Why Do People Watch Porn At Work?

watching porn at work

Lots of people watch porn at work. How many is a lot?

The numbers vary, in part because sex is an incredibly charged topic that intersects with some of the deepest moral divides in our society and because there is still so little rigorous research about sex. And of course, there’s the little issue of actually admitting to watching porn at work. Surveys about porn viewing habits tend to produce wildly variable results, depending on the biases of who’s doing the survey. Let me give you an example of the spread:

One 2014 survey reported that 63% of men and 36% of women say they’ve watched porn at work. That means the majority of your male colleagues and a large minority of your female colleagues have watched a least a little recorded sex while they were supposed to be working on spreadsheets. However, this survey was conducted for a Ministry, one that’s deeply invested in men being dogs in need of training.

A 2016 survey produced much less shocking results, though they’re still, uh confusing. This study, which was published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that 16.1% of men watched porn at work on their smartphone or tablet and 5.4% watched it on a work computer.  While these results are much less alarming than the 2014 study, which had me nervous to touch pretty much any surface the office, the numbers are still alarmingly high. Over 5% of my colleagues are foolish enough to use a work computer to watch porn? Around 20 – 30% of my male colleagues are regularly watching porn instead of cat videos or even… getting work done?

What are you people thinking?

Jimmy Kimmel asked a few people about it.

Why the Heck Do People Watch Porn At Work?

People watch porn for sexual stimulation and gratification, obviously, and sexual thoughts aren’t exactly locked up in a vault for work inappropriate thoughts. But having sexual thoughts during the course of your work day and watching porn in the bathroom or even at your desk are worlds apart in terms of appropriateness. It’s not just the risk you incur by doing it – and make no mistake, lots of people have been fired for watching porn at work – it’s how uncomfortable you stand to make your colleagues should they discover you. So why do it?

I spoke to a number of friends and colleagues in preparing to write this blog post. Many of them had funny but disturbing stories of catching colleagues and even clients watching porn at work. One friend, who was working in tech support at the time, soldiered his way through a whole support call while the client continued chatting with a sex worker on the other line. Another friend, who was doing contract IT work, was warned off of one client’s desktop because he had folders and folders of porn on it. He even told her she shouldn’t touch any of the surfaces around his desk. In both of these incidents, my friends were trapped in incredibly awkward situations – they were being sexually harassed by clients who thought that violating their boundaries was either funny or unimportant. Did these men not understand that they were creating a hostile work environment for people with less power than them, or did they get a thrill out of it?

There are even wilder stories, of course, ones that seem to reveal an element of voyeuristic compulsion. One Baltimore man was fired for spending 39 work hours repeatedly watching a single porn DVD, at one point spending 6 hours straight watching the video, with the screen maximized. Another friend told me about a man who was caught repeatedly breaking into work at night to watch porn on work computers. These are both cases where the employee repeatedly abused work resources to watch porn, something they could easily do on their own time, and something about doing it at work seems to have been a crucial element. Watching porn at work was part of the thrill and that thrill escalated into a regular compulsion. Needless to say, both employees were terminated immediately.

Then there are the people who watch porn at work occasionally and casually. It’s not a compulsion and they don’t want to be caught or to force other people into viewing it with them. They just got bored at work and decided to watch some porn. That’s the stance of a majority of the men interviewed in that Jimmy Kimmel segment above and that of several Reddit threads I combed through in search of answers. Why do it? Boredom. Ok, you’re bored. Fine. But why porn?

Watching porn at work presents a security risk to your employer because not all of those hundreds of popups are just ads. It also puts you at risk of being disciplined or punished – not only is it a waste of work time and resources, it demonstrates a critical lack of professionalism and care for your colleagues. That’s the wildest part of it, I think, that few people who watch porn at work consider that their colleagues might not be interested in knowing about what kind of porn they watch, or even necessarily considering them in a sexual context. Audio/visual porn in particular is not easy to ignore. It’s apparent from a second of sound or a single look at your colleague’s phone exactly what is going on, and it’s immediately awkward.

I guess my question is: are you bored enough to risk your job? Bored enough to be willing to make your colleagues uncomfortable? Bored enough to expose your company’s data to risk? If you’re that bored, friend, I think you’re in the wrong line of work.

