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The COVID-19 pandemic gave us free premium accounts on Pornhub

By Alma Fabiani

May 18, 2020

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Up until last month, Pornhub premium accounts cost $9.99 per month—a small fee to spend on quality porn for some but a definite no-no for others. And while most of us are used to looking for the exact porn we desire without spending a penny, the COVID-19 pandemic brought us one good thing: free porn, usually only accessible on premium accounts.

The point behind the idea was simple. How could pornographic websites like Pornhub incite people to respect lockdown rules and stay indoors? Give them free porn! By announcing its premium accounts would be free for 30 days, Pornhub aimed to encourage people to stay home in order to flatten the curve. And while that could have been true, many were quick to criticise the website’s initiative and point out that it might just be another way to snag those recurring credit card payments and automatically bill users when the free trial is over.

Although regular Pornhub users gladly accepted the offer and spread the word, right-wingers were not as open-minded. In the US, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) chief political analyst David Brody spoke to conservative Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a self-described “Christian conservative policy and lobbying organisation,” about Pornhub’s attempt to make its content free of charge.

To put things into perspective, Brody and Perkins are mostly known for their conservative and religious views of gay marriage and abortion—both of which they oppose. Prior to speaking to Brody on television, Perkins commented on Pornhub’s free premium accounts on his Christian talk-radio show called Washington Watch: “The predators are out while people, including children, find themselves with more time on their hands, porn pushers like Pornhub are making their content more accessible providing it free of charge.”

The porn industry definitely isn’t perfect, but we’ve witnessed previously how ridiculous and impractical it would be to establish a ‘porn block’. Calling Pornhub’s initiative a “pandemic inside a pandemic,” as Brody did on CBN, might have only caused more panic for whoever watches the channel. For others who stumbled on a video of this interview on Twitter, his statement only highlighted the irrationality many conservative Americans showed by blaming the porn industry’s actions against COVID-19 but still not agreeing to wear face masks like everybody else.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave us free premium accounts on Pornhub

Don’t get me wrong, Pornhub’s free premium accounts did pose a few problems. Pornhub premium (free or not) always requires login credentials, which means entering an email address to create a user ID and password. While this could have potentially deterred minors from trying to create their own free account, most of them quickly realised an account could be created with any random email address and accessible without having to confirm it. Pornhub issued no obvious warning about age restrictions, with no box to check a person’s age—the age barriers are almost non-existent.

It makes sense therefore that US conservative leaders worry that the absence of barriers are here to tempt young users, and that porn companies will exploit the growing audience created by the COVID-19 lockdown measures. “As we see more and more people at stay-at-home order states, the porn industry is literally paying these people, in some cases offering literally free content, Pornhub being one of them,” explained Perkins during his radio show. “It’s an industry that preys on people, [when] they offer it free of charge, it comes at a high price,” he added.

Although porn consumption did increase during the pandemic, the statistics Pornhub shared seem reasonable—the website saw a 24.4 per cent increase in traffic after it offered free premium accounts. Very few would describe this as “preying on people.”

Conservatives seem to be concerned with the wrong things. Pornhub’s free memberships might allow a handful of 13 year olds to watch better quality porn. But as adult actress Tana Lea told the Daily Beast in Porn Is ‘Free’ During Coronavirus and Right-Wingers Are Losing Their Minds Over It, “These kids were looking at Pornhub anyway.” Instead, many porn actors celebrated Pornhub’s initiative by highlighting how it could help relieve certain people from the stress caused by the coronavirus.

Adult actress Sophie Dee went as far as telling the Daily Beast: “I honestly feel like domestic abuse rates are so high right now and guys jerking off need help. It’s helping them release pressure.” And if that is the case, what’s wrong with that? It’s about time people realise how COVID-19 and the lockdown impacted households where domestic violence was already an issue. A little porn never killed nobody.