boredom during a pandemic

According to Pornhub, on March 6,  2020, its worldwide traffic was up 11.6 percent; in the U.S., it increased 6.4 percent and, in Italy — which, at the time, was hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic — it was up 57 percent.

In the porn world, if there’s a crisis beyond the pandemic and the economic crisis, it’s that people are risking saturation with images.  Hey, why not? PornHub is there, and so are you. You’re home all day now, and there’s little else to do.

How much viewing is too much? Is it twice a day? Three times? More? When does the body start to lose its capacity to respond?

So Much Time, and So Little Else to Do

The good news is that the crisis has given people time for pleasure. The bad news is that it’s boredom and isolation, not sexual energy, they’re responding to. Masturbating because you really have nothing better to do with your time, and there’s no one else around, sounds like something out of Jean-Paul Sartre.

How do we know when a society has run out of options?  A fair indicator may be that its members masturbate when bored or isolated, rather than going to church or playing pickup games of baseball.  The economic prospects right now are horribly depressing.  Millions will be out of work, if they aren’t already.  The great engine of the U.S. economy is running out of gas.  So, how do we respond?  We whack-off more.  This is confronting terrible financial news with one hand.

A Sad Commentary Rather Than a Celebration

In that sense, the spike in porn is a bit unusual.

When we think about the great leaps forward in the history of sexuality, they have all been associated with economic good times:  the tremendous economic growth of the three decades before World War I occurred simultaneously with the demolition of Victorian sexuality that, literally, opened the body to pleasures of all kinds.  The big new interest in oral and anal sex after World War II occurred during an economic boom.  And the porn revolution that legitimated fetish and role-playing happened because people could afford the technology;  VCRs  brought images out of the Pussy Cat theater and into your living room.   So sexual liberation is generally associated with economic prosperity.

But now, in these times of economic collapse, we find people turning to porn.  They do so out of boredom, desperation, and ennui, not because they are ready for new domains of sensory exploration.  This is sort of a sad comment, rather than a celebratory turning of the page.  But it is what it is.

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