps they were lying. (Shocking to think that anyone would lie to a pollster.) Or maybe it was due to the fact that many of them don't appear as themselves: 61 percent said that they pretended to be a different age than they actually are â€” 48 percent occasionally, and 20 percent often. Just 5 percent pretended they were the opposite sex, while 14 percent admitted they made up attributes based on â€œunidentified factors.â€? (Hmm, what could they be? Size of bank account?)
The Zogby survey found that, despite all the fun being had, 65.1 percent of respondents believed finding sexual fulfillment through the Internet was â€œnot likely.â€? It seems that when it comes to good sex, a keyboard, mouse, and modem are just peripheral.