Let's get digital
BY CORY B
In the era of social distancing, folks are finding creative ways to stay connected. But for the non-monogamous and kink communities, staying connected isn’t just an option, it’s an integral part of their lifestyle.
When dozens of sex parties were cancelled in mid March, organizers had a choice: go dark or go digital. While many have opted for the former, a few have created online spaces for people to dress up (or down) and connect with their fellow heathens in “Zoom orgies.” Many sex workers have also transitioned to digital work. And sex educators, too, have had to adapt their careers to being completely online-friendly. Having experienced some of these changes first hand, I reached out to some friends and organizers to take a deeper dive into the world of digital sex in the age of quarantine.
One of the most successful events that has gone digital is Playscapes, a monthly sex party that welcomes the ethically non-monogamous and kink communities. Back in March, organizers Shay and Ross put their heads together and decided to throw one of the first Zoom sex parties of the era. They’re now offering a monthly digital space for “a group of around 60 sex-positive folks to come together to play fun games, watch sexy performances, and engage in a ton of secret flirting in the chats.”
Playscapes maintains its commitment to safety by requiring that attendees take an online consent quiz (in lieu of the normal consent workshop given at each event) and turn their webcams on for the entirety of their time in the chat.
And, while these parties are giving folks a sexy space to connect, they’re also doing wonders to support struggling members of the nightlife community.
“We have had tons of viewers reach out expressing how lonely the quarantine has been and how lovely it is to have an excuse to get sexy and have some fun.”
“The focus and goal of our event is to give back to the community, specifically the performers who make our in-person events so special,” explains Shay. “The performers we choose are people that may have lost their jobs or are otherwise out of gigs, so this extra income is really helpful for their wellbeing.”
While some digital orgies are charging flat rates for entry, Playscapes has a no-minimum, donation-based model in order to encourage attendees to generously tip the performers. Not only has this helped support artists, it’s also holding space for connection among those who enjoy attending the events. “We have had tons of viewers reach out expressing how lonely the quarantine has been and how lovely it is to have an excuse to get sexy and have some fun.”
Nightlife performers aren’t the only people who have had to temporarily shift their careers. Many sex workers are offering fully digital services, causing an explosion of sign ups on membership sites like OnlyFans and AVN Stars. Skye Blue, and erotic actress, model, and artist, has been pushed, like many others, to transition all of her work online. And while she has been able to translate much of her success doing in-person work, it hasn't been easy.
“Switching into doing only online work has been very stressful,” she says. “Instead of having an unintended holiday like some people, I’m working even more than I was before.”
She has also run into some challenges with engaging her fan base, having been becoming accustomed to performing with male talent in the past. “Because of the lockdown and a recent breakup, I’m not able to do that at the moment, so coming up with ways to still keep that want satisfied without actually having to have a male performer with me has been interesting!”
However, there are benefits, including the opportunity to connect with other sex workers. “We have come up with fun ideas, such as FaceTime dates where we record the date to sell as content,” she says.
“Over all, it’s great to have the freedom to make your own schedule and work when you want, and create what you want.” That artistic freedom is clearly paying off: Skye was recently one of the top trending searches on PornHub, and her popularity and following are growing daily.
Sex workers are truly some of the most creative professionals out there, and while quarantine poses some serious drawbacks, it’s also allowing for bigger and bolder ideas that will likely change the way online sex work exists going forward.
Last but not least, the world of sex education has taken a massive hit in the wake of quarantine. Cameron Glover, certified sex educator, business coach, and founder of Successful Sex Ed, has overseen and guided sex educators as they transition their businesses online.
“Sex educators are pivoting and investing more in using video-streaming and webinar-hosting platforms, and media (podcast, video platforms),” she says. While this transition can globalize an educator’s audience, She adds: “Sex educators don't get the same support or resources for how their work can transition into a sustainable business.”
This is why she is filling in that gap as a sex ed business coach. Although this rush to go digital has been tough for many, it’s a push that has been a long time coming. “A lot of sex educators underestimated the value of not just creating community online but understanding how to utilize digital tools to reach their audience and monetize their work, and the proof is in the pudding now.”
"There is no digital replacement for human touch ... but the desire to connect with one’s community is strong."
It’s clear that sex ed will continue to live on digitally, and Cameron suggests that educators “take the time to invest in the tools that do support the work they're doing, and think about the longevity of what they're creating.”
Every single community on the planet has felt the effects of this mass physical distancing, and the sex-positive communities are certainly not immune to these changes. While many clubs and individuals are unable to go digital, those that have taken the plunge have had their creativity and motivation tested. Ultimately, there is no digital replacement for human touch, which is largely expected and often required in the areas of sex parties, sex work, and education. But the desire to connect with one’s community is strong.
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