Whether we like it or not, 2020 is a year that will go down in history. With each month bringing new challenges for humanity to face across the globe, not least of which is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, going “back to normal” seems like less and less of an option. Lockdowns and government-endorsed quarantines not only test the very systems that uphold our society, but expose once and for all which industries are truly essential to mankind. And while once stalwart monoliths of economy fall one by one like dominoes (or are otherwise bailed out by federal aid), one unlikely hero not only withstands the plague, but thrives in it: yes, I’m talking about adult entertainment. Specifically, adult chat sites.

Our already well-established cyber-culture, replete with multiple avenues for online socialization, ensured that the transition from real-life meetups to online ones was both natural and inevitable.

While this may sound like plain common sense for many, the use of masturbation in place of the traditional hook-up is actually being endorsed by government health officials in the wake of COVID-19. In March of this year, shortly after quarantines began, the New York City Health Department issued an official guide on practicing safe sex during the pandemic. Essentially, these guidelines boil down to three ground rules:

  1. Limit sexual contact to partners you already live with.
  2. Avoid hookups and group sex.
  3. You are your safest sex partner.

The agency even recommended video chat sites as a safe alternative to in-person encounters and this recommendation still stands in the updated guide they released just this month.

As a result of the lockdowns, the internet’s best adult chat sites, including Streamate, began reporting record sign-ups and traffic volumes. But as March turned to April, and later to May, the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel grew even further away. Mere isolation and boredom gave way to unease and anxiety as layoffs and mass closures meant crippling financial insecurity for many. While some can simply continue their current position at home, or brave the outside world as essential workers, those left behind by the labor crisis have limited options available for coronavirus-proof employment. Thus, the conditions for a perfect enterprisal storm swept the globe.

Without the usual haunts–movie theaters, shopping malls, bustling beaches, outdoor parks, and other oases of good living–people turned to their computer screens en masse to fill the void. Online shopping, online streaming, and of course, online sex, became the new normal. Amidst the fear and insecurity brought on by the pandemic, there emerged a renewed interest in self-love. And while cheery PSAs from beloved internet micro-celebrities encouraged us all to #stayhome and bake bread, make whipped coffee, and grow window gardens from vegetable scraps, the adult industry opted for a more straightforward approach and flourished as a result.

Enter an unprecedented influx of brand new cam models (and even established veterans forced to make the switch to online entertainment) and we now have an ideal supply to meet the industry’s blossoming demand.

As such, even mainstream society is now being forced to acknowledge the ubiquity of sex workers among their community. Rolling Stone published an article about it, Beyonce sang about it, and there’s even memes about it! That’s right, the notorious NSFW-friendly subscription site, OnlyFans, is a total cultural takeover and a true testament to the explosive evolution of adult entertainment in recent times. The bitter irony of it all is that, at least in the US, the archetypal “OnlyFans girl” is the cheeky punchline to a very dark joke:

What do you get when you mix isolation and habitual consumerism?