The News Isn’t Getting Much Better Regarding Porn Use During the Pandemic

Depending on exactly where you are in the world, you’re just on either side of the two-month mark as it pertains to the quarantine with COVID-19. If you’re here in the United States of America, you’re seeing a lot of cities and states stick their toe in the water as it pertains to reopening. I understand their desire, and it appears our collective efforts to minimize contact has really helped lower the first estimates of a death toll, but the curve has not started to continually go down anywhere.

It seems dangerous to reopen at this time and there are several instances from the last great pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, that shows when you reopen or get together too early, bad things happen. For those who think crowded beaches are safe, do a little research about a parade in Philadelphia that spread the Spanish Flu. Just because you can open, doesn’t mean you should open and just because you can go out, doesn’t mean you should go out. Admit it, you’re loving this excuse to keep your hair growing out.

At the beginning of this pandemic, I wrote about how I thought it was obvious the online porn industry was going to explode and PornHub, which tracks and shares their analytics, especially when things are going well (despite pretending terms like “teen” and “incest” don’t exist in their searches) has been continually providing almost real-time data.

In an attempt to lure more viewers, the site took down its paywall for premium content – whatever that means – when COVID-19 first hit parts of Europe hard. When it went worldwide, so did their promotion. In the early days of their promotion, when many mainstream media outlets picked up what they thought was probably a funny story, the average PornHub traffic jumped by 20% to 30% depending upon which country you were talking about.

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I followed up a few weeks later with the good news that those numbers seem to have dropped to the 9% to 12% level in most countries – still a huge jump in traffic considering you’re talking about one of the Top Three porn sites in the world and one of the Top Ten most popular websites in the world. That’s right, PornHub consistently gets more traffic than Amazon, Pinterest, Reddit and LinkedIn.

Unfortunately, as we’ve all settled in for the long haul on this, the numbers have rebounded. History has always shown spikes in porn use on the weekend – which plays to the idea when people are home and have nothing to do they’ll turn to online porn – and that trend also continues worldwide.

While the US topped out at around 25% above average in late March, it had dropped to 9%-12% a few weeks later. It’s come back though and in the last 10 days of April, the average weekday bump in traffic is around 14% and weekend traffic is 18%.

In Canada, the story is a little different. There was not as dramatic a drop off the highs (about 20%) so there has been no rebound. Through April, Canada has consistently shown a weekday bump in traffic of 11% and weekend traffic of 14%.

The UK is the opposite of Canada in that it fluctuates greatly from weekdays (now at about 12%) and weekends (now at 22%-23%). Those trends mirror most of Europe, which PornHub reports at about 14% on weekends and 20%-21% on weekdays.

The worst figures are probably out of Spain, which as far as I can tell, has the one-day surge record of 61% on March 17. These days, weekday or weekend doesn’t seem to matter as they are regularly 25%-30%. Unsurprisingly, their neighbor Portugal is in a similar boat.

If you’re looking for a country with good news, Australia is dipping well below 10% on weekdays and has never gone over 18% on any day during the quarantine. France, which spiked into the 30s, has now settled to less than half of that, even on weekends.

I haven’t seen any statistics of what other websites are looking like, although I’m guessing that things like Facebook and Instagram are seeing much more traffic than usual. I’m not sure if that would count if it goes through an app, though. They don’t consult me on these things.

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Unfortunately, the latest comprehensive website stats I can find are dated March 1. I’ve made a record of these and when new statistics come out for all of March and forward, I’ll try to make sure to bring them to you. If PornHub has seen this surge, we’ll be able to judge how the other porn sites in the top 25 websites have gone up or down.

And for those wondering the big deal, some figures can be extrapolated. For instance, we know that roughly 1-in-3 men between 18 and 30 believe they have an issue with porn. So, if 10% more men in that age group are looking at porn, it seems to me that one-third would now be at risk for an issue whereas they might not have before. Yes, somewhat unscientific, but you can’t tell me that extended use of porn over weeks and now months won’t result in higher numbers of addicts than before.

I’ll keep everyone updated on what’s happening as more statistics come in. Cross your fingers for good news. We can certainly use some these days.

