Recent statistics released by Pornhub have highlighted the enormous increase in both general porn use, and in Coronavirus-specific searches on their website. Traffic increased nearly 25% in late-March, coinciding with their rollout of “Free Premium” access and also global lockdown measures being introduced to combat the virus, and is still up nearly 13% as of the end of April. Further, to date there have been nearly 20 million Coronavirus-specific searches in the past several months, as well as over 1000 “Coronavirus themed videos” being uploaded to the site.

In a previous blog post we pointed out that Pornhub’s Free Premium gimmick was a cynical ploy to profit from and normalise rape, abuse, and sexual exploitation, and the latest Coronavirus-related statistics are further proof of the industry’s relentless pursuit of profit at the expense of any kind of moral or ethical considerations. To date, Coronavirus has killed nearly 300,000 people across the world, but this appears to be of little concern to Pornhub, who see it as a nothing more than a current trend that they can profit from.

Video titles include: ‘Coronavirus pandemic makes cute girl do anything for toilet paper’, desperate covid teen’, and ‘Covid-19 lockdown schoolgirl was all alone’. It is the of the porn, whether “fictional” or not, which draws in more viewers. Pornhub tacitly allows the exploitation of vulnerable and often desperate individuals, while simultaneously reinforcing the idea that it is completely acceptable to capitalise on someone else’s misery to achieve sexual gratification.

This then impacts users’ perception of “real life” sex, and encourages increasingly harmful and damaging attitudes and behaviours, evidenced by, for example, an increasing number of women reporting instances of sexual violence in otherwise consensual relationships. As anti-violence against women campaigner Natalie Collins pointed out in her guest blog for CEASE, in a lockdown situation this is a recipe for disaster.

What this all goes to show is the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated dots and themes. What might appear to some as a humorous or light-hearted take on the pandemic currently facing the world, is in fact not only a cynical profit-ploy by a shady, global corporation, but it can actively contribute to sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation. All the publicity campaigns in the world won’t change the fact that this is an industry that continually promotes the exploitation of the most vulnerable, while simultaneously damaging the physical and mental health of those who use pornography.