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Lockdown Porn: how quarantine changed adult content

The lockdown during COVID-19 outbreak has affected many lives significantly. Much part of the world’s population has been confined to home. Like many other businesses, sex workers also lost their income to lockdown. To survive the pandemic, many sex workers turned to the internet to stay afloat and drew scores of users searching for spicy content. Porn Hub, the leading online adult entertainment platform, reported about 12% traffic growth worldwide during the self-isolation period. In Italy it jumped by 57 %, 38% in France and a whopping 61% in Spain. The success of the adult websites also lured people who had regular jobs, unrelated to the sex industry. 

However, that “porn triumph” was soon undermined, as questions were raised about illegal and violent porn content, prompting the US Senate to start an investigation. 

Adult Content
Despite being banned, Porn Hub reported a whopping 95% increase in traffic from India during the first weeks of the lockdown / Unsplash

Camming girls

Many women from the UK and US tried to gain adult genre popularity, it’s called ‘camming’. It’s a scheme in which women put on a strip tease and stream the performance from their home. 

“Camming is growing because it’s live,” says Rickey Ray, assistant manager of Studio 20, a 24/7 webcam studio, to the Guardian.

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OnlyFans, a website where users post self-made spicy content recorded a 75% increase in new sign-ups during the first lockdowns, with 50,000 of these being from new creators / Unsplash
“You’re typing and she’s responding to you directly. There’s a real-life relationship with that person that you’re not going to get from someone watching a video.”

The Sun tells a story of 26-year-old Emma from Essex, UK, who quit her office job to start a career as a webcam model. She now earns more than $1.500 a week.

“I’d never done anything like it before — my previous jobs were all office and retail roles and I thought it would be overly sexual and explicit, and because I’m in a loving relationship, it was something I didn’t feel comfortable with," she told the Sun

Emma with Daryl
Emma's husband Daryl embraced her decision to keep on webcamming after they married / Emma Fiely / Facebook

However, the payout for a cam girl isn’t always that lucrative. Cam sites rely on third-party platforms often charging up to 10% of the model’s revenue. The sites that allow viewers to tip performers typically take more than 60% cut of the model’s earnings, that’s sometimes even more than other processing fees. 

New Genres 

Since the pandemic began, about a thousand videos have appeared on Pornhub, one way or another related to the coronavirus. COVID porn features the same videos with clichéd plots, but incorporate the fetishization of the pandemic.

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"Today, it has been considered that 46–74% of men and 16–41% of women are active pornography users in modern nations," the International Journal of Impotence Research says / Unsplash

Psychology Today explained the popularity of COVID porn as it reflects the human ability to fetishize almost everything. For example, Christmas (the Internet is full of videos featuring sexy Santa girlfriends) or Nazi rule in Germany. 

“Porn searches are up, in part, because a lot of people are at home with more time on their hands than usual. However, they may also be up because some people are using sex as a coping mechanism for dealing with their fear of disease and death.”

Google trends show another boom in searches like "Among US Porn", which was apparently caused by the rise of the so-called multiplayer game. Internet fetishists couldn’t leave, an increasingly popular TikTok ignored. 

"TikTok porn’"became a frequent search, as well as "Addison Rae porn" which referred to a 20-year-old TikToker who gained more than 70 million followers since joining the platform in 2019. Also, shortly after George Floyd’s death the terms "BLM Porn," and "Black Lives Matter Porn" appeared among Google search trends. 

Petition against Porn Hub

The popularity of porn sites raised other issues, such as a dramatic surge in child pornography and sex-trafficking.

Mastercard and Visa announced they would prohibit the use of their cards on Pornhub following separate investigations by both companies. The probes were started after a New York Times report by Nicholas Kristof, who detailed claims of exploitative content on the platform, which included underage sex, child rape, revenge porn, and racist content. A petition to shut down Pornhub for enabling profiting from the sex-trafficking, as well as rape children and women, has also been signed by people from 192 countries.

The petition is based on evidence of numerous alleged cases of real videos of child rape, child trafficking, adult trafficking, abuse, and exploitation, all monetized on Pornhub.

The campaign has led to legislators in Canada and the US calling for investigations into Pornhub's parent company, MindGeek. A multi-party group of Canadian members of parliament also sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking the Canadian Government to investigate Pornhub and MindGeek. 

At the time when big tech CEOs were called to testify on Capitol Hill over antitrust and censorship concerns, and were criticised by President Donald Trump, adult websites seemed to have evaded the same level of scrutiny from lawmakers. Nowadays, porn is much less related to anything sinister, as it was for decades, despite numerous calls from psychologists, who are concerned about excessive media attention on the issue. However, thanks to that attention, topics like child rape and sex-trafficking appeared in the spot light, allowing governments to fight them.