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Love in a time of Corona

In 1972, on an overnight train ride from Seattle to Phoenix, a coked-up David Bowie found himself unable to sleep. Peering out the window into the desert, its sandy, desiccated landscape like some alien planet bathed in a purple darkness, he chanced upon a row of 20 brilliant silver domes reflecting the moon’s glow. Interpreting what were almost certainly a row of feed silos as some sort of potential biodomes for the survivors of an as-yet unrealised apocalypse, Bowie penned the track Drive In Saturday.

In November of that same year, at a show in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Bowie played the song accompanied by only his acoustic guitar, introducing it as “a song from the year 2033”. An examination of life and sexuality in the post-apocalypse, Bowie’s lyrics reflect a world in which those survivors trapped in biodomes have forgotten the intricacies, or perhaps the art, of making love. They now rely on pornographic videotapes salvaged from the ruins of civilization to inform their sex.

“Pour me out another phone
I’ll ring and see if your friends are home
Perhaps the strange ones in the dome
Can lend us a book we can read up alone
And try to get it on like once before”

A few years early, and not yet the apocalypse Bowie had foreseen, our global period of lockdown sees us in some approximation of the situation central to the song. However, for us it is not videotapes from the seedy 70s on which we have to rely, but the glut of Coronavirus themed erotica the likes of Fucked During a Lusty Lockdown to remind us of the warmth of physical touch.  

A Genre Rises (or is Erected)

Amazon.com has, for many years, been the home of innumerable self-published erotica authors. The sheer pace of publishing and availability of ebooks to the masses makes it the perfect platform for the rapid production of smut literature. Amazon’s own self-publishing information sheet boasts that “Publishing takes less than 5 minutes and your book appears on Kindle stores worldwide within 24-48 hours.” In this environment of “shelter in place,” there is an unprecedented opportunity for the authors of erotica the world over to bunker down and churn out their masterpieces without distraction. As is often the case, art and life are locked in an eternal feedback loop, somewhat predictably yielding the burgeoning genre of COVID-19 erotica.

I have watched this genre grow in real-time, from six to eight to ten stories and beyond. I would also wager that I am potentially propping up the entire Coronavirus erotica genre with my regular purchasing, and my brain is gravy from reading them all. Each time I check back on Amazon there’s a freshly published story intending to arouse and titillate in these trying times. I have always been interested in the bizarre world of boutique erotica ever since I clapped eyes on a young adult novel that seemed suspiciously like the author’s Russian Civil War fantasy. I have not ever read what one might describe as “good” erotica because frankly, that’s not the appeal. The appeal is the well-intentioned, extremely honest, and ultimately exceptionally comical stylings of authors like Christie Sims, author of Taken by the Pterodactyl, which straddle the line between overly-descriptive sexual play-by-plays between busty babes and prehistoric beasts and dumpster fires of spelling errors, poor grammar, and a general lack of proofreading.

Horror and sex have always been closely linked. Something about the fear of death or terror of some unimaginable eldritch horror makes folks horny. Perhaps the greatest example is Dracula- a sexy foreigner whose method of dispatch is an intimate and horny kiss on the neck. In the context of cinema, it is most often a link between sex and punishment that is reinforced- the teenagers engaging in premarital intercourse are the first to be butchered mercilessly by the story’s monster. In the context of erotica, the taboo of fucking a bigfoot and the danger such a liason presents is part of what makes sparks fly.

COVID-19 is not a living, breathing beast or a psychopath from one’s darkest nightmares, but that doesn’t preclude it from engendering the same fearful response for people all over. In many ways the fear of a horrendous and crippling disease as seen in Pandemic or Contagion or The Andromeda Strain is matched only by the fear of the loss of freedom. In context, a four, five, six week lockdown is a drop in the bucket of an individual’s life, but in the moment for many it feels like an indefinite sentence.

“I’d love for him to come in and do a whole lot of ‘you know.’”

