Jul 17, 2020

Green-Light for Porn Productions during COVID19 Shutdown

Reading time: 4 minutes

The Free Speech Coalition, the primary trade association for the adult entertainment industry, called for an industry-wide production hold back in mid-March.  In late April, they formed a special COVID-19 taskforce to investigate how we could resume filming safely during the COVID19 crisis.  Now, after nearly 2 months of research and discussion, they’ve released their findings and say filming can resume using the stringent safety guidelines they’ve suggested.

 

Their findings have been welcomed by production studios, many of which are either out of pre-covid content to release or expect to run out in the coming weeks. This is particularly important, as demand for pornographic content reaches an all-time high.  In a recent interview with Plus Magazine, CEO of Kink.com, Alison Boden, describes many of the obstacles and opportunities facing the porn industry during the current crisis.    

 

“We’re lucky to be in a business that people seek out in times like this,” Boden told Plus. “Unfortunately, production is hugely impacted and will be for some time. But, our sales have had a slight improvement. Folks are home and there are only so many things you can do. You can bake bread, you can watch Netflix, you can masturbate…”

 

FSC media spokesman Mike Stabile expands upon this point. “Porn falls into this weird place between necessity and luxury. Not only are we in a public health crisis, but we’re also in the middle of a financial crisis. You see a lot of traffic to free sites like Pornhub and xHamster because they are free.” Stabile adds that, in spite of financial hardship, paid services have also increased, explaining “Purchasing a porn subscription, even if only for a few months or so, is a small amount to spend to entertain yourself. Especially during lockdown when you’re not going out to a bar, you’re not taking someone out to dinner, you’re not renting a hotel room. In terms of return on investment, sexually, it’s a small amount of money.”

 

Sales of sex toys have also increased.  Stabile says they have gone up by 30-50 percent since March.  He says, “Initially, the sales were fairly basic — lower cost items, dildos and vibrators. However, they saw a surge in higher-priced items like advanced BDSM equipment with the arrival of the stimulus checks.”  Consumer choices like these give the FSC ample reason to be optimistic that the public will continue to find the adult industry… um… stimulating. 

 

This isn’t the first time the FSC has dealt with a health crisis. Though it was founded in 1991 to fight censorship, the FSC was largely responsible for establishing the protocols used in the adult industry today to halt the spread of HIV and other STIs.  When it became clear that the novel Coronavirus was unlikely to simply fade away by summer, the FSC assembled a task force consisting of performers, producers, workplace safety attorneys, infectious disease specialists, and an industrial hygienist and others.  They came together and established stringent guidelines for the safe reopening of productions.

 

However, as Stabile explains, containing COVID19 on set is much more complicated than HIV. “With an STI, you have limited points of contact where it can be transmitted. With COVID, it’s not just the person you’re performing with, it’s also the crew, the caterer, or the person whose house you’re renting.”  Though he’s quick to point out that discussions on health and safety “come naturally” to the adult film industry and that this is an opportunity to lead other industries by example.

 

“I think the things we’re discussing for our sets go far beyond anything they’ve ever thought about,” Stabile continues. “We’re almost like a graduate course in set safety. A lot of mainstream sets have never had to think about some of these issues before.”

 

After a thorough review , the FSC has finally released its “Preliminary Health and Safety Guidelines for Adult Film Production” and has released the nationwide production hold.  That doesn’t mean it should be business as usual on set.  “Production is going to proceed gingerly,” Stabile says.  The FSC’s 32-page document provides numerous suggestions for how mitigate risk. These protocols include mask-wearing, cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing, personal hygiene, and frequent testing for all on-set personnel. Also, production can only resume in jurisdictions where mainstream filming is once again allowed. 

 

Additionally, individual studios and producers will be providing their own safety plans addressing COVID-19 concerns for all involved with each shoot. Boden says that Kink crew members are already wearing gloves on set and will increase the use of PPE to include eye protection and face masks “if a scene were expected to have bodily fluids may be flying around.”

 

However, the FSC admits that there are still significant risks involved with resuming production. This is made worse because the porn industry is primarily concentrated in areas that are still experiencing rising infection rates - namely Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Southern Florida.  The safest way to create content is to limit the number of cast and crew as much as possible.  Solo content, or scenes between couples who live together being the safest, and group scenes and gang bangs presenting special challenges. 

 

Even Kink.com, which had previously seen BDSM as entirely a partner-driven genre has opted to create a new performer-driven channel called ““Kinky Bites.”  This channel is primarily shorter scenes created by performers in their homes, either solo, or with the kinky partners they continue to shelter in place with. “It’s really important to not put anyone’s safety at risk,” Boden says of the decision to move towards this kind of content. She has also experimented with directing scenes via video conference. 

 

Stabile also points to one production company that intends to shoot all of its upcoming productions outdoors using drones, with the director behind plexiglass.  Different studios are coming up with different strategies for how to keep their people safe going forward.  Experience with the AIDs epidemic will hopefully help create an environment that successfully balances people’s livelihoods with their health and safety more successfully than other industries.  That is the hope, anyway.