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Pornhub’s 2021 Annual Report Reveals This Year’s Most-Watched Porn Categories

To understand just how popular and normalized porn is, one needs to look no further than the metrics Pornhub records and publishes at the end of each year.

By December 15, 2021No Comments

Trigger warning:

While it’s supposedly the most wonderful time of the year, so they say, where each of us gets to look back on how 2021 changed us, made us stronger and wiser, and brought us closer together, it’s also a time where we can see how society’s collective porn habits were influenced.

For the first time since 2019, one of the internet’s biggest porn sites—owned and operated by the company that controls much of the mainstream porn industry—is giving the public a peek behind the curtain of their inner workings.

This article resumes our annual review of Pornhub’s yearly report that gives us a look into society’s collective obsession with porn.

Related: MindGeek, Pornhub’s Parent Company, Sued For Reportedly Hosting Videos Of Child Sex Trafficking

To start off, we want to say that we have no way of fact-checking all of these metrics to ensure they’re being accurately reported, so we (unfortunately) have to take Pornhub’s word for it with a few grains of salt. Note that the reason Pornhub is our go-to for studying the porn habits of society is that it’s the 14th-most visited site in the world and the third most-popular adult site on the internet, so sampling people’s habits gives us a pretty good look at where porn consumption is heading, overall.

But why report these metrics at all, if Fight the New Drug’s goal is to raise awareness on the harmful effects of porn and not draw people more to it?

Plainly stated, the more we know, the better we can educate others. It’s better that we fully understand the scope of the issue we’re dealing with so we can be more equipped and educated in addressing it.

With that said, let’s get started.

Rule 34—if it exists, there’s porn of it

We say it every year we share this report, and 2021 is definitely no exception: internet porn is more varied than just about anything else you can find online.

The infamous Rule 34 of the internet—a comical list of protocols and conventions which first appeared years ago on a popular online forum—states, “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” So far in our organization’s 12-year history, we’ve seen that to be true.

Related: 34 Trafficking And Abuse Survivors Sue Pornhub For Reportedly Profiting From Their Exploitation

So, if you can think of a pornographic scenario, theme, or style—no matter how random or innocent it may seem—then such porn will already have been made and will be available online. If it’s somehow not out there, then it is only a matter of time before such porn is made.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot to unpack in this year’s report, so scroll on.

Pornification of society

To understand just how popular and normalized porn is, one needs to look no further than the metrics Pornhub records and publishes at the end of each year.

Beginning in 2013, the mega-giant porn company has released a “year in review” on its SFW blog that shares detailed analytics from the site, containing information like Favorite Porn Star, Most Popular Search Terms, and Average Time Spent Per Visit. (Scroll to the bottom of this blog for links to our previous write-ups since 2014.)

With 2021 almost officially over, Pornhub released its analytics from the year, but notedly breaking from tradition, they have failed to report any metrics measuring the number of site visits, the total amount of videos consumed, and the total amount of new content uploaded to the site.

Related: 13 Times MindGeek Executives Reportedly Didn’t Tell The Full Truth To Canadian Lawmakers

This comes as no surprise seeing as, in December 2020, Pornhub was globally called-out in a New York Times article for their years of reportedly hosting and profiting from nonconsensual content and child exploitation images. What followed the bombshell report included Visa, Mastercard, and Discover severing ties with Pornhub and suspending their payment processing services on the site, Pornhub announcing increased site restrictions and moderation, and Pornhub’s removal of allegedly over 14 million unverified videos on the site.

In the last 12 months, Canadian Parliament members have investigated Pornhub and interviewed alleged child exploitation survivors whose images Pornhub reportedly profited off of, and countless consumers have jumped ship and opted to view content on  XVideos instead of Pornhub’s more “narrowed down” selection. (Note that XVideos has also been accused of profiting from nonconsensual content and underage videos.)

Now that the news has somewhat died down about all of that in the last few months, perhaps they feel it’s safe once more to share the what remaining content people are consuming on the site.

In the last annual report Pornhub shared in 2019, they said there were more than 42,000,000,000 site visits to Pornhub—nearly 6 visits to the site per person on Earth—which is 8.5 billion more visits total than 2018.

Related: The New York Times Exposé That Helped Spark The Possible Beginning Of The End Of Pornhub

Pornhub didn’t share its own website visitor metrics from this year, but SmililarWeb reports that Pornhub clocked 2.1 billion visitors every month, miles below competitor site XVideos which has 3.2 billion. Considering that Pornhub reported 42 billion site visits in 2019, 2.1 billion monthly visits is 25 billion for the whole year, 16.8 billion fewer site visits than in 2019.

Given that they removed millions of videos on the site due to the fact that they could not confirm they were exploitation-free—and there’s no guarantee the videos that remain are exploitation-free, too—it is no surprise their site viewership has taken a serious hit.

