Coronavirus BDSM COVID FINAL

delcarmat/Shutterstock Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr (Licensed) Ana Valens

Is BDSM getting more popular during COVID? One sex worker says yes

BDSM is surging in popularity because it's a healthy emotional outlet, she says.

Sep 8, 2020, 10:24 am*

IRL

Ana Valens 

Ana Valens

Is it getting kinky in here? Probably. A new report obtained by the Daily Dot from BDSM dating and hook up app KinkD reveals site usage is on the rise across the U.S. as quarantine continues during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Since COVID-19 lockdowns began in March, KinkD has experienced a 39.2% rise in average monthly active users, the report notes. Users are not just flocking to KinkD in droves; they’re also spending more time on the app. Daily usage has jumped by over 50%.

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Among the top 10 American cities using KinkD, New York City clocks in first with just over 13,500 average monthly active users, followed by Los Angeles sitting at approximately 13,300. Miami follows with 11,200, followed by Houston and Atlanta at 4,700 and 4,600 thousand. “The report also points out a rise in user engagement on the app in these cities, as users tend to spend a long time than what they did before the pandemic,” KinkD notes in its press release.

The kinky dating site attributes its growing popularity to “feelings of stress and loneliness elevated” by the coronavirus pandemic.

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“[Modern technology] provides a creative way to fill the void caused by physical distancing on social activities, leisure, and sex,” KinkD co-founder John Martinuk said in the press release. “But I think the recent surge in technology-based social approach is just a temporary coping strategy, once this pandemic end, we still hope the usage of this approach may decrease in favor of in-person, partnered interactions.”

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It’s no secret that cybersex is having a moment during quarantine. One August 2020 study on sexual media narratives during the coronavirus pandemic reports that online sex has experienced a “destigmatization and normalization” as sexting has gone from “pathological or deviant risky behavior” to “disease prevention behavior.” But COVID-19 has introduced another growing interest, too: BDSM.

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During the coronavirus lockdown’s first three months, New York City-based professional dominatrix Shayla Lange saw in-person sessions decrease “to almost nothing,” she told the Daily Dot. But her “distance domination” work online “exploded.” “I’ve been doing better on [sexting service] NiteFlirt than ever before, and it’s been obviously a boon for people making clips and doing long-distance sessions,” she said.



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BDSM, Lange said, is “100%” on the rise, but this isn’t just because kink can be “spicy” bedroom fun. Domination/submission and sadomasochistic play scenes offer safe, healthy spaces for people to express themselves.

“The thing about BDSM is that it can be super duper fun and exciting and a spicy thing you do in the bedroom, but it’s also a way to express how you’re feeling,” Lange said. “It’s a really great way to release those emotions and those feelings and those anxieties and those fears in a safe and controlled way.”

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The COVID-19 lockdown has impacted regular kink practitioners too. Lange’s clients experienced “much more extreme” fantasies during the height of New York City’s outbreak. Some of that has faded as the city’s restrictions have lifted, but others remain just as intense. Whether these intense fantasies were caused by the state of the world or “idle hands,” Lange said, she isn’t quite sure. But she definitely experienced some of this herself as she’s felt her own fears and anxieties “really starting to pile up on themselves” during lockdown.

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“People are really capitalizing [on eased lockdown restrictions in New York] and they’re trying to strike while the iron is hot because they’re unsure as to what’s going to happen going forward and they’re also so sick of what just happened,” Lange told the Daily Dot. “The entire fucking world experienced a massive, massive, massive shift in power dynamics. And when people are feeling like they have no control, they start doing ‘desperate measures.’ And that’s not to say that BDSM is a desperate escape […] but you see that peoples’ behavior in general is like, ‘I need to regain some semblance of control in my life, and this is a really healthy way to do it.'”

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As for rebuilding offline community through apps like KinkD, there’s still a long way to go. One BDSM play party Lange attended recently only had seven people, an experience she called “very dismal” and “a little bit of a turn-off.” However, the space itself had strong social distancing practices and took extensive precautions to protect attendees: Hand sanitizer was found throughout the space, participants were wearing masks and social distancing, and party spaces were cleaned frequently after play scenes. So while the night wasn’t exactly a blast, Lange walked away feeling safe and “very impressed” for the future.

“Granted, these types of things take time to build back up. Most people I’ve spoken to don’t even know that it’s happening,” Lange said. “Or they know that it’s happening, but they’re still not quite sure if it’s safe, what the thing is like. I’ve spoken to other professionals that are like, ‘I would really love to go, but I don’t know if the guidelines are actually going to be followed or if it’s going to be a free-for-all.'”

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In the meantime, Pornhub’s Sexual Wellness Centers reports BDSM searches are its second most popular on the sex education site, given “many women seek out BDSM porn more than they ever have,” the center’s Dr. Laurie Betito notes. On Pornhub itself, women are 86% more likely to search for BDSM than men, including “gay bdsm” and “lesbian bdsm.” So don’t assume it’s only men exploring kinky fantasies during quarantine, especially given kink’s popularity with queer women.

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*First Published: Sep 4, 2020, 4:32 pm