 

 

Porn Addiction During the Pandemic: Meet the Newest Problem… OnlyFans

I never like to share the names of pornographic websites when I’m educating about pornography addiction. It’s because I know that active porn addicts are a piece of the audience and I don’t want to introduce them to anything that could make their situation worse. It’s only when something is so ingrained in society, like PornHub.com or Penthouse magazine, that I’m comfortable sharing details because I know I’m not turning them on to something they didn’t already know was there.

In the last three or four months, both in live presentations prior to COVID-19 and on podcasts, I have been vaguely referring to the porn site OnlyFans.com, but based on news stories that hit over the weekend about the site and the fallout of one woman posting material on it, it’s probably time to educate the world at large. If you want to read that story, check out: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/otilliasteadman/mechanic-fired-onlyfans-account-indiana

In its simplest terms, OnlyFans is a website that is not all that different than someone’s personal page on Facebook or Twitter. You can post notes, photos, videos and even livestream video. The difference is for someone to access your OnlyFans page, they have to pay a monthly subscription and it’s generally understood that the material you’ll be posting is pornography. The company can get around claiming it’s a porn site because it’s never explicitly stated, but then again, the Q-Tips package says nothing about cleaning your ears and we know where 99% of those cotton swabs go.

The explosion of OnlyFans came at the worst possible time…when millions of young adults were forced out of their jobs in service industries like restaurants or bars, or were laid off/furloughed from their jobs because, by virtue of age and experience, they were lowest on the totem pole.

I’ve already written about cam sites that have been trying to recruit new models, both male and female, to respond to the spike in popularity of online porn because of the quarantine most of the world is under. Idle hands, devil’s playthings – you know the drill. The OnlyFans business structure is different than these other, more blatant adult sites because a “model” never has to go live one-on-one or group chat with anybody. They can easily rationalize to themselves that they are not a sex worker or cam site model. I’m sure more than one person out there posted photos and/or videos taken by their partner never intended for public consumption, but who found themselves with money-making content on their phones.

This reminds me of about 20 years ago when I got into a conversation with one of the strippers hired for a friend’s bachelor party. She also worked as a middle school teacher’s aide several towns over. She explained that in her mind, being a stripper for bachelor parties gave her far more control and was far safer than if she danced in a strip club. She was able to keep a very part-time schedule, security was always with her, she picked who she wanted to work with, could always stop things and didn’t worry about her identity being found as much as if she worked in a traditional strip club.

I still believe that she simply found a way to rationalize her behavior, like I assume most OnlyFans models are rationalizing theirs. Sure, you’re not a traditional porn model and have more control over your content, but you’re still selling your body and I’ve read far too many articles or seen TV stories of women who regret doing porn after the fact, either immediately or years later. I mean really, how many of us who remember those late-night Girls Gone Wild commercials of the late 90s and early 2000s on every cable station think the girls in those commercials – may of whom probably have 15-year-old sons now – aren’t regretting their decision?

 

I first learned about OnlyFans a little more than a year ago when this New York Times story was brought to my attention: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/09/style/onlyfans-porn-stars.html

Ironically, despite being a recovering porn addict, I probably know far more about the online pornography industry now than I ever did in my addiction. If I’m going to keep up with what’s happening and make my presentations, interviews, etc., timely, I’ve got to know what the just-recently-no-longer-kids are doing. Thankfully, it’s been more than six years since I was active in my addiction, but I don’t find it difficult to stay away from the content I’m referencing. I liken it to Sam Malone owning a bar despite being a recovering alcoholic on Cheers.

Most porn fads die as quickly as they arrive or never catch on. For instance, virtual reality porn has been promised going back nearly 30 years now and it’s still not a household thing. I doubt it ever will be and until something gains legs, I don’t pay too much attention, but I’ll tell you, I haven’t seen anything grow this fast since Snapchat.

In March, the P2P video website Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, seemed to drop all of its streaming moderation rules as the pandemic hit. If you’re unfamiliar with Periscope, it’s much like Facebook live or even YouTube live. Somebody in location X is broadcasting and all you need to do is click the mouse to see what’s going down. Most of the time its somebody talking sports or doing a makeup tutorial. Periscope, which has been around for at least five years, has always been generally strong monitoring its streams for nudity and adult material.

