This article was originally published on SEXTECHGUIDE, an independent publication that looks at the intersection between sex and technology in a non-explicit, as close to a ‘safe for work’ way as possible – including app reviews, adult VR info, sextech devices, privacy, security issues, and much more. It was founded by ex-TNW European Editor Ben Woods, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
From sex sounds and erotic storytelling to adult-themed ASMR and hands-free orgasm hypno-masturbation, amateur audio porn performers may be reaping some attention, but financial rewards are, so far, lacking.
For your ears only, SEXTECHGUIDE spoke to various veteran and budding adult audio creators about why they think the relative niche of audio porn is gaining traction, and where they see it headed in the context of increasing political censorship of erotic content.
Is this thing on?
While it may seem to some that erotic audio is a new frontier in porn content, H, the sultry voice of InMyHands audio (IMH) vocalized, in an appropriately fitting recording, that audio porn has been around longer than we probably think. He remembers seeing audio stories posted on Literotica as far back as 2002. Likewise, Quinn Rhodes, from On Queer Street, says that surely phone sex is a form of audio porn, and that’s been around as long as the telephone.
Nevertheless, the more recent surge in online consumer interest appears to be tangential to the massively growing mainstream visual porn industry, valued at around $97 billion in 2017.
Most recordings are uploaded onto an independent performer’s personal site, and sometimes their Twitter account. They’re also widely disseminated in the ‘audio porn’ pages of Tumblr, Reddit (Gone Wild Audio & Pillow Talk), YouTube, Pornhub , and Literotica.
“Now that I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, [my] audio porn hub is the most popular page on my website each month,” and visits have roughly doubled since this time last year,” she told us. “In the last week I’ve had two people pop into my inbox asking me to work on audio porn projects, and I’ve also seen another sex blogger [Quinn Rhodes] set up some audio porn of their own.”
But, what is driving the recent growth of audio porn?
Alternative adult expression
After hosting their first audio porn workshop at the London Porn Film Festival, founders of the immersive intimate audio project Fuck Me in the Ear, Dick Twitch and Venus Flytrap, told SEXTECHGUIDE that “with the porn ban on Tumblr, a big playground of audio pornistas has been shut down.” Nevertheless, IMH points out that while “it is unfortunate about Tumblr…it opens up other avenues to explore, and new sites like Fuck Me in the Ear to grow.”
It’s not a phenomenon that’s only of interest to Western porn consumers, either. Venus explains that “audio porn seems to be a huge thing in India. If you type ‘sexy audio’ into YouTube you’ll find an endless list of audio porn in Hindi, Possibly on account of visual porn being less accessible there.”
Indeed, overexposure to any visual porn you can imagine could well behind part of the growing interest in audio content. IMH believes that “as people get bored with the mainstream visual porn, they’re exploring other areas of how people express [their sexuality].” GOTN tells us that “people like to consume erotica in different ways, and audio is – for many – a hotter way to experience sex blogs than just reading them on the page.” Quinn goes further, saying that the recent popularity has something to do with society “finally starting to accept” that we all engage in our sexuality differently.
New audio porn sites and apps, such as Quinn, Dipsea and Germany’s Femtasy, have expressed the need to fulfill women’s desire for non-visual content, driven by disillusionment with the mainstream porn industry.
Founder of Quinn, Caroline Speigel, advocates her site as “a much less gross, more fun Pornhub for women.” While we aren’t sure if it’s any less “gross” – as we’ve found some pretty fun “gross” sex sounds out there – perhaps this non-visual medium will hold up against porn laws created with this attitude towards exploitative visual porn.
Co-founder of Bijoux Indiscrets and designer of the Orgasm Library, Elsa Viegas, commented that “sexual pleasure is very important for our health both physical and emotional and recording it is kind of a statement of it all. The Orgasm Library shows that we don’t sound the same because we are not the same and we don’t feel the same way. It shows how diverse real sound is.”
Next to pleasure as a priority in this process, Viegas points out the importance of anonymity. For example, the Orgasm Library, where (mostly) women upload clips of their orgasm sound and it transforms the audio file into a visual people feel more comfortable sharing this moment without “our names and photo next to our orgasm audios,” she says. Not only does non-visual anonymity add a level of safety to the person recording the sound, but resist censorship targeting.
