Article | Journal of Economic Perspectives | winter 2009

Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?

by Benjamin Edelman

Abstract

This paper studies the adult online entertainment industry, particularly the consumption side of the market. In particular, it focuses on the demographics and consumption patterns of those who subscribe to adult entertainment websites. On the surface, this business would seem to face a number of obstacles. Regulatory and legal barriers have already been mentioned. In addition, those charging for access to adult entertainment face competition from similar content available without a fee. In the context of adult entertainment, free access offers consumers an extra benefit: online payments tend to create records documenting the fact of a customer's purchase; consumers of free content may feel more confident that their purchases will remain confidential. More broadly, measured levels of religiosity in America are high. On the other hand, social critics often argue that the rise of Internet pornography is contributing to a coarsening of American culture. Do consumption patterns of online adult entertainment reveal two separate Americas? Or is the consumption of online adult entertainment widespread, regardless of legal barriers, potential for embarrassment, and even religious conviction?

Keywords: Online Technology; Segmentation; Film Entertainment; Demographics; Web Sites; Competition; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Demand and Consumers; Legal Liability; Culture; Religion; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; United States;

Citation:

Edelman, Benjamin. "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?" Journal of Economic Perspectives 23, no. 1 (winter 2009): 209–220.