What Your Business Can Learn from The Sex Industry (if you’re willing to bend a little)

Posted by Flux on 

5 May 2020

This article was originally published here

Image credit: Dainis Graveris on SexualAlpha

There is a lot mainstream businesses can learn from the sex industry.

The world’s oldest industry has always been quick to learn new tricks. From age-old practices of adopting euphemisms such as “escort services” and “massage parlours” to take advantage of legal loopholes to reacting, fast, to leading technological development in industries as diverse artificial intelligence, robotics (the intelligence of sex bots puts Sophia the robot to shame), virtual reality and crypto currency (look up teledildonics, if you are not convinced); the sex industry is undoubtably an early adopter and leading indicator of the zeitgeist.

The current COVID-19 crisis is no exception.

Business empathy

Business empathy is one of the most encouraging trends to come out of the COVID-19 crisis. Business empathy involves companies investing in future goodwill with their target markets through kind and charitable actions. Examples include banks and insurers offering loan and premium holidays for the duration of lockdowns and fast-fashion brands converting their customer care lines into free telecounselling services.

One of the first businesses to embrace this business empathy trend was Pornhub, which first offered free temporary access to its premium subscription content to its Italian customers in March, as the coronavirus began scaring people into social distancing and lockdowns. There is no denying this is both clever marketing to a captive audience, and an example of kind (and proactive) capitalism. The marketing campaign around the offer encouraged people to stay home and do their bit to slow the spread of the virus. Since then, Pornhub has rolled the free offer to the rest of the world.

(This is not the first time Pornhub has taken a lead on conscious capitalism, taking on issues of social importance. Last year, the company created “the dirtiest movie ever made”, a porno shot on a beach littered with trash, to raise awareness and funds for cleaning up ocean pollution.)

From pivots to poles

Around the world, millions of businesses involved in the sale of physical goods and services have suddenly had to either find a way to switch their business models online, or close their doors. From hairdressers offering online fringe-cutting tutorials to petting zoos offering “goat to meeting” services, the virtual economy has become, in many ways, the real economy.

Of course, exotic dancers faced the same challenges. Bars and clubs were among the first businesses closed due to COVID-19, and they will likely be among the last to re-open. This means that club and pole dancers, who work for tips rather than salaries found themselves without an income. However, didn’t take their predicament lying down. Dancers were among the first service workers to take advantage of social media to replace their lost incomes. One of the most successful of these strategies has been for dancers to perform on Instagram Live in exchange for tips paid via Cash App (also proving that the industry has been quick to adapt to the emerging global contactless and cashless economy).

Locally, the South African burlesque community has made a similar move online by offering “Quantantease” burlesque striptease shows in the form of paid-for live webinars.

Essential goods and services (aka extra hot food)

Businesses have also had to find ways to work around (sometimes arbitrary) lockdown laws that divided economies between essential and inessential services and allowed only businesses deemed essential to trade. These distinctions have pushed businesses to change their product and service offerings to fit within the definitions of “essential”. As such we have seen luxury fashion houses switching production lines from gowns and bags to designer face masks; and liquor companies switching product lines from beverages to sanitisers.

Once again, the sex industry has been among the most creative in finding ways to fit itself within the loopholes of the law.

Some escorts took to offering in home food delivery services (with extra special attentive customer care by topless delivery girls on arrival). Another strip club in Oregon, USA, started operating a drive through take away service, serviced by the club’s dancers. Drivers were treated to a (socially distant) drive-by pole dance and strip tease performed in the parking lot during the food collection process (tips welcome).

How far are you willing to bend?

All this is rather entertaining, no doubt.

However, the real question is, what new tricks can your business learn from the sex industry’s willingness to adapt to survive?

Are you willing and able to be as agile and flexible with your own work?

Hopefully, you take the examples above as inspiration to think differently about changing your businesses model to fit the new, tightened creative brief presented by the heath and economic constraints of the new COVID-19 reality. Social distancing is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is likely to be years before a new social and economic equilibrium emerges. Waiting and hoping for things to go back to “normal” (whatever normal is), is not a survival strategy.

This article is extract from my latest virtual talk with, titled Make a Plan, it’s all about how we can shift our perspective to start viewing problems as potential business opportunities. For more information, go here:

(After all, creativity loves a tight brief.)

Bronwyn Williams
Foresight | Futurist | Strategist | Economist | Trend Analyst

Image credit: Dainis Graveris

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