Thanks to that, COVID-19 hasn’t been good news for sex-focused businesses. Many have had to change up their offerings during lockdown in order to maintain their customer base.
As a result, online sex parties are having a heyday.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates Coronavirus news live
London members-only club Le Boudoir, which had to close its new permanent venue back in March just two days after opening, now offers digital orgies and live video chats for its members while it waits to re-open.
One of the UK’s longest-running sex parties, Xtasia (based in the Midlands), has gone digital with ‘Virtual Swingin’ – its series of live video parties, with themes ranging from men-only fetish parties to ‘Spanksgiving’ at the end of this month.
Then there’s the high-end, female-focused sex party company Killing Kittens, which secured a £170,000 government loan in July. The founder Emma Sayle says that she’ll use the funding to accelerate the company’s digital expansion, in light of the pandemic’s negative effect on sex parties.
So far, Killing Kittens offers its members virtual erotic dance performances and livestreams of couples and solo ‘kittens’ living out their sexual fantasies over Zoom. The website reports a 440% increase in traffic this lockdown and applications for new memberships have boomed.
While tickets for Killing Kittens’ pre-pandemic sex parties cost upwards of £150, its virtual events usually hover around the £20 mark. It’s a serious discount on what’s always been seen as exclusive – luxurious parties held in New York penthouses and St Tropez yachts.
Now, tickets for Xtasia’s virtual parties go for as little as £6 each. Has the pandemic made sex parties more accessible?
Dominatrix and women’s empowerment coach Madam Storm thinks so – but claims that it’s not just cheaper tickets that are encouraging people to explore their kinks online during lockdown.
Having worked in partnership with Ann Summers, she’s now been running Mistress Training classes online during lockdown and was ‘blown away’ by the amount of applications from women wanting to learn dominatrix techniques.
‘When I did the online workshop I said to them, by all means turn your camera off,’ she says.
‘Normally, to buy a ticket is a hurdle, to get on the train there is a second hurdle, to walk into the dungeon is a third hurdle. Now you can do it at home where you feel safe.
‘Around other people, you might be too nervous to ask questions. But at home on your keyboard, you’re like f*** it. You can ask a question anonymously.’
For would-be sex clubbers that are anxious to dip their toe into the world of kink, these online alternatives can be far less intimidating than showing up in person.
Sign up to New York-based global club New Society for Wellness (NSFW), which is offering a cheaper online version of its membership, and you can start slow – by watching others interact on screen or by using the chat function anonymously.
And like Madam Storm’s classes, many sex-focused businesses are tapping into the pandemic’s fondness for Zoom workshops, teaching practical sex tips and intimacy via the web.
Nottingham swingers’ club Purple Mamba Club and Xstasia offer arousal control workshops for men and dirty talk workshops. Killing Kittens runs workshops ranging from tantric sex and anal massage to less-intimidating life drawing classes.
It’s easy to assume that these online sex clubs are a practical substitute until we can go sex clubbing again in person. But even dating apps are getting involved, with the multiple-partner dating app Feeld now allowing virtual group chats (and more) for up to 40 people. The app has since had new members joining from over 70 countries.
Are online sex parties and workshops here to stay?
‘Absolutely,’ says Madam Storm.
‘Doing workshops online has put me in contact with people all around the world, in Germany, California, Jamaica.
‘A lot of the people who do online dominatrix workshops have high profile jobs or work in caring positions – one of mine recently was an NHS nurse – so they’re much more comfortable attending online.
‘I’ve also been doing a lot of dominatrix webcam training. Being online has created a new type of entrepreneur, who can dom on the side and keep that part of their life totally private.’
Lockdown hasn’t done our sex lives many favours. But making exploring our sexuality more accessible could be an unexpected upside.