What Freelancers Do While You're At Work: Watch Internet PornS

The news that AdultFriendFinder may become the first Internet porn venture to go public is the latest step in the unstoppable mainstreaming of porn. But porn is still the most "Not Safe" of "NSFW" material. Unless you work from home!

Oh, office drones, it's true: As you languish under neon lights in identical Aeron chairs, sneaking glances at naked ladies (or dudes!) during lunch break for fear of getting fired, many freelancers are hanging out in their "home offices" watching tons of Internet porn. That's what our, uh, freelancer friend says! But don't just take his word for it: We emailed the Freelancers Union—a non-profit organization providing health insurance to over 30,000 freelancers nationwide—and a spokesman responded:

I don't think that anyone from Freelancers Union would want to address this issue, although I think you have really stumbled onto something big. I can tell you, personally and unofficially, it is NOT only you.

Our friend will be very happy to hear this! Seriously, though: Much of the blame has to be attributed to the fact that a laptop, the freelancer's tool, inconveniently doubles as a never-ending fount of free porn. One freelance journalist, we will call him Roberto, said he chooses to procrastinate with porn as "it's literally easier because you are right in front of the computer ... I wouldn't be putting down a thesaurus to go find a girlie mag."

And freelancers' feast-or-famine work load produces those long stretches of concentrated aimlessness that are maybe best blunted with porn's mindless stimuli. Cartoonist David Rees, blogger and creator of the hilarious Bush-era strip "Get Your War On," told us in an email: "The bulk of my workday porn-looking occurred early in my career as a freelancer... I've always struggled with creating structure for my workday, and sometimes if there was nothing I had to get done, it was easiest to just waste the afternoon looking at naked titties." But then the Iraq war happened, Rees discovered Talking Points Memo and "from then on, most of my wrist injuries were sustained from hitting 'refresh' on that site, rather than from stroking it to porn."

Graduate students—who are basically freelancers of the mind—are also stirred by carnal impulses as they pore over their texts, though suitably more refined ones. One PhD candidate, "Amy" said, "I don't watch internet porn (prefer erotic fiction.)"

For freelancers, Internet porn is more than a simple timewaster to fill the bleak days where no assignments are forthcoming. The human obsession with porn is joined with a freelancers' singular quest to meet deadlines without a boss constantly goading them. Roberto told us, "As I get older, I get better at just staring at porn for like a minute, receiving a jolt of weird adrenaline and testosterone and then returning to work. Coffee just makes me shakey and listless." Very utilitarian! "I do think I use it both for procrastination and motivation," Amy said. "There are times when I will definitely use it to blot out my responsibilities, and other times when I will sort of hold it out like a wonderful carrot before a stubborn horse. It is a weird feeling—promising myself erotic fiction if I can finish this paragraph about the history of secularization in France."

Don't get the wrong idea: The freelancer's life is no 24/7 FREE PIZZA AND PORN PARTY. Just as in the real world, Internet porn is a vice freelancers believe should be tolerated but not fully embraced. One successful magazine writer told us, "I can report with a mixture of prudish pride and libertine shame that I am not a particularly noteworthy consumer of Internet pornography."

Yes, the ability to watch Internet porn while pretending to be "working" is as much the freelancer's curse as it is the symbol of their ultimate freedom. Rees said, "In my head internet porn = depression, and I'm not as depressed as I used to be (thank you Dr. Benjamin, a great therapist and thank you my wife for the dialectical behavior therapy workbook), so I kinda look back at the afternoon hours I wasted on that stuff as melancholy and embarrassing and, thankfully, distant." And Roberto said he had developed porn "rules," including "the trying to keep it below once a day rule" and "trying to avoid the half-hour mark."

A certain Gawker weekend editor might have best summed up many freelancers' ambivalent, but powerful, relationship with Internet porn when he said via AIM: "i mean, it's like if you had a bunch of heroin sitting around your apartment and you had nothing to do but work that kinda had to get done but, you know, kinda didn't. You might fuck with the heroin."