How COVID 19 Has Changed Porn Forever

What you imagine a porn set might look like – with its lights, sound equipment, directors, and cameramen – will be a thing of the past much sooner than you think.

The COVID 19 pandemic has accelerated a long-term trend in the industry – the rise of subscription-based social media sites like OnlyFans and ManyVids.

Even with the hope of imminent vaccines, experts say the industry will never be the same again.

Coronavirus has created havoc in the porn industry. Production on films and big releases have been delayed, and safety regulations are imposing near insurmountable impediments to sex scenes.

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the trade association representing the industry in the United States and Canada, had called for a shutdown of all productions last March. The UK adult film industry faced similar closures at around the same time.

But when Los Angeles County began re-issuing film permits to Hollywood’s big mainstream studios last June, the FSC hastily followed suit, lifting its own production restrictions.

This was even as FSC spokesperson Mike Stabile admitted that the organization did not believe it was safe to start shooting porn films yet.

The lifting of the production moratorium, Stabile later told Rolling Stone, was motivated more by the principles of harm reduction than anything else.

“We knew there were a lot of independent producers facing choices about whether they would survive financially,” says Stabile. “Our plan all along was to provide guidance for the ways to reduce the risk, while making clear you can’t get close to eliminating the risk.”

Even with vaccines forthcoming, experts say the industry will never be the same again.
Even with vaccines forthcoming, experts say the industry will never be the same again.

Porn in the Midst of a Pandemic

Within its rather nebulous COVID policy framework, the FSC rolled out a list of guidelines and protocols for performers and crew members.

These required performers and crew to wear masks on set even though performers are not required to wear masks on-camera!

The FSC likewise encouraged performers and crew members to obtain COVID-19 tests 24 hours in advance of shooting a scene.

The organization announced it would oversee the tests under the industry’s Performer Availability Screening Service (PASS) – the same facility it uses to screen performers for HIV.

In the adult film industry, when people get tested and get a negative result, they get a green check next to their names. If they test positive or don’t take the test, they get a red X. The PASS database is accessible online.

The FSC encouraged performers and crew members to obtain COVID-19 tests 24 hours in advance of shooting a scene.
(Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Health/Wikimedia Commons)

Going the Extra Mile

Some of the big porn studios took the safety protocols a step or two further. They began monitoring performers’ social media accounts, just to ensure that performers are following lockdown regulations.

Industry and media reports suggest that one or two companies even prohibited porn stars and crew alike from using rideshares such as Uber.

Still others paid to have performers quarantined in a hotel overnight after their tests COVID and STD tests cleared.

Safety regulations on the set established a second, more difficult hurdle for filmmakers and directors, in particular. The FSC guidelines imposed a limit on the number of people on the set to a handful of performers and crew members.

This meant that, for many of the so-called mainstream porn companies, gangbang and group sex videos with four or more people were out of the question.

“We will be sticking to commissioning basic sex scenes between two partners,” said Ryan Cash, the production director for Brazzers, which is still not currently shooting.

Many producers went so far as to ban sex acts that involved the exchange of copious bodily fluids, such as spitting, kissing, urination, or squirting.

Many producers went so far as to ban sex acts that involved the exchange of copious bodily fluids, such as spitting, kissing, urination, or squirting.
Many producers went so far as to ban sex acts that involved the exchange of copious bodily fluids, such as spitting, kissing, urination, or squirting.

The Makings of a Disaster

But all these reassuring policies proved useless after a number of the clinics under the industry’s PASS clearance scheme failed to incorporate COVID tests into their systems.

With studio backlogs piling up and bank accounts dwindling, many performers and crew members decided to go ahead and use independent companies to obtain health clearances. Many of these service providers had no FSC certifications.

“This scenario quickly turned into a disaster,” says adult film star Cherie DeVille. “On July 31, the Free Speech Coalition announced that several crewmembers contracted COVID-19 on set.”

The FSC rushed to get the situation under control as many companies had already started production, sharing stars and crew members from a relatively small pool of talent.

However, the organization’s leadership soon realized that they simply didn’t have the resources – or the political influence – to check a possible outbreak. 

In July, the FSC announced that several crewmembers contracted COVID-19 on set.
In July, the FSC announced that several crewmembers contracted COVID-19 on set.
(Photo: Naughty American/Wikimedia Commons)

This was happening even as Republicans led by Mark Meadows were urging Attorney General Bill Barr to crack down on the industry on the basis of COVID risks.

“Because the testing was done outside of PASS, there has not been adequate accounting of the incidents or ease of tracing the results,” an FSC representative said of the recent infections.

“We do not know the identities of the performers or crew involved, but the lack of disclosure around such incidents is concerning.”

The ensuing chaos, along with increasing apprehensions around the transparency of clinics outside the PASS scheme, forced many performers to re-evaluate their options.

There was a killer disease loose, and few wanted to risk going back to work even though the FSC hadn’t imposed a new moratorium.

Porn performers are independent contractors, meaning that they typically do not have health insurance or paid sick leave should they become ill. Like independent contractors in other industries, COVID-19 could have a tremendous impact on their finances.

For this reason, many performers are still “really hesitant to return to set,” says Stabile.

Fortunately, many performers already have alternative – and often better – forms of revenue, such as camming and making custom content for fans on social media subscription sites.

Many performers are still “really hesitant to return to set."
Many performers are still “really hesitant to return to set.”

Big Porn Studios Face Extinction

Oliver Carter, a professor of media and cultural theory at Birmingham University, suggests we may already be getting a glimpse of what the post-pandemic industry will look like.

“What’s been most interesting to me is seeing the means of production change from being owned by predominantly white, middle-aged men to being owned by the performers themselves,” Carter told Wired recently.

“The ones who would receive that one-off payment are now the ones who actually own the intellectual copyright for their own productions because they’re shooting it.”

Monica Huldt – a.k.a. Miss Swedish Bella – is one of the top-earning creators on OnlyFans. Business Insider reports that the model brings in more than $100,000 a year.

She makes the bulk of her money through the fees she chargers for commissioned work sent though private messages.

Monica Huldt – a.k.a. Miss Swedish Bella - is one of the top-earning creators on OnlyFans.
Monica Huldt – a.k.a. Miss Swedish Bella – is one of the top-earning creators on OnlyFans. (Photo: Monica Huldt/Twitter)

Even before the pandemic, sites like OnlyFans had already been on the rise and, along with Pornhub, were changing the porn industry. Now, industry insiders say these sites are set to dominate the industry for good.

Stabile claims the FSC has been encouraging a shift in this direction all along, adding the organization has offered to promote performers as they make the transition. 

“This is an unprecedented situation, and like all industries, we’re going to have to find a way through this, and help our performers and producers survive,” he says.

What’s your story? Are you going to miss the way the big porn studios made your adult entertainment or are you all in with the new industry arrangements? Leave your comments below.  


Photo Credits: Wallhere and Miss Sweedish Bella (@BellaSweedish/Twitter)

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