How are we ‘getting it on’ now that we cannot ‘get it on’? From ‘zoom sex’ to neighbourhood affairs, the rise of ‘lockdown erotica’.

Pearse Anderson, The Guardian UK.

When the first coronavirus-related erotica appeared on Literotica, one of the largest erotic fiction websites, in mid-March, the moderators were not sure if it was fit to print. Within a week, they were receiving a handful of sex stories relating to the virus every single day. As billions around the world went into lockdown, some people had seemingly found a new inspiration in isolation; quarantine-related porn started to appear online, and erotica writers began to self-publish lockdown romances on Amazon. “Quarantine has given me time to get back to writing,” Silkstockinglover, one popular writer on Literotica, tells me. “I wrote a dozen stories so far.”

Given the influx of coronavirus-related erotica, the moderators decided to hold a contest. Love the One(s) You’re With saw more than 100 authors write erotic stories set during the pandemic, with thousands of readers voting on the best and the majority of the winnings going to charities. Each author faced a troubling challenge: how on earth can you make a global pandemic, ineffective national health plans, and circumstances that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, romantic or sexy?

 “I don’t think there’s anything explicitly sexy about the pandemic itself, but any extreme situation is going to bring about fascinating experiences to explore in terms of sexuality,” says Ian Snow, one author who entered the contest. “Add in isolation, boredom, and plain physical need to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for some pretty hot stories.”

Overall, the contest’s quarantinica can be divided into three sub-genres. The first is “unexpected quarantine partners”, in which roommates, friends, and, yes, step-siblings hook up after weeks of sexual tension in their enclosed locations, with the characters often completing during or after an event that has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, such as prom or birthday parties.

The second is “isolated voyeurism” in which horny individuals bond by watching each other through windows – or Windows. (Zoom features in many stories.)

The third and final is best summed up as “let’s break lockdown for a quick lay”, in which people have a passionate moment while (sometimes) trying to follow WHO guidelines, either by passing around hand sanitiser, wiping down surfaces, or opting for a sexual position with less face-to-face interaction.

“The isolation of quarantine is a great literary device because it can be … an outside aid thrusting fated lovers together or an obstacle to be overcome that has kept them apart,” says author Kethandra. Others ignore all that: “If I tried to frame everything to WHO guidelines or local restrictions, I’d lose the erotic part of the erotic story,” says author Defluer.

With at least 40% of the world having experienced lockdown, when the protagonist of Quarantined After Twenty Six Years? says, “I just hung up from my 475th Zoom conference”, we sigh in exhaustion with him.

Curiously, government decision-making seems to have influenced the tone of the stories; the contest’s Australian erotica feels fairly utopian when compared with the US stories, with people sexily quarantining in hotel rooms paid for by the government or in isolated estates with swimming pools – perhaps a cultural side effect of Australia’s more successful response.

The competition’s winners may be surprising to some. Both the first place story, Late Night Conversations by JoeDreamer, and runner-up Unseen Love by Bebop3 and MsCherylTerra, were slow-burn romances between neighbours, in which the couples’ relationships build gradually over thousands of words as they navigate home repairs and sick family members. Despite the vaccine-related dirty talk, lockdown orgies, and Zoom sex present in the genre, sometimes the things people crave most are the simplest: having conversations and befriending neighbours.