Erotica authors are not immune to these fears, and I found this articulated by Dr. Vickie Holmes, author of the seminal work Quaranteen: Step-Sibling Love in the TIme of Coronavirus, who in the foreword of her story writes:

“I am publishing this story to encourage you to take a deep breath, turn off the news and allow your mind to wander. It is good to explore your passionate side. The release of endorphins will do wonders for you to face another day. I am in no way making light of the tragic events – and deaths – which have occurred as a result of this pandemic. I am, however, trying to provide my readers with entertainment. Sexy, steamy, taboo entertainment.”

Quaranteen deals with a forbidden sexual tryst between the story’s unnamed protagonist and his Brazilian step-sister Gabrielle:

“But fuck – she’s my sister! STEP-sister. I reminded myself. There’s not much you can do now – she has your cock in her mouth! I’m an idiot. I thought as I wondered how in the world we would face each other tomorrow. How long would this quarantine last?”

It is unsurprising that Quaranteen also includes a step-sibling angle, something very en vogue in the modern pornographic landscape. Jon Ronson, in The Butterfly Effect, notes that one of the major developments in pornography as a result of the internet and the proliferation of free online smut is that now every piece of content needs to be keyword searchable to ensure maximum visibility. Ronson’s example is a set from which he wrote part of The Butterfly Effect series- the set of Step-Daughter Cheerleader Orgy. Quaranteen uses that same keyword searchability to snag two wildly different markets. Other keyword themes include light BDSM, threesome, and of course the ever-comical cuckolding and hotwifing fetish.

Quaranteen represents by far the most common style of COVID-19 erotica, one in which lockdowns, quarantines, COVID-19, deaths, pandemics, and all other related concepts are peripheral to the content of the erotica. Ostensibly, when an erotic story features a fireman, it’s expected that at some point he will fuck the sexy, virginal heroine in a fire truck or in the fire brigade headquarters, or perhaps simply while wearing his protective yellow fireman helmet. The key feature is that far from being some sort of window-dressing, the central conceit of the story- firemen, vampires, fucking the powerful hyper-masculine boss, plays a very clear and distinct role in the content of the story as well.

Just as the authors of His Rules: Spanked (Stuck With You Quarantine Romance), or Quarantined With My Hot Roommates find themselves trapped with nothing to do but write, so the characters in those stories find themselves trapped with nothing to do but fuck.

COVID-69 by J. Andrews follows a similar trajectory. Our main character, a virginal Latina woman whose university break has been cancelled by the sudden lockdown of her city finds herself quarantined in an apartment tower aching for the touch of a man.

“See, this would be the moment that fantasy boyfriend of mine would come in real handy. He’d knock on the door with food and wine and movies and we’d hole up together just cuddling and talking and fucking for the whole month until this thing blew over. So, where the hell is he?”

This fantasy boyfriend arrives in the form of her downstairs neighbour, a “stone-cold punk Hercules”, “a punk rock Captain America” who breaks the isolation bubble on account of a broken bathroom pipe pissing water into his apartment beneath hers. He naturally ends up deflowering her, and global pandemic features sparsely as a concept or concern for our characters:

“We’ve already been within six feet of each other. We’ve basically broken the quarantine already… Might as well keep going, right?”

His tongue plunged downward and licked my pussy from bottom to top, sending such a shock of pleasure through me I didn’t even know what to do with it. He caressed every tiny millimeter of me with the tip of his tongue as he worked his way up to my clit.”

‘The more I looked at him, the more I craved him.’

However, where Coronavirus erotica really stakes out its claim to new ground is when it features the pandemic as central to the story. Some authors attempt to transplant their characters right into the heart of the COVID-19 story. COVID Love follows a saucy CDC doctor in Seattle who fucks her way into isolation with a big-dicked COVID-positive bartender:

“Spots danced before his eyes as he struggled not to cough, not to spasm as his lungs strained for breath. He could almost feel the virus coursing through him, but he didn’t care. Cali mounted him, pushing her underwear aside and using her hand to slip him inside her. Cali’s eyes rolled back in her head as her hips rolled around on top of him. She pulled the dress over her body in one fluid motion; N wasn’t sure where her bra went or how it disappeared – he only knew she’d been wearing one earlier and now it was gone.”

