Maverick Life

Maverick Life

Feeling porny: Who watches pornography in South Africa?

Feeling porny: Who watches pornography in South Africa?

Porn and who gets to screen and watch it has always been a controversial issue in South Africa. In fact, this week the Cape High Court is hearing an application by the Justice Alliance of South Africa and two other organisations to have pay channel StarSat’s licence revoked because it allegedly misrepresented the “type” of adult content it would screen. But who consumes porn in South Africa and where are they watching? By MARIANNE THAMM.

While three conservative Christian-based activist organisations are currently lobbying the Cape High Court to restrict the broadcast of adult content on the pay channel StarSat, South Africa’s consumers of porn are watching it elsewhere – mostly on the Internet.

This week Judge Lee Bozalek will hear ongoing arguments from Cause for Justice, The Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) and Doctors for Life, the three organisations who have brought the application charging that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) did not follow procedure when awarding a licence to broadcast pornography to TopTv (now StarSat) in April last year.

Advocate Darryl Cooke, arguing for JASA, told the court this week that Playboy TV, one of three suppliers of porn to StarSat, had misled ICASA when it stated in its application that its material would only “depict sex between couples in a loving relationship and sexually empowered women”.

You may pause here for a moment to slap your thigh.


Instead, said Cooke pornographic content on StarSat promoted “foursomes, infidelity, unsafe sex and women having extramarital affairs”.

Yip, sounds like standard porn fare.

The Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) describes itself as “a coalition of corporations, individuals and churches committed to upholding and fighting for justice and the highest moral standards in South African society”.

The Doctors For Life Twitter account states that the body “believes in the sanctity of life from conception until death” as well as a “basic Christian ethic in the medial profession.”

Incidentally, Doctors for Life recently tweeted a link to an article published on a Christian website (no, we won’t provide the link) proving that “homosexuals have host medical and physical problems”.

“The main motivation is that if you look across the data sets you see that homosexuals have a host of mental problems, disproportionate physical problems, they don’t live as long, and they are disproportionately involved in drug abuse and criminality,” a Dr Cameron offered on the site.

The article went on to state that Dr Cameron’s research had been based on concerns from a 1957 study (no that’s not a typo, 1957) of 30 (THIRTY) “male homosexuals” who had been tested by Dr Evelyn Hooker to determine “whether homosexuality can be considered a mental problem”.

Hooker’s research ultimately prompted the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973.

All this, bear in mind, took place in another century…but we press on.

Cause For Justice claims it is a “non-profit human rights organisation” whose activities centre on the “core” values of “promoting the family unit, affirming the sanctity of life…upholding individuals’ right to freedom of conscience, expression and association” as well as “asserting society’s collective responsibility for the social welfare and security of its members especially those who are most vulnerable amongst us”, among other weighty concerns.

It might be interesting then for JASA, Doctors for Life and Cause for Justice to learn that the vast majority of people in South Africa in the 21st Century who consume porn identify as Christians.

How do we know?

Online research company WhyFive recently undertook a BrandMapp survey of 20,233 out of nine million South Africans who live in households with an income over R10,000 a month. Of these, eight percent (1,580), or about 720,000 South Africans, volunteered that they regularly watch pornography.

And they mostly do it on their mobile phones.

Of those South Africans who watch porn, 87 percent are male, 13 percent female, while 57 percent are black, 31 percent white, six percent coloured and seven percent Indian. Seventy-five percent of respondents who said they watched porn are Christian while 12 percent are atheists. Most are married with children (41 percent) while six percent have pregnant women in the home.


Respondents in this category are heavy users of the Internet – for everything from shopping to banking and of course, consuming pornography. And they do it often, with 76 percent going online a few times a day, mostly first thing in the morning or late evening. Weekends they go online in the late evening and mid afternoon (43 percent in both instances) with 42 percent checking in first thing in the morning and 41 percent mid morning.

Sixty-four percent have cell phone contracts, while 41 percent prefer prepaid, which suggests they enjoy watching porn on the go.

Most (55 percent) watch on a laptop, 48 percent on a smart phone, 36 percent on a desktop and 29 percent on a tablet. It might be interesting to mention here that investigators found that the deeply religious Oscar Pistorius’ iPad had been used to search for free mobile porn on the night he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

Of those respondents who identified themselves as Christian or religious in the BrandMapp survey, only 17 percent said they attended church every week, while 29 percent went occasionally, 19 percent went “sometimes” and 18 percent never went to church.

Porn connoisseurs tend to be professionals – doctors, lawyers and accountants (17 percent) while 15 percent were in senior management. Men between 35 and 49 were most likely to watch porn (40 percent) followed by those in the 25 to 34-year-old bracket (39 percent) with 18 percent being over 50. Most are educated – 33 percent have a diploma, 29 percent matric, 18 percent a university degree and 18 percent a postgraduate qualification.


Porn costs, so it stands to reason that most consumers are employed (79 percent) while 11 percent are self-employed. Government employees and public servants make up 11 percent of porn users, followed by eight percent who are in the manufacturing industry, seven percent in IT, seven percent in the financial sector and five percent in mining.


We all know that you go blind or insane watching porn all the time, and obviously porn consumers need other interests to pass as human. When they’re not watching adult entertainment, 71 percent enjoy music, 65 percent like going to the movies, 45 percent enjoy socialising, 43 percent travel, 43 percent exercise, 40 percent read, 43 percent watch soccer and 25 percent enjoy rugby.


Gauteng contains the bulk of porn watchers with 49 percent followed by the Western Cape with 15 percent, KwaZulu-Natal 12 percent and Limpopo, six percent. Most porn watchers live in a freestanding house in a suburb (56 percent) while 21 percent lived in a township.

Porn users are generally environmentally conscious, with 81 percent saying they supported sustainable initiatives. They’re overwhelmingly carnivorous, with 99 percent saying they eat meat.

They also tend to be relatively happy, with 26 percent saying they were “a bit more optimistic”, 26 percent “about the same”, 20 percent “much more” with only nine percent being “much less” happy.


When Cause for Justice, The Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) and Doctors for Life argue in court today (Wednesday) they should bear in mind that only two percent of South Africans who watch porn do so on TopTV (now StarSat) – the rest of the time they’re watching standard fare on DSTV (75 percent) while 41 percent watch, 39 percent SABC1, 36 percent SABC3, 33 percent SABC2 and 18 percent M-Net. DM

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Main photo by Jason Rogers.


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