Of the many lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the one that “sex sells” should resonate most. When even Beyonce wants an OnlyFans account, the business of being horny is booming. However, it’s worth considering the return on investment and capitalizing on a flooded sex marketplace. Does sex’s coronavirus-era cultural growth have sustainable financial benefits? If not, then what happens next? With COVID-19 rendering real-time sex and sex work almost nonexistent, the leading point of commerce for the sex industry is online. Sex and sex work are acts and industries as old as time. They absolutely will maintain, but how? In considering the idea of “sex adjacent marketing,” a hard, but necessary answer emerges.
Foremost, the portals used to advertise sexual goods and services are experiencing a simultaneous boom and bust period that will inevitably lead to economic depression. For instance, Twitter has seen its user base grow nine percent in 2020, mainly because internet phone use has skyrocketed. iPhone users (who get weekly phone use reports) note nearly 150-200% increases. However, a financial return for Twitter from on-portal advertising from that screen-time investment — which feels only logical — has not occurred.
On the one hand, brands overall are advertising with Twitter 30% less than in 2019. However, the fact that Twitter’s ad revenue was three percent higher in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2019-2020 than a year prior is a false positive. It just means that fewer brands spent more money. How this relates to selling sex and eroticism via social media is essential to highlight.
If Subway pays untold millions of dollars to Twitter and can’t sell enough foot-long subs to see a return on their investment, then Twitter can’t allow a sex worker to sell subscriptions to submissives — for free — using the platform. If wondering why you’re selling sex and being shadowbanned, for starters, look no further than this reason. If your feed is filled solely with advertisements, you’re a red-flag standing tall amidst Twitter’s overall financial bloodbath-at-present. If a company is already in the red, making things redder isn’t necessarily a best practice.
As a notion, “sex adjacent marketing” creates the development of an intriguing sociopolitical idea that sex and life can peaceably share space on social media. In short, consider that, for as much as you post advertising, post content that diversifies who you are in the realm of what you do. If looking to freely thrive during what will be an era that is as difficult to navigate as it is depressing to exist within, some forethought is required.
For instance, if you’re a feature dancer at strip clubs while simultaneously also being a full-service provider, a non-ad-related post about your dancing (or dancing in general) as art is “sex adjacent” enough to maintain engagement. Until we again reach a point where the internet is turning a level of profit like it did nearly a decade prior (Twitter’s first profitable year was 2013), sometimes occupying space within, but without sex work is a necessary evil.
The second wave of COVID could coincide with winter. As well, Great Depression-level unemployment leaves us in a place where the American economy could be in trouble for a decade (maybe more) means that adapting to a model wherein who you are is sharing space with what you do is essential. In fact, in a market that could plummet faster over time than the already steep short-term drop, being early to the ability to navigate social media platforms safely and sustainably is ideal.
In the next six months, we may be in a socio-economic crisis that will drive not just sex, but all industry’s economies, to a place of need over want. In a want-based economy, the allure of perpetual advertising is undeniable. However, in a need-based economy — especially one in competition with other industries, like say food and sports, deemed more important than sex — running in a direct race with those is a recipe for disaster. Instead, opting for the “sex adjacent” strategy is ultimately ideal.
The amount of longevity available in normalizing sex-as-content is profound. We’re already headed towards a system where having access to sexual release will be prominently figured into people’s budgets. An economy where sex work can be demonized because it is the sole focus of someone’s digital footprint is unnecessary. Instead, in sex and sex work as industries shifting to a model that integrates sex into a more extensive personal conversation, is ideal.
Statistically and availability-wise, sex is a more socioeconomically significant business than ever before. However, this boom is accompanied by a lower return on investment and a sustainably monetizable market than ever before. With an economy in ruin and a resurgent pandemic on the horizon, the industry needs a significant change in marketing. If sex is online-first, and the internet is in financial hemorrhage, then monetizable sex cannot loom more massive than the ad-driven platforms upon which it is marketed. Thus, “sex adjacent” becomes an ideal strategy. In learning how to live uniquely “without itself” occasionally, but within the confines of a radically evolving digital space, sex and sex work can survive both the pandemic and forthcoming recession.