Harvey H. Jackson: Alabama, No. 1 in more than football
It was one of those headlines that simply dared me to write a column.
“Alabama cities lead list of porn-loving religious places, poll says”
My first reaction was not to take the dare. As we say down in south Alabama, “some swamps don’t need draining,” even if the swamp is AL.com, the face of new journalism in our fair state.
But something just didn’t seem right. What sorta poll would have pollsters calling up folks around the country asking them (1.) “are you religious,” and if they answered yes, following up with (2.) “do you love porn?”
So I checked it out, and guess who did the polling?
No one. There was no poll revealing that Alabama cities were high among the “porn-loving religious places.” The article beneath the headline was based on another article that was based on research undertaken by researchers working for PornHub.com, a pornography website, and published online by BuzzFeed.com.
PornHub.com bills itself as the world’s biggest porn distributor, which I doubt because there is no Wikipedia entry for it, and we all know that if it isn’t on Wikipedia . . . .
As for BuzzFeed.com, according to Wikipedia, it is “a website that combines a technology platform for detecting viral content with an editorial selection process to provide a snapshot of ‘the viral web in realtime.’” Huh?
Well, the “viral content” Buzzfeed detected was a report compiled by researchers at PornHub.com. (Dear readers, do not go to PornHub.com to see what it is all about. You might be scarred for life or, worse yet, find yourself a statistic in a research report like the one that was the subject of the BuzzFeed article. You have been warned.)
Now, I am not exactly sure how or why the folks at PornHub.com came up with the research project that led to the BuzzFeed.com article, but the decision might have been the result of a conversation among researchers employed by the porn site that went something like this:
Porn researcher No. 1 to porn researcher No. 2: “You know what I did over the weekend?”
(Look, surely porn researchers have lives outside the realm of porn research. So I imagine this sort of conversation was pretty common around the PornHub.com office.)
Porn researcher No. 2 replies: “No, what?”
(A reasonable response, given the options available to porn researchers.)
Porn researcher No. 1: “I took a look at that recent Gallup poll, you know, the one that ranked cities by how religious their residents were.”
Porn researcher No. 2: “So?”
Porn researcher No. 1: “People in those religious cities are into porn.”
Porn researcher No. 2 gets really interested and asks: “How do you know that?”
Porn researcher No. 1: “Because they visit our site.”
And with that revelation, the research that led to the article that led to the headline was set in motion.
I am not sure whether their inquiry was an effort to search out and expand a market niche, or if it was a way for porn people to fire a zinger at anti-porn people who seem to cluster under the Gallup poll category “very religious.” Whatever the motive, this is what they discovered.
Eight of the top 10 “very religious” cities where folks watch a lot of online porn are in the South.
The Bible Belt.
Of the remaining two, one was in Michigan and the other was Provo, Utah, in the heart of Mormon country.
This raises a number of questions, not the least being whether cities that aren’t “very religious” watch even more online porn than cities with significant “very religious” populations.
The porn researchers didn’t say.
What they did say was this: Of all the “very religious” cities that watch a lot of porn, the one that leads the list is Huntsville-by-gum-Alabama.
This set my mind reeling back to 2010, when the owner of a Huntsville adult-items store, “Pleasures” (“your one-stop romance shop”), challenged Alabama’s ban on sex toys, a ban passed by a Legislature that conveniently did not ban owning the items, just selling them. That allowed Alabamians, including legislators, one supposes, to go online and order — or just watch.
Which folks down in Montgomery are doing, for according to PornHub and Buzzfeed, Montgomery came in second in the race to the top of the “very religious” cities where citizens visit the PornHub website.
That leaves me with just one question: Do these Montgomery visits to the PornHub website coincide with the times when the Legislature is in session?
Now that would be really interesting to know.
Meanwhile, “Pleasures,” well aware of the needs and desires of Huntsville’s porn-watching citizenry, has expanded to five locations so it can better serve its customers.
The free market marches on.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org