In late July and early August, I launched a non-scientific survey to help me better target the TEDx Talk I’ll be giving in early December about pornography addiction. The survey was designed to capture the current beliefs of a wide group of people and better understand how best to give my presentation. I thought I’d get about 50 responses. I got over 800.
Response was far bigger than I could have imagined and there was fascinating information to come out of this survey that I wanted to share, especially to those who participated. Now I don’t know the difference between scientific and non-scientific when it comes to surveys, but I do understand that there has never been information taken from another person and then disseminated without some form of bias. If you want to read my take on the bias in this survey, I added it to the end of this article.
All right, now that you’ve read the disclaimers and caveats, let’s look at some of the results:
While I know that there are likely many people who fit into two or more categories, I wanted people to self-label themselves with only one tag. Parents ranked 7.7%, Mental Health Professionals at 7.1% and Teacher/Educator at 6.5%.
The few people who have seen these results to this point have told me they were surprised by over a quarter of the people taking this labeling themselves as an addict, but since “student” was the second highest group, it makes sense. A study from 2017 by The Barna Group interviewed more than double the people that I did and they found 32%-33% of respondents in the male 18- to 30-year-old group were self-diagnosed as having a problem with pornography. I didn’t ask for gender in this survey, but knowing those Barna numbers, the 25.6% saying they are addicts doesn’t surprise me at all.
These two questions were just to get a handle on what the people who were taking the survey were thinking in terms of pornography addiction having the potential of being a real problem or addiction. In both of these questions, I was really only interested in what percentages would be represented by the blue parts of the pie. Both of these results confirmed that this is a topic that needs to be talked about and it’s perfect for a TEDx Talk.
I think it’s telling that a combined 77.6% of people who answered the survey said that those under 18 are most at risk for developing the addiction. I think this shows an understanding of where the seeds of addiction are sown. I know that there are those who become addicted after 25, but I’m still surprised that 6.1% of people think they are at the greatest risk.
Like the last question, these are another two that made me feel good as the responses came in. Only 6% of people don’t think that porn addiction should be addressed in either high school, college or both. If 94% of people think it should be addressed in school — why aren’t we doing it? This should be some ammunition toward getting it normalized in health curriculum. If you need any more proof that people think we need to do better, 96% think we’re not doing a good enough job. These are important numbers for educators to consider. If we can’t count on parents, we need to count on the schools and there’s clearly a need for it.
That last number is the headline for me. Only slightly more than 1 out of 4 people don’t have some connection, either through themselves, a family member, partner or friend, to pornography addiction. Think about that for a second. That’s 27.5% who believe there is no connection to people and porn addiction in their life — but it’s 72.5% who do have a connection! If well more than half of us have a connection to porn addiction in my life, why isn’t anybody talking about it??!!
The next newsmaker here for me is that 42% of people who took this thought they may have a porn addiction. Of the 812 people who answered the question, 342 may be porn addicts???!!!! Almost 1 out of 4 think they’re partner is an addict??!!!
The child questions are somewhat moot because I made the mistake of not qualifying it by finding out how many people answering had kids. Once again, not a scientific survey, but these other answers did come in higher than I expected. They don’t surprise me, but I wasn’t sure if people were seeing what was happening around them and would report it.
This one bothered me the most because I think it plays into stereotypes about who pornography addicts are or aren’t. Nearly 9-in-10 people are worried about male teens become porn addicts, but only 1-in-4 is worried about a teen female. Half of respondents say that they’re concerned about adult males become addicts, but only 1-in-10 is worried about adult females.
Just when I thought we were waking up as a society, we’re met by these numbers. I’m not going to go into a litany of statistical quoting showing that the number of female addicts is growing by leaps and bounds, nor am I going to go into my diatribe about how porn is now available cheaply, targeted at all demographics and easier (and more anonymous) to access than ever before. I can show you were we actually are, but I wanted to know where people thought we are, or needed to be. I felt good about the responses until this question. There’s unfortunately still a huge gender gap when it comes to understanding who are pornography addicts. Yes, historically men have always outnumbered women when it came to consuming pornography and reporting as addicts, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be the case.
If any female porn addict says she feels invisible to society, all you have to do is look at the answers to this question and you can understand why.
There were several other questions that asked about presentation style, but I won’t bore you with the answers here. They’ll help me figure out how to communicate the information and you can see if it all comes together when the event takes place.
My TEDx Talk will be part of TEDxHartford on Dec. 6, 2020. While there will be no live audience in attendance because of social distancing, people are invited from all over the world to attend virtually at no charge — although donations are accepted. If you’d like to get a virtual ticket to the event, check out TEDxHartford online.
Caveats on Methodology: In the case of this survey, everybody asked to take it was online, which almost certainly skewed the average respondent younger than in if it had just been taken on the street. Along with sending it to a few heterogenous mailing lists, it was also posted on my website and LinkedIn page, so those who have some interest in following what I’m already doing had the opportunity to take it skewed in their favor. Finally, I posted it on many online forums, bulletin boards and subreddits. I tried to get a mix of people – I wanted young adults, and therapists, and parents and former addicts and partners of addicts, and religious people and a few other groups to specifically respond – so I looked for places online where some of these groups congregated. Considering over 800 people answered every question, I feel confident enough in the results since even another 25 responses would not change any answer by much.