The problem of course being that coronavirus isn’t sexy, and if you want to get isolated you’re meant to get isolated with two horny, supple, nubile, open-minded young women to protect all three of you from COVID-19 (a la Marcus in Quarantined With My Hot Roommates), not bug chase an infected person into a real-life honest-to-god lockdown for other people’s safety.

Perhaps the perfect example of a well-crafted and effective Coronavirus erotica is in the groundbreaking work of Australian author H. G. Jones, whose works include Fucked on the Last Qantas Flight Out of SydneyFucked in a Lusty Lockdown in IGA, and Socially Distant Wanking in Lockdown.

Jones, while deftly articulating all the gory details of two exceptionally horny men with massive cocks in the throes of passion, also infuses the atmosphere of his stories with the social panic and ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic. A great example of this is the fantastic Fucked in a Toilet Paper Fort in Woolies. The premise is simple- at the height of Australia’s pandemic panic-buying, Jones’ protagonist searches desperately for toilet paper to last his lockdown and inevitably ends up getting railed by a handsome Woolworth’s employee in a fortress of toilet paper.

“He grinned. “Baby, we won’t need clothes in here.” He immediately unzipped his black standard Woolies pants, revealing his long, thick cock to me. I gasped. It was the most magnificent dick I had ever seen. At least 10 inches long, and girthy as well. It would be an easy task for him to destroy me sexually, in the toilet paper fort.”

Interestingly enough, Jones’ work captures perfectly the essence of the coronavirus pandemic not by simply reflecting the world as it is now, but by articulating that pandemic and the panic surrounding it through avatars- in this case, Coronavirus is a vampire plague, in another, it’s a werewolf plague, in Fucked on the Last Qantas out of Sydney, it’s a plague of Melburnians invading the rest of Australia.

“A wild, vampire virus was spreading rampantly throughout the world. First in Transylvania, then all of Europe, and now here in Australia. Streets were slowly filling with the undead, and our only hope of survival was self-imposed quarantines. The Woolies was filled with people doing the same as me – stocking up on emergency supplies.”

While I highly doubt any one of my flatmates has been fucked raw in a lust-filled supermarket storeroom, the nature of Jones’ comedic phrasing and genuine appreciation for his own absurdity makes for a comforting read in these uncertain times. I feel as though that’s the real power of Jones’ work. His writing is funny, his premises are ridiculous to the extreme, and his characters take the opportunity to connect in a time of isolation. It’s not an advisable course of action to immediately rail someone you just met while panic-buying in a crowded supermarket, but when faced with the immediate, violent death at the hands of vampires, Jones’ characters choose to spend their last moments alive and kicking, intimately close, the fear of transmission secondary to the lust they feel unable to ignore.

Jones succeeds where other authors fail. His heady mix of pandemic fear and raunchy eroticism is light and readable, his graphic depiction of cocks and or balls is amusing and vivid. A story like Socially Distant Wanking in Lockdown illustrates the reality of Coronavirus, a world of physical distance that has that distance closed by a fantasy of sexual contact.

“I’m a born librarian with a sex drive”

― David Bowie

“As with “Oh! You Pretty Things,” Bowie’s SF narrative is a cover for a more basic human predicament—how kids, who typically have no idea about sex, have to improvise and fake their way through it…”

So writes Chris O’Leary on his incredible blog Pushing Ahead of the Dames, a formidable song-by-song analysis of David Bowie’s entire recording career. As with Oh You Pretty Things and Drive In Saturday, the unifying theme of all COVID-19 erotica is a narrative of graphic sexual escapism that belies an uncertainty of the future. As people are cast adrift from human touch the dozen or so pages of steamy sex romps represent the fumblings of authors locked at home who, just like Bowie’s dome-living apocalypse survivors “have to improvise and fake their way through it”.

Whether we pass the time by penning pornography or not, we are all of us improvising and faking our way through an unprecedented moment in history.