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The impact of the coronavirus on the sex industry

The novel coronavirus has had an incredible impact on the entire world. There are many places to get information on the virus. There is plenty of misinformation out there too. In fact there is so much talk about Covid-19 online and off that I have considered avoiding the issue on this website entirely in order to offer a sort of respite to readers. But as I have been reporting on the commercial sex industry around the world for close to eight years it does seem appropriate to mention the impact the coronavirus is having on this particular aspect of the world economy.

Of course this is an ongoing and developing story. But I can write about what I know at the moment. Understandably the sex industry hasn’t been given a lot of coverage in the midst of the worldwide health crisis. But there are many people involved in the industry and they don’t simply disappear when something like this happens.

Sex workers and corona

So far studies seem to show that the novel coronavorus is most easily spread by close contact with infected people. That means that sex workers and their customers would be at particular risk of contracting Covid-19. I am not aware of any cases directly connected to sex work but it seems logical to assume that it certainly could happen.

Early on the rise of Covid-19 seemed to effect Chinese sex workers the most. As far back as early February sex workers of Chinese decent were bemoaning a major drop in business all around the world. A lot of it had more to do with fear that facts. One example of this is the sex worker of Chinese heritage who hadn’t been to China in almost a decade. Despite her lack of travel to the mainland she says her business still plummeted.

fake escort ad from new zealand

In New Zealand, some Chinese sex workers say they were pretending to be Japanese or Korean and offering major discounts to secure business. Apparently it didn’t help. One woman told the New Zealand Herald that business fell by fifty percent even after cutting her in half to $90 NZD a session. A spokesperson for the New Zealand Sex Workers Collective called these “extremely worrying times for sex workers.” That was over a month ago. Things can only be worse now.

Dancers working in strip clubs are also losing big. Many seem to be avoiding clubs all together where the clubs are even open at all. When people are told to keep their distance from others it hardly makes sense for punters to visit places where women do lap dances or give blowjobs after their shows. On the other than those who do their work behind a camera may see this crisis as a boon.

Adult performers and porn

On Twitter I have noticed a lot of corona virus related posts coming from porn stars and adult cam models. They range from temporary corona virus stay at home sales to messages urging a coming together of adult performers to weather the storm.

I can only image that adult cam sites will see a boost in visitors and perhaps even broadcasters as more people are asked to stay home. Yesterday the New York Post reported that business is booming for cam girls. That seems right though as things progress some may be more reticent to part with their hard earned cash.

It’s not all about money though. PornHub is offering free premium accounts to people under quarantine in Italy. The famous Japanese porn company Soft on Demand is offering 200 of its titles free of charge until March 31. That apparently led to the SOD website crashing so after the announcement. But it’s the thought that counts. Luckily Soft on Demand titles are still available on the English-language website R18 though they do come at a cost.

Bar closures in Thailand

People in the adult entertainment industry in Thailand have been complaining of low customer numbers since the beginning of the year 2020. To some extent this is to be expected. But the novel coronavirus has definitely had a major impact. Especially in February and March. Now things could get worse for those in the industry as a nationwide bar closure may take effect.

Months into the novel coronavirus outbreak a Covid-19 outbreak management committee in Thailand is being asked to consider closing all entertainment outlets including go go bars. There is no word if massage parlors will be shuttered assuming the closure goes through. According to the Bangkok Post, the idea is being proposed by the deputy prime minister and public health minister.

empty Bangkok airport

Readers may be familiar with the latter as he infamously suggested “fucking farang” should be kicked out of the country for not wearing masks in early February. In March a tweet went out from an account under the same minister’s name warning Thais to watch out as “many farang dress dirty and don’t shower“. That Twitter account was deleted soon after.

Bar or massage parlor closures may become somewhat of a moot point if travel bans continue to increase. Except for perhaps the sizeable number of people from around the world who live or work in Thailand full time. There is also a large local customer base in Thailand that would be effected. Most of all there are untold thousands of sex workers in Thailand and their families who rely on their income.

Adult entertainment in Europe

As I am writing this most entertainment related businesses are already closed across countries like Italy, Spain and France. That does include many adult entertainment and sex industry hot spots. The German FKK Artemis in Berlin has announced that it will remain closed until April 9. It is not alone. Wellcum in Austria has closed its doors until May 1.

Many of these shut downs are self imposed. But in some areas the closures are government enforced as “non-essential” businesses are ordered closed. For example Sexy Sauna Erotic Club in Prague has been ordered closed for thirty days by decree of the Czech government. I don’t have any special insight into these things but it seems to me more closures are probably coming.

Whither China?

As most know by now, Covid-19 first emerged in China. The city of Wuhan was locked down and many things were closed across China. What was shuttered ranged from crossings between Mainland China and Hong Kong to the casinos in Macau. Some closures have been reversed since then. Others remain in place.