(The conspiracy theorist in me would point out that the only social media site OnlyFans encourages people to connect to is Twitter, which again, owns Periscope. You can connect the dots.)

When that moderation seemingly disappeared from Periscope in early March, the site became more like a modern-day casting session for Caligula. People got freaky in a hurry and the amount of streamers opening OnlyFans sites and advertising them was astounding. I don’t know what caused Periscope to start monitoring its streams again, but after a few weeks, it went back to its more conservative streaming rules.

The girls and guys who were dancing around naked just put skimpy swimsuits or underwear on and are still pushing their OnlyFans sites through Periscope. OnlyFans subscription promotion is also happening on the other streaming services and a simple search for “OnlyFans” on Twitter or Instagram is popping hundreds of thousands of returns. Every day, they’re joined by more young adults who don’t mind dressing sexy to tease publicly, and if the person watching is willing to spend $9.99 a month or more, they’ll show more in a controlled private environment.

Of course, that environment only stays private as long as one of the subscribers does not make copies and distribute it for free out on the Internet. At that point, you’re no longer charging a small pool of people to see you acting out sexually. You’re letting exponentially more see it for free, in perpetuity. A PornHub.com search for the phrase “OnlyFans” results in nearly 5,000 results.

While there are stories of some models making thousands of dollars per month, I’ve yet to read this kind of anecdote from anybody who has joined recently, though. Like all economics, it’s a matter of supply and demand. It’s the early arrivers and those who already had a name in the porn world who seem to make the money. Aside from a couple of horny ex-customers, who is specifically going to drop $10 to see former small-town waiter X or waitress Y take a shower when they are just one of tens of thousands of out-of-work people who have turned to OnlyFans.

Is putting pornography of yourself out into the world worth it for $5,000 per month? $500? $50? One of the great quotes of the Buzzfeed piece I linked above is from a former porn star who says that you have to go into it knowing that everyone from your family to your best friends to your worst enemies will end up learning you did porn sooner or later.

What price is that really worth? I’m betting it’s not equal to the regret many will eventually feel.

It’s a Deadly Virus, Not a Political Referendum

The people who are now gathering at their capitals and in big cities protesting the stay-at-home orders in their states remind me of the kind of people who lobby against the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. I just can’t see a whole lot of sense in what they are doing, nor can I see their efforts resulting in anything positive happening.

There reached a point in the late 60s and early 70s when, after a near-half century of no regulations following the Industrial Revolution, the United States became a polluted cesspool. Lake Erie, one of our Great Lakes, was declared dead and the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland actually caught fire because it was so contaminated. When strict rules were put in place to protect our air and water, it wasn’t exactly known how to bring the environment back to life. Thankfully, the air and water self-cleaned. Nature returns back to the way it is supposed to be once humans get out of the way. You can see that today with the improved air quality based on only 5-6 weeks of shutting down major polluters and with how wild animals are returning to cities and towns now that people aren’t out in droves. The nice thing about this is that it shows if we become extinct, it won’t take too long for the Earth to shed us like a bad case of fleas and continue forward.

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One of the things that’s always shocked me is when you get these big industry types who push for the relaxation of environmental regulations. The ability to say with a straight face: “Our rules for clean air and clean water are unfair” is ridiculous, but those giant industries who pollute will always find people to do their bidding if the check is big enough, even if clean air and water are actually important to survival. There are people in this world, our current President included, who view wealth acquisition as the main goal in life — I don’t even think it’s about what you can buy with the wealth, I think it’s just acquiring it, like a game show contestant acquiring points — and I simply don’t relate to it. You can’t acquire wealth if you can’t breath clean air or ingest clean water.

I also know you can’t go to the movies, get a haircut or enjoy breakfast at your favorite diner if you’re stuck at home with a horrible infection, hooked up to a respirator in a hospital, or stacked in a freezer awaiting burial at some later date. Yet, I see many people protesting government overreach on television in the last several days. They seem to fall into two categories: Overzealous dummies who own small businesses and overzealous dummies who love Donald Trump.

I’m all for the right to protest and I think it should be protected. It’s one of the most important rights Americans are given, even if it results in nothing 99% of the time. More totalitarian regimes in the world would avoid public strife if they just let people blow a little steam off now and then. I don’t disagree with the people who say they are exercising their rights screaming about reopening schools and restaurants. That’s exactly what they’re doing.

I haven’t really thought too much about their specific message, much like the polluters. Perhaps there is some value in what they are saying, but I can’t get beyond the fact that they are standing next to each other, flaunting the scientific-backed orders to stay apart from each other. It appears for some reason, they feel like they are not capable of getting the virus. I’ve heard some talk of it being a hoax, while others talk of “acceptable” casualty rates, especially in our senior communities. I think the vast majority of us don’t support either of those positions.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is just going to have to be a giant example of “we told you so” for these people to gain any perspective. If you can’t get the virus being in groups of people, then by all means, sidle up next to each other. In his not-so-passive support of these people, Trump is spitting in the face of his scientific experts. People need to remember that science is not a political party. Science is not a religion. It’s simply the collection of the best provable data we have. Hairdresser Henrietta or Patriot Paul don’t make me feel as comfortable with relaxing my position about distancing than a doctor or scientist will… and they are almost unanimously still saying the same things.

Liberal or conservative, devout Christian or athiest, we breathe the same germ-ridden air. I think President Trump should start holding rallies again…anything to get him out of these afternoon news conferences he doesn’t belong at, please. I’m all for people who don’t think the virus is real, or is overblown, to be standing shoulder to shoulder in a high school gym somewhere coughing on each other. The result will just be a classic demonstration of natural selection. Overzealous dummies never fare well when natural selection is involved.

Go ahead and open. In every state where polling has taken place, 61-75% of the population still wants social distancing measures to continue. See if your cafe or barber shop can survive with 75% less customers. Simply because you power up the “OPEN” sign does not mean I’m ready to walk through your doors.

I understand people are getting antsy. I hardly go anywhere and even I’m tired of this extended purgatory, but I still understand why we’re having it and why it needs to continue. This virus doesn’t care about your political beliefs, what you pray to, how much money you make, where you live or how much you love your country. A lot of overzealous dummies still don’t seem to understand that. Some are going to learn the hard way.

 

Turn Off the TV Before Taking Your Nap

I learned something new today. Don’t take an extended afternoon nap with CNN on during the largest deadly global crisis most of us will experience in our lifetime.

I’m not going to bore everyone with my unorthodox sleep patterns over the last 30 years, but when you couple a guy with bipolar disorder that has almost always run to the manic side of things, meaning I only have needed 4-5 hours a night for most of my life (2 hours is fine during the over-the-top manic times, but those almost never happen anymore) and a guy who has either owned his own businesses, been in charge at those he didn’t own, or work as a freelancer/ghostwriter for the last 20 years and you’ve got a guy who does not really adhere to any hard-and-fast sleeping schedule. Most days now, it’s 1:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and a 2-hour nap in the late morning.

I mention this because I rarely am not in REM sleep when I am sleeping, but my REM is very light. I am the most lucid dreamer I’ve ever met, to the point I’ve actually taken part in two sleep studies over the years because experts have wondered if I’m full of shit when I tell them how I can control 50% of my dreams without disrupting them. I don’t decide on the place, the characters or the theme (almost all my dreams have some kind of goal or objective, even if it’s as dumb as “get home.” I can mostly control how I get home. I can’t control the fact it’s 1987 and George Michael is with me.

The point is that the stuff we’re hearing on TV now is doomsday-level stuff reserved for movies that I don’t like because they’re unrealistic. And word to the wise, now is not the time for pandemic movies like 28 Days Later or I Am Legend. As I slept and would be dreaming, the sounds of CNN kept sprinkling my dreams, turning them into pandemic disaster movies. I don’t have nightmares in the classical sense because I don’t let them get that far, but these were very disconcerting. When I woke up, I looked at the side of the screen that has the death total and the state of a horrible lack of preparedness we’re in. Today, a million people will become infected worldwide. That number will soon be just America…like probably next week at this time assuming we can do the tests. The final American death tally is expected to be between 80,000 and 200,000. We’re now at 6,000.

