Have you ever stood at the school gates, waiting to pick up your six-year-old, while secretly listening to fan fiction about Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy having sex up a tree after being chased by dinosaurs? I have – and it’s a fairly disorienting experience.
I have listened to hours of pornography, erotica, romance and sex audio in thepast few weeks – starting with Fangasm, a series that began in 2017, in which three friends perform, dissect and discuss erotic fan fiction based on everything from Game of Thrones to The Little Mermaid, Barbie and Succession. Oh, and Harry Potter. (It was actually once called The Potterotica Podcast, such was the dedication to erogenous reimaginings of the goings-on at Hogwarts.)
The market for sex-based audio is positively inflamed these days. Audio apps such as Dipsea, Quinn and Ferly are popping up all over the internet, with even established pornography makers turning to the medium. It’s not an industry about which it’s easy to find detailed figures, but, according to Forbes, audio erotica startups were already raising more than $8m a year in 2019.
“We didn’t know if anyone was going to listen and then, in just the first year, we were one of the Top 25 comedy podcasts,” says Fangasm’s co-host, Allie LeFevere. “It was a wild ride.”
When I recall the episode I had heard the day before, in which The Little Mermaid’s Ursula the sea witch had been boinking Scar from The Lion King, LeFevere explains: “This is not an erotic audiobook for you to masturbate to. Me and [co-host] Danny have these nasal, midwestern accents; these are not the voices you want.” Instead, Fangasm is a podcast with which to “dip your toe in the world of eroticism”.
“We are, ahem, an awesome point of entry,” she says. “The eroticism is a fun and funny element, and we do as good a job as we can to be really inclusive and accepting and tolerant of all preferences and all people. But, really, we’re making comedy.”
For the slightly more serious stuff, the anonymous erotica creator Girl on the Net – a “professional sex blogger, audio porn producer and pervert” – creates short, sexy stories with titles such as Fantasy Spanking: The Keys to the Kingdom and Harness the Passion: A Strap-on Fantasy.
I give Girl on the Net a call, after clearing out my son’s guinea pigs and before cleaning the sink, to find out what it’s really like to record sex scenes. “You do feel a little bit silly, speaking to the microphone as if it’s your lover and you’re whispering in bed, when actually I’m just in my house, in jeans and a jumper,” she says.
Does she ever get turned on by what she is acting out? “God yeah,” she says. With her own pieces, she has already written, edited and promoted them on her blog before recording, but when voicing other people’s work, or producing a new story for Patreon, “I might have to go upstairs for a freelancer’s lie down”.
The source material of her stories is often drawn from real life and real relationships. “I still read these porny stories about things me and my ex did,” she says. For the first time in a while, I feel a sharp intake of breath. “I do wish him well, but it’s very strange to sit and record a story about how he bent me over the sofa and railed me when I’m thinking: I wonder what he’s up to these days?”
With such a broad range of audio erotica available, there is something for everyone to enjoy. “What is considered sexy is always subjective. Something that tickles your pickle might sink somebody else’s dinghy,” says Alix Fox, a sex educator, broadcaster and former host of Audible’s Kink! and the BBC’s Unexpected Fluids. “Then again, what makes you recoil in horror might make someone else turgid, in all the best ways.” Presenters can, as she puts it, feel a pressure to sound slinky and sexy. “But that can backfire like a potato up your exhaust.”
Audio erotica, in many ways, feels like the less intimidating, less mainstream and certainly less male-skewed sister to filmed pornography. Being nonvisual, it’s easier to protect a subject’s identity. It’s also easier to make ethical erotica in an audio format, because the performers don’t have to have sex in order to create sex scenes.
It also operates, to some extent, with the production values of your imagination. You can picture anything you want. On some platforms, you can choose a story by length as well as theme. And nobody – not even the woman scanning the barcode on your laundry detergent – knows what you are listening to.
“I listened to a BDSM scene on the 277 bus yesterday, as time-efficient foreplay during my late commute home to my partner,” says Fox. “The fact that you can consume something that can be so explicit in such a secretive manner, even in a public place, has the capacity to add an extra layer of frisson to the delicious Viennetta of that experience.”
Now, cards on the table and hands where you can see them: I have to be honest and admit that almost none of the audio erotica I have listened to gets me even vaguely hot under the collar. Otherwise distracted by slicing some courgettes, I give up on something called DreamTime #2: A DiCaprio-Bacon-Sandwich, on The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast; I lose interest in Bisexual Blindfolding – Erotic Audio for Women #2304, on a podcast called Cum With Us, while hanging up some towels.
I do, however, get hooked by Dirty Diana – a six-part drama executive-produced and starring Demi Moore, who plays a married woman secretly running an erotic website where people can reveal their intimate sexual fantasies. There are cameos from Melanie Griffith, Lena Dunham and Gwendoline Christie (proof that even Hollywood A-listers are taking audio erotica very seriously) and, more to the point, tension, drama and characters you can invest in.
But did it get me slipping under the duvet in the middle of the day? No. Very little does.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism