In March 2020, as Covid-19 spread around the world and restrictions that altered our daily lives were imposed, a new genre of adult fiction appeared: pandemic erotica.
By the end of March, 20 erotic stories set during these unprecedented times had been published on Literotica, the world’s most popular community of erotica authors and readers.
A Literotica spokesperson wrote: “Initially, we weren’t sure if we should publish it. Then another lockdown story arrived, and another. It became clear that Literotica authors – like other artists – were using erotic literature to process, examine, and cope with the changing world around them.”
Interest in pandemic erotica peaked in May, when the site held a monthlong competition, offering cash prizes and donations to the winners’ choice of coronavirus charities.
Despite waning in popularity during the summer, pandemic erotica has persisted, with the 28 stories set in the pandemic published in February 2021 garnering 259,000 views and 365 likes.
Erotica is a doorway to fantasy and escapism so, at first glance, it seems unusual to ground erotic stories in the repetitive, limited reality of the pandemic.
But the stories remind readers that they are not experiencing the pandemic alone, and create an alternative reality where the grim everyday of lockdown is filled with sex, intimacy and spontaneity.
In the world of pandemic erotica, scientists developing a vaccine descend into an orgy after long hours at the lab and contact tracers get lucky.
Some stories sexualise new aspects of our daily lives such as the anonymity of masks and the opportunities for exhibitionism on Zoom.
In others, the pandemic simply lingers in the background, and setting up a home office, hearing a scary news bulletin or navigating furlough is mentioned in passing before the story veers into a sexual encounter.
Saddletramp1956’s story Necessities was one of the first pandemic erotica stories posted on the site, written back when people were stockpiling loo roll.
After scouring the store for loo roll, a husband comes home to find his wife gone.
Following her location on his phone, he catches her midway through a rendezvous with her boss and flying into a rage, he asks what this guy has that he doesn’t.
“Toilet paper,” she responds meekly.
At the time, people were scared and upset, and Saddletramp reimagined the scenario with comedy and eroticism.
Saddletramp said: “It was written pretty much tongue in cheek, it was a way to throw some humour into the whole situation. To escape, that’s why I wrote Necessities.”
They weren’t the only one who needed some light relief.
As one commenter wrote: “Now I have to clean the coffee out of my keyboard. Thanks for the laugh though. Too few of those these days.”
Saddletramp added a disclaimer urging readers to take all necessary measures to stay safe during the pandemic, a tactic other authors have used.
They said: “I didn’t want to come across as being too cavalier about the whole thing. People are dying, and I didn’t want to sound like I was giving that short shrift.”
Although some stories eroticise defying the Covid-19 restrictions, many sexualise those restrictions and the unlikely pairings that ensue.
In JB Edwards’ story, Covid-19 2020: She’s Across the Street, 71-year-old Leo makes eye contact with 55-year-old Juliana while they clap for carers, and the two develop a casual sexual relationship.
Edwards said: “The inspiration was that we were clapping for the nurses, and there were some very cute women clapping across the street.
“They’d wave and smile at us, and we’d wave and smile back, and you know, your imagination runs wild with that.
“I think it gives a whole new dimension to escapism to do it during the during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having a story that lets you escape into a sexual fantasy in the types of situations you’re in can be very exciting.”
A lot of the stories revolve around masturbation, a past time many have turned to in this time of relentless isolation.
HopelessPragmatic wrote Screen Time Down about a healthcare worker who comes home after a long day and decides to wean herself off using pornography by masturbating using only her imagination.
They said: “I think pandemic erotica appeals to some readers because coronavirus is so all encompassing.
“I myself am a healthcare worker who earlier last year was responsible for testing for the virus. I took up writing erotica set around the pandemic as a way to process the very real and very stressful experiences I had.”
Erotica can also explore the opportunities the pandemic presents for growth and self realisation.
In DrHenderson’s story, Lockdown with Liam, closeted Jamie ends up in lockdown with a gay friend.
In isolation together, Liam and Jamie become intimate with each other. Grappling with his sexuality, Jamie considers abandoning their burgeoning relationship once lockdown restrictions ease.
Instead, he comes out to his parents and friends, and enters into a loving relationship with Liam.
DrHenderson said: “I think a lot of people would have liked to be in a situation where love bloomed out of a sad or difficult situation.
“In the feedback, a lot of people said: ‘this story made me feel lonely.’ I think a lot of people desperately yearn for that experience.”
For DrHenderson, lockdown was the perfect scenario for two people to be alone together, explore each other and find out something new about themselves.
They added: “I wonder if setting erotica in the pandemic, a reality we are all living through, is actually a comfort in some ways. A reminder that there are silver linings, and people can still have fun with each other.”