Trigger Warning: This post talks about sexual exploitation and contains graphic references to pornography.
These last few months have been an adjustment for us as individuals and a culture, to say the least. This is a new situation for all of us, and while we may all be on the same sea, we are in different boats. This global crisis affects every person differently, but even though we are physically separated, we do not need to socially and emotionally separate ourselves. The effects of the current pandemic are widespread and well known, but there is another pandemic that has been sweeping through our culture and is picking up speed right now.
With more people staying at home than ever before, the widespread sexual exploitation of men, women, and children through pornography has skyrocketed. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Pornhub has been offering free premium membership to their site under the banner of helping people to stay home and stay safe. “With nearly one billion people in lockdown across the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that we lend a hand and provide them with an enjoyable way to pass the time,” said Corey Price, Vice President of Pornhub in a press release. “We hope by expanding our offer of free Pornhub Premium worldwide, people have an extra incentive to stay home and flatten the curve.”
When Italy, Spain, and France went into countrywide lockdowns at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Pornhub offered citizens of each country free access to premium accounts on their site. Shortly after, Pornhub released data from the website showing that the free trial provided to Europe had spurred a 57% spike in traffic from Italy, the worst-hit European country for COVID-19, a 38% increase in France and 61% in Spain. It wasn’t long before Pornhub offered a free premium trail to the rest of the world, to help people find “creative” ways to spend their time in quarantine. After this offer went live daily use of the site increased by 11.6% from February 24, 2020, to March 17, 2020, with the sharpest increase being in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all forms of sex work have been shut down.
It may seem as though Pornhub is working hard to support our communities as we weather this time of isolation and uncertainty together, but the truth is that they are profiting off of a global crisis while fortifying a whole other sickness. “They’re [Pornhub] making a lot more money and getting a lot more traffic,” said Laila Mickelwait, director of Exodus Cry, who posted the petition aimed at shutting down Pornhub, “There’s going to be more exploitation, there’s going to be more demand, more users and then more videos uploaded to the site.” Already there has been an increase in videos like “Hot Chinese girl likes to s— coronavirus out of him” and “Hot Asian Girl Gives Me Coronavirus and A C——” which combine racist tropes about Asian people being “diseased” and “alien” with the current fetishizing of Asian women that occurs in pornography. There are also videos titled “A cure for the coronavirus is being f—ed” or “Doctor s—ing out my Wuhan coronavirus” which prey off of the genuine pain that people are experiencing as a result of the virus. Pornhub has also created something called Scrubhub that features erotic themed handwashing videos under the tag line of “You’ve gotten dirty on Pornhub, now it’s time to get CLEAN on Scrubhub” If there’s one thing that Pornhub does well it’s sexualizing the most ordinary actions and routines.
So how can we not only make it through this current global pandemic but also through the one that is sweeping across our phone and computer screens? You can start by talking. We may be physically distanced right now, but we are not alone, and there are people who want to talk with you. Shame and hurt hide in the silent places of our lives, but once they are out in the open, they no longer have a hold on us. Now more than ever, we need to be reaching out and seeking real connections rather than turning to hurtful manufactured fantasies. You can also spread the word about the effects of pornography on individuals and relationships as well as how it fuels sexual exploitation. Once people know, they can never again say that they are ignorant of the harm it causes. Lastly, remember that you are not alone. There are people that care about you, and there are people that you care about who want to grow deeper relationships with you, which means pulling out some weeds together so you can plant the flowers. We will conquer these pandemics together and the next one and the one after that.