Of all the changing patterns that the pandemic and attendant mobility restrictions has thrust upon us, increasing consumption of online pornography seems to one of the most understated.
A list of the 10 most visited websites in India in 2021 shows adult content sites at the 5th and 8th position, rubbing shoulders with sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and Twitter.
Zoom in to the 10 most visited websites globally in April 2021. Again, two positions – the 8th and 9th – are occupied by adult content sites.
The top 12 sites visited in May again had two adult websites in the 10th and 12 position.
In an analysis of Google Trends conducted between January 9, 2000 and May 25, 2000, it was revealed that search words increased with significant inflection points for with stay at home orders. Searches for “porn” showed the highest increase worldwide.
Statistical analysis of the data released by PornHub for the study showed that in late March 2020, a peak time for the first wave of the infection, there was a 25% increase of total traffic compared to an average day in “the past 4 years in both sexes and age groups”.
“Some of the restrictive measures enforced by different governments include, though not limited to, self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing that have increased levels of stress, low mood, anxiety and loneliness. These negative experiences coupled with increased boredom have led to an exponential growth in the consumption of pornographic content across the globe. This upward trend can be attributed to the fact that consuming pornographic content not just provides pleasure but is also a source of temporary relief from the myriad problems caused by the pandemic,” said Dr Angana Nandy, developmental psychologist.
Nandy pointed out that some of the largest pornographic content providers changed their subscription models from paid to free which can also partly explain the increase in pornography viewing.
“Despite these altered consumptions, it is expected that once social distancing measures are lifted, we are likely going to observe a decline in adult content consumption. This decline may reflect numbers similar to those observed in the pre-Covid times,” added Nandy.
Coping with boredom often leads to enhanced consumption of pornography, say phychologists. “Higher levels of psychological distress can often result in greater levels of pornography consumption. It has been observed that feelings of boredom stress can go down temporarily by viewing pornography. During the restriction, those who are not married have no way of meeting each other and there is no release of sexual urges. The jump in viewership of adult content is natural,” said Dr Swagata Dasgupta, psychologist and counsellor.
Dasgupta, like Nandy, thinks that once the situation becomes normal, online adult consumption will return to pre-pandemic levels.
Boston-based psychiatrist Martin Kafka has connected boredom as a possible trigger for hypersexual behaviour and that leisure boredom can lead people to turn to pornography.
How big is the porn industry? There are no definite answers but scholarly articles two years ago put it at more than $100 billion.
Apparently there are more than 25 million adult sites which constitutes 12% of all websites and attract over 30% of internet traffic.
The norm is to make money through subscriptions and advertisements. All free sites trap viewers with the lure of “premium” content. The daily rates can vary from $1 to $15.
Subscribing to the premium content one gets to watch the first movies of their favourite “stars”. Like trailers of feature films, some websites offer a few seconds of clips to viewers with the offer to watch the entire movie that come for a fee.
The range of these subscriptions are like the normal news media subscriptions – the longer the duration, the lower the tariff.
There is a third type of revenue too. If a website directs the viewer to another site, the former can charge the latter for a fee. In the west, some of these websites also arrange fan meets with the stars where one can click photos of oneself with his/her favourite star. Obviously, it does not come free.
The internet has liberated out fingers from stealthily turning pages of clumsy pornographic books or going through the laborious process of loading adult DVDs to watch on a TV screen. The world wide web has simultaneously brought privacy and liberation to the fingertips (no innuendoes intended).
To a large section of mankind, the lockdown has been far less tolerable without the adult websites. In a sense, it has helped governments to enforce the restrictions – a contribution that might never get documented, or even recognised.
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