The impact of the coronavirus on the sex industry

Smooci

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.

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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.

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