Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 23 No. 1 (Winter 2009)


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Markets: Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?

Article Citation

Edelman, Benjamin. 2009. "Markets: Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 23(1): 209-20.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.1.209


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 American 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?

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Edelman, Benjamin (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

L51: Economics of Regulation
L82: Entertainment; Media
Z12: Cultural Economics: Religion
Z13: Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology
L88: Industry Studies: Services: Government Policy


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