Eckburg: The pandemic changed our lives — our sex lives

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Collegian | Chloe Leline

(Graphic Illustration by Chloe Leline | The Collegian)

Bella Eckburg, Opinion Director

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

When you think about the pandemic shutting down the world, do you think about lube? Or porn? 

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Over the last two years, the pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including our sex lives. For some, staying home meant experimenting with toys or kinks. When you’re home for months working over Zoom, you’re bound to need some spice in your life. 

The sex industry experienced highs and lows amid the pandemic, with traditional sex work plummeting without safety regulations or security for the workers, especially because many sex workers are not offered the same aid as employees in other industries. 

On the other hand, those in online sex work saw an increase in destigmatization around their work and an increase in traffic, with OnlyFans revolutionizing that side of the industry. E-commerce boomed in a world functioning online, and online sex workers had the platform to completely reshape the porn industry, putting the profits directly into the hands of the creators instead of working through production companies or agencies. 

Additionally, this online shift likely changed many people’s views on sex work and creators, seeing sex work as a legitimate side hustle or full-time gig with real people behind the screen.

Creator-based online sex work feels more intimate, and the creators maintain more of a persona than just putting on a performance, like traditional porn. Supporting creators in this endeavor is extremely important, as it puts pressure on more mainstream porn industries to treat employees and people new to the industry with more respect. 

The sex and porn industries are tricky because of the lack of regulation, which puts performers at risk of being taken advantage of or even contracting a sexually transmitted infection. According to Psychology Today, only 17% of performers reported using condoms in heterosexual porn interactions, with some even feeling pressured to work without condoms to ensure employment security. 

Outside of the porn industry, the pandemic caused a ripple effect on sex businesses across the nation. 

The lube industry was heavily impacted by the pandemic, with many lubricant companies halting personal lubricant production and transitioning to making hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer industry could never have predicted a pandemic would hit, resulting in mass purchasing and hoarding of the sanitizing substance, and the lube industry literally slid in to assist in manufacturing. 

“Condoms and lube are not considered essential goods or items that need to be fully stocked at all times, and the pandemic showed us just how important safe sex is. Having a baby amid a crisis is the opposite of relaxing.”

When you enter the Book Ranch, an adult entertainment store, you’re greeted by friendly employees and a wall of multicolored dildos and vibrators of all shapes and sizes. In the center of the room sits a clear shelving system that’s home to all kinds of little trinkets and, of course, the centerpiece of every sexual experience: lube. 

As a result of this abrupt shift in production, even sex shops here in Fort Collins are struggling to source personal lubricant from the companies they previously relied on. With more hand sanitizer in circulation, they can only hope the recent slowing of COVID-19 infections will slide the lube businesses back into gear, helping all of us in our transition toward normalcy.

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Condoms and lube are not considered essential goods or items that need to be fully stocked at all times, and the pandemic showed us just how important safe sex is. Having a baby amid a crisis is the opposite of relaxing.

When a national lockdown was first announced and the world paused, many speculated everyone staying at home would result in a dramatic rise in birth rates in the country — a pandemic baby boom. Instead, the opposite happened.

“Sex sells, and it always has, regardless of whether COVID-19 is gripping the nation, and the industry has certainly passed the strain test.”

Birth rates dropped in the United States and across the globe. It quickly became clear that living with the stress and uncertainty of having everything you know flipped on its head was not very sexy.

The government and nonprofit organizations, like Planned Parenthood, are the biggest purchasers of condoms, so when everything shut down, condom sales plummeted, and they became harder to access for those relying on these items to maintain their sexual health. 

Whether you experimented by yourself or with partners throughout the pandemic, you’ve definitely witnessed the incredible shift the pandemic has had on the sex industry as a whole. Sex sells, and it always has, regardless of whether COVID-19 is gripping the nation, and the industry has certainly passed the strain test.

Reach Bella Eckburg at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @yaycolor.