Rarely do we get to know when the most historic events of our lives are unfolding around us. This is THE MOST historic…and tragic…and we’re only in the very early days. I think it some ways, it may be better that the White House just tacks on 15 days to the “Get Through the Pandemic Program” every couple weeks. Nobody wants to see a “180 Days to Get Through the Pandemic Program” started. It’s too unfathomable. We keep pretending schools are going to open on May 1. They’re not. They’re done. But it’s better to just push it along a little and let us live in two-week, instead of four-month chunks. They can come on TV and pitch catchphrases like “flatten the curve” but anybody can tell you that’s a concept and something we’ll never know if we did or not.  I guess as long as we feel like we’re helping, it’s better than feeling helpless.

People watch Fox News to be told that despite the problems, Donald Trump is doing a great job and is a great man. People watch MSNBC to be told that Donald Trump is a failure as a President and as a human being. CNN is really just about the facts. I think that’s why Donald Trump dislikes it the most. Fox News and MSNBC are different sides of the same coin. They bully the other political party. And it gets great ratings. CNN is more a legit news organization, the kind I used to work for. They still exist, even if the partisan types don’t realize it, or don’t want to because it hurts their talking points.

CNN just repeatedly points out, using data and videotape, we were ill-prepared as a country and that Trump can’t claim he hasn’t said certain things because we have videotape. No president or administration would have been prepared for this, Republican or Democrat. As I wrote in an earlier entry, I don’t blame Trump for what happened as I think you’ve seen a guy who is generally optimistic, can handle his foes and has always had the resources to tackle his problems in life. He doesn’t now. That’s not his fault, but his reaction to it hasn’t been stellar. If the facts don’t fit your narrative, just call them fake has been his go-to strategy. It’s a tactic that sadly, so many Americans have bought hook, line and sinker. “I don’t like the news, so it’s not real!” We’re all human though, need to really see that in times like this, and I’ll likely write about that another day.

It’s hard to be a real leader in massive times of crisis when you’re built to be a leader in times of prosperity. Bill Clinton, another questionable human, was the right guy for the country at that time he served, just like Ronald Reagan, JFK, Truman and FDR were for their times. (And bonus points to LBJ – he did more for civil rights than anyone in history,  despite his Vietnam record, but that’s another entry). Donald Trump would have done very well during those Clinton years. But these aren’t those years, and CNN taking an objective position, unlike Fox News or MSNBC, is not good for a president like Clinton or Trump in a time the world is falling to pieces and charisma can’t save it.

Most importantly though, do not fall asleep with CNN on.

 

 

I Confirmed It: Porn Companies Doing Big Business, Recruitment During ‘Social Distancing’​

When Donald Trump went on TV that Wednesday night in early March as one of the last people to admit what many of us had come to recognize in the previous 72 hours – the Coronavirus was the real deal – one of my first thoughts went to how this was going to be the single greatest boon to the pornography industry since the invention of the Internet.

We’re still in it – probably not even at the halfway point – and it turns out, I was unfortunately correct.

As much as I detest PornHub, I’ve got to give them credit for the statistics they provide. Granted, they are not independently verified and sometimes they leave out crucial information (such as ignoring the fact “teen” is a popular search term in their annual report) but I think they are providing a unique window into what is happening.

In late February and into the first week of March, when the virus was really starting to get its grips on Europe and gaining attention in North America, PornHub’s average worldwide viewership was up only 1% to 2% compared to an average day. In the second week of March, when Americans decided toilet paper was the hottest commodity, average traffic rose to 4% to 7% higher than an average day.

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The worldwide numbers exploded on St. Patrick’s Day, rising to 11.6% and have steadily been on the rise, topping out at 18.5% above average daily traffic.

In a PR stunt a few weeks back, PornHub offered its “Premium Content” service to all residents of Italy, followed soon after by Spain and France. That cause a huge overnight spike in Italy, with average traffic up by 5.3% on March 11, but then skyrocketing to 57% above average on March 12. The number fell over the next week, but is still between 25% and 35% above average most days. When the offer was extended to France, their traffic jumped overnight from 5.7% to 38.2% and in Spain, the jump was 12.7% to 61.3%.

Perhaps most troubling is that as the pandemic became truly worldwide, Pornhub extended its free premium service to every person who can find an Internet connection on Earth. The short-term true effect of the extent of this stunt probably won’t be known until the company releases its next numbers. The long-term effect makes me cringe.

