Jeffrey Toobin’s “Embarrassingly Stupid Mistake”

High-profile legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin shocked the world this past week, as news emerged that he had been caught masturbating on a work-related Zoom call.

According to the New York Times, Toobin had started a second Zoom call for a sexual encounter but neglected to turn off his other call, leaving himself in full view of his co-workers. Toobin stated, “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera.”

Reactions have ranged from horror to crude humor, to sympathy from those who feel Toobin is being unjustly shamed. The incident is disturbing. For many, it’s hard to fathom what could lead someone to masturbate while on a work call, even if that person believed the camera was turned off.

Who Does That?

Years ago, we published an article recommending that employers provide accountability software for their employees to help them avoid porn. In the comments, one reader asked, “What kind of freak is going to look at porn on purpose at their desk in a public workplace?”

The reality is it’s not just the rare “freak” who looks at porn at work. Toobin’s case is an extreme example, but it’s part of a broader trend of “pornification” that is overtaking the workplace. Even six years ago, upwards of two-thirds of men and one-third of women admitted to viewing pornography at work. Given the rise in porn consumption in 2020, as well as the sharp increase of people working from the privacy of their own homes, all signs indicate the vast majority of the workforce is looking at porn on the clock.

Addiction-Induced Risky Behaviors

Looking at porn at work isn’t quite the same thing as masturbating on a video call in full view of your coworkers. However, research shows that porn addiction can lead people to engage in increasingly risky behaviors like Toobin’s. In The Porn Circuit, Sam Black says, “Many porn users feel focused on getting to porn and masturbating even when a big part of them is saying, ‘Don’t do this.’ Even when negative consequences seem imminent, impulse control is too weak to battle the cravings.”

At Covenant Eyes, we regularly hear stories from men and women who sacrifice high-paying jobs, sabotage successful academic careers, and damage their professional reputations because of porn addiction.

Like Toobin, many people find themselves engaged in embarrassing or shameful unwanted sexual behaviors. Sam Black continues, “[O]ften people become desensitized to the pornography they have been using and seek more images or porn that are more novel. As this tolerance expands, people often become disgusted with their own pornographic pursuits…but do it anyway, broadening the cues that lead to arousal.”

However, embarrassingly stupid mistakes like Toobin’s are not inevitable, even for those who have struggled with addiction. Despite the pervasiveness of pornography in the workplace, there is a clear path to freedom. Covenant Eyes is committed to raising awareness of pornography and equipping people with tools to overcome it both inside and outside the workplace. To learn more, check out our free ebook, The Porn Circuit.