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What's the Most Popular Porn Site on Earth? (And What Does That Say About Our Relationship to Sex?)

A webcam site featuring mostly underpaid women from non-Western countries gets the most views. What does that say about Western sexuality?
 
 
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 This whole article is pretty interesting – who would have guessed that porn only accounts for 4% of the internet? – but this part stood out:

So what's the most popular porn site on the planet?

The single most popular adult site in the world is LiveJasmin.com, a webcam site which gets around 32 million visitors a month, or almost 2.5% of all internet users!

You're telling me a webcam site is more popular than PornHub?

LiveJasmin is the most popular adult site on the web by a huge margin.

Basically, it's interesting that what men prefer the most is watching women strip on a webcam and being able to talk to them while they do, telling the women what they want to see. Once this became available (through high-quality broadband streaming of webcam video) it just shot to the top of popularity; it's even more popular than the tube sites like PornHub and RedTube.

The fact that 2.5% of the billion people on the internet are using LiveJasmin each month is pretty extraordinary.

A global phenomenon! Where do the webcam women come from?

Almost all of the webcam girls are from eastern Europe or southeast Asia. At $8-$15/hour with no benefits, it doesn't pay enough for American women… except teenage girls and college students.

Most of the foreign women do it without the knowledge of their friends and family and only do it for Americans so that acquaintances in their homeland won't hear about it.

I am apparently not a very savvy consumer of internet porn, because I've never heard of LiveJasmin.com. And I am certainly far from anti-pornography; if you want to get naked on your webcam/watch people get naked on their webcams, fantastic, enjoy yourself. I personally find the whole concept of webcam porn kind of cheesy and hilarious and I guess sort of like the pornography equivalent of a Xanga journal, or the next logical step after some hot AOL Chatroom action? Do you start the webcam session by asking, "18/f/NY wanna cyber?" But also I am 86, so what do I know. Have fun on your webcams kids.

Oh, but. Obviously, this isn't a one-way exploitation street – it's not just western men (or just men generally) who are consuming internet porn, and it's not just south-east Asian and eastern European women who are in porn. But western men do account for a disproportionate amount of online porn consumption. And they're consuming porn that is produced at bargain-basement prices by women who have significantly less financial autonomy than many American and western European women. At the same time, there's plenty of porn out there that involves American and western European women, or actresses who have greater bargaining power and are paid much higher wages. I wonder how much of the thrill, for some men, involves the potential for exploitation – the power that comes from being able to pay a woman to do something for you, on your terms, that she might not do if she had a broader range of options.

That isn't to say that women only do porn because they don't have options – I'm hesitant to write about this stuff because there are such established feminist camps here, and the conversations tend to recycle the same old arguments. So I'm not saying that women always go into porn out of desperation; I'm not saying that women in porn are always victims; I'm not saying that choosing to go into porn when it pays you $15 an hour and that's way more than you'd be getting paid elsewhere is in any way an irrational choice.