Pleasure from pornography could lure you into a trap


A porn site ranks higher than Twitter and government portals like eCitizen and among internet sites most frequented by Kenyans

Friday March 08 2019

Agnes, a 25-year-old saleswoman who lives in Umoja estate in Nairobi, started watching pornography after she completed high school, out of curiosity and to kill boredom. Little did she know that a pastime would end up as an addiction that would last two years.

Today, she is happy for having successfully shaken off the habit, and rightly so because many pornography consumers have remained hooked despite attempts to quit. One in every 11 porn addicts globally has unsuccessfully tried to quit the habit, according to a study by the Kinsey Institute, a US-based non-governmental research organisation.

Agnes says that with plenty of time and 900mbs of data given to her every two weeks by a friend, she began harbouring the idea of watching pornography. It all began with a random search on the Internet, and one link led to another.

Henry, 25, on the other hand, started watching pornography sometime around 2009 while in high school, at age 15. “I could easily walk into a cybercafé and access whatever I was curious about,” says the software developer who lives in Limuru.

Kenya and other countries in the EAC, apart from South Sudan, are among the countries whose share of pornography consumers that are female surpassed the global average of 29 percent in 2018, according to Pornhub. But more men than women in Kenya watch.

Henry and Agnes are a representation of many young Kenyans who secretly watch and are addicted to pornography. Alexa Internet, a web traffic analysis company and a subsidiary of Amazon, ranked a pornographic site at number 15 in Kenya, as at March 7 this year. It was only beaten by popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo, the country’s leading media sites, the betting site SportPesa and the online shopping platform Jumia. In fact, the site was ranked higher than Twitter and the government’s portals eCitizen and, frequented by many Kenyans processing official documents such as passports, identity cards and driving licences and filing tax returns and other services.

The popularity of pornography sites is also captured by Nendo, an African digital strategy firm, in its State of Mobile Data 2019 report, placing two pornography sites at positions five and eight, as at November 1, 2018. Globally, adult websites occupy the 10th, 11th and 13th spots of the top 15 most visited websites in the world. This means Kenya has adult sites ranked higher than the global average. “In comparison to other East African Community countries, no other country had more sports betting or adult websites in its top 10 list of websites,” states the report.

One too many

Agnes says she would watch porn videos for about three hours every day on her phone while her parents were away, estimating that about three-quarters of her internet data would go to streaming the videos. She would take breaks whenever she had an unexpected disruption and then go back to watching.

The habit affected her ability to effectively do her day-to-day chores. She had to come up with excuses when her parents would return home in the evening to find that she had not completed routine chores that they assigned her.

So deep was the addiction that she would sometimes take her phone and go watch porn at her family’s farm because it had better internet reception.

“You don’t want to watch those things as they buffer,” she explains cheekily.

Henry, on the other hand, had the convenience of using his laptop while home alone.
A study by the Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Human Development that analysed the brains of 64 healthy male adults watching porn found that the striatum part of the brain, which makes up the reward system, was smaller in those who watched plenty of porn, implying that they would have to watch as much of it as possible to achieve sexual arousal.

“In my teens it was more convenient to watch during the day when everyone else had left home. After moving out, I really didn’t have to time because I was all by myself and had access to unlimited internet,” Henry explains.

Unlike other addictions, pornography addiction largely thrives on secrecy and solitude, making detection and external intervention difficult.

“Those who try to quit but relapse remain stuck because it is hard to get help if nobody in their circle knows about it. One lives a double life, where one is secretly an addict, and publicly normal,” says Job Watene, a psychologist. “It’s not like abusing alcohol which is a social habit.”

Tastes and preferences

According to Pornhub Insights, the data arm of the world’s largest porn repository, men watch more porn than women but women are more secretive. The data, released in 2017, shows that 80 percent of the traffic to their site from women comes from mobile phones and tablets, which caters for privacy needs, compared to 69 percent among men. Women are also 34 percent less likely to watch porn on desktop computers than men. Agnes and Henry indicated that they preferred the amateur ebony porn videos, which entail at least one actor of African descent.

Their preference is part of a trend in which pornography consumers are increasingly shifting from high-end professionally produced videos to more amateurish ones with natural bodies and scenarios that they can easily identify with.

They also admitted to preferring shorter clips to longer ones, in a bid to ‘get the job done quickly’ as well as save data bundles to watch more. The average visit duration worldwide on Pornhub in 2018 was 10 minutes 13 seconds, with the top country being the Philippines (13minutes and 50 seconds), followed by South Africa (10 minutes and 57 seconds), USA (10 minutes and 37 seconds) and Ukraine (10 minutes and 26 seconds).

Agnes watched alone but Henry watched with his girlfriend. “Even girls enjoy watching porn. I would watch with my girlfriend, as a kick to us getting intimate,” he says.

Research by the University of Carlifornia and Concordia University in 2015, which studied 280 men, also showed that those who watched pornography a lot reported higher sexual arousal and increased desire for sexual interactions with their partners and alone.

Kenya and other countries in the EAC, apart from South Sudan, are among the countries whose share of pornography consumers that are female surpassed the global average of 29 percent in 2018, according to Pornhub. But more men than women in Kenya watch.

More harm than good

While there is yet to be a concrete analysis on the effects of pornography, several studies have inferred that it causes more harm than good.

Porn addiction has been linked to failed relationships and marriages. A study conducted in 2017 by Samuel Perry, an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, which spanned from 2006 to 2012, found that the chances of divorce were double for Americans who began to watch pornography. Those watching two to three times a month were most likely to divorce their partners. The study, however, did not determine if watching pornography or an already shaky relationship was the cause of divorce.

Watching pornography has also been linked to sexual promiscuity. A study by Paul Wright, an associate professor at the Indiana University, established that that an unhappy person who watches porn is seven times more likely to engage in casual sex than a happy one.

Teenagers who indulge in watching violent pornographic content were six times more likely to commit sexual assault than those who did not watch, found a three-year study, involving children age 10 to 15, by researchers from John Hopkins School of Public Health, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and other institution.

“The impact of porn depends on the variety of porn one chooses to watch in the adult film market, and the purpose for watching. There’ll be different consequences for different people,” says Watene. “Whatever the case, the red line is crossed when the person can no longer function in a normal way.”