• Valeria Martinez

Can porn with no pictures thrive in a world of visuals?

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

In the wake of a podcast boom, it’s unsurprising the erotic industry also wants a slice of the pie. Audio porn — a new genre of picture-free X-rated recordings — is creating a huge noise, but can it be propelled into the mainstream?



“Remember that time we went to Maui?” asks a smooth male voice. As the sound of ocean waves plays in the background, the voice continues to describe that trip to Hawaii — which seems to have been spent mostly under the sheets. The voice belongs to Jim Nova, a man who records audio porn under the pseudonym Feel Good Filth.


As the term ‘audio porn’ suggests, its content has no visuals. No videos of naked