China during coronavirus

In mid-March there were reports that workplaces and factories planned to reopen in Wuhan itself. In some other parts of China things got going earlier. At least officially. On February 20, casinos in Macau were allowed to reopen though many tables were closed in an attempt to keep distance between people. Some of Macau’s famous sex saunas were reportedly open for business too. A person on staff says Rio reopened around the same time but was very quiet.

Meanwhile, in Japan

Japan is certainly not immune from Covid-19. Some people have resorted to panic buying things like toilet paper and masks. Others have started working at home. The Japanese government has asked people to maintain distance from crowds and follow basic hygiene recommendations. But so far there hasn’t been any major lockdown enforced on the population.

Fuzoku businesses remain open in the land of the rising sun. But delivery health places like Tokyo Style are taking precautions by disinfecting their offices, requiring staff to wear masks, and measuring staff body temperatures. The foreigner friendly soapland Paradise in Yoshiwara is asking customers to wash their hands and use mouthwash upon entering the shop too.

On a lighter note there are reports of a male sex toy shortage in Japan. Several days ago Japanese twitter user kumahakumakuma7 uploaded a picture of a sign posted on a sex shop that reads “Due to the novel coronavirus, our supply of adult goods is low. Our next shipment is not expected until at least late April, so please make your purchase soon”.

Along with the picture came a caption: “Coronavirus, this is unforgivable! There are some lines you just don’t cross!” So even the sex toy shops are being hit hard. At least those stuck at home with nothing but their hands still have access to online onahole outlets like Kanojo Toys and Toy Demon. So all is not lost.

Update March 16, 2020: The prime minister of Thailand has rejected the call to close entertainment facilities. The mayor of Angeles City has ordered all bars in the city to close. Amsterdam has shuttered its famed red light districts.

Update March 17, 2020: The prime minister of Thailand has ordered all entertainment facilities in Bangkok including go go bars and massage parlors to close. The local government has closed all the bars and massage parlors in Pattaya. The government of Cambodia has ordered the closure of KTVs across the country.

Update March 18, 2020: Police have visited all the hostess bars of Phnom Penh and ordered them to close. The Department of Disease Control in Thailand is asking anyone who visited a Bangkok bar between March 9 and 10 to monitor themselves for 14 days and go to a hospital if they show symptoms of Covid-19.

Update March 19, 2020: The Provincial Police Commissioner has said that bars and KTVs in Sihanoukville will remain closed until further notice. Bars and KTVs have closed in Siem Reap as well. Amsterdam’s Prostitution Information Center has established an emergency fund for sex workers in the city. It aims to raise 6000 Euros ($6590 USD) and will distribute 40 Euros to those who apply.

Update March 21, 2020: It has been reported that the Miari red light district in Seoul is operating but entirely closed off to foreigners. In other news Emperor in Yangon has closed indefinitely due to the pandemic.

Update March 22, 2020: The government of Jakarta has declared an emergency. Entertainment facilities will be closed from Monday, March 23.

Update March 26, 2020: The government of Singapore has ordered all nightlife in the country closed until April 30.

Update April 3, 2020: Major sex saunas like Rio in Macau are again open and operating.

Update April 7, 2020: The government of Cambodia has ordered all massage parlors and saunas in the country to close.

Update April 22, 2020: The government of Singapore has extended the closure of entertainment facilities to June 1.

Update April 28, 2020: The government of Thailand has extended the state of emergency which requires bars and similar facilities to stay closed until May 31. A curfew remains in place.

Update May 9, 2020: Seoul, South Korea, has indefinitely closed more than 2000 hostess bars and nightclubs after an outbreak of COVID-19 was traced to a nightlife venue.

Update May 30, 2020: The government of Switzerland has announced that legal sex work can resume on June 6.

Update May 31, 2020: Most bars and KTVs in Cambodia appear to be open.

52 thoughts on “The impact of the coronavirus on the sex industry”

  1. Upside? My regular semi-pro has no other customers at her massage shop and would be happy with B1,000 a day from me.

    Downside: I’m outside the Land of Smiles looking in.

  2. Thanks, Rockit. I was wondering when you would weigh in on Covid-19. Like many, I’m now in the US for the foreseeable future and my 4-5 annual Asia trips are on hold. I especially hope Bangkok makes it through without too many permanent closures. Until my next trip, I’ll keep reading; thanks for keeping us informed and entertained. P

    1. Thanks for the comment P. I plan to keep publishing on schedule so there will be at least one post a week published here for the foreseeable future. It’s not much but it may at least give you something to read. Stay safe. Cheers.