All the same, consumers are still logging on and watching Pornhub’s content. So, let’s take a look at this year’s most viewed content on the site:

Note that this year is the second time in recent memory that “teen” hasn’t broken the top 10 searched terms on Pornhub, but don’t celebrate just yet because we have a theory as to why that is.

Since 2014, the most-searched term on Pornhub from all visitors around the world was “lesbian,” usually closely followed by “teen” or “stepmom,” and “milf,” in various orders.

This year looks nothing like the previous seven. Not only was “lesbian” outranked, but “teen” didn’t even make it to the top 10 searches. But why?

Related: What’s Going On With Pornhub? A Simplified Timeline Of Events

Consider this dark but compelling theory of ours: content that fetishizes underage girls and teens is so popular in the porn world that “teen” porn has been absorbed by many of the other categories. So it’s not that sexualized underage or “barely legal” girls are any less popular, it’s that this content might not be distinguished or different from all the rest of the top categories.

So what’s the big deal with these search terms? We’ll break it down for you.

Get The Facts

How porn profits from racist stereotypes

The top-viewed category on Porhnhub was “Japanese” in 2021, but not far behind was “Ebony.” It’s a very unfortunate fact that, while the porn industry did not invent racist stereotypes, it certainly depicts and profits from them, along with blatantly racist narratives.

The porn industry often fetishizes race, reducing people of color to sexual categories that often focus on damaging stereotypes.xHamster. (2018). xHamster trend report 2018. Retrieved from https://xhamster.com/blog/posts/745297COPY   According to researchers who performed a content analysis of more than 1,700 scenes from two of the world’s most popular porn sites—Pornhub and XVideos—videos featuring Black people disproportionately emphasize violence and aggression, perpetuate harmful racist stereotypes, and often depict Black people as “worse than objects.”Fritz, N., Malic, V., Paul, B., & Zhou, Y. (2021). Worse than objects: The depiction of black women and men and their sexual relationship in pornography. Gender Issues, 38(1), 100-120. doi:10.1007/s12147-020-09255-2COPY 

Related: Content On Popular Porn Sites Reportedly Normalize And Promote Racism And Racist Stereotypes

Dr. Carolyn West, an expert on domestic violence and cultural sensitivity, has taught courses on Human Sexuality for more than 20 years. Discussing the porn industry’s history of perpetuating racism against the Black community, she explains, “It doesn’t take long to stumble upon any number of racist titles that promote offensive and unwarranted racial stereotypes.” She continues, “The porn industry appears to get a free pass to promote horrifically racist and abusive content in the name of sexual entertainment to anyone with internet access, even children.”West, C. M. (2021). Why does the porn industry get away with racist portrayals of Black people? Fight the New Drug. Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/why-does-the-porn-industry-get-away-with-racist-portrayals-of-black-people/COPY 

The issue with fetishized LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships

Included in these top 20 viewed categories are three terms that relate to LGBTQ+ folks: “Lesbian,” “Transgender,” and “Bisexual Male.”

For an industry that is often culturally thought of as being allied with the LGBTQ+ community, the mainstream porn industry’s depictions of LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships often make it seem like they are less interested in accurate representation and more interested in profiting at the expense of LGBTQ+ people.

Regardless of any diversifying factors, people do not deserve to be abused, fetishized, tokenized, misrepresented, or exploited for “entertainment.” It shouldn’t be societally normalized for any industry or medium to misrepresent, exploit, or fetishize LGBTQ+ folks and their relationships—yet the porn industry certainly does, and unfortunately often gets away with it.

Porn producers, including many who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community, are creating content that they are promoting as being catered to an LGBTQ+ audience—though the content itself often misrepresents LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships, promotes derogatory terms, and is generally intended for a cisgender, heterosexual audience.

Related: How Porn Can Misrepresent And Fetishize LGBTQ+ Individuals And Relationships

Let’s specifically consider “lesbian” porn. Although “lesbian” has remained one of the most searched-for terms on popular porn sites over the past few years, the majority of mainstream porn isn’t necessarily made for a lesbian audience at all, but for cisgender, heterosexual men. Not to mention mainstream porn gets a lot of things wrong about LGBTQ+ sex in general.

And for the “Bisexual Male” category, there are a few issues. Porn often sells the idea that bisexual individuals are not only hypersexual, they are serial cheaters, and always interested in a sexual encounter whenever and with whoever. What porn clearly misrepresents is that bisexual individuals, like everyone else, have individual libidos, desires, and longings for connection.

Ultimately, portraying a person’s sexual orientation as a fetish is a dehumanizing misrepresentation.

