By Sarah Murnane

A couple of weeks ago I was looking at the Pornhub annual statistics report. As we all do from time to time. The statistics that come from this website are completely life-changing. For example, did you know that after the Eurovision winner Switzerland was announced, the site experienced a sharp increase in traffic from Switzerland? Porn influences life, and life influences porn. It is a beautiful symbiotic relationship. This raises the question of how much does porn influence our lives that we do not know about? Since it is possible now with online sites to track porn usage, content and engagement, are there trends in porn?

There always seem to have been mentions of trends surrounding sex in the modern era. For example an episode of Sex and the City, where the characters detail the latest trend of getting a Brazilian Wax. They involve removing all your pubic hair and are specifically targeted at women of course. Another famous example was the ‘kinky’ sex boom of the 2000s, coinciding with the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey. A romance novel, where the female protagonist enters into a BDSM relationship with a billionaire. The book sold 4.7 million copies only in the UK and continued teaching girls the most important rule of life: if a man offers you an iPad and a helicopter ride, kinky violent sex is but a small price to pay.

Trends in sexual behaviour have existed, but online porn has changed the game. Now, any kind of sexual kink, desire or perversion can be found at the touch of a button. More worryingly is the development of algorithms on social media networks that actively track your data and search history. These can be highly sophisticated as demonstrated by the app TikTok who are constantly noted for their scarily accurate and influential algorithm.

Pornhub, the largest free online pornography website, has admitted to tracking users’ data and using an algorithm to present particular videos. The site also ‘features’ videos on its homepage to boost creators and trending genres. In this sense, has our sexual preference begun to become informed by an algorithm on a site? Pornhub could theoretically pick a particular porn genre, push it onto their homepage and influence millions of people to watch a certain type of sexual content.

It is all fairly sinister, and it does not sit right. It is concerning to feel that a generation of online porn consumers will have their sexual preferences shaped by elements completely outside their control. How can we compete with this? I do not know. But think about that next time you click on a video: “She brought her lesbian friend to try a dick once in a lifetime”. Consider if that is something that you want to consume, or if that lesbian friend may have been better off after all.