A Different Kind of Addiction We May Start to See on the Rise

When I started writing my latest book, the intention was to look at how recovering porn addicts were faring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between the mandatory stay-at-home orders most people in the world faced and pornography sites offering deals to new users, I assumed it would be a difficult time for many addicts, and my research showed it to be true.

I only decided to touch upon “cam site” models because in my research, I saw porn sites reaching out, trying to recruit new models who may have been displaced from their employment because of the pandemic. It makes sense on a couple of levels from a business point of view. First, it’s mostly young, good looking men and women who lost their service jobs and second, this generation doesn’t attach the stigma and shame to pornography that generations who came before them who were not raised on the Internet have attached.

I realized that most young people who are opting to go into porn aren’t doing it for the real companies, or any of these online cam sites. They are going into business for themselves on OnlyFans. If you need a primer about OnlyFans, you can read it here.

If you’re under 30, you know about the power of OnlyFans and you likely know a few people on it. If you’re over 30, you may not have ever heard of it, and don’t realize you know people on it. The numbers are just too major.

When I started researching my book, I looked at OnlyFans web statistics in the US and across the world for February 2020. That month, OnlyFans.com was the 626th most popular site in the world. By April 2020, it was 349. For June 2020, it was 260th most popular site in the world. In the US, it almost cracked the Top 100 most popular sites.

The site went from 26.52 million visits in February 2020 to 131 million in June 2020. That kind of growth during a time of such disruption and unrest is almost unheard of in this world. There are a lot more people looking at OnlyFans than ever before according to SimilarWeb.com, which I’ve used for all my stats tracking. But that brings us to a new wrinkle I’m about to discuss. A lot of that traffic is actually the producers.

As of May 2020, OnlyFans has 24 million registered users and claims to have paid out $725 million to its 450,000 content creators.

Also in May 2020, after my book had already gone to the editing stage and I couldn’t continue writing, CEO Tim Stokely told BuzzFeed News “the site is seeing about 200,000 new users every 24 hours and 7,000 to 8,000 new creators joining every day.”

As I write this in mid-July 2020, let’s say Stokely is telling the truth and that 7,500 people became new creators each day in the last 60 days. That means that OnlyFans has doubled its content-creator base to 900,000. Even if they are only adding 3,000 people per day, and do it through the end of the year, there will be 975,000 content creators on OnlyFans by 2021. That’s a higher population than 7 states in the United States.

A couple weeks back I wrote about a conversation I had with a friend 20 years ago where I openly wondered what would happen to a generation raised on complete unencumbered access to the hardest hardcore of pornography. Well, here in 2020, we know, and the results I see are mostly negative.

I hadn’t recognized this as much when I was writing my book, but in talking to a few people who understand and use OnlyFans, I’ve learned a lot more about how the site operates since writing the book. It’s a fantastic business model for people who could never strip, model nude in front of a real photographer, have no issues sharing their bodies, or are looking for a few bucks and don’t view nudity as a problem. The models make their page as clean or as dirty as they want and post as much or as little as they want. While one subscribes, either for free or a monthly rate, the real money for the models comes when they offer “exclusive” content. There are people who will pay $25 for a photo if they know they’re the only one in the world with it. You sell 8 of those a day and you can see how it would add up. If you have no stigma toward porn and don’t care who sees you naked, you can see how this is a seductive business to get into.

In writing my book, almost every therapist pushed the “you don’t know if you’re going to regret this” angle when it comes to young adults making pornography of themselves. I have reached the conclusion that while I’m sure it will for some, I don’t think that this current generation of 18-to-30 year olds are actually going to regret this. They grew up in a very different world from those of us who are a little older, and a hugely different world than my parents…and a different planet than my now-dead grandparents.

Here’s a case in point. In my grandmother’s day, it was somewhat scandalous to be caught in a two-piece bathing suit. Now, unless you’re over 40, have a bad body, or have body issues, it’s basically expected you’ll be in a bikini. There’s also a good chance your ass will be hanging out. While those from my grandparents’ generation may have worried a picture of them in a bikini would get out, that worry disappeared over the next few generations. Even if they’ve long stopped wearing bikinis, I’m guessing there are very few women under 65 who are worried about any bikini photos that may exist in the world.

