King Noire and his partner, Jet-Setting Jasmine, are discussing lust during lockdown from their house in Tampa, Florida, while hiding from their three kids.
King has just revealed that, like a lot of dads, he's been escaping to the guest bathroom to jerk off. Jasmine is discovering this secret on camera. It's a minor tiff mirrored by couples all over the post-virus world, but – as you might have guessed from the names – these two characters are porn stars.
The clip is from Sex and Love in the Time of Quarantine, a new crowd-funded porno slash documentary from renowned erotic indie filmmaker Erika Lust. It features six adult actors – two couples, two solo stars – from all over the world, with the camera exploring two things: how they're getting off in their personal lives, and how exactly they're still making porn from their own homes.
The film is part OnlyFans, part Gogglebox. One moment you're watching them casually chat on the sofa, the next it's duelling dildos and ecstatic moans. This makes for a compelling, sunny-lit mix of the inane and the horny: King Noire musing on Florida being fresh out of bullets and bog roll; porn star Casey Calvert padding around her flat in a pink dog-walker's fleece, sorting out her storage trays of heavy duty toys; and sex vlogger Kenneth Play striding aimlessly through his opulent New York apartment while missing his exhausted ER doctor fiancée, who's consciously shut herself in isolation to contain the virus.
According to the condom brand Durex, many of us might be feeling too anxious for sex right now. But that's not stopping the adult stars in the film – both on camera and off. "It depends on the day, but some days we have sex ten times," says Kim, 26, one half of a couple that makes porn under the moniker MySweetApple. She's been on lockdown for over 50 days with her partner, Paolo, in their flat in Barcelona. "It's not like he's coming ten times," she says, to my relief. "Maybe we start fucking, we get hungry, we go make some eggs, we carry on fucking. It's like this full day of fucking."
The couple met at a threesome six years ago. Two years later they left their day jobs in IT to devote their lives to pornography, including once being filmed by an applauding crowd as they had sex against a giant hotel window above a packed street festival in Switzerland. "We even added the fans' recordings of it into our own uploads," Paolo remembers fondly.
You might imagine a porn couple reliant on internet views to be loaded up on Pro Plus and frankly a bit tired of each other, but they sound – both on film and when speaking to them on the phone – obsessed with each other. They claim no lockdown row ever interferes with their next video sex appointment. Perhaps you don't sweat the small stuff when the world has seen your orgasm face? Or maybe they're just professionals.
When it came to producing a porno during a pandemic, Lust looked for existing porn couples who lived together, loved each other and had the right camera and lighting to ensure continuity. The latter applied to the solo performers, too. Mainly, Lust wanted to show imperfect sex lives, to create the kind of film that her daughters, aged nine and 12, might be able to watch when they're older. "I want them to see an alternative to the stereotypical porn of the free tube sites that, most of the time, is just harmful instead of sexy," she explains.
After an initial Skype chat, Lust let the performers film what they wanted – walking the dog, sun-bathing naked, playing horny spin-the-bottle. "I never give strict instructions to performers regarding the sex scenes," she says.
Not all those in the film are having lots of coupled sex. Sex positive party organiser Kenneth Play, 38, has been separated from his fiancée during lockdown. They previously lived together in a 16-person community called Hacienda – where Kenneth still resides – and are in an open relationship. "The residents do not have sex with each other," says Kenneth. "But we do have play parties from time to time. It's a community that celebrates sex, desire and self-expression."
For the film, Kenneth does a purely solo sex scene – a first for him. He entered the adult scene as a "sexually insecure Asian immigrant with an average cock" (his words), but became famous through his online Hack Your Sex Life! video series, which shows men and women of all sexualities how to become "remarkable" lovers. His tutorial on squirting has 4.7 million views on PornHub.
Without a partner to make videos with right now, Kenneth has had to "update his erotic IQ", bringing in more fantasy and tease rather than just sex. A glimpse of this is seen in the film, when he throws himself enthusiastically into Lust's challenge of showing how he gets off alone, something that causes him some self-reflection. "In my tutorials I'm naked, but it's easier, because you're focused on showing how to get the other person off," he says. "Solo masturbating, you can only focus on yourself. 'Can you stay hard? How does this look?'"
This is something solo performer Casey Calvert, 30, from LA, is an expert in. She's been in the industry since she was 21 years old and is currently locked down with her partner of seven years, who's also her cameraman. Right now, Casey's career is proving lucrative: her OnlyFans account spiked 50 percent during the first month of lockdown, and the uptick in subscribers has given her a unique insight into how people are feeling about their current situation.
"I hear a lot of, 'I've had five Zoom meetings back-to-back today, I just need to relax!'" she says. "Or, once they've come, they're suddenly like, 'I hope you feel safe and happy during lockdown,' checking on your mental health, which is nice."
Like director Lust, Casey wants her porn to offer a pandemic public service – she's just taught a "How to send better sex pics" class to struggling, live-apart couples, which saw her invite and assess over 30 dick pics for their style and quality. "My tips for sex photos?" she says. "Use natural light, not the flash on your phone. Don't do the straight-down-into-the-floor shot so your feet are in view. And clear the background of any piles of clutter or clothes."
Plenty of Brits are now experimenting with online sex work as a side hustle, which has the propensity to make things difficult for professional performers. With the set-based adult industry collapsing under the virus, and with everything currently based from home, the pros find themselves in a similar position to those making DIY videos. The only difference now between them and the amateurs is their experience and the size of their platform.
Either way, as Sex and Love in the Time of Quarantine shows, professional porn stars and filmmakers will always find ways to make premium quality movies. We might be in the midst of a pandemic that requires us to be as physically isolated from each other as possible, but for these people – and for those watching – there will always be ways to get off.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.