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Megan Purdy

Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.

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Comments

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  2. I’m one of those. I’m deeply sorry. In my defense, I don’t do it for the thrill of doing it in the office, and in fact I try my best to avoid in any way to get caught. I just have – it may sound surprising – more privacy at work that I have at home, and I can’t seem to stop myself. I do hate my job – “boring” doesn’t quite cut it – and I can’t stop doing it because if I did those depending on me would get in trouble. It worries me that some tech employee might still check network records, or traffic, and find me out. And of course if my behaviour ever embarrassed anyone, I would feel terrible about it. But I can’t quite stop myself. I am in the process of getting help.

    Please understand that as much as you find this illogical, wasteful, stupid, immoral, embarrassing and degrading, so do I. And I realize that despite all my efforts I might as some point in the future impose my vice upon some innocent soul, anybody really. I realise that I am risking my job and the well-being of those depending on me. I just don’t know what else to do, and I am sure I am not alone.

    Here’s the pickle. I don’t quite believe that it’s one in two or three of us – I sure hope not that many have to go through this – but I know for a fact that whether it’s porn or something else, plenty of people try to find some way to escape the work they do. And maybe they should be simply free to do so without suffering consequences. Maybe we’re simply not all meant to clock our badge day in day out..Maybe there are periods of our lives other than when we are students or retired where we should be allowed. But our society is quick to blame those who can’t cope with its imposition, whether they admit it – and then they are “lazy”, as if one’s life could be only measured through his or her personal contribution to someones’ financial indicators – or they don’t or can’t (and simply end up like me).

    • @Anonymous You are absolutely not alone. Many people, of all ages, genders, etc. struggle with internet porn addiction and other related disorders of problematic internet usage. We do the porn industry a service when we are too afraid to speak loudly about the problems with porn, leaving them to fester in the dark (and in the company bathroom stall).

      As a future physician and fellow addict, I have encountered this problem from a few different perspectives. Overall, I am by no means fully recovered, but I have found a few practices that have for the most part kept me pornfree. One of the most helpful first steps is to talk with someone you trust about this problem you’ve been dealing with. It can feel freeing to finally get this embarrassing and shameful habit into the open air. Next, you need to develop a plan to identify and avoid any triggers that lead you to watching porn. Personally, I have found deleting all social media apps off my phone to be especially effective, but you might have different triggers that are just as removable. Also, hugely important, do research and try to find different forms of media that explain porn addiction and how to recover from it (aka. never watch porn again). http://www.yourbrainonporn.com is a great resource, and Pornfree Radio with Matt Dobschuetz has a lot of useful techniques for quitting (episodes are free in the apple podcast app and google play music app).

      I wish you the best with your path to recovery. Feel free to ask me any questions.

  3. I worked in a law office for over 3.5 years. The office manager constantly shopped online for women’s shoes and dresses. He also watched youtube videos ad nauseum. Some videos were of sexy women walking in high heels on random city streets. Worse, many videos were easily classified as soft-porn, including one youtube video titled “Angry Boss Attacks his Secretary.” Lots of scantily clad women, some videos of TEENS in high heels.

    Worse – I had to use his computer at his desk to cover the front desk while he went to lunch or other errands. Many times these windows were left open. He bought shoes, dresses, and other items on the company computer on company time, and did not close the windows, but left them active in a tabbed desktop environment.

    The partners that own the firm were aware of this behavior. They did nothing to address it or correct it. Being exposed to this each day caused me to suffer what I consider a nervous breakdown. This person was clearly not doing his job, and I was forced to work harder to make sure items got done. His behavior was protected by management. Needless to say, I was terminated because I eventually blew up in a hostile expression of emotions.

    If you are in an environment and your office manager is compulsively online doing non-business related voyeuristic activities all day long, and will not be addressed due to his family like relationship with the founder of the firm, GET OUT. Nothing will change. Let them suffer their own consequences down the road. They are not worth staying for. Don’t be like me and try to remain in that job due to the money, due to your family, or whatever loyalty you may feel. Just get out.

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