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How coronavirus is impacting our sex lives
Via Pornhub

How coronavirus is impacting our sex lives

For some, not leaving the house is the perfect excuse for loads of shagging, but for sex workers losing income, the situation is increasingly bleak

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is having a massive, unpredictable effect on everyone’s psyche right now. From would-be preppers panic-buying toilet roll to old ladies wearing bags for life on their heads, nobody knows quite the right way to react. Global cases have now surpassed 125,000, and with little known about what’s next, we have entered an era of mass panic. Worldwide, schools, festivals, events and other gatherings are cancelled or closed, while the whole of Italy has gone into lockdown. Some panic is understandable. One unusual side effect, however – if not of the disease, then the mass hysteria – has been just how horny everyone has been.

The first sign that coronavirus was having an impact on the erotic landscape was when porn company CamSoda offered full access to their webcam services to people quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan. Just yesterday (March 12), Pornhub got in on the action, offering free premium content to Italians stuck in lockdown. Explaining CamSoda’s benevolent decision, vice president Daryn Parker said: “They are not only dealing with the fear of infection, which is terrifying, but boredom, We like cruises just as much as the next guy, but without activities or human interaction, the boredom must be crippling.” He’s right: it’s easy to feel bored, hopeless, and afraid when locked up. If we can make light of a terrifying situation and be distracted, what’s the harm?

So the rule goes: if it exists, there’s porn of it, so naturally, results for ‘coronavirus’ on Pornhub, xHamster, and similar streaming sites are extensive right now. The videos range from the overtly racist to the opportunistic to the informative, as in the case of user Little Squirtles’ “COVID-19 Coronavirus: Horny Slut Has to Use Protection During Outbreak!”, which aims to educate on proper protection. This video is something of an outlier – generally, the results seem to be a way of jumping on the only thing anyone can talk about: titles like “Coronavirus Pandemic, prohibition to kiss, my doctor give me facial cumshot” are fairly run-of-the-mill and low budget, conveying little other than the infinite possibilities of humanity’s capability to get horny under any circumstances.

These videos also epitomise the creativity of porn; when given new scenarios, outfits, and imagery – like quarantine, masks and infection – they manage to create something brand new from the original act of sin. Porn will always echo the current anxieties and concerns of the climate, so it’s no surprise that would come to include coronavirus. Silva Neves, psychotherapist and accredited member of COSRT, believes there could be more going on psychologically, telling Dazed that this kind of porn could even be a way to manage anxiety. “It would be interesting to see if the people who are watching this porn are already pretty high in anxiety to begin with,” he says.

Porn aside, there are other ways coronavirus fear is interacting with our sex lives. We’ve been warned against touching faces or shaking hands, and one scientist is suggesting we should stop public kissing, too, an opinion others have echoed. In a particularly dystopian twist, Tinder has even been warning people to “maintain social distance”. Millennials have already been accused of having less sex, instead absorbed with work, hobbies, side hustles, Netflix, and now coronavirus. Still, you can’t keep people apart, and we haven’t been warned off sex entirely.

While there’s nothing erotic about the threat of death or sickness – and although the likelihood of being able to go at it with coronavirus is low – many of us are spending a great deal of time inside. Even those of us who aren’t in self-isolation are choosing to avoid crowds and even work from home, meaning that there are very few distractions left. Netflix gets old quickly, and with little else to stimulate us, we might actually turn to reconnect with our partners. Sex is good, free, and doesn’t require leaving the house. Speaking to Dazed, sex educator Kaye Smith PhD says: “When there’s nothing else to do – no other distraction – sex becomes a favourite activity to pass the time. In the past, we have seen this happen, for example, in the days when there were long blackouts, there would be a peak in sexual activity.” She adds that we have previously also observed a rise in sexual activity in high anxiety periods “such as war time or political unrest”.

