How the pandemic boosts porn

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The COVID-19 pandemic left a devastating effect on many businesses but one industry that has largely benefitted from this global health crisis is pornography.

With government-issued lockdowns, many people turned to different sources of entertainment and the adult industry, which before now has largely moved online, provided an avenue for people to self-isolate and ease their sexual tension. In many places across the globe, porn sites have recorded an instant spike in consumption, particularly after social distancing measures were enforced.

There are several reasons why people watch porno videos, but the single most common and obvious reason is to gain pleasure.  Additionally, the psychological effect of the pandemic due to enforced social distancing rules led to an increase in social isolation, loneliness, boredom, and stress. According to research, these are typically conditions that encourage people to consume adult content as a way to cope with feelings of anxiety, boredom, stress or any other negative emotion.

Sanya Virani, a forensic psychiatry fellow at Brown University teamed up with a network of researchers at the Global Mental Health Think Tank to study how people in the city were coping with the anxiety and stress that the pandemic induced. Her finding was not surprising as the data showed an increase in porn consumption in different countries during the lockdown—with her home country, India, ranking highest.

“Covid-19 has changed everything. We have seen that there is a surprising relationship between the moment in which the confinement is declared in each country and its highest porn consumption,” said Virani in a report.

She also highlighted a period in August 2020 when Zoom, a virtual telecommunication platform, suffered a technical glitch that stopped it from working for nearly six hours. During this period, there was a nearly 7 per cent spike in pornography consumption.

“This can mean that when a person is in front of a screen and does not know what to do, he turns to pornography,” she added.

Social-distancing rules have prompted more changes in the porn industry asides from an increase in consumption. These physical restrictions that were aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus equally put a halt to filming new content at most adult production companies. Some studios have now resorted to editing and releasing previously recorded footage, but this is merely a temporal solution.

For many other studios, they have begun shipping out professional cameras, lighting rigs and production materials to adult actors who are quarantined together. This is to help these adult performers shoot and edit new content, while the production company provides virtual guidance, but the outcome is usually limited camera angles and rather raw production.

Despite such determined efforts by established producers to keep producing content, the lockdowns have encouraged freelance adult performers and smaller companies too. Now, adult actors are increasingly cutting out the need for producers or production companies by filming themselves using their smartphones and uploading the amateur video, which they completely own, to newly formed websites that encourage homemade adult content.

These so-called premium sites, allow viewers aged 18 and older to access content from different performers by paying a subscription fee. In turn, the platform collects a certain percentage from each performer’s revenue—which is usually around 20 per cent—and completely eliminates the need for middlemen.

Ella Hughes, a British porn star said since the pandemic began, she quit working with adult production companies and switched to using online premium adult sites—a decision that has changed has positively impacted her finances. Now, she earns $13 monthly from each of her subscribers, with some even paying an additional $40 to $500 for her to make bespoke homemade videos of herself. On some good weekends, she makes several of these exclusive bespoke videos, charging an even higher rate for additional requests like cosplaying, acting out a fantasy, or even calling out a viewer’s name.

Almost every adult performer have moved away from being solely reliant on producers and have now set up shop on these premium sites selling homemade content, especially since it has become more lucrative and has a larger audience, said Hughes.

During the early months of the pandemic, some mental health experts had warned that porn usage would dramatically increase, and this could lead to a further increase in psychological and mental health conditions already made difficult by the COVID-19 crisis.

However, according to a study led by Joshua Grubbs, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, these predictions were off target as there was no indication that people developed any additional mental or psychological health conditions due to their porn consumption. In fact, after a few months, porn usage had dropped back to pre-pandemic levels as people started to discover other ways to keep themselves occupied.