Pornhub, Marketing and Social Distancing: A Brilliant Tactic

Dear Italy, “To keep you company at home during these weeks, you'll be able to access Pornhub Premium for free for the whole month, with no need for a credit card.” - Pornhub

A few years ago, my daughter was about 7 and perusing Disney's 'Frozen' videos on YouTube. A few clicks later, unfortunately the settings were on 'unrestricted,' videos included pornified, half dressed caricatures of the Frozen characters. What would the next few videos have been? How many more clicks until she would have been violated with internet pornography? The marketing scheme of the pornography industry is brilliant. And they are targeting the youth, because a 7 year old exposed means she's addicted by 15 and paying premium by age 25.

Pornhub is using the pandemic of COVID – 19 to their advantage. This website is not just a random, available link. This is a muli-million (probably billion but couldn't find the stat) dollar company with a vice president, a well thought out philanthropy campaign (they donated 50K masks to a hospital) and a marketing department to attract new users. Their marketing schemes are genius, having created a contest on their 10th anniversary to continue to spread the word. And they understand human nature, the neuroscience of addiction and emotional vulnerability, a concoction that makes pornography's magnetism almost irresistible.

Here's the conundrum: 1. We are wired to connect as human beings and we're in a state of forced monasticism (Bishop Barron on the Coronavirus Quarantine). 2. Our brains are seeking relief from anxiety and a dopamine hit is the surest way to calm the fear. 3. And the frailty of our nature, so many are dying and the number of infected keep rising, i.e. we're vulnerable. This seems like a crossroads for many of us. Will we pursue healthy ways to self-sooth and create purpose within our domestic churches (Stringer, 2020)? Or will the wheels fall of and addiction skyrocket? The choice is ours, but I'll give some practical insight into these three factors and how to creatively maintain healthy connecting.

The word 'company' (the term Pornhub used to advertise their premium product) has a Latin origin of 'cum panis' or 'companio,' “one who eats bread with you.” Who are you breaking bread with now that we are maintaining social distance? A vertical and horizontal plane is helpful here. It seems that this mandated exile is bringing us face to face with God, the vertical. The type of love that Christians typically engage is 'willing the good of the other.' This is called serving and it is good. That's why Catholic schools are available and the poor are fed. However this is stripped right now and I believe we are being invited into the type of love defined as 'being from' (Ratzinger, 1996). How do you respond when Someone wants to die for you? When Someone calls you good and 'made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139). When Someone gently rubs mud on your eyes, asks you to wash your face and you can see Him clearly (John 9)? What a difficult type of love! To be loved. To entrust myself to you, knowing that you will take care of me. “How many people can we say that about and can we truly say that about our Lord” (Kilcawley, 2019)? This is a time to sit with the Lord and let Him love you. Let Him break bread with you, there are no strings attached.

The horizontal plane includes relationship. Instead of Pornhub's promise of dopamine based 'company,' how can we foster oxytocin based love and trust? Oxytocin is a neuromodulator, type of chemical, in the brain that, when activated, induces warm, trusting feelings (Zak, 2012). It builds bonds and is most present during deep conversation, sharing purposeful hobbies and holding hands or cuddling. Maybe it's time to call your best friend using video chat and ask some deeper questions about his/her life, or share your story with them. It might be helpful to ask the kids to sit 15 minutes longer at the dinner table to talk about their feelings about the effects of COVID – 19. Or going for a walk with family/roommates and enjoying the beauty of the evening sunset. Foster oxytocin based relationships and the temptation of pornography keeping you company should loose its power, because the company Pornhub is promising is a mirage.

As I write this, my associate told me that Pornhub has now offered premium subscriptions to the whole world. As our sense of vulnerability increases, this company is taking advantage. The walls of our city are down, we are afraid, and this not-so-random website knows our weaknesses. Don't let the Trojan Horse in. Your past vulnerabilities might be colliding/colluding with the current circumstances (Stringer, 2018). Was there tension in your home growing up? This increased time at home, close-quarters and messy family relationships might trigger that. Was there some sort of abuse as a kid? Then the powerlessness of the situation could heighten anxiety. Did you feel like no one looked out for you or thought you were important or special during childhood (ACES, 1995)? This neglect wound might be more sensitive with the social distancing. With these three wounds, pornography temptation could increase as a way to alleviate the trigger. So be curious about your story, feelings and vulnerabilities. Build your walls with internet accountability and filtering software such as Covenant Eyes or Questodio for your kids. Deepen your prayer life of entrustment. Keep your family close (with some breaks!) and love and be loved by your friends. Allow your vulnerability to be your strength.

Peace, Michael Ciaccio MS, LPC, SATP

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