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Jeffrey Toobin’s “Embarrassingly Stupid Mistake”

Last Updated: October 26, 2020

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

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.

  • Comments on: Jeffrey Toobin’s “Embarrassingly Stupid Mistake”
    1. Stephen

      Struggling with porn is not just a spiritual battle it is also about changing our physical habits, even those that may seem harmless on the surface. We need to pray and trust God, but at the same time take decisive action to eliminate even the triggers of pornography.

    2. Rachel

      I’d like to understand my husbands addiction so we can hopefully not end our marriage because of this horrible addiction.

    3. Adolph Kunen

      Thanks for your helpful material…..

    4. Jimmy Williams

      Trying to find a program compatible with my Google Chrome notebook and IS NOT hard to set up. Unable to download and set up last one due to extreme difficulty in program instructions.

    5. Adam

      What would you advise for someone who has been compulsively masturbating since Being molested at 8 years old.
      Because this happened to me I decided it was supposed to because I was sick and perverted for letting it. As soon as I started masturbating I did it engaging in mutual masturbating with other children my age and when I reached puberty I started having sexual feelings towards other young boys and started fantasising about molesting them while masturbating. I have suffered from this for too long and don’t really care about the embarassing nature of admitting this. I am now 40 years old and I was charged with possession of child abuse material when I was 35 after getting so sick of its shame I ended up reporting myself to police and even after four years of continuous legal repercussions including jail admissions sought of unrelated but not really as this was certainly the starting point of police paying more attention to me. Do you have any advice about how I can stop fantasising about molesting children I don’t see myself as being a pedophile I see myself as being a victim of child sex abuse that I have never been able to heal from the trauma of. I do not view child abuse material anymore and if I’m around children I don’t feel sexually attracted to them but having spent so many years engaging in this behaviour I just feel so trapped and almost feel like there is no hope for me. I am a Christian if you can stomach hearing someone that just confessed what I did declaring that. I know God loves me but I also know he detests my behaviour. I have prayed constantly to be able to overcome this problem. I guess a big reason why I am sharing this hear is because I need more people to pray for me that may not necessarily understand my personal situation but I’m sure many understand the effects of child sex abuse and also compulsive masturbating.

      • Kay Bruner

        Hey Adam.

        Thanks for being so brave and vulnerable. It sounds to me like you’re needing more trauma informed therapy and support. I would recommend looking at the therapist finder at Psychology Today. Search within your area for someone who is certified and experienced in trauma informed care.

        I think it would be worth looking at the possibility that you are experiencing intrusive thoughts attached to your own trauma; it may be that medication for anxiety could help reduce those patterns in your brain and give you relief from those thoughts.

        Overall, I would approach this from a trauma informed perspective rather than a “sin” perspective at this point. I think that’s probably a more fruitful way forward. You deserve healing, you deserve hope, and I think a trauma informed perspective would provide that for you.

        I hope that helps.

        Kay Bruner

      • Daniel Hofstetter

        Hey Adam, while psychologal approaches are probably a necessary part of recovery for you, there is a ministry that can address the spiritual side in a way unlike any other ministry does. They have been effective for many people because it has Biblically based teaching by men who have been set free. They do weekend retreats, check it out here https://www.witministries.com/ It might seem a bit expensive at first, but it is well worth it and in the end the cost is no more than a handful of counseling sessions would be anyway, and in my opinion more valuable than some counselors too. There may also be options to help with a reduced cost in some circumstances. I’ll be praying for you.

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