Comment: Why porn is exploding in the Middle East

Salon’s “Why porn is exploding in the Middle East” is yet another article about Muslim-state porn-search statistics.

According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states. Pakistan tops the list at number one, followed by Egypt at number two. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey come in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively. Pakistan leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.

Something that comes up in discussions on the relevance of Middle Easterners and Muslim populations searching for porn via Google is that the Google searches are a poor measure of interest in porn or its consumption. More mature porn consumers, the argument goes, don’t go through Google: they use specialized porn sites for content and searching… or they can use Salon. So a better measure would be to look at the visitor statistics from those specialized sites. Also, the article doesn’t address the question presented in the title since it never gets into why porn consumption is so popular or on the rise in Middle Eastern countries. Youth make up a major segment of the population. Many of these youth are unemployed or underemployed, making it difficult or impossible for them to marry. Political economy is important here – in particular problems related to the Middle East’s youth-bulge.

There is a porn consumption problem in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries. But overall, I just don’t find the Google search statistics particularly persuasive or significant.

UPDATE 1 The Salon article links to Do Muslims Watch Pornography? as the source for the data in the quotation. It looks like this page on WikiIslam is the source for their source. The first two sentences I quoted from Salon‘s article are:

According to data released by Google, six of the top eight porn-searching countries are Muslim states. Pakistan tops the list at number one, followed by Egypt at number two. Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey come in at numbers four, five, seven and eight, respectively.

There are a very close paraphrase of the WikiIslam article’s world wide stats:

Google, the world’s most popular Internet search engine, has found in a survey that mostly Muslim states seek access to sex-related websites and Pakistan tops the list. Google found that of the top 10 countries – searching for sex-related sites – six were Muslim, with Pakistan on the top. The other Muslim countries are Egypt at number 2, Iran at 4, Morocco at 5, Saudi Arabia at 7 and Turkey at 8. Non-Muslim states are Vietnam at 3, India at 6, Philippines at 9 and Poland at 10.

The source for their quote is “Pakistan most sex-starved”, published in Pakistan’s Daily Times on 17 May 2006.

The next sentence from the Salon article is:

Pakistan leads the way in porn searches for animals like pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats and snakes.

This sentence it just a paraphrase from the next section of the WikiPedia article:

Pig Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Egypt (No. 2) Saudi Arabia (No. 3)

Donkey Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Iran (No. 3) Saudi Arabia (No. 4)

Dog Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Saudi Arabia (No. 3)

Cat Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Iran (No. 2) Egypt (No. 3) Saudi Arabia (No. 4)

Horse Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Turkey (No. 3)

Cow Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Iran (No. 2) Saudi Arabia (No. 4)

Goat Sex: Pakistan (No. 1)

Animal Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Morocco (No. 2) Iran (No. 4) Egypt (No. 5)

Snake Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Malaysia (No. 3) Indonesia (No. 4) Egypt (No. 5)

Monkey Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Indonesia (No. 3) Malaysia (No. 4)

Bear Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Saudi Arabia (No. 2)

Elephant Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Egypt (No. 3) United Arab Emirates (No. 4) Malaysia (No. 5)

Fox Sex: Saudi Arabia (No. 1) Turkey (No. 4)

The source for this data is a blog post from 18 May 2006.

The Salon article’s stats come from a page that was originally published on 4 January 2012 and hasn’t been modified since 10 November 2014, which itself is quoting sources from 2006. It’s passing of 8 year old stats as though they are still current. The same WikiIslam page gives Google statistics for 2011 that show a different country ranking (Iran is no longer #3). The WikiIslam source for 2011 includes a link to the Google trend search that was used to compile their list. If we do it now we get a different ranking: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Vietnam (in that order). So it looks like in 2004, Muslim-majority states make up only 2 out of the top 7.

Guess what? Contrary to the Salon article’s title, porn is actually imploding in the Middle East.

UPDATE (30 Nov 2016) — I repeated the Google search. The rankings now are: Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Nepal,  India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Tunisia, then Lebanon. Contrary to the Salon article’s title, porn continues to implode in the Middle East.