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Porn and the internet — like peanut butter and jelly

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I couldn't win with this one. I was trying to discover why it is that when one searches for a fairly innocuous term like "breast meat," half the sites that come up are X-rated. I was looking for statistics. I was looking for facts. I just wanted to know how much porn there is on the internet. But I was running into something of a stumbling block. It was ironic really. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what you find when you type "porn on the internet" into Google, but I will tell you this: washing your eyes out with Clorox afterwards might help. But probably not enough.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that, actually, there's a hell of a lot of porn on the internet. Why, we seem not to be able to get through the day online anymore without seeing a flash of breast, a sliver of thigh, a sly come-hither smile — and that's just the ads for Match.com. According to the Internet Filter Review, there are 420 million porn pages out there on the www, and less than 60 percent of all website visits are sexual in nature. The number-one search term on the internet is "sex," with "porno" falling into fourth place. Worldwide sex industry sales for 2006 were around $97 billion. (Microsoft, just so you have some perspective, reported worldwide sales of $44.8 billion, which means that porn is totally kicking Bill Gates' ass. Um, so to speak.) And last year, 72 million people visited adult websites. Every month.

Are we a bunch of dirty hobags or what? Well, you are. Eighty-seven percent of college students are having sex over webcams or instant messenger, according to a Reuters study from last year. Seventy-seven percent of online visitors to adult content sites are male; their average age is 41, they have an annual income of about $60,000, and almost half are married. And since I'm no longer a university student, and have never been a rich white dude whose wife doesn't understand him, I guess you could say I'm in the clear. And yet apparently one in three visitors to all adult websites are women, according to the Internet Filter Review, meaning that 9.4 million women access hot porn sites every month.

Here's what I don't get, though: who's downloading porn at work? I have enough trouble finding time for lunch, let alone any other type of extracurricular activity, and yet in May 2004, Businessweek published the results of a ComScore Networks survey in which 44 percent of U.S. employees with an internet connection confessed to accessing an adult website at work during the month of March 2004. I bet that was a little tricky when the boss walked by.

Finally, a word of warning: if you're thinking of setting up your own website with your name as the URL, try and buy that now, before some third-rate "adult performer" claims it as her own. My poor writer friend had to abandon her dreams of setting up an online portfolio site after it transpired that she shared her name with quite the most grotesque porn star ever to walk the planet — I mean, we're talking teased bangs here — who'd got there just before her when it came to buying the domain name. My friend still worries that potential clients Google her name and think that might be her. I tell her not to be silly. Nobody would ever believe she has bangs like that.

Holly Burns would like to warn you that even searching for "bangs" online is sort of risky. Find her at www.nothingbutbonfires.com.

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