Culture

Big Porn Seeks to Capitalize on the Pandemic

(Pixabay)
At a time of crisis, the porn industry adds yet more human misery.

In the 1980 movie Airplane!, the air-traffic controller Steve McCroskey struggles to guide a plane whose crew have all been knocked out by food poisoning to safety. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking,” he says, sweating profusely. Later, he adds that it was also the wrong week to “quit amphetamines” and then again “the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”

In an attempt to stop our health-care systems from crashing amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, many are stuck in self-isolation, facing the stress of joblessness and indefinite uncertainty. At such a juncture, many men may well be wondering whether they picked the wrong week to quit pornography.

On March 13, Pornhub, the biggest Internet porn provider, announced that it was providing users in Italy with free access and subscriber privileges. Since then, the company has done the same in France and Spain. The site has seen a steady climb in viewers across Europe, Canada, and the United States.

On the days that free premium memberships were launched in Italy, France, and Spain, traffic in each country increased by 57 percent, 38 percent, and 61 percent respectively. On March 17, its worldwide traffic was up by 26.4 percent. Pornhub administrators declared on its blog that the statistics “clearly illustrate that people all over Europe were happy to have distractions while quarantined at home.”

But on a Reddit forum with over half a million members for those recovering from pornography addiction, some are telling a different story:

  •  “This corona s*** is killing me. Not the virus but the quarantine. I went to the gym every day and I was very active in my social life but now I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. I relapsed after 24 days.”
  • “I’m in Spain so my university classes are suspended and my part time job is now remote because of coronavirus. I can go out of home but it is not recommended. Now that I’m at home all day, relapsing is much more easy. Today I relapsed 3 times, when in the past normal weeks I used to relapse 1 or 2 times. Need help, this can get much worse if I don’t stop it now.”
  • “I already relapsed 9 times this month.”
  • “Slowly descending into madness in the lockdown. Not yet crazy enough to resort to porn. But we’ll see.”

Given that there are over 75 studies linking porn use to poorer mental-health outcomes and another 45 neuroscientific studies suggesting that porn is addictive, it is hardly surprising that not everyone is finding the increased temptation to watch porn a welcome distraction. Evidently, it’s making some feel more hopeless.

That’s why the Reddit forum’s organizers, who also run a website called NoFap, have written an advice blog for those trying to avoid porn while living in quarantine. They recommend meditation, exercise, connecting and communicating with others virtually, and limiting one’s daily Internet use. To demonstrate how destructive porn use can be, one of the NoFap forum’s users posted a meme showing a deep river labeled “urges,” hanging over a built-up community labeled “my fullest potential,” which is prevented from being flooded by a wall labeled “self-control.”

It’s not just the users that porn sites are seeking to take advantage of during this difficult time. According to the Daily Caller: “A pornography website [IsMyGirl] is targeting McDonald’s workers suffering low wages during the coronavirus pandemic by offering them the opportunity to earn upwards of $100,000 a year to participate in pornographic content.” The site’s founder, Evan Seinfeld, said in a press release sent to more than half a million McDonald’s staffers: “In an effort to help McDonald’s employees, and to make sure they can continue to provide for themselves and their families, we want to help provide them with a legitimate option.”

But is this targeting of low-income girls who are down on their luck really legitimate? Time and time again, porn makers have demonstrated their indifference to the coercion, abuse, and extortion within the industry. Videos of rape and underage girls routinely wind up on porn sites and, even after non-consensual content has been identified, are not always taken down.

The porn industry may pounce on the opportunity of a global pandemic. But at a time of isolation, boredom, and fear, it only adds more misery.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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