Isn’t it plausible that among a growing section of 18-to-30 year olds that there is no shame nor embarrassment in letting themselves be seen nude and/or in sexual scenarios? People say things live on the Internet forever, but if between now and 2040 there are 100 million men and women who get naked on the Internet, is it really that big a deal? I think on our current course, this is where we are headed. Our societal views toward nudity and sex will continue to grow more liberal and less critical. That’s why I don’t think the “you’ll regret this later” argument falters. I’ve got 11 tattoos. I have not spent one minute of one day being regretful for any of them, despite being warned by dozens of people. I don’t anticipate it either. I like my tattoos. I’m proud of them. They tell a lot of my story and if you think they make me dirty or trashy or the wrong kind of person, I stopped caring about the naysayers as part of my recovery.

Now, before you think I’ve turned to the pro-porn dark side, I haven’t. I’m not pro or anti-porn when it comes to telling you what to do with your life. I’m pro-education. People who are viewing pornography need to know the potential side effects and fact it could lead to addiction. I’ve been arguing this since I started this crusade.

I have a new worry though, on the porn-producing side. There are many reasons beyond just money that people use their body to make money. If we are looking at a world that has millions of people producing their own porn through OnlyFans and what I’m sure will be 101 knock-off sites, could we possibly be seeing a world where people get addicted to MAKING porn?

It’s a fine line between making porn and consuming it. There aren’t really much beyond anecdotal stories of people who have made porn out there, and usually it’s either a big studio porn star talking about how empowering it is or a former big studio porn star talking about how dreadful the whole experience was. We just don’t have any studies of longterm effects of making pornography and what that has on a large group of people.

I’m not saying that people will become addicted to making porn, but beyond the murky “you may regret this” argument that doesn’t work, is there a “we have no idea what this will do to your mental health” component that should be talked about now, before this gets out of hand? If we’d talked about how to educate about porn back in 1996, we certainly wouldn’t see the addict numbers we see today. I will always wonder if I had been taught the potential ills of pornography, how would my life have been different. Do we now need to teach 15-17 year olds, especially girls, that they should think long and hard about getting into making their own porn when they become legal adults because we just don’t know what’s going to happen?

I often cite statistics and talk about a society in 2040 or 2050 where nearly half the popular has an issue with pornography, which could theoretically happen looking at shifting statistics. What does our world look like where not only 45% of the population is addicted to looking at pornography, what happens when 15% of the population is addicted to making it?

These are questions we need to ask now and the answers have to be part of strategies we build to address the issue now, not when my yet-to-be-born grandchildren are debating the finer points of how to post pictures of their ass online.

‘I Would Definitely Recommend It’

I’m absolutely thrilled today to read the first professional review of my book, “Porn and the Pandemic: How Three Months in 2020 Changed Everything” and even more thrilled that it is not only a rave, but that the reviewer, Ashley L. Peterson, understood what I was going for with my presentation of the material.

Check out her review here: https://mentalhealthathome.org/2020/07/08/book-review-porn-and-the-pandemic/

And if you want to pick up the book at a special debut price of $14.95, you can visit the Amazon page HERE

If you are a book reviewer with a following and have interest in reviewing this book, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Porn Projects, More Frustration, An Eerie Thing and a Zipline Video

Time for one of those random thoughts/updates pieces. Too much rattling around in my head to put 800 words to any of it, and I just need to do some housecleaning in my head.

First, my new book “Pornography and the Pandemic: How Three Months in 2020 Changed Everything” is still scheduled to be released on July 5. I think it may bump to July 6, since that’s a Monday. We had to change the secondary headline from when I last told you about the project because the publisher was leery of a book title with both “Pandemic” and “COVID-19” in the title since some online booksellers are rejecting items with too many references to the virus. I guess it stems from people trying to sell non-book products that claim to help cure the coronavirus. That’s fine with me. I can see the new secondary title as more exciting, but wonder if putting the year in it will help or hurt.

