Digital migration made us gravitate to Apps to meet the needs of indoor lifestyles, largely in education, entertainment and e-commerce. UNICEF was first to highlight that children are at increased risk of harm online as the pandemic led to an unprecedented rise in screen time. School closures and strict containment measures mean that mothers resorted to cloud-based solutions to keep their children learning, entertained and connected. But not all children have the skills and resources to keep themselves safe online. Greater unsupervised cloud activity exposed millions of children to higher risk of sexual exploitation and coercion, extortion and manipulation. Emotionally vulnerable children became exposed to increased risks of grooming. But even before the pandemic, many girls in poverty would have seen the Lebanese-born Mia Khalifa become a global sensation after her famous hijab XXX video went viral.
As stress, isolation and loneliness increased during the furlough that followed viral spread, there were increased chances of people acting on impulse. Economic hardship also increased the potential for livestreaming abuses in home environments. Livestreaming also increased as unsupervised children engaged in self-generated content for digital publication. The lack of face-to-face contact led to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualized images, while increased and unstructured time online exposed children to the normalizing effects of harmful and violent sexual content.
Universities and schools now operate inside cloud-based milieus. These Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) use tools like Canvas, Blackboard, Sakai, Google Classrooms, Open edX and Moodle for content management and cloud-based video conferencing service like Google Hangouts, Lifesize, Vidyo, and Zoom for teacher re-education. And so, children continue to master syllabi of studies to meet tables of specification that remain unperturbed, unconcerned and unchanged by a virus that found an abundant new host. But as students work in these new VLEs, many of them remain unprotected by the void of filters that block a parallel pandemic of pornography. Lockdowns have spawned a surge in production and consumption of pornography.
Innocent teaching activities have exposed children to unexpected risks of misogynistic content full of hatred of, contempt for, and prejudice against women and girls. Content that fetishizes humans into closed categories. Most videos end with links to a number of related resources, the selection of which cannot be controlled by the school. There have been reports of content featuring violence, suicidal themes and sexual allusions. Class-hijacking and Zoom-bombing where uninvited guests enter the cloud-classroom making inappropriate comments and introducing unfitting images has resulted in children coming into conflict with the law.
Porntube revenues worldwide have doubled during the pandemic. Studio 20 in Bucharest streams clothed and uncovered models online and has experienced a spike in profits stemming from marital strife precipitated by lockdowns. Sadly, this decay seeps into the lives of children disconnected and far away from such problems. Social-distancing rules have accelerated changes across the porn industry driven by a capitalism of exploitation. Restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 have halted studio production forcing the release of backlogged footage. Ella Hughes, has paused performing at studios completely. Her followers now pay $12.99 a month to watch videos that she shoots at home and uploads to OnlyFans. Some subscribers pay an additional $40 to $500 for bespoke content. In ten of her most recent private videos, she charged higher fees for uttering a fan’s name or for acting out fantasies.
Revenue from direct interaction between performers and fans during COVID-19 has reversed market ratios. Before the pandemic, roughly three-quarters of most performers’ earnings came from production companies paying for work on their sets. The remaining quarter was from direct transactions with fans and merchandise sales. These ratios are now reversed. With “camming” traffic up on far bigger and typically cheaper sites, like Chartubate, MyFreeCams and Streamate, live streamed pornography is a burgeoning new market. This is all the more reason why we must firewall our children at home and at school. BongaModels offers its cam performers 5% of the earnings of anyone new they introduce to work for the studio. Most cam models work from home, but some “camming studios” in warehouses with dozens of staged sets have managed to continue round-the-clock streaming during the lockdowns. Studio 20, which runs 24 camming studios, each with ten to 32 sets in Colombia, Hungary and elsewhere, has cleverly kept some locations buzzing by turning them into residences. To study these changes, we need not open the borders to travel to Budapest. Manzanilla and Mayaro are right here.
Ove the last two months FanCentro, with offices in Barcelona, Spain and Limassol, Cyprus, has attracted more than 19,000 new models for a current index in excess of 191,000 performers. So COVID-19 is not just increasing consumption; it is expanding the exploitation of women. FanCentro expects to switch on a feature that allows models to stream content alone or with partners. Erika Lust, a human rights, feminist and political science expert, is a pornographer and actress based in Barcelona. She has two daughters who are at home during school closures. She does not allow her daughters to watch pornography and she has firewalled the screens in her home to protect her girls.