Who reads my Tumblr porn

When I tracked followers to my smut site, I found all kinds -- conservatives, old folks and government employees

By Adam Cohen
Published July 26, 2013 11:00PM (EDT)
      (<a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/user_view.php?id=2325389'>ericcote</a> via <a href='http://www.istockphoto.com/'>iStock</a>)
(ericcote via iStock)

Right now Tumblr is the place to be for lazy amateur smut peddlers, because it mixes the two things the Internet does best: sex and social networking. All you need is a little free time and a lax moral code, and you can have hundreds of randy followers in a matter of months.

I should know. I started my own porn blog on Tumblr after lonely nights looking for the best free smut. I'd never shared a dirty photo or video outside the bedroom, and all my fancy education certainly didn’t prepare me to become a mid-life purveyor of it. But I was drawn by the thrill of Internet sex with countless anonymous strangers. Not actual sex, of course, but a lascivious kind of interaction. Anonymity allowed me to air dirty kinks I might never share with a partner. I began posting a series of fetish shots common to straight male porn. I got an ego boost when followers began to number in the thousands and send me their own amateur bedroom photos. It’s extremely addictive: I was building a following of filth.

But while my visitors were watching porn, I was watching them. StatCounter, which can be embedded into the code of any Tumblr blog, provides detailed information on every visit to my site. It doesn’t give me names or addresses, but it fills in a lot of other blanks. It tells me roughly what city a visitor lives in, which Internet service provider he uses, which pages he viewed, which site he came from, and how long he stuck around. And what I discovered is that people everywhere like porn. Even your grandparents. Even NASA.

Our taste in porn may vary from place to place: According to search results released by PornMD, for example, Southerners tend to prefer African Americans in their porn while horny Midwesterners go for collegiate smut. The Chinese, for some reason, like their online sex Japanese-style, and Iraqis apparently have a fetish for "sisters."

But if the numbers I see on StatCounter hold water, our taste for porn is mostly the same wherever you go.

A large number of my visitors live in the deepest red territory in the United States, Republican towns in Republican states in the deep Republican South, where porn is still a sin. And more than a few of them work or study at right-wing Bible colleges.

Conservative Christians are hardly alone in denying during the day what they do at home at night. A surprising portion of my hits come from the Muslim Middle East, including a roster of countries that ban online porn: Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Syria, Qatar.

Indeed, there are only three distinct parts of the world from which I’ve never seen visits: North Korea, Cuba and the Vatican. North Korea essentially has no Internet access, Cuba isn’t much better, and as for the Holy See, well, it may just be a matter of time.

Not even age, infirmity or war completely turn us off. I’ve gotten countless hits from retirement communities, hospitals and military posts around the globe. And while the vast majority of my Tumblr followers are men, I’m taken aback by the number of female followers, given that my site focuses on a male-oriented subject.

One popular assumption about Internet porn is true, though: There’s a ton of it on the job. I get visitors from research labs, auditing firms, college administrative offices, airlines, software companies, social media giants, major auto manufacturers, white-shoe law firms, hotel conglomerates, security firms, supercomputing facilities and many, many other official places – including, one weekday afternoon, the Washington bureau of CBS News (if it was for a story, I never saw it).

Government visitors are common all around. They include NASA, state houses, city halls and public library networks, to name just a few. I get more than one almost every day, and some return repeatedly.

I also get curious visits from military intelligence. The first hit or two may have been bots, but someone in the Department of Defense has become awfully familiar with my site. The spies may spy on us, but there are times we can spy on them – if only to catch them indulging in porn on the taxpayer dime.

More disturbing are the educators. Hits from schools are hard to decipher because they could be students or adults, but I’ve had enough visits from elementary schools, high schools, youth rec centers, boarding schools and administrative offices to convince me these aren’t all kids breaking through anti-porn software on school computers. At least some of them are teachers or staff who would seem to have something of a problem. And there are hundreds of them.

This is the creepiest side to keeping track of Tumblr porn. I have no interest in attracting either minors or teachers to my site, and if I had enough specific information to report someone for doing something explicitly illegal, I would. But it’s not my job to hunt down everyone who violates school district policy.

 My site is just a fraction of a drop in a digital ocean of filth. But I’m willing to bet things break down pretty much the same wherever you go. Online sex may be the best-accepted non-medical gift the United States has given the world, and it’s spreading rapidly.

Adam Cohen

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