I’ve got to start working on the marketing of the book, but it’s a little challenging. It’s told in first person, but it’s far more of a journalistic-style book that I think will be interesting to a wide audience than either of my first books…but I’m not exactly sure how to tell the world about it with my marketing budget of $0. It’s also strange because there was 22 months between the release of my first two books and only 5 months between the second and third. Last year at this time, I largely took the summer off from this blog and writing, going on a nice road trip. The virus halted most sales of my second book in its tracks because the bulk were going to libraries at that point. I’ve noticed it pick up a little bit as libraries become semi-active, but I think that second book would have sold hundreds of more copies if not for people’s attention, and their lives, being so disrupted by the virus. A library isn’t going to buy a book if it’s not open until further notice. I believe the new book is going to be much less expensive than the first two, but I’m just the writer… I learn a lot of these things when I see it for sale for the first time. I hope you’ll support me and I’ll share more when I know.

I’m trying to calm myself a bit from the anger and frustration I’ve been feeling dealing with and seeing so many ignorant people on television and online regarding both the virus and the changes happening, and being pushed for, regarding race in this country. There’s a balancing act between recognizing as one person I really can’t do much, but just because that’s true doesn’t mean I should do nothing. I’m just hoping that the polls I’m seeing regarding November’s elections end up as true. We’ve given the current administration more than three years to make America great again. They actually went in the other direction. I think Joe Biden’s campaign slogan should just be, “Make America like it was before Trump took over, then we’ll work on the greatness thing.”

My frustration comes from people believing that they don’t have to follow either commonsense guidelines or actual laws because they believe there is some “Constitutional guarantee” they don’t have to wear a mask. There isn’t. I think this is a combination of politics, people needing to feel rebellious and untreated mental illness at work. I just feel bad for the people who try to do the right things and get the virus have to battle for the same hospital beds as those who flaunted and ignored scientific wisdom. Science says the sun will rise tomorrow. Do you not believe it until you see it? People need to remember that science is neither a religion nor a political party. It’s the best collection of provable data we have — even if you don’t like the results. With the race issue, the statistics that prove its obviously a problem are just being ignored by people who would rather argue about knocking over a statue in some Virginia or Alabama park. Who cares about these statues? Black people are dying because of the color of their skin and sick people are dying because people don’t want to treat the pandemic as serious. It’s more important they be able to workout in a gym or get a burger. Great priorities.

So here’s kind of a weird story. A couple of weeks back, on June 13, I got a nice notecard in the mail from my mother’s best friend, Gwen. They were paired as college roommates and share the exact same birthday. You’ve never met two more different people and I think Gwen’s flighty and illogical life choices sometimes frustrated my mother. Depending on where Gwen was living, we’d see her three or four times a year when I was growing up. When I was in jail, Gwen wrote a couple letters that were really quite touching and I wrote a few back. That correspondence never would have happened had I not done time and since I was released four years ago, we’ve exchanged letters once or twice a year. I think I saw her twice, but it may have only been once since I was released.

It was just a typical check-in note, but she mentioned that she had finally got a phone that could do texting — which I’m guessing she’s had for years but just finally realized it. She gave her new number and I texted her two days later on June 15, but heard nothing back. I didn’t follow-up. Yesterday, which was June 29, my mom called me and told me that Gwen was found dead in her apartment on June 20. Gwen’s son was under the belief his mother had gone on one of her little coastal retreats, but when she didn’t contact him upon returning he eventually had the police in her town do a wellness check, where she’d had a heart attack…on the day I received her note.

I feel very bad for my mother. She lost her brother, who was her other best friend in January, and now Gwen. It seems like she and my father, who were very well known in our area since they were school teachers for nearly 40 years each in the same town, have been going to a lot of funerals lately. It’s mainly for their former colleagues or some of their friends, but I can see their own mortality has been weighing on them a bit. I now know where all the important papers they have are, what the will says and in the next few weeks, they’re paying for their funeral expenses. With my uncle gone, I was given power of attorney should they both be unable to make decisions. They’re approaching their mid-70s, so they could theoretically still have 20 years each left in them, but it’s been a different kind of vibe lately.

