Nearly every industry was impacted by the impact of the pandemic, but the shift has been profound for sex workers. While some segments of the sex work industry experienced complete shutdown and threats to livelihood, other types grew in leaps in bounds during these unprecedented times. 

Keep reading to learn more about how the unique and storied sex work industry was impacted by the pandemic, and what other changes are on the horizon. 

How did the pandemic affect sex workers directly? 

It goes without saying that the pandemic caused massive shifts in the sex work industry. An industry that thrives on up close and personal encounters and at-times secret establishments, it’s not surprising that a lot of things had to change when COVID-19 took hold of the world in early 2020. 

Here are just some of the ways that the pandemic had an impact on sex work: 

Strip clubs, dungeons, and parties were sidelined 

In the midst of the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic (and in some areas even still now), sex work establishments like strip clubs, dungeons, sex parties, and other events were forced to shut down. 

Without customers and consistent revenue, business owners couldn’t keep staff employed or continue to pay their bills so they were forced to make hard decisions.

When this happened, that meant an immediate loss of revenue for the businesses, loss of jobs for the sex workers, and so much more. Many of these businesses that had booming followings pre-pandemic are still struggling to come back almost three years later. Some have closed their doors for good. 

Virtual content is king 

With the in-person sex work industry virtually obliterated by the pandemic, many sex workers shifted to working online. Even if this was not something that was previously considered, sites like Only Fans and other subscription-based content saw a huge rise in popularity. 

Although the shift to more virtual content was hard for many sex workers, over time many of them found that it was actually a very lucrative and enjoyable business. 

With the ability to interact with fans directly and offer personalized services all from the comfort and safety of their homes, many sex workers have said that they are sticking with virtual content even as the world opens up again. 

The money is often better, the schedule is much more flexible, and there is the opportunity to build relationships like never before. 

Safety concerns 

As in-person sex work has started to come back to life slowly in the last few years, there are important risks to consider. Sex workers are putting themselves into vulnerable situations with people who they have sometimes never met before. This is a constant concern when COVID-19 cases are on the rise during surges. 

Concerns about safety are an everyday thing for sex workers now. Even if they made the decision to go back to the work they were doing pre-pandemic, it’s not without daily worry. 

The establishments have had to create screening practices to ensure the health and safety of their customers and employees, and sex workers have had to make the important decision to stick with an industry they love or move on due to these concerns. 

Did the pandemic hurt or help the sex work industry? 

Overall, the pandemic definitely took a lot out of the sex work industry. Although it encouraged many sex workers to get creative with their income streams and possibly even find new, lucrative ways to work, the majority of the industry was crippled. 

Sex workers were out of work for so long (and some have yet to return). Many faced difficulty getting new jobs to pay their bills based on their experience in the industry because there is still such a stigma against this industry in most of the world. 

The pandemic was certainly a time of learning for the sex work industry and there is great hope that as the world continues to find a “new normal” sex workers will begin to feel safe, comfortable, and able to enjoy their work again.