We don’t need to tell you that the world is a scary place right now. The Coronavirus
(COVID-19) pandemic is raging, here in the UK we’re on a lock-down and only permitted to leave our homes for a small number of very specific reasons, and a lot of people are understandably frightened. With all this going on, you could be forgiven for not thinking about sex much, if at all. Intense stress is a libido-killer for many people.
However, sex is also central to many people’s lives, and some even find it comforting and calming in times of fear and uncertainty. Sex is also, for many people, central to how they earn their living. And, like virtually any other industry you can name, the adult entertainment industry (encompassing sex work in all forms, pornography, sex toy retail and more) is facing unprecedented challenges right now.
Nothing like the current situation has happened before, and we’re all navigating it as we go along. Fortunately, we now also have access to solutions that we’ve never had before – entire businesses have moved their operations online and their staff to remote working, more or less overnight.
Friday night in the pub with colleagues has become a mass video call, and classes at the gym have become Facebook Live training sessions. Even my partner’s weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons has moved online. The same can be true for the adult industry, if we understand the challenges and how we can best support the people most affected.
In-person sex workers
In-person sex work – escorts, pro-Dom(me)s (and, less commonly, pro subs,) strippers and others who exchange sexual services for money – have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, workers have made the difficult decision to stop working due to safety concerns. In others, clients have simply dried up. Clubs have closed, and all over the world, lock-down or shelter-in-place orders would make working impossible anyway.
SEXTECHGUIDE spoke to Aubrie, a sex worker based in Canada. “I am currently on hiatus because of COVID and I have no idea when I will return,”she says. Many previously in-person sex workers are taking their businesses online, with mixed success. Aubrie explained that she has used her social media following to raise some money by selling naked photos, but that she misses her work – which she loves – terribly and “hope[s] to return when the curve has been flattened locally.”
Others have sought work outside of the sex industry. We asked Aubrie what people can do to support her and others in a similar position through this crisis. She suggests seeing if your favourite stripper, escort or Dom(me) has moved online and if so, buying their content (buying porn clips, subscribing to their OnlyFans, tipping them on camming sites, etc.) or paying for an online session.
Other good options include sending cash or a gift card, and donating to organisations run by and for sex workers, who are currently mobilising to support those in the industry through the crisis.
The SWARM crisis fund is a good place to start if you’re in the UK.
Phone, webcam and other online services
Phone sex, cyber-sex and camming services have also been hit by the pandemic, in both positive and negative ways. Many service users have less privacy now that their
partners, family members or children are at home all the time, and many have also stopped spending money due to fear over future employment and income prospects.
Mysti, a phone sex operator, told us that she feared her client base would
dry up due to the men who use her services having their wives or girlfriends in constant close proximity. “The reality has been different, though,” she said. “Most of my regular callers have checked in to see how I am doing and to share how things are where they are.”
This really shows how personal and meaningful the provider-client relationship can
be in a sex work context. Mysti explained that the nature of her business has changed in recent weeks.
“Even a couple of months ago, I had virtually no sext chats. Now I have quite a few people texting either asking if they can have a silent call where I create the scenario on my end and I do all the talking – and heavy breathing – or they say they can’t talk but ask me to send photos,” she says.
Some recent reports suggest that business for cam sex workers is booming, as people are working from home, not going out – and perhaps unable to access sexual interaction in person.
Search “cam model” and “coronavirus” on Twitter and you’ll see dozens of results where people who are suddenly out of work suggesting becoming a cam model to pay the bills. Though many of these are flippant remarks, some will undoubtedly go through with this plan.
We can certainly assume we’ll see an uptick in this kind of digital sex work, as previously in-person sex workers move online, and as more people try out this kind of work for the first time.
And while the market for this kind of interaction could continue to soar, camming is already an extremely competitive market – it is far from the ‘easy money’ some people believe.
Last week, Pornhub announced it was offering its Premium service for free everywhere in the world in order to encourage people to stay indoors during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. It also donated 50,000 face masks to medical organisations, €50,000 to European organisations working to fight the virus, and $25,000 to the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project.
The offers have been met with a mixed response.
Porn fans argue that Pornhub is doing its part in the coronavirus effort, whereas others criticise the company of a` cynical PR stunt to whitewash its reputation, which is no stranger to controversy – its most recent surrounding revenge porn and non-consensual content being hosted on the site. Assertions that the company denies.
Predictably, Pornhub has reported an enormous increase in visits since the coronavirus crisis and subsequent lockdowns began. However, the story may well be very different for smaller and less dominant companies.
Many have been forced to halt production for an unspecified amount of time, impacting not just performers but also crew members, producers, and the owners of smaller ethical porn companies.
The best way to support the porn industry during this crisis? Pay for your porn! There is so much incredible content online. You can subscribe to services like Crashpad Series, Ersties or FrolicMe, you can buy clips directly from performers via sites like ManyVids (or even commission a custom clip!), you can join your favourite performer’s Fan Club or send them a tip via Pornhub, and if you’re feeling old-fashioned, you can even order DVDs online.
If you must use free sites, then consume the content which has been uploaded by
the performers themselves and not that which has been stolen from pay-walled sites.
