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Rise Of DIY Porn in the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an inevitable cease to the workings of many industries and jobs. Over a year later, most sectors convalesce the economic hit as partial normalcy was reinstated and with it the return of mass operations like before. The Adult Entertainment industry, however, now paints a different picture. 

Given the nature of the job, pornography and other related workers faced the biggest blow in this pandemic. But as most jobs shifted online, professional pornstars too adapted to the change and commenced their operations virtually. This soon blossomed into a viable career option for pornstars as well as amateurs who are now steadily increasing their income with the availability of revenue-generating social media apps such as OnlyFans or Snapchat Premium.

Porn usage rose to tandem following the first lockdown in March 2020. India alone reportedly saw a 95% spike in porn consumption on PornHub, the biggest purveyor of online pornography, in the early months of lockdown. Research shows that the reason for this immediate surge could be the unforeseen abundant free time, boredom, or ‘using sex as a surviving mechanism for coping with their loneliness, depressive symptoms, and even fear of death’. 

While the need for pornography increased, production houses were unable to produce new and relevant content for the expanding users and their latest demands. Even PornHub decided to give all their existing premium content for free, but the user base fizzled out as quickly as it gained traction. As it turns out, the users were now invested in pay-to-watch platforms like OnlyFans with creators lined up to meet their requirements. 

The rise in the use of pay-to-watch platforms

The once proclaimed “recession-proof” pornography industry is again hanging by a loose thread, this time due to a global pandemic and the influx of pay-to-watch social media sites. In 2010, the era of DVDs and CDs, the biggest threat to the then traditional industry was the rapid surge of content piracy and new rival companies uploading their content online for free. The era that followed after was the fast-paced, mobile internet stage which resulted in ‘camming’ – wherein a camming model has a live interactive and immersive session with their viewers who tips the model based on their performance. 

“When people want content directly from a performer, they want something that’s authentic. They don’t want some big staged scene, they want something that feels like getting a glimpse into your life,” said a cam model to VICE in an interview. This want of ‘authenticity’ now is what experts say popularized platforms like OnlyFans or JustFor.Fans. Much like a variation and combination of camming, pay-to-watch platforms let creators conceptualize, create and sell their content directly to the fans. Although these sites aren’t new and the transformation happened in stages, the pandemic accelerated their growth tenfold. People isolated at home craved intimacy and connection even if it’s through a screen. “It breaks down the fourth wall and creates the idea that a viewer is more inclusive in the scene,” said a pornstar turned OnlyFans creator to GQ Magazine.

Many professional sex workers, escorts, porn stars, and webcam models were on the verge of unemployment or barely making ends meet as the productions halted. Then there were people with regular jobs, those out of the realm of sex work, who were either laid off or faced massive payment cutoffs. These professionals and amateurs alike migrated to the myriad of pay-to-watch platforms as a side hustle to stay afloat. Thousands of creators have figured out the extent of financial possibility with this new direct-to-customer venture. 

These pay-to-watch platforms are perceived ‘as a safe, consequence-free way of selling sex and home-grown porn’. Creators sell naked photographs or homemade porn clips to their fans captured usually on a mobile phone. The entire control over the DIY content lies with the creator – the creative freedom, the extent of nudity, comfort and more importantly finance. They can charge subscription fees for ‘exclusive content, put up pay-per-view posts, and generate income from tips and live streams.’ 

Not Easy Money

“The idea that people are just going to open up an OnlyFans account and start raking in the dough is really misguided,” said an associate professor of sociology to The New York Times. Many creators themselves admit the constant necessity to work to increase their social media popularity. In addition to creating content for their subscribers, they also have to be in touch with their users who pay for call/text requirements, figure out the changing algorithm and produce content based on that, maintain and boost presence on apps like Instagram and Twitter to stay relevant and more. Rising to popularity in a saturated market is challenging.

Despite this, there are creators who continue to only scrape by. A creator interviewed by The Insider shared, “A lot of people also think that sex work is easy money, quick money. And maybe in some cases that can happen, but especially not online work. It’s almost like being an Instagram influencer – you have to build that following before you can make that money. If no one is paying attention or knows what you’re doing, how are you going to sell that service?” 

DIY Pornography here to stay?

The Porn industry isn’t new to a health crisis outbreak after the late 1990s HIV epidemic that only momentarily upended the multibillion-dollar industry. The tale is now different, thanks to the pay-to-watch platforms. 

Even with its challenges, the virtual selling of content is a safe play. The creators are their own bosses. Many have earned triple their pre-pandemic monthly income in a matter of weeks. In commercial productions, porn artists are paid as per scenes with no royalties. “They get one-time payment for their scene. So if you’re not getting booked for scenes, you are not getting work, period,” an actor said to The Ringer. 

While some plan on returning to the set to gain popularity through commercial acts and using it to leverage their independent ventures, others plan to explore the limitless virtual opportunities. 

 

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About Authors

A Mass Media graduate with a freelance background in Content Writing and Photography. Currently working as the Junior Editor at The Ticket Fairy. (She/Her)

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