The use of web tracking panel data provides new insights into Germans’ online pornography use. According to new research published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, German Catholics, Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated are as likely to use online pornography as each other. By comparison, members of minority religions in Germany, such as Muslims or Orthodox Christians, are less likely to use online pornography.
Die Verwendung von Web-Tracking-Panel-Daten liefert neue Erkenntnisse über die Online-Pornografie-Nutzung der Deutschen. Laut einer neuen Studie, die in Archives of Sexual Behavior veröffentlicht wurde, nutzen deutsche Angehörige des Katholizismus, des Protestantismus sowie religiös Ungebundene mit gleicher Wahrscheinlichkeit Online-Pornografie. Im Vergleich dazu nutzen Angehörige von Minderheitsreligionen wie dem Islam oder dem orthodoxen Christentum in Deutschland Online-Pornografie seltener.
Drs. Pascal Siegers and Johannes Breuer of GESIS, together with Maximilian T. P. von Andrian-Werburg of the University of Wurzburg, used data from a non-probability web tracking panel of German Internet users. Analyses were conducted on web tracking panel data from N = 3018 individuals gathered from June 2018 to June 2019. They then combined the web tracking data with survey data answered by a subset of the tracking participants (n = 1315). With these combined data, the researchers were able to assess the relevance of various predictors of online pornography use (OPU) identified in previous research and gain novel insights into Germans’ online pornography use. One predictor they considered was religious affiliation. According to their research, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, German Catholics, Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated are equally likely to use online pornography.
Combining Web Tracking Information with Traditional Survey Data Collection
People’s use of pornography and which characteristics predict the use have been well-researched in social science. Historically, the predominant method used to study offline and online pornography use was surveys.
These self-reported data – like all self-reported data – are vulnerable to biases. People may underreport their pornography use because they can’t remember accurately how many times they’ve used it, or people may not provide an accurate number because they feel embarrassed (especially in personal interviews).
To date, few studies into online pornography use have incorporated web tracking. von Andrian-Werburg, Siegers, and Breuer addressed concerns about self-reported online pornography use data quality by combining large-scale German online web tracking panel data with survey data collected from the same panelists. Their results generally replicate previous findings from survey-based research from Germany and other countries.
In the web tracking sample (N = 3018), around 45.9% (n = 1386) of participants could be identified as OP users, meaning that they had at least one visit to one of the websites from the categories listed in the study. Similar to other results, significant differences were found between men’s and women’s OPU. 66% of male participants were OP users while 26% were women.
However, the study also generated some novel insights, such as identifying differences in the role religion plays in online pornography use. Especially differences between members of the religious majorities and the religiously unaffiliated in Germany when compared with members of minority religions. According to the new findings published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, German Catholics, Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated are as likely to use online pornography as each other. By comparison, members of minority religions in Germany, such as Muslims or Orthodox Christians, are less likely to use online pornography.
Findings: Mainstream Religious Adherents and Religiously Unaffiliated Use Online Pornography at Similar Rates
Prior studies indicated that religiosity can be a strong predictor of pornography usage. The researchers wanted to re-investigate these prior results using web tracking data that is less likely to be affected by social desirability and unaffected by issues related to recall.
One thing that the study found is that in Germany, being Protestant or Catholic doesn’t significantly reduce the likelihood of a person’s online pornography use when compared with non-religious individuals. These results differ from findings from other countries, especially the United States.
“One potential explanation for this is that German Christians tend to be more liberal than, for example, American evangelicals,” according to Dr. Johannes Breuer.
“For reasons of data privacy, participants in the web tracking panel can pause the tracking. Hence, it is also possible that the conservative American Christians who participate in web tracking studies are more likely to mute web tracking when they visit a pornographic website, making it look like they don’t visit such sites,” he added.
“With more people participating in web tracking panels, we have a new way to measure online pornography use besides self-reports,” said Siegers. “It is definitely the case that web-tracked activity gives us a more accurate picture of what people do online. This is also true for pornography use.”
The full article is available free of charge from Archives of Sexual Behavior:
von Andrian-Werburg, M.T.P., Siegers, P. & Breuer, J. A. Re-evaluation of Online Pornography Use in Germany: A Combination of Web Tracking and Survey Data Analysis. Arch Sex Behav (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-023-02666-8