Want to try something new? This is a great time to broaden your sexual relationship
with yourself by exploring new interests and genres of porn. Have you ever tried VR porn? Now is a great time to try. The ‘almost as good as being there’ nature of VR might help combat the feeling of missing sex if that’s something you can’t safely access right now.
The Free Speech Coalition (an advocacy group defending the interests of the adult
industry) has launched an emergency fund to help performers and crew to “emerge intact from this.” Information on how to donate, or how to apply if you’re a porn professional who is struggling because of production shutdown, can be found at .
Sex toy retail
On the surface, it’s a great time for sex toy retail. PinkNews reported last week that
Womanizer’s sales were up 50 percent from January to March, while iNews said that sex toy sales in the UK were up by an estimated 13 percent. But this is not the full story.
While large companies and those who operate largely or exclusively online probably won’t suffer much and may even see a boost in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a very different story for smaller and independent businesses (like our sister-site at SEXTECH.co.uk).
We spoke to Renèe at London-based feminist sex shop, Sh! , which has seen a 53 percent increase in website users and an 89 percent increase in online sales this week alone.
Interestingly, some of the most popular products are toy cleaners and lube, both of which have doubled in sales. Following the indefinite closure of their London shop last week, the Sh! team are using social media and live-streaming to give customers the personalised, in-depth advice they’re known for. Overall, however, the closure of the bricks and mortar shop means that Sh! has seen a significant drop in sales. For a small business, this can be disastrous. “We have one member of staff picking and packing web orders, whereas we would usually have a full team,” Renèe told me. “It’s a scary time for us, as for all small businesses.”
Other businesses may struggle due to disruption to supplies they need. Husband-and- wife team Adam and Monika run Godemiche, a UK-based company making brightly coloured silicone sex toys, and told us they’re having to keep a close eye on the supply chain for silicone and other essential materials.
This is why it is so important to support our local and independent sex shops and other small adult businesses at this time. Also worth noting is that in times of crisis, it’s often small businesses who look out for their staff the most. A member of the team at Peepshow Toys, a small feminist sex shop in the US, says that 90 percent of staff are at home on paid leave right now. Buying from independents directly helps workers pay the mortgage/rent, feed their families and stay afloat.
Francesca, owner of British online sex shop The Pleasure Garden, made an interesting point – that business owners may struggle to ask for support lest they be seen to be cashing in on a global crisis. “It’s in some ways an opportunity to engage with people – but you also don’t want to be a business taking advantage.” The Godemiche team recently released a new product, a silicone flogger, after overcoming some apprehension of launching amidst a crisis, but ultimately feels that “it seems to have come at a good time for people.”
The best way to support your favourite small business, of course, is to place an order. If you’re bored at home, why not try something new? If you’re masturbating or having sex with your partner more now that we’re all stuck indoors, a new toy can be exactly what you need to mix up your routine. Why not get adventurous with a new magic wand vibrator, a stroker, a butt plug or a new strap-on harness?
If you’re separated from your partner (or partners) due to social distancing or lockdown, this is where sex toys can really come into their own. App-controlled and long-range sex toys are perfect for having some sexy fun when you’re apart, whether your partner is across town or across the world. We’ve reviewed and can recommend the Wand by We-Vibe or Lovehoney’s Desire app-controlled knicker vibe for this purpose. There are more suggestions on how to get your rocks off in lockdown here, too.
Sex clubs, kink venues and educators
With widespread bans on large gatherings, sex clubs and kink parties are going to be no-go arenas for some time. This is potentially devastating to these venues, who often have to fight licensing constraints, hostile neighbours and financial worries to even survive.
Some venues will not survive, and it’s sad to think that some of our – and your – favorite local spots may be among them.
Since venues can’t open right now, many clubs and venues have set up crowdfunding campaigns to help them pay their expenses during this time without an income. Donating, if you can, is the best way to support. If your local venue is worried about their future but doesn’t have a campaign set up, you could always suggest it to them.
Some kink venues, businesses and independent educators are now offering virtual
classes and events. “Because education, self-care and wellness is essential to our brand, we’re still spending this time focusing on providing content to support our communities,” a member of the team at Good Vibrations Toys, says. So keep an eye on your favorite business, venue or educator’s social media for online classes and workshops.
How this normally works is that you register, sometimes pay a small fee (some events are free and educators make money by asking for tips or advertising a product) and get a link to access the class (bondage, flogging, wax play, or whatever it is) online from the comfort of your living room. This money will help venues stay afloat, help educators (whose in-person classes will all have been cancelled) keep paying their bills, and give us all a community to come back to when this crisis is over. It’ll also help keep skills sharp for when you can attend in-person classes again.
The bottom line – can the adult industry survive?
The short answer is yes… with some caveats. Large and very well-established companies will, most likely, be absolutely fine. Smaller businesses in the adult industry, as everywhere else, are going to struggle and will be in for a rough few months.
But they can survive if fans can continue to financially step up. Luckily, in the era of lock-downs and social distancing, there are still tech solutions to help us. So if you can afford to, buy your favorite performer’s content. Send your favourite escort, stripper or pro-Dom(me) a digital gift card. Order a new sex toy or two from a small business. Give to venues and small businesses with crowdfunding campaigns. Take an online class. Have a session with a phone sex worker or cam model, and tip generously.
And pay for your porn.
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