words by Elle Stanger (she/they)
In the midst of this COVID pandemic and worldwide lockdowns, more of us are staying home and keeping company with our cells, laptops, and tv screens. Which means more porn watching and digital hookups. In this springtime of social distancing, even mainstream media sex-education experts began recommending folks masturbate and engage in digital and online sex.
Despite lockdowns and venue closures of state declared “non-essential” businesses, rent and bills are still due for millions of suddenly out-of-work Americans. As a longtime pornmaker myself, it comes as no surprise that pornmaking platforms and content selling sites have exploded with new scenes, performers, and clients. As a certified sex educator, I've watched as coronavirus has been a catalyst for new discussions about sexuality, consent, and privacy.
If you’re like many millennials who aim to support small businesses with good labor practices and gig economy workers, you might ask yourself, how does one support porn most ethically? For one, pay for your porn. “We were explicitly excluded from the small business stimulus bill. Funding [sex workers] in any way possible helps us maintain our business and keeps us creating!” says pro-domme Kimberly Kane.
When sex workers have the means to continue creating content, the benefits help stimulate society, sight unseen onscreen.
“Online sex workers make people feel special, alive, comfy, and horny when they are in their homes. Since we are all in our homes till further notice, it’s more relevant than ever to buy content from them,” says Barbary Rose on Twitter.
Porn’s benefits go beyond satisfying base sexual desire or physical need (although it can certainly do that).
“Since social distancing started, I've been providing more emotional labor than porn!” San Francisco based sex worker Byron Dubois exclaims. “We give people empathy, connection and a break from bad feelings in ways that can be hard to find. But we can't be there for you if we're not eating or get deplatformed so we need you to support us!”
Porn gets a bad rap from both religious fanatics and some well-intentioned feminists who claim that “all porn is abusive” despite the fact that porn has positive impacts on people’s sexuality when understood contextually as entertainment and for some, educational.
For many of us, porn is how we learned about our sexual orientation, or gender presentation. A happy buyer recently commented, “Watching your v/v porn made me feel validated in my queerness.”
The benefits of watching porn and exploring your sexuality persists in nearly all areas of our lives. Watching sex helps many of us alleviate stress, which boosts the immune system. Masturbation (even if you don’t orgasm) lends to better blood circulation and organ functioning while preventing genital atrophy.
Porn has positive impacts on people’s sexuality when understood contextually as entertainment and for some, educational.
The porn industry has also grown in such a way that it’s become an inclusive representation of all types of bodies, sexualities, and preferences. Maybe porn showed you your first cut or uncut penis, or that you’re not the only person with nipples like that.
That’s not to say porn doesn’t have negative impacts when it reinforces one type of dynamic, body image, or sexuality. Consider what values might be implicated if all porn was made by-and-for a straight, white, masculine, hetero viewer. Surely some of us have felt less than sexy because we didn’t measure up to somebody we saw on-screen. Haven’t you ever mimicked something you saw a sex worker do in porn because you thought that’s what sex was “supposed” to be like? Have you ever watched something and found yourself feeling not at all represented?
For our mental, sexual, and social health, porn must be as diverse in its portrayal of activities as it is in bodies, abilities, gender, and orientation. Queer porn is important to remind queer folks that they exist and are normal. Fat porn is important. Black and POC-directed porn is important. Trans porn is important. Porn created by people with physical disabilities is important. This is the content that is getting harder to create and to find.
For our mental, sexual & social health, porn must be as diverse in its portrayal of activities as it is in bodies, abilities, gender & orientation.
Since the passage of the anti-porn and online sex work bills known as FOSTA SESTA (which claim to fight child and sex trafficking, but don’t) in 2018, independent creators, queers, POC, and disabled sex workers are now more likely to be banned from social media. I’ve been deactivated twice from Instagram without any warning and was told I was “soliciting adult materials.” These bans make it impossible to advertise our services, make money, and, ultimately, survive.
Meanwhile, large porn companies with millions of followers are deemed “safer” and more “verifiable” by social media platforms than an independent creator. The thought being that an independent creator could be a victim of sex trafficking, so social media platforms will remove them rather than take the time to verify or ask.
In actuality, a bill purported to help victims of sex trafficking made real victims harder to find since so many consensual creators are now being scrutinized by the same standards as you would use for a victim of sex trafficking. Quite simply, criminalizing consensual sex work hurts a lot of people.
As a porn creator, I want people to know what real sex can and does look like. Sometimes I show a safeword negotiation; I don't cut all the scenes where I ask for lube or a lighter touch. My partners and I are able to discuss our STI history and our boundaries. Essentially, porn can be an amazing tool if you handle it ethically.
Supporting sex workers is important now and forever “because there will always be a market for it, and the more y’all support independent creators, the more ethical the sex industry will be,” adds sex worker Ellie Rae.
Let queers and independent makers survive in a time of quarantine. Pay for your porn. Request a commission. Be discrete in the transaction notes so we don’t get flagged. We thank you.
We donate 100% of the proceeds from our #SYLSW merch to The Cupcake Girls. In 2020, the non-profit organization had over 40,000 interactions and worked with 800 clients. Because of our generous partners and dedicated volunteer teams, we were able to offer over $1,200,000.00 in community resources and partner referrals.
Hiring a sex worker should always be an option, but in many places around the world — including all of the United States, except for a few counties in Nevada — sex work is criminalized.
Let's continue to fight for the decriminalization of consensual adult sex work so that our erotic laborers have safe spaces to support themselves and offer their services. Learn more about sex worker laws around the world.
How Sex Work Is Changing in the Pandemic via The Lily
Sex Work is Legitimate Work via DailyDot
HEAUXTHOTS by Suprihmbé
Lustery Real porn made by real couples
Frisk Safe subscription based platform run and owned by sex workers
SextPanther Find sex workers to text
AVNStars One of the only social media platforms dedicated solely to adult entertainment
Sex Worker Rights Around the World by Tara Michaela (she/her)
Redefining Activism by Kénta Xiadani Ch'umil (the/them)