The United States is experiencing a quiet upsurge in vice — a proliferation of private consumption and over-consumption of drugs, alcohol, food, entertainment and sex.
According to cannabis retail management vendor Flowhub, in states where marijuana is legal — including California, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska — a 50% increase in sales was reported in the first week of mandatory social distancing.
According to market research firm Nielsen, online alcohol sales in the United States rose 243% in the week ending March 21 from the previous week.
Binge-buying drove British alcohol sales up 22% in March, according to Kantar Media, a data, insights and consulting company.
Gluttony, often described as the "forgotten deadly sin," has seen an uptick in this new stay-at-home era. Though people as a whole are attending grocery stress less frequently owing to fear of contagion, the quality and amount of food consumed has been a problem.
"A lot of people are struggling with their eating right now — and probably in different ways than they're used to," says Las Vegas-based clinical psychologist Cortney Warren. "There is certainly a great deal of research to suggest that when people are in a crisis situation, when they are highly stressed, one of the first things that will change is their eating behavior."
Though obesity rates have doubled in just one generation, as the stresses of lockdown take their toll, many people are turning to the snack cupboard. This may be especially the case after Easter, when chocolate and other desserts are still readily available. Comfort eating is magnified in times like these. Nestlé boss Mark Schneider says the $310 billion KitKat maker is now struggling to keep snacks on the store shelves. Schneider believes they are just as important as essential nutrients are in stressful times like these.
There has been a lot of chatter about how we will see a mini-baby boom in around nine months. If between married people, this is a great blessing. However, there is little question about whether the fornication of those cohabitating and those simply in "relationships" will also increase, leading to undesired pregnancies. British lingerie chain Ann Summers has said "sex toy" sales were up 27% in the last week of March compared to the same period a year ago. Pornhub, the leading pornography website on the internet, has seen a near 12% increase in global traffic from Feb. 24 to March 17.
In early March, when the Wuhan virus permeated Europe and the United States, many companies decided to join the fight against the pandemic. Big names in the business world began sending medical help and donating cash — from tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alibaba, to luxury fashion houses; from distilleries and breweries to pharmaceutical companies; from major industrial manufacturers like General Motors and Ford to numerous retailers. Not to be outdone, the porn "industry" too has thrown its hat into the ring.
Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, said his company wanted to provide a way for people to "pass the time" under lockdown. So he offered free premium subscriptions. "With nearly one billion people in lockdown across the world because of the coronavirus pandemic," Price said, "it's important that we lend a hand and provide them with an enjoyable way to pass the time. We hope by expanding our offer of free Pornhub Premium worldwide, people have an extra incentive to stay home and flatten the curve."
Global porn consumption rates have gone up significantly with most people confined to their homes. While the Church teaches that pornography is a "grave offense" that "does grave injury to the dignity of its participants," experts are also cautioning that porn consumption could exacerbate mental-health issues during the pandemic.
As Church Militant has reported extensively, viewing pornography damages the brain, damages a man's ability to perform the marriage act with a real woman and damages marriage, families and society. Many have also come forward to highlight the industry's disturbing links to sex trafficking.
Eleanor Gaetan, the director of government relations at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), a nonpartisan nonprofit that was co-founded by Jesuit Father Morton Hill and other faith leaders, said that Pornhub has a "long history of pretending to be a helpful community actor." However, she said, it is offering "a demonic deal" because, among other reasons, the website "is featuring videos of child sexual-abuse material" and is also "a place where videos of sex-trafficking victims can be found."
Gaetan referenced a recent case in which Florida authorities found a 15-year-old girl who had been missing for nearly a year after images of her appeared on Pornhub and similar websites. "Pornhub is a bad actor, and what is it doing when it's offering premium service?" she rhetorically asked. "It's trying to lure people into temptation; it's trying to lure people into what is effectively an addiction."
The increase in vice that is apparently occurring as a result of being shut in, and the addiction that can grow from this, is hurting the physical and mental health of individuals and could be harming the spiritual well-being of many others. Faithful Catholics know that prayer, fasting, meditation and exercise are needed to combat vice, and to remain healthy and holy.