Let’s Talk About Sex: In An Online World

Filmmaker and visual Anthropologist, Lucía López speaks to three brand ambassadors of an online adult subscription platform about creating adult content for a digital audience….

If you’ve ever thought that making money by getting naked in front of a camera is easy  – or easy money, you probably haven’t considered the amount of work that goes into creating valuable NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content and the emotional connotations of the experience itself.

As a filmmaker and visual anthropology researcher with an extensive interest in women studies, sexual and cultural practices (I recently started LibidoTube, a youtube channel that offers a space for conversations around sex), when an opportunity arose to interview the brand ambassadors of adult subscription platform, sex.com, I couldn’t miss the chance. In a world where pornographic content creation is led mainly by men, the DotDolls (brand ambassadors) offered a refreshing stance on the subject – of empowerment, not oppression. These women are high profile content creators and entrepreneurs in their own right.

My conversation with Josy Black, Alissa Noir, and Leah Obscure offered much needed context to some of my questions about sex in an online world; What are the emotional implications of having to  meet the constant demands from their fans?, and how is their work relevant within the context of supporting mental health during the pandemic.

“I like to masturbate before I start filming to get in the mood,” shared Josy Black as casually as ordering her morning coffee. “the more I enjoy it, the more my fans will and that shows in the work, the energy that you have while producing is the energy that the fans are getting when they’re watching your video.” she added of how she gets in ‘the zone’ to prepare her content. Her openness and honesty didn’t surprise me, after all, speaking openly about sex normalises it.

When watching any type of audiovisual entertainment, we may take for granted what goes on behind the scenes. During the first wave of the pandemic, so many people were made redundant or went into furlough that reduced resources and plenty of spare time called for finding different creative outlets.

“We had a lot of new models asking for advice on how to set up their own accounts and tips for making videos,’ explains Alissa Noir.

At the same time gender violence cases have peaked, which could in part be due to the inability for most men to go to brothels and unleash their frustrations through the physicality of sex, hence the tendency for searching similar practices on the internet.‘Most times my fans just want to ask me what am I cooking for dinner in exchange for listening to their problems, I feel more like a therapist than a sex worker,’ admits Leah Obscure.

In a world of isolation and uncertainty, sex work has become a key contributor to our society, as well as a support system for the fans’ mental health, hence we should be able to look at sex workers from a different perspective. Firstly, they are full time entrepreneurs and content creators. Second, they have strong work ethics and a creative outlook into their personal and professional life – and let’s not forget they constitute the basis for the sexual fantasies of the vast majority of the population. So why does sex work so often on the receiving end of shaming?

‘Most people believe that I am just horny all the time and I am too lazy to get a real job,’ Josy Black explains. She has vocationally dedicated her career to pornography as she enjoys exhibiting her body and gets joy out of making people feel like they belong.

Sex expert and toy retailer UberKinky’s Ruby Payne has this view, “Some anti-porn campaigners argue that all porn is violent against women by nature, and that it perpetuates negative images and values.  I don’t necessarily agree. Whilst porn – at  least the  traditional ‘porn’ as we know it on free sites – is misogynistic, exploitative and often racist and transphobic, there have been moves in recent years towards ethically made porn, and porn by females for females.

By seeking out these sites – yes, you often have to pay for this content – you can masturbate with the peace of mind that no one was hurt, everyone consented, and everyone involved was protected and paid.”

“There are also a lot of people who think that because of your pornographic career, you are also an escort or dating your fans.” says Alissa Noir, who admits to being an extremely shy person and finding it difficult to interact with the fans sometimes.

For the DotDolls, this is a full time job where they are in charge of the whole production and distribution of their  videos, as well as fan engagement. But the task does not end there; most sex workers are willing to build a special connection with the customers, since being able to get direct feedback allows them to understand their needs as well as finding out what they enjoy the most. Nowadays, pornographic content is not only about sex but about the personal connection you can build with the person you are watching.

“There is definitely more room for intimacy, our fans just want to talk, they want to hear about your everyday life and they want to feel like they are with you, things that a normal girlfriend would do.’’ says Leah Obscure.

Online pornographic content can be seen as recreational entertainment as well as a therapeutic experience. How to reframe this narrative comes down to online platforms willing to support the creators as the legitimate workers they are.

Share your thoughts in the comment box below!

Written by Lucía López | @lucia.lobaz

Lucia Lopez is a filmmaker and Visual Anthropology MA student with extensive research on sexuality, cultural sex practices and women studies. She has recently started a YouTube channel LibidoTube in which she opens up a space for talking about how to have healthier sexual relationships and be more intimate, as well as offering tips and tricks for how to have more enjoyable experiences. 

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