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Sunday, March 3
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research student life

IU professor, students work to decode popular porn websites

One in four searches made online are in search of pornographic material, telecommunications professor Bryant Paul said.

And Paul is on a mission to discover exactly what kind of pornographic content is out there.   

“This is a benchmark study to find out what the hell is actually out there,” Paul said. “How can you not study the most fundamental social behavior?”

Paul and his group of student volunteers have watched and logged 5,000 explicit videos in their last year of work. By the end of this year, Paul said, he hopes to have 6,500 videos ready to analyze.

Paul said he received a lot of media requests asking what kind of explicit material is available online but could not find any specific information on what types of porn were most popular or what trends were present.

“I thought, we need to do this,” Paul said. “We need to come up with an objective, systematic content analysis and figure out what the most popular sites have on them.”

He said his team has studied both heterosexual and non-heterosexual pornographic videos from xvideo.com and pornhub.com, the two most popular porn sites.

The process to analyze the videos is complex, Paul said, with students watching videos anywhere from 30 seconds to two hours.

After answering some basic information about the time, length and title, student volunteers watch the video and fill out an elaborate Excel sheet with 73 questions about the content.

These questions range from the number of people in the scene to the number of times an individual was penetrated.

This “coding” process takes much longer than people assume, volunteer and senior Abbey Gross said.

Gross said she has been working on this project since the beginning of the semester.
Paul’s students can get anywhere from one to three credits for participating in this study, depending on how much time they are willing to dedicate.

“Coding a five-minute double penetration scene can take longer than you think whenever you are looking for things like whether or not the girl had her genitals pierced,” Gross said.

Paul said the goal of these specific questions is to gain bigger ideas from the small details. For example, the question “Does aggression take place?” is vague. To solve this problem, Paul said, he asked “Is any physical aggression shown during any sex act?” and then provided a dropdown menu of acts such as “pushing,” “pulling hair” and “gagging” to gain more specific answers.  

The questions for the coding program took almost a year to develop, while the definitions for this program were fine-tuned for over a month, Paul said.

“We're trying to be as scientific as we can about this,” Paul said.

Paul said this was important because as Internet use increases, so does the availability and popularity of pornographic materials.

“It’d be foolish not to think that there is a generation of kids growing up now that are learning about sex specifically from pornographic depictions,” Paul said. “It’s having an impact.”

Gross said the only challenge she has faced during this study has been balancing her
schoolwork with the video-watching and seeing participants in the videos pretend to enjoy themselves for the screen.

“Catching a woman flinch at potential pain while pretending that she is enjoying herself for the viewer’s sake is most difficult for me,” Gross said.

Paul said people usually think his work is funny or his students are using this as an excuse to watch porn.

“Whenever I tell people I am watching 10-plus videos of various porn a week, I get anything from uncomfortable laughter to ‘You must want sex all the time,’” Gross said.

Paul said he intends to finish the coding this semester and start analyzing the data over the summer. Once he has finished his analysis, he plans to make the data public for anyone to use.

“I know what I’m doing is not wrong,” Paul said. “But I do respect that some people are uncomfortable with it.”

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