Of Porn and Toilet Paper: Control in the Age of Coronavirus

A psychological arsenal against COVID-19.

Posted Apr 14, 2020

People worldwide are afraid and feel out of control as coronavirus spreads. Natural inclinations in the face of anxiety are to fight or flee to combat the threat and ward off helplessness and powerlessness.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, made invaluable contributions regarding the function and purpose of anxiety, a manifestation of threat or fear of sexual and aggressive forces (Drives) inherent in humankind. Others who came after Freud saw anxiety as a response to the relational threat of the loss of love (death and separation) and fear of others' anger. Many theorists agree that the loss of control, whether derived from internal or external forces, invokes an abject and visceral response in us to find a way back to control.

But when threats are real yet not seen and not manufactured by internal constructs or relationships, the human psyche is put further to the task. Freud called this "signal anxiety." The "ego" goes to work to employ defenses so that the risk can be avoided or lessened.  

Porn and toilet paper may be robust defenses against hidden threats. 

One particular porn site has thrown its support behind the response to COVID-19 by offering free premium services for its members during the pandemic. Internet porn has seen a recent global surge. And sales of toilet paper lately have left the shelves barren. Porn and toilet paper seem to have become synonymous with maintaining greater control and soothing what is threatening. 

Humankind is reduced to our primitive common denominators during these days and the weeks and months ahead. Helplessness and powerlessness are not natural pills to swallow; developed countries still try to buy their way out. Porn offers diversion. Dopamine surges, relief from boredom, and pursuit of exercise (if only to the extent that masturbation burns calories) are all the accompanying rewards.

Worldwide traffic to Pornhub reportedly increased by 11.6% on March 17, 2020. A dramatic traffic increase of 57% in Italy came after Pornhub offered its citizens free "premium service." On or about the same date, United States traffic rose 6.4%, Russian traffic 6.6%, U.K. by 7.2%, Germany by 5.8%, and Hong Kong by 23.4%, according to Pornhub.

Toilet paper controls the uncontrollable. The age of toilet training begins around two years—a time when a child is becoming aware of the loss of control (perceived threat) and its resultant anxiety. One of Freud's theorized stages of psychosexual development, lasting from age 18 months to 3 years, focuses on the anus as the significant zone of excitation. The conflict during this stage is the very essence of toilet training, whereby the child has to learn to control his or her bodily needs. From this perspective, delaying the time to pleasurable release by the anticipation of the act is thought to create a sense of mastery, independence, and defiance. Pleasure is shifted from the bliss of infantile release to the joy of control of one's body and those who enforce the new social rule (i.e., mom, dad, teacher, society).

Toilet paper contains the excretory mess. We do not know who will be among those who get sick (the ultimate loss of control of bodily functions through a potential need for a respirator) as we try to contain the global "mess" we face. The act of defiance and mastery are inherent in stocking up on supplies, the proverbial sword and armor necessary to fight. 

Global stay-at-home measures have left many feeling pent up. Porn is a vehicle that provides a release from being sexually pent up. Porn sites offer free premium upgrades as they manipulate human nature's primitive sexual instinct by offering something for free, creating the illusion of winning and mastering for the viewer.  

Porn accessibility is one way to defy and master the current state of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine; we are not alone in our aloneness. In those moments, minutes, hours of masturbatory pursuit, loss of control is suspended as excitation, stimulation, and feeling alive take its place. We take control of the images on the screen and our role in their fantasies.  

Orgasm is an expression of dominance and vitality. We remain in control because we choose to be out of control through seduction, stimulation, and orgasm.

References

Coronavirus insights, www.pornhub.com. March 23, 2020.

Freud. S. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Strachey Edition. 1905. (pp. 125-146.)