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The Lust Report: Has the pandemic shifted how women feel about sex & pleasure?

The Lust Report: Has the pandemic shifted how women feel about sex & pleasure?

Erika Lust | March 11, 2022 | 8 min. read

We’ve dug through Erika Lust Films statistics and discovered a pandemic-induced shift: more people, and especially more women, are signing up to our platforms amongst other changes in user behaviour. Studies reinforce our suspicions: the pandemic seems to increase sexual satisfaction and normalise female masturbation as a mental health need. Meanwhile sexual and emotional communication in partnerships is on the rise. Could this be the end of the taboo around female pleasure?

Our explorations and studies of female pleasure in honour of International Women’s Day have taken us on an arc across time in my article “Tracing Female Pleasure: What can we learn from our history?”. As the first months of 2022 are coming to a close, I couldn’t help but wonder, how the most recent, major global event in human history has influenced female pleasure: Has COVID-19 changed how women feel about sex & pleasure?

The pandemic has been challenging in many ways for us. With women all over the world spending significantly more time at home alone, with their families or with their partners, I could think of a number of reasons that might affect their sexual satisfaction, both positively and negatively.

In January of this year, my team presented our marketing statistics from the past two years across our platforms and the results affirmed my suspicions. When the pandemic hit, for the first year our subscriptions increased exponentially. XConfessions saw a 45% rise in subscriptions, Lust Cinema a 50% increase and Else Cinema exploded with a 65% increase in subscriptions.

Another shift that we documented was that people were spending significantly more time on our platforms. Last but not least, we documented that our female user rate increased drastically. We’ve always been a popular place for women looking for porn & educational content about sex & sexuality. But we’ve never had a higher increase of female users than we had during the pandemic.

I decided to find out what had caused these positive changes in Erika Lust Films and to dig deeper into our statistics. For those of you who don’t know this about me, I hold a degree in political science which left me with a kink for scientific research. After looking at our own data, I started researching online. I noticed that the numbers we gathered on our platforms matched the experiences of other sexual wellness brands, especially female-focused sexual wellness brands.

The Kinsey Institute and sexual wellness company Lovehoney published a survey in June 2021 to uncover the impact of COVID-19 on Americans’ sex lives. The researchers found that both single people and people in relationships reported a mix of how their sex lives changed, but the majority of people surveyed reported that they are more sexually satisfied than before.

Why are many people and especially women more sexually satisfied since COVID-19?

People have started communicating more about sex with their partners

One big reason for increased sexual well-being seems to be communication. I have always advocated for communication as being the most important part of sex. This is why in 2018, I created The XConfessions App. The app is designed to make it easier for partners to talk about kinks and fantasies. During the pandemic, the XC App gained over 100.000 new users. The Kinsey Institute and Lovehoney report are reinforcing the Lust Report: 44% of couples cited communicating more with their partner as the tried-and-true solution for dealing with sexual and relationship problems that emerged during the pandemic. Over half of couples (51%) say their partner meets their sexual ideals now more than before and 42% say they now have an easier time telling their partner what they want sexually.

People are more experimental (especially when it comes to kinky stuff)

It is also documented that through better and more communication, a lot of people (51%) got more experimental in the bedroom. The Lust Report approves! In 2020 I started the series Kink XXX-Plainer on the Lust Zine. During the pandemic, the Kink XXX-Plainer gained a lot of popularity. This is also in line with the survey. 73% of those who experienced a shift say they are now more interested in bringing kink into the bedroom, and couples are leading the shift. A majority of Americans (52%) said they tried at least one new sexual activity such as sharing sexual fantasies or using sex toys.

Governments and organisations have started to include a positive narrative around masturbation in health recommendations & guidelines

In 2019 I had the immense pleasure of interviewing female masturbation advocate and feminist icon Dr. Betty Dodson. Betty, who passed away at the age of 91 in 2020, had been advocating to normalise and prioritise self-pleasure for over 50 years. In her interview, Betty told me, “Masturbation is the foundation of all human sexuality”. And that really stuck with me. She also told me that unlike what we’ve been made to believe, “women are bottomless pits of sexual energy.”

I wonder what Dr. Dodson would have to say that over 40% of people reported masturbating more because of COVID-19. If we break that down by gender, we learn that 37.5% of women are masturbating more. Because of the pandemic, governments, public health units, and other organisations have had to put out guidance around sexual behaviour which have created a surprisingly positive narrative in many countries: the guidelines often highlight masturbation as a safe and pleasurable activity that is low risk for COVID-19. As a result, there's been an immense increase in purchases of female pleasure products such as sex toys, sexual wellness apps etc.

The destigmatising of self-pleasure and self-love was definitely pushed by the pandemic. The world had to acknowledge that pleasure is not reserved for relationships. A lot of people faced the pandemic and isolation by themselves, by choice or involuntarily. We all need and deserve pleasure, no matter our relationship status. After all, our sexual satisfaction and well-being have a huge impact on our overall life quality and mental health. And if there was one thing we all needed during these trying times, then it was to stay healthy.

COVID-19 wasn’t all fun and games, of course. It also had its negative impact

Uncertainty, isolation and fear have increased depression and anxiety

In a lot of ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has been immensely challenging for our sex lives. Statistics have shown that overall we have been having less sex throughout the pandemic. Worry, lack of privacy, and stress appear to be the main reasons for negative changes in women’s sexuality, especially the decrease in their excitation and quality of pleasure, according to a study from Padua University, Italy. A study from Turkey suggests that the pandemic seems not to affect female sexual behaviour at all.

However, it is certain that the pandemic is strongly associated with a rise of anxiety and depression which are both sex killers. For a lot of people, the long lockdowns and instability we experienced over the past years, created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear.

A look into a post-pandemic future

We need to stop neglecting women’s health, safety & pleasure

UN Women reported that since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. With health and emergency services being shut down or operating under tiring new rules, addressing violence against women in the COVID-19 response has been neglected, showing that way too often we still don’t prioritise women’s rights and safety. We might be moving forward in the discussions around women’s sexuality, but how can we achieve prioritising female pleasure if we can’t even keep women safe?

Sexual wellness is finally getting the attention it deserves

This increase in purchasing power for sexual wellness products has not gone unnoticed. Investors have started to realise, sexual wellness is a pandemic-proof market with growing potential. Europe’s $30bn ‘sextech’ industry — made up of sex toys, apps and services — is being boosted by the pandemic. I believe that we are going to see a rise of sextech companies, female pleasure focused products and innovations to enhance women’s sexual health in the coming years!

The need for female-friendly and inclusive pornography has never been more obvious

Pornography consumption has been increased by the pandemic. This is a fact not only documented by me and my company, but by porn providers across the globe. People and that includes women, often turn to porn when they are feeling lonely or simply when they are bored because pornograph, and sweet serotonin, offer relief from those feelings. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Pornography provides a low-risk sexual outlet that is most likely helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Porn is keeping people safely and happily occupied while isolating, making it less likely for us to risk our health or the health of others. Besides, watching porn, especially female-friendly and ethical porn, can increase overall sexual satisfaction.

To conclude, this pandemic wasn’t experienced the same way by everyone, that’s for sure. People had varying experiences of COVID-19, depending on the lockdown restrictions in their countries, what was going on in their area, their financial and personal situations and also the varying degrees of personal health concerns. But it is comforting and motivating to see that due to some aspects of the pandemic we might be moving towards destigmatising women’s sexuality.

Erika Lust is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer who's focus on female pleasure, cinematic values, and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed. Erika Lust Films was born in 2004 and since then Erika has ... Read More
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