Power of the imagination
Yet, not all adult audio content is purely female-focused. Sensory deprivation is just one of the ways that anyone can try to experience a sensually heightened sexual state. Cutting off your sense of sight particularly sharpens the other senses, for example.
When listening to sexy sounds “you can close your eyes and enter your own pleasure universe,” says Viegas. You are making each sound your own, that it becomes something so personal, so discreet. IMH mischievously adds that “you can listen to erotic audio while you drive, while you’re sitting at your desk at work. And no one knows the squirmy feelings that you’re getting.”
IMH equates the nostalgic power of audio-sensory triggers to “smelling that fresh baking or that summer rain” that can transport you to a memory or place. “Deep growls, a slap, or the sound of a belt buckle coming undone, these directly translate to our imagination, which is infinitely more detailed than any visual marker. Our imagination is deeply more complex and nuanced and detailed.”
Dick Twitch explains that “in a visual social media-saturated world, people want to titillate their ears over their eyes sometimes. While visual porn is so easy to access and ubiquitous online, there’s something refreshing and special about audio-only storytelling that allows you to create pictures in your mind that you, and only you, can see.”
Recent ASMR trends may also have fueled the rise in audio porn, says Venus Flytrap, as people are already becoming more tuned into the effect of sound on the senses. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and describes the tingling sensation you can get from particular noises. Also known as a ‘brain orgasm’, it’s no wonder that adult ASMR has taken off on Pornhub and YouTube.
Another interesting trend, amidst the rise of mindfulness and wellbeing in the West (along with meditation apps), is that you can now also experience a so-called “Hands-Free Orgasm,” via erotic hypnosis for men.
Nevertheless, when it comes down to male-focused aural stimulation, specifically in ASMR and hypnosis-masturbation, found Pornhub many typically come with a pornographic visual image.
While mainstream porn is typically marketed by and for able-bodied people, there are many people with disabilities who are excluded as consumers, not to mention those fetishized within porn. Just as sextech is providing pleasure to people with disabilities, audio porn can also cater to specific audiences who may not be able to access most porn.
Many people with visual impairments use screen readers to access written erotica. However, GOTN tells us that her audio porn project initially came about because it was pointed out to her “that it’s not very sexy having erotica read aloud to you in a robot voice”, (unless, perhaps, you have an affinity for that sort of thing). GOTN realized “that by recording some of the saucier posts on my site as audio, I could make that porn more accessible to more people.”
Similarly, Quinn Rhodes expresses that her “audio porn project is me attempting to make my blog a little bit more accessible by turning some of the sexy stories I’ve written into audio recordings.” She adds that “the sex life of disabled folk is often hugely glossed over and given no importance, and while I’m not claiming to do anything major to change that, I am hoping to make the world at least a bit sexier for someone.”
MindGeek-owned Pornhub has also addressed the need for audio adult material, and launched its own Described Porn Channel for some visual content back in 2016. While it may be no “robot voice”, the narrations are just as comical as the porn scripts themselves, and perhaps not as useful as the specialized independent aural experiences.
Despite all this talk of surge in demand, audio content struggles to attract investment, while the visual mainstream porn industry continues to rake in billions.
“There’s definitely money to be made,” says GOTN, “but whether that money actually reaches the performers and producers is another matter.”
Back in February, Dipsea announced $5.5million in seed funding for the “first audio platform for sexual wellness”, a hub for sexy audio clips. It charges $3.99 for an annual subscription, with the hope that having an app will help it reach a wider audience.
“We’re not too fussed about the money aspect at the moment,” said Dick and Venus. Their plan, for now, is to create that audio installation and workshop based project and tour porn festivals in London, Berlin , and Zurich to see how it’s received.
For other independent creators such as GOTN, IMH and Quinn Rhodes they’re directly raising money from fans via their Patreon pages, which they say makes up part of their main income.
GOTN says she “would really like to see audio porn become a good revenue stream for producers, writers and performers.” She explains that she needs to do a certain amount of contract work to pay the bills, and “because I was getting tied up with bill-paying work, my grand plans for audio porn kept getting pushed to the back burner. So I asked site readers if they’d be up for chipping in a bit on Patreon to effectively buy me some time away from that work, so I could concentrate on creating audio porn.”
