A depressing new study by Benjamin Edelman entitled Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment? in the Journal of Economic Perspectives reveals that states with larger conservative populations have greater numbers of people who subscribe to web-based pornographic services. The state with the most subscriptions per 1000 people, most subscriptions per 1000 home internet users, and the most subscriptions per 1000 broadband internet users (1.69/2.49/5.47) is Utah. This article from New Scientist provides a summary.
People are likely to ascribe this fact to hypocricy and sexual repression among conservatives and religious people, especially Latter-day Saints. But may I suggest that we look a little closer at the issue before jumping to that conclusion. Are there other factors that could be contributing to this trend?
For instance, as a resident of Utah, my impression is that there are far fewer venues for pronographic material than I have seen simply driving around than I see in other places. With fewer avenues for pornography, more people would turn to online sources.
Also remember that Utah is no longer mostly made up of members of the LDS Church. There is a significant population that is not LDS, some of whose attitudes toward pornography may be more accepting than their religious neighbors. But with fewer venues, these people would be forced to seek adult content in greater amounts from online sources than they would in more permissive states.
Again, Utah does not necessarily equal active, temple-worthy Latter-day Saints. This study also doesn’t distinguish between active, less active, and non members of the church. Until they can show that more members per 1000 active, temple recommend holding members of the church pay for online pornography than any other group, we should be careful about what conclusions we draw from this kind of study.
UPDATE: Also see the criticism of the study here.
UPDATE 2: According to an article in the Deseret News, Edelman has identified the “most porn-watching ZIP codes in Utah” as 84766 in Sevier County, 84112 in Salt Lake County, 84018 in Morgan County, 84006 in southwest Salt Lake County, and 84536 in San Juan County. (Here is a map of Utah Counties)