I noticed a little bit of that vibe changing when my 20-year-old daughter, 17-year-old son, and 72-year-old dad all went zip lining in Massachusetts the other day. We needed to go do something outdoors and fun and my son and dad have never done it before. Ten years ago, my dad would have been planning our next trip. After the two miles of zip lines and mile of hiking through the mountains between the various zip lines, he said he never had to do it again. Of course, he finished just fine. I was the one who forgot to bring water, overheated and had a pretty serious case of the dry heaves between lines five and six…but we won’t talk about it. I’m sure my kids also thought, “Dad is getting old” when they saw I needed to take a break and wretch into the woods.

Finally, I’ve teased that I’m involved in something big and could change the trajectory of my porn addiction education quest. I got word from the powerful overseers that I will be able to announce what I’m talking about next week.

Enjoy the Fourth of July. Wear a mask.

I’m Finally Proud to be from Maine

I’m rarely proud to be from Maine. I see it more as something that just happened. On my mother’s side, her relatives arrived from Canada three generations ago to work in textile mills and shoe shops. On my father’s side, I think it was either four or five generations, mostly from Ireland, who first arrived in Boston, then came up to Maine looking for a better life. I could have just as easily been born in Massachusetts or New York had those families made slightly different decisions, or I could have been born anywhere in the world if my parents didn’t feel the need to stay so close to family.

I left briefly several times, living in Boston, Providence RI and Tokyo for several months each when I was much younger, but I always ended up back here. Part of me always felt disappointed in myself about my retreats, but through recovery and lots of therapy, I learned that I needed the security blanket that being near my parents always provided. In many ways, I still do.

One of my biggest complaints, whether I was 22 in the late 1990s or 44 today, is that lack of choices that comes with living here. Yes, if you’re an outdoorsman, it sounds like there are a myriad of opportunities to scratch that itch, but I’m not an outdoorsman, and it seems to me that there is outdoors in every state. Maine has more trees per acre than any other state. Big deal. Outside of the cocoon of downtown Portland, Maine doesn’t have an endless supply of interesting, independent businesses. It doesn’t have a bevy of dining choices or cultural opportunities. Even many of the biggest chain stores don’t come here and quite often, those that do don’t survive. I was waiting for 20 years for a Krispy Kreme to come here, and when two were opened in Maine in 2018, they survived about 9 months. Despite far superior donuts, you don’t go against the morning coffee monolith of Dunkin’ Donuts.

That coffee example is another thing I’ve not liked about being here – people are labeled as fiercely independent, but seem to mostly think with one mind. You get your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, you hate the New York Yankees and despite the hype, you rarely eat lobster. I used a photo of a lighthouse to lead this article because that seems to be the stereotype so many have of us. I’ve never been in a lighthouse, nobody lives in a lighthouse anymore and I can tell you the names of exactly two. Mainers mostly don’t care about lighthouses, yet if Google the word “Maine” it’s almost the only thing that comes up in the images category. There are pockets of true independent thinking here and there, and the sameness can change depending on what part of the state you’re in (keep in mind that by square miles, Maine is as large as the rest of New England combined.)

I am very proud however, in how most of our elected officials, businesses and residents took the Coronavirus seriously from March 11, the first time Donald Trump admitted it was a problem in the evening address on television. My son was only in school two more days, and all of the non-essential businesses were closed within the week. My wife, who ironically works in health care, was furloughed a week after that. Patients just weren’t seeing their doctors if it wasn’t an emergency.

Mask orders came immediately, we were social distancing very conservatively before it became in vogue and people took the orders to stay at home and stay away from family and friends seriously. We also urged out-of-staters to stay away and put a 14-day quarantine in place for those from away.

Most of the northeast, whether hit hard like New York or Boston, or hit mildly like we were in Maine or Vermont, took serious precautions. Yes, it pissed off some people and business owners, but those in power held firm. Never did it seem like a political statement. Even when Donald Trump started shifting and making this a conservative vs. liberal issue did most people in the northeast make it about that. Sure, there was our cranky former governor trying to score political points demanding our governor do this or that, but I think he just saw his opportunity to make a few headlines. He shut up when it was clear no more than a couple hundred people were going to support him.