Quinn Rhodes adds that currently her Patreon “is geared towards people being able to support me to make more audio porn […] I’m obviously paying folks to do the actual recordings for me, and so I’ll pay them before making any money myself.”
IMH adds, “if there is more of a monetary return, more can be done and explored, and I hope to do that one day”. “For those who do want to monetize our efforts, we only seek a nominal appreciation for the vast amount of time and effort we put into doing our audios, and the creativity and talent we share with everyone else.”
“Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to make money from any kind of porn when the market is dominated by ‘free’ tube sites,” GOTN explains, adding that “with the changes to the law coming into the UK on July 15th, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to make money from sex content at all.”
SEXTECHGUIDE previously reported on Patreon’s hostility toward adult creators, which resulted in many being ejected from the site. Just as iOS and Android have a hot-and-cold relationship with adult content, Patreon states that “once your page is marked as adult content, your page won’t be listed on our site,” despite regularly providing an income for adult creators.
In the US, under the ‘Fight Online sex Trafficking Act’ and ‘Stop Enabling sex Traffickers Act,’ (FOSTA/SESTA) the adult internet has been crumbling unnecessarily. The clampdown on adult content negatively impacts the democracy of independent porn, as we have seen on Reddit and when Tumblr banned all NSFW content from its site last year. However, as Tumblr proceeded to lose 30 perfect of its traffic, there was obviously a drive for alternative means to consume as well as produce and distribute porn.
But do the new UK regulations (which are already being copied by other countries) specifically include audio porn? Well, yes.
“All types of pornographic content are within the scope of the legislation. The legislation does not exclude audio or text from its definition of pornography. All providers of commercial online pornography to persons in the UK are required to comply with the age-verification requirement.”
Major porn sites are thought more likely to survive the age verification under the UK Digital Economy Act coming into effect July 15, as they will be able to afford to implement age verification measures, whereas independent porn sites may be more likely to be blocked. Thus the survival of audio porn may be dependent on the larger porn sites, in a twist of ironic fate.
A brighter future for audio porn?
Perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom for audio porn. Avoiding large scale monopolization can make for more bespoke content, specific to a performer, or a scene or fetish. Drawing parallels to the custom made videos found on Only Fans and Many Vids, audio creators are able to connect with their audience on a more personal level.
IMH believes that there is “a mutual appreciation between the two parties – the listener and the creator – to show support for what they do, and this, in turn, encourages the creator to do more. Be more scheduled, come up with more scenarios, and make more content.”
Fuck Me in the Ear’s project hopes “to maintain a community-based, crowdsourced authenticity at its core. We’re not trying to produce mainstream studio-style porn here; we’re more concerned that contributors share experiences, fantasies and sexual practices that are true to them.”
Sextech to the rescue
With the growing demand for alternative pornography, sextech is already helping people find new ways to consume erotic content. IMH tells SEXTECHGUIDE that you can already find his 70 audio files across the main avenues of Twitter, Literotica, Reddit, and PornHub, but he has also been approached by the smart sex toy company Vibease. The company “has a bunch of my audio, which you can listen to synced to their vibrators.”
Kiiroo’s Feel Connect app allows you connect teledildonic devices to visual content and OhMiBod’s app has a “Club Mode” function, that lets you control vibrations with music, the sound of someone’s voice, or even their moans.
The collaborative possibilities of audio porn and sextech are vast. Fuck Me in the Ear is already creating a 360-degree 3D audio experience, with mics surrounding the bed. He hopes this will ultimately end up “in a games engine, and then output that to 3D audio headphones such as the new Bose AR glasses to create a sense of immersive audio, fixed in its source direction as you turn your head.” Dick tells us that in the future, they want to have an immersive installation booth that invites multiple people in at a time combined with evocative objects to provide tactile stimulation along with the sounds.
Audio porn can be a liberating and democratizing experience, for the creator and the consumer, and particularly for those who struggle to access mainstream pornography. Thus despite potential censorship concerns, where demand continues to grow, so will alternative creative outlets to fulfill that demand.