You can find data for nearly two dozen countries on their Insights Page. (No Porn Visible)

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While men from the United States are looking at PornHub about 10% more than the average day, women are watching 21% more. In Mexico, the 20% rise for men is dwarfed by the 34% rise of women watching and in hard-hit Italy, while viewership for men is up 24%, it’s up 36% for women. These kinds of statistics are the same in countries like the UK, France, Spain, Japan, Canada, and almost every other civilized country in the world.

I’m not shocked by this because it tends to support statistics that show women are one of the fastest growing segments of pornography addicts along with my theory that with the Internet allowing more anonymity, women are sampling porn in higher numbers than ever. If 100 women were looking at porn in Italy on a January day it became 136 in less than two months. That’s a substantial jump and while not all will stick with it after the crisis, some will, and some of them will become porn addicts.

While most people think PornHub is the biggest porn site in the world, it was actually ranked third as of late 2019 (yet still in the Top 10 of overall sites in the world.) The other two, which I won’t name here, have not tried to build a brand the way PornHub has, nor – to their credit – have offered any special deals to try and profit off of this worldwide self-imposed isolation.

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Speaking of isolation, I’ll be fascinated to see what website traffic looks like in the upcoming months for cam sites. These are the sites where a male, female or couples (the “models”) are on one end of the computer and customers willing to pay them for nudity and/or sex acts sit on the other end. They usually come with a chat interface and an option for taking the models into a private room where only one customer, paying a premium, gets to interact with the models one-on-one, a virtual “private dance” of sorts. Of course, giving these bonus sessions away during a flood of traffic is a great way to get people hooked long after the virus is gone. It’s just drug-dealing 101. Get them hooked for free now and they’ll pay for it later.

While I’m sure that these sites are seeing double-digits increases in traffic, I’m more interested in finding out how many women joined their ranks. Think about it: We have the highest unemployment claims in American history by more than 500% and many service industry employees are wondering where their next paycheck is coming from. While I’m sure it’s not a huge leap for a stripper to make the transition, I have a feeling there are likely a lot of women (and a smaller percentage of men and couples) who either have, or will, make the decision that getting naked and/or getting sexual on their webcam for what they hope are only strangers will help make ends meet. I worry these people have no idea about this online culture nor the long-lasting effects of what making this decision will cause.

Understanding this, PornHub has again flexed its PR muscle. Instead of offering its models around 50% to 60% of the money spent by customers in their chat rooms and on private videos, during the pandemic, PornHub has raised its commission to 85%. Brilliant recruiting? Giving back? Capitalizing on pain? I guess it depends on who you are in the equation.

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I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Periscope, a streaming video platform similar to that of Facebook Live where hundreds or thousands can watch a single stream at one time. Owned by Twitter, Periscope has been known for its decent moderators and strict rules concerning nudity and sexuality.

That seemed to disappear in the third week of March, according to many users. Now, alongside people hosting cooking shows, exercise sessions and simply looking for company on the ride to work, there are plenty of nude models, people having sex and other explicit, sometimes illegal, material.

Did Periscope sent all its moderators home because of the Coronavirus? I tried to find some kind of confirmation of this online, but came up empty. It seems to me that the easiest job to do from home would be a moderator of an online chat site, right? Why would anything be different?

Of course, suspending monitoring of the rules will bring a lot of new eyes, and a lot of new streamers, to their site. Under normal circumstances, a website that goes from PG- to X-rated overnight owned by a media powerhouse like Twitter would get a lot of attention…but not so much during the modern plague. The media and those in power who would use this kind of news for views and attention have bigger fish to fry, so Periscope can fly under the radar.

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I’m sure there are plenty of other instances of companies that either peddle pornography or have found a way to use pornography to their advantage during the Coronavirus crisis. If you happen to see any, please let me know as I’d like to keep track.

Yes, I believe it’s more important to stay safe and keep your family safe in this confusing, scary time, but I also believe it’s important to not develop new routines and habits that may not be easy to break after this crisis has gone away.

Ironically, I often preach against filtering software as a false sense of power a parent has over their child’s use of pornography. But, we’re living in a temporary world where they don’t have easy access to their friends’ laptops or smartphones. You can actually lock porn down as long as we remain locked down. Now, more than ever, that may be the smartest move.