I remember watching the cable news channels as how to handle the virus was becoming political, and that’s when I really stopped following closely. I have never been able to understand how people can so quickly detach from common sense in the name of supporting their own little political tribe. I think they look to these tribes to be convinced what they should think and don’t apply common sense. If they did, many of these state leaders, like the governors of Florida, California and Texas would not have rushed to reopen. They would have listened to their health experts who warned the peak hadn’t happened there yet. But, they wanted to show how business-friendly they were and that they knew what was best for their residents.

I’m not going to start railing against Donald Trump. If your common sense doesn’t tell you that he has mishandled this crisis and misinformed the citizens and world of what is happening, you’re coming from a different place of logic than me, so I probably can’t convince you otherwise.

Here are a handful of maps that Vox.com put together that tell the real story of what is happening:

So what do we learn from this map? It shows only the positive progress that is being made in the fight against COVID-19. Any state that is not light blue is doing better than it was either one or two weeks ago, and in most cases, both. Beyond just the northeast, you’ll see that northern mid-western states which had a vocal minority demanding the states be reopened — but officials who refused — are doing the best. Also, while the majority of the states doing better are blue states and led by Democratic governors, this is not the case across the board, underscoring this is not a conservative or liberal problem and it isn’t about a conservative or liberal solution. It’s a virus. It doesn’t care who you vote for.

This is where the “Too many tests equal too many positive cases” of many virus deniers falls apart. Obviously, you’re going to get more cases in more populated states. You’re obviously also going to get more positive cases if you test more people. That’s simple math. However, you can make things equal by working on percentages. If only 100 tests are given and 5 are positive, it’s a 5% infection rate. If 1,000 tests are given and 50 are positive, it is still only a 5% infection rate. Once again, in this map, you’ll see that the infection rates are higher in the south and west — the states that reopened without any plan, in defiance of public health experts.

Here’s another one that shows where the cases are increasing without regard to total population. It only takes someone with vision who is five years old to recognize that purple and hot pink are bad, and off-white and light pink are good. This is about as solid a map to teach the Mason-Dixon line as anything I’ve seen.

Yeah, I’m usually not proud to be from Maine, but when I look at these maps, it’s nice to know that our leaders have exercised common sense in handling the virus. They put public health ahead of small business profits. They put public health in front of the renegades who didn’t like masks. They put public health in front of all else and like the governors and other public health officials of states around us, the results are hard to argue with.

Maine just opened dine-in service at restaurants and it’s still very strict. There are still lines outside of certain stores and while mask restrictions have eased, many stores demand you have them, and many residents have them anyway. Gyms, nail salons, tattoo studios and several other “high risk” businesses still won’t be open for a little bit… and while I’m itching to get my yearly tattoo, I can wait for the greater good.

If you’re in one of these hot zones, I don’t know if your leaders are going to see the light and start relying on serious data instead of their political supporters to make common sense decisions. You may just have to self-quarantine and take care of yourself, exposing yourself to people who have no common sense as little as possible.

I’ve seen a lot of people who had that “the virus isn’t going to get us” mentality, for whatever naive reason they had, later go on TV and lament how stupid they were, or how they lost a loved one because of not taking the virus seriously. Over 120,000 in the US have died of this. Compared to the entire population, yes, it’s a small number, but if one of those people was a beloved friend or family member, the only number that matters is theirs and it doesn’t matter who they voted for in the last election.

Finally, I’d urge you not to get distracted. While cases of COVID-19 are higher than they’ve ever been, conservative cable news stations are dedicating far more time to Southern statues being torn down. This isn’t happening nearly as much as they’d have you believe and not a single statue has caused hundreds of deaths daily. Do not be distracted by cable news stations trying to play on your emotions. The riots and looting are long over, even if they show old videotape. COVID-19 is a serious health risk. Do not be distracted.

Please, my friends in the states where things are the worst, take this very seriously and take care of yourselves.