While there might be a peak in free sexual activity, sex workers are preparing for a major income loss. “I’ve lost a significant travel booking in Europe as a result of the virus,” reveals London-based sex worker Alice*. “I was banking on that income to get me through the next few months, especially as all London work has dried up too. I’m praying it gets rescheduled for when the worst is over, but it’s impossible to know right now as everyone’s so panicked and uncertain.” As the number of people self-isolating increases, and the fear of interacting with strangers – especially when it involves bodily fluids – is heightened, sex workers are bound to see a dip in business. Often self-employed, and not awarded the same rights as most workers, those in the sex industry won’t get things like sick pay to help when income runs low.

To tackle this, sex worker-led collective SWARM has started a hardship fund for UK sex workers “in financial crisis due to COVID-19”. Speaking to Dazed, SWARM member Cat said: “As more people stay home and avoid social contact, sex workers are seeing a fall in clients. In addition, sex workers are at risk ourselves and need to avoid in-person contact if we can afford to. Many sex workers are living in very precarious financial situations, living week-to-week without savings, family support, or access to adequate welfare benefits to support ourselves in times of crisis.” Writing on Twitter, the group explained that all donations “will go to the hardship fund to support sex workers in crisis”, adding that “it’s time to step up our efforts of mutual aid and solidarity”.

“Sex workers have historically been stigmatised as dangerous and spreading impurity, both moral and physical. We are often mischaracterized as vectors of disease that threaten morally ‘healthy’ populations” – Alice*, sex worker

“Sex workers have historically been stigmatised as dangerous and spreading impurity, both moral and physical,” Alice explains. “We are often mischaracterized as vectors of disease that threaten morally ‘healthy’ populations, and our bodies are policed as a result. This has always been especially true for workers of colour, and I know that Asian sex workers have been hit very hard by the racist discourse around the spread of corona.”

One adult profession that may see an increase in demand is camming. Able to work from home, and catering to a vastly-increasing audience of horny people trapped in their homes, cam girls – along with streaming services and, apparently, toilet roll providers – might get a boost in coronavirus-related business. While not everyone is lucky enough to be locked up with someone they want to have sex with, and dating new people is off the cards for many, camming provides viewers with an age-old outlet: masturbation. Just returned from a holiday and been forced into self-isolation? Well, then it follows that the best thing to do is engage in self-satisfaction: if you aren’t allowed to go out, talk to anyone or have sex, you may as well take care of number one. A recent article claims that masturbation can “help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick”. While not a recommended cure or vaccine for COVID-19, it never hurts – and if there’s not much on, you may as well while away the hours (and weeks and months) that will have the delirious, bored, cabin fever horniness of snow days.

“The narrative of a killer virus goes deep into the psyche of our primal drive for survival. Having sex, and therefore reproducing, when faced with death is an evolutionary instinct” – Kaye Smith, sex educator

Humans are innately horny creatures – even those notorious sexless millennials. As much as people are joking about coronavirus on Twitter, the situation is changing daily, and people are frightened. Empty shelves at supermarkets, enforced loneliness, and cancelled commitments are casting everything with a dystopian shadow, while fear of our own mortality is getting us deeply in touch with other primal feelings. Many studies have linked arousal to fear, especially a fear of our own deathSmith agrees: “The narrative of a killer virus goes deep into the psyche of our primal drive for survival. Having sex, and therefore reproducing, when faced with death is an evolutionary instinct. Sex is about intense pleasure and joy; death stories impact on wanting to experience pleasure now.”

Neves adds that there are other, more scientific reasons for our preoccupation with sex in these dire times. “Both fear, excitement, and sexual arousal activate the autonomic nervous system,” she explains. “When you’re afraid or horny, your heart races, your breathing quickens, and muscles get tense. Anxiety and sexual arousal are very similar, from a physiological perspective.” Essentially, it’s normal to be thinking about sex right now. However you choose to spend these weird, lonely days, exercise sensible precaution: while coronavirus doesn’t necessarily spread sexually, it does spread through other, sex-adjacent contact. As well as washing your hands and isolating yourself if you have any symptoms, donate to SWARM’s fund to help provide security to sex workers whose livelihoods are incredibly precarious right now. Stay safe, you horny freaks.

Donate to SWARM’s hardship fund here.

*Names have been changed