Humans are social creatures. We crave connection. Connectedness is an essential element of mental health, especially in our current, socially distanced landscape of COVID-19.
Why I Started Doing Online Sex Work During COVID
Six months into the pandemic, a lot of people are holed up – and horny. For those who couldn’t stand their significant other pre-COVID; 24/7 togetherness hasn’t exactly helped. And for folks who live alone, like me, the extended lack of contact, with no foreseeable end date, is particularly tough.
A 2019 University of Michigan study on healthy aging, reported that 34% of adults aged 50 to 80 years felt lonely. Social isolation and loneliness were prevalent well before the pandemic. While social distancing strategies are crucial to limit the spread of the virus, it has increased levels of loneliness, which has in turn produced physical and mental health-related impacts.
Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, wrote in a recent Health Affairs policy brief, Social Isolation and Health, that being socially connected in meaningful ways is actually key to human health and survival. So, if you can’t physically spend time with people, there still are ways to stay socially and emotionally connected. In fact, you may want to make it a priority if you want to get through COVID in one piece*.
As someone who’s written about sex, dating, and relationships for more than two decades, I receive dozens of DMs every day from strangers wanting advice or looking to chat. Same from people in my personal life, although they are generally better at asking for permission before unloading their problems. (Usually a simple, “Do you have the mental/emotional capacity to chat about XYZ?” does the trick. A vague “Hey there” or “How are you?” almost always gets deleted.) Time is my most valuable asset, and I know my limitations. Compassion fatigue is real, and I am all about setting personal boundaries. If something isn’t a Fuck Yes, it’s a No.
When COVID-19 hit, there was a surge of people in my DMs. People were hungry to connect. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick and flattered that so many people trust me with their deepest secrets.
In addition to my professional cred, I’m kinky, queer, and polyamorous, so people often confide in me on these topics. In the bedroom (or preferred place to fuck), I have a strong desire and a wealth of sexual experience. I recognize that my time and resume have value.
I saw a need for social connection, as well as a way to monetize my sexual insights and expertise. I set up a profile on SextPanther, an adult sexting site, and started calling, chatting, sexting, and swapping photos and videos as a paid companion and confidante.
I’m proud of my sexuality, and I’m not afraid to use it, charge for it, or have it, without procreation as a goal. We live in a world where women, as Rebecca Solnit, noted in The Guardian, are marketed as toys and trophies. If my sexuality is going to be looked upon as commodity, I may as well wield it – on my own terms. The fact that I can determine my fees, services, and boundaries is empowering and makes me feel safe and comfortable.
What It's Like to Be a Professional Sexter (and More)
My clients have been a mix of people who know my work or follow me on social media (I use my real name); the rest have found me via keyword searches on the site. Having a successful sex writing career has made it easier to make break into a competitive online scene, ditto for having an established fan base and audience. I present myself as myself, not a persona, and practice what I preach. When I share preferences and experiences, I’m drawing from my real life.
I’ve lived most people’s wildest fantasies and have infinite fodder in my mental spank bank.
My interactions on SP feel much more personal than performative, and the majority of my contacts have been truly great. Not everyone is a nameless, faceless screen name. And if someone prefers anonymity, that’s OK. Consent, as always, is key.
As a writer, I’ve been creating content for the past two decades. I’ve just shifted my focus to more NSFW content. (I have a history of posting sexy selfies and a strong exhibitionist streak, which helps.) I also get a lot of requests for elaborate role-play scenarios, which dovetails nicely with decades of sexy storytelling. It helps that I’ve had a few partners with stellar role-playing abilities, who helped hone my skills. Online sex work hasn’t been that much of a professional stretch.
Why I Do It
At the end of the day, I want to help people overcome sexual guilt and shame and feel good. Hell, I want to feel good. And according to some studies, flirting can help relieve stress. We could all use less stress in our lives right now.
I want to use my platform to create an environment where people feel safe to explore and talk about interests they’re curious about. It feels good to help people live out their fantasies or to simply show up in a platonic capacity. (Not all of my clients seek sexual services.)
Making people feel heard and empowered is my happy place. Studies have shown that helping others light up the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure. And given that a recent study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found that our happiness is at a 50-year low with just 14 percent of Americans saying they are very happy, I’m all for finding the happy moments anywhere I can.
I’m fortunate that most of my clients are kind, respectful, and intelligent. It doesn’t hurt that some of them are super attractive. Like, swipe right on Tinder in a hot second attractive. The majority of the rapport is playful and fun, especially when I have the opportunity to learn something new, or someone challenges my comfort level (in a good, consensual, “I didn’t know I could that” kind of way).
In a new world landscape where I am physically alone and feel helpless a lot of the time, it feels good to brighten someone else’s day or provide an escape, if even for a brief time. Although it’s ultimately a service-for-cash transaction, I legit enjoy it. Online sex work has been a satisfying complement to my sex writing career, and truth be told, has sated some of my unmet social needs during COVID.
Plus, I’ve made some lovely connections and had some sexy AF conversations in the process. Aside from Erotic Recess, online sex work has been the next best thing to emerge from COVID. And judging from client feedback, a big win-win for everyone.
*I’m not a doctor, although I sometimes role-play one with questionable ethics. This is not a substitute for actual medical advice.
Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.
She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says