FTND Resources

Now, regarding the “Transgender” category, not all porn featuring transgender individuals is focused on their belittlement and humiliation, but too many videos are.

This is an especially challenging issue because the porn industry is one of the most prominent places where trans people are featured and normalized, but that normalization often comes at a price. Many of these videos are clearly focused on “punishing” and humiliating them with forced, painful sex acts, often using highly derogatory and offensive terms.

Related: Why LGBTQ+ Youth Disproportionately Experience Sexual Exploitation

Consider what one trans woman said in an article about misconceptions (link trigger warning) surrounding dating and porn:

Sure, while you might see a lot of trans porn stars labeling themselves that way, many trans women experience it as derogatory. The term ‘tranny’ makes me feel like a thing rather than a person. Porn companies are giving their audience a fantasy. Unfortunately, these fantasies are all too often produced and directed by cis men. Simply put: Don’t let what you see in porn dictate how you communicate with a trans woman.

No one deserves to be abused, fetishized, or tokenized—regardless of any diversifying factors. It’s unacceptable for the mainstream porn industry to exploit LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships for “entertainment.”

Related: The Unique, Unseen Vulnerabilities Victimized Boys Face In The Commercial Sex Trade

The truth is the porn that glamorizes the misrepresentation and mistreatment of real people, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a demand for it. Every view, click, and download fuels the demand for the continued production of this content and reinforces attitudes and behaviors of degradation and objectification. Supporting the industry further perpetuates misrepresentation and will continue to drive pornographers to create content that exploits and fantasizes marginalized people in hurtful ways.

Hentai sexualizes underage children

Cartoon porn, particularly hentai, has become increasingly popular and is now one of the most searched terms of internet porn.

One of the reasons, and probably seen as the “most important” reason, consumers say they prefer animated porn it doesn’t involve real people. These cartoon sex scenarios involve animated humans (and other “non-humans”) in extreme, fantasy situations, without involving basically anything realistic or respecting the laws of physics and gravity.

Related: “Real People Are Gross”: 3 Reasons Why Animated Porn Is So Popular

But what’s depicted is far from safe and healthy.

Much of hentai depicts highly exaggerated sex acts featuring characters with impossibly large body parts, and specializes in featuring disturbing fetishes like animal tentacles, children (particularly little girls), and incest. It is common for monsters, demons, animals, giant insects, and plants to rape cartoon women. Women and girls in hentai look like a mixture of adult and child. The categories of woman and child are blurred, because neither is off sexual limits.

A consistent theme in hentai is a type of “sexy innocence.” Adult women, teens, and children are fused into one. The large eyes, childlike expressions, and hairless bodies with tiny, petite frames are combined with massive breasts and exaggerated sex acts.

Related: What Is Hentai Porn, And Why Is It So Popular?

Hentai sexualizes just about everything from incest to bestiality. Rape and underaged kids are the top common themes. There are even hentai forms of innocent children anime shows such as Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, and Cartoon Network characters in extreme porn.

Consuming unrealistic sexual fantasies isn’t at all harmless, especially when they normalize, glorify, and romanticize rape and abuse as sexual fantasy or entertainment, no matter the improbability of the animated scene.

BHW - General

What did we learn?

Aside from the insights above, we also learned from the end-of-year stats that incest porn is still popularlesbian porn still ranks high in searches, and given the site’s 2021 rankings, consumers don’t likely know or care that Mia Khalifa (ranked in their top 10 most-searched porn performers) has made it clear that she wishes the porn videos she was in were deleted forever.

Related: Why Does The Porn Industry Get Away With Racist Portrayals Of Black People?

Also, females now apparently make up 35% of Porbhub’s site visitors.

Clearly, porn is more accessible, more normalized, and more mainstream than ever before, and there’s no real change to that in sight.

Related: So You Realize You Have An Unwanted Porn Habit—Now What Do You Do?

But fortunately for us, information about the harmful effects of porn has also never been more accessible or mainstream than ever before. Did you know we have free documentary series on the harmful effects of porn? Also, check out our podcast, Consider Before Consuming, which discusses the harmful effects of porn, not to mention our blog with over 1,000 educational articles.

So while people are logging on to Pornhub and daily adding to their massive stats, we’ll continue sharing the facts and raising awareness that porn is anything but harmless entertainment. And judging by the hundreds of thousands of messages we’ve received over the 12+ we’ve been an organization, this movement for real love has already made a huge impact in changing the conversation around this issue.

Soon enough, our society will be less interested in the most degrading and humiliating content possible, and more invested in real relationships. It’s only a matter of time. You with us?

Fortify

2020 Exposé About Pornhub Reportedly Profiting from Nonconsensual Content
2019 Year in Review
2018 Year in Review
2017 Year in Review
2016 Year in Review
2015 Year in Review
2014 Year in Review