    1. Yes travel is severely limited for many people right now. A large new casino opened in Macau and reportedly only had a handful of customers. Cheers.

    1. Thanks for the update Marco. I too have seen that news. Apparently the measure was rejected before a meeting was even held. We will see what happens in the future. Cheers.

  3. The hostess bars of Ho Chi Minh City are reportedly shuttered. There are also reports that some hostess bars in Phnom Penh are closing voluntarily. Though large corporate bars like Hard Rock are apparently open for business.

  4. The Prime Minister of Thailand has now ordered all entertainment facilities in Bangkok to close. That includes bars and massage parlors.

    1. I’ll bet Smooci is doing brisk business. Any way to verify? A Pinay regular who is no longer in the UAE is pleading for me to visit her in Cebu, while my Viet fave in DXB says she’s still able to pay house calls to hotels despite the parlors and bars closing down.

      1. I don’t have any special insight. There were rumors that some escorts were refusing customers with Chinese sounding names and outcalls in areas popular with Chinese people early on. Now a lot more places are closed. And several places are virtually locked down. I can’t imagine that’s good for business. Though sex toy sellers are apparently doing brisk trade. Cheers.

  5. What the hell are all those sidelined workers going to do, to put food on the table and survive while this is going on? The consequences of this could ripple on for years, even after the virus calms down.

  6. I happen to have a spreadsheet of sex-industry providers across multiple countries (for planning — and because I’m a data nerd) so out of curiosity over the past three days I checked which have posted coronavirus-related changes in policy, and with what reasons. A sample of results:

    * Hong Kong, erotic massage, 9 sites — no statements.
    * Japan, Tokyo Escort Massage — statement has vanished.
    * Copenhagen, erotic massage, 4 sites — no statements.
    * Amsterdam, erotic massage, 4 sites — no statements.
    * Vienna, erotic massage, 5 sites no statement, 1 closed.
    * Vienna, massage/brothel, 1 site no statement, 2 closed.
    * Hesse region of Germany, FKK, 6 of 9 have statements re: closure by government decree.
    * Frankfurt, erotic massage, 8 sites – no statements.
    * Prague, erotic massage, 21 sites — 2 closure, 3 enhanced cleaning.
    * Budapest, erotic massage, 4 sites — 1 closure, 1 enhanced cleaning.
    * Krakow, erotic massage, 4 sites — 1 enhanced cleaning.
    * Lisbon, erotic massage, 10 sites — 4 closures.
    * Greater Toronto Area, erotic massage, 24 sites — 6 closure, 4 enhanced cleaning.
    * Montreal, strip clubs , 6 sites — 1 closed by government decree.

    1. Thanks for the detailed report Bob. Even at the best of times a lot of adult industry websites are rarely updated. I don’t know what we can expect these days. Cheers.

      1. Any site that has a weekly schedule (for example, the Canada body-rub parlors) I will assume is being updated; where there are alerts, they’re usually a homepage pop-up (easy to do with a turnkey CMS) — but true, I can’t assume that “no news is good news”. In my analysis I’m interested in patterns of “what kinds of business” (an FKK has more mingling than an erotic massage salon, where “you won’t see any other patrons” is a selling point), “what impetus” (self-imposed or government decree), and “what response”. With GTA, I’ll have to run a second scan to see if the subset that opted for enhanced cleaning has closed outright.

        1. Some places in countries like Thailand haven’t updated their website yet are claiming to be “unofficially open” on social media. Cheers.

  7. If everyone just stayed home for one month, this unfortunate situation would be over faster that you could say “I’m bored”. It’s a small price to pay, then life would resume as normal.

    But folks insist on going out and/or mingling even during a literal pandemic. Which means the virus keeps spreading left and right.

    Anyone who thinks this will be over soon is fooling himself. This virus isn’t going anywhere. It will keep doing the rounds, until someone comes up with either an effective drug or a vaccine.

    My guess is this lasts for the whole of 2020 and the better part of 2021. Until the magic pill comes along, there’s absolutely no way to contain it. People just aren’t that smart/disciplined.

    1. It certainly seems as if a lot of this will go on for a while. We will see what will happen. For now much of the sex industry is shut down. Yet there are still many places operating unofficially in cities like Bangkok and Pattaya. Some independent escorts continue to work all around the world too. Even in places that are supposedly under lockdown. Cheers.

      1. I made it back to the LoS under the wire (all new arrivals denied). Two days back I met my semi-pro lady at a nearby shop that was opened just for us. The owner, an old lady, smiled and said “No Covid!” as she offered me hand sanitizer and my honey led me upstairs.

        With the new, even stricter guidance coming from the Chief, I’m a little reluctant to go back to the well, but the siren call of delicious Thai flesh leaves me like Ulysses lashed to the mast….

        1. Thanks for the update Jack. I understand the draw of ready and waiting women. It seems that despite everything many are still anxious to ply their trade too. Cheers.

        2. For entertainment purposes only I’ve been testing my social apps. One FL masseuse says she’s available but that short time hotels won’t accept foreigners. Another tells me she can meet me anytime at one of several places, with parking, as long as I’m “healthy”. And my semi-pro wants me to visit her at least weekly since her plans to go upcountry for the holidays have been put on ice.

          Smooci still seems to accept bookings although I haven’t actually tried to place an order. It presumes you’re ordering takeout, which in my case is not an option.

  8. It would appear that some establishments in the LOS are opening back up. I’m surprised. Analisa sent me a Line inviting me to make bookings, either in or outcall.

    Probably not a great idea, unless one has built up an immunity…

    1. Thanks for the report. A few places never actually closed. And they aren’t so discreet about the fact. There’s talk now of a curfew and other possible measures. We will see what happens. Cheers.

      1. Where please ^^ Indeed Analisa seems to accept booking atm.. On sunday 22 few days after the inital closure some Ruanthai lady on soi 24 were still trying to attract passerby in the afternoon but a few walks around Phrom Phong evening time these past few days didn’t reveal much sign of life .. Any tips ? Thanks

        1. There are quite a few shops in Bangkok that are still in operation either through incall or outcall. Of course I don’t offer tips or advice as this website is only for entertainment. Generally the safest bet is to follow local laws and the advice of medical professional. Cheers.

  9. The curfew came down last night, so I guess that would minimize the middle of the night booty calls. But I have plenty of options for ordering takeout – as long as she arrives before 10PM and leaves after 4AM…

    I’m working the social app angle, for now. Chatting with nice Thai gals who are as frustrated staying indoors as I am, so that when we can finally go out at least one of them will be interested in having the coffee I invited them to in bed…

    1. Thanks for the update. Interestingly enough a few massage parlors in Bangkok announced outcall service availability just as the curfew went into effect. Cheers.

      1. Yep. One escort shop told me that as long as the order is able to accommodate the girl’s need to be off the street between 10PM and 4AM there are few other restrictions.

        A fine way to pass quarantining for those with deep pockets and some courage.

        I’m sticking with my semi-pro gal for now.

      1. I was checked for only temperature at saunas in Hochimin in Feb. Some spas didnt even do that.

        In March and April p4p scenes in Seoul are surprisingly active. Some papasans say all the girls are checked regularly at the clinics for the virus but hard to believe. The customers only get checked for temperature here. Asymptomatic patients can still infect other people. So I am very afraid to go there now. But p4p professionals must be taking chance despite the risk here. Many Thai girls haven’t gone home. They seem to prefer staying in Koreaand make money. I haven’t used any service lately but it seems you have to wear a mask during the session. Most of the ads or papasans seem to suggest the virus doesn’t spread orally or genitally but only by breathing and infected hands that can be sanitized at the entrance. I am scared to take chance here but I am also tempted as less people are using the service, meaning it is easier to book now. Normally, it is very hard to book due to so much screening on the phone to see you are not a cop. I can’t wait to go mongering again when this pandemic is over:( Cheers!

        1. Thanks for the update Deca. I am glad to hear from you. Several places are still doing outcall service in major cities like Bangkok and Tokyo. The saunas in Macau are also open. So far the science seems to suggest the virus can be spread through bodily fluids and even feces. Stay safe. Cheers.

        2. Thais may not be leaving Korea or other locations for multiple reasons. If hey aren’t getting kicked out for immigration issues, they probably have access to better public health in say Korea or Dubai than they might back home.

          Plus, new arrivals are being prevented by airport authorities, even Thai nationals. And yes, although the virus may not pass through things like semen apparently it does via feces. And the close contact required by even a massage is a good way to pass along a virus you don’t even know you have.

          Predicting the sweet spot of when we are coming out of this pandemic but before the tourists return would be a talent Warren Buffet would envy.

  10. My update:

    1. Semi pro gal pal remains a fortnightly visit, allowing me time in between to make sure neither of us has The Covid. If it were up to her it would be daily.

    2. Some well known shops are open even to incall, while others have advertised special outcall menus. Most of the specialty shops reviewed by Rockit remain shuttered or at least arent advertising openly.

    3. Independents are setting their own rules. One Malay/Filipina is trying to sell me an hour of cam sex for USD150 until the pandemic recedes. Another pure Thai who features prominently on an escort babe site has not let up, and sends me short clips of her banging clients on a 3x weekly basis.

    1. Thanks for the detailed update Jack. I’d like to know more about the Thai escort. Feel free to send me the info! Cheers.

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