Adult entertainment industry goes virtual as demand for eroticism increases during Covid 19 pandemic
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If there's one thing that Sean Newman knows - it's that sex sells.
Having been in the adult entertainment industry for the last decade, Newman has witnessed the enormous rise in demand for erotic entertainment in South Africa and the rest of the world.
But recently, the adult entertainment industry has suffered a huge knock due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The recent closure of all strip clubs, erotic massage parlours and other adult entertainment venues across the country, has brought the adult entertainment industry to its knees.
“I think there are very few businesses that haven't suffered and, no matter the industry, we will be counting the cost for decades to come.
“After the hard lockdown was announced, there was a lot of panic and uncertainty in the adult entertainment industry, not just from venue owners, but particularly, the workers.”
Just like every other business, Newman has had to move quickly to make changes in order for him and his staff to survive.
Unable to reopen his popular erotic massage parlour in Joburg for the foreseeable future, he has now turned to the digital sex platform as a means to keep his business rolling.
Newman, the former spokesperson for Teazers strip club kingpin Lolly Jackson, has converted his erotic massage parlour into a webcam studio to help his staff continue business.
He's also been helping other parlour owners in the country to set up webcam studios.
Staff are trained to be webcam models and are given studios to shoot their videos. Once fully trained, they are able to feature on cam sites globally.
Models perform adult-related services like stripping, dancing, sex and fetish-related activities in front of a webcam on a computer or laptop.
“During various points over the last 10 years, I have owned an adult massage business,” said Newman. “I closed for a period of time and, due to former staff begging me for a safe space to work in, I re-opened two months before the pandemic and then had to close once again.”
“In hindsight, the timing could not have been worse, but as with most things in life, silver linings do exist. It created a valid and necessary platform to be able to engage with venues that were interested in innovating and changing the way they looked at their businesses.”
Newman said that for years he'd been interested in tapping into the digital sex market, but due to various challenges in South Africa, he was held back.
However, the global pandemic has forced Newman and other players in the adult entertainment industry to change the way they go about their business.
“Four years ago, I was a guest at AVN in Las Vegas, and there I met with the camming companies.
“Since then, I have stayed in contact with them, but I have come to learn that as with everything, South Africa has unique challenges.
“The idea of a camera and no physical contact is intimidating. The technical aspect is also daunting to them and this has always been the barrier to entry here.”
“Unlike other countries where this form of adult entertainment is often the biggest money spinner, in South Africa, the resistance to change has meant it is probably the smallest.”
Over the past four years, Newman says he's tried convincing the industry and its workers to look at new options such as camming. However, it has often been met with scepticism.
“As with most industries, Covid-19 has proven we should have been future-proofing years ago. The technology exists, as do the sites.”
Since lockdown, Newman says a number of venues have taken up his offer to help set up webcam studios to operate during the pandemic.
“A handful of venues took up my offer, but many decided they would rather go their own routes. The ones we have helped have seen exponential growth during the lockdown.”
He too has seen great growth since setting up his webcam studios.
“While the numbers have always been high from overseas visitors, what has been noticeable is the increase in not only viewers but performers worldwide.
“I think with hard lockdowns in Europe, the peak traffic to these sites was phenomenal. Performers who would normally average $500 (R8 438) in a session of three hours were suddenly doing shows making up to $3 000.”
While Newman's focus is currently on camming, he said there were many other innovative ideas that the adult entertainment industry could tap into to help growth.
“There are many other avenues that spin off these sites, such as Onlyfans, a way to monetise your content.
“You'd be surprised the amount of South African's using the platform. The digital scape has provided ways for ladies, couples, transgender and males to earn dollar incomes from the privacy of their homes.”
Newman believes the introduction of digital sex platforms like camming will help the industry grow substantially.
“When I was at the Vegas show, I learnt tons about the benefits of camming. The owner of one of the largest adult film production names in the industry told me he used to be paid to host parties, now he couldn't afford to as the camming companies have so much money they buy everything.
“A close friend who runs a major series of sites told me the cam stars are the true stars because they build a fan base, sell their product themselves, market themselves and edit all their own content.
“The internet has provided the platform, Covid has upped the demand. The question is: will South Africa follow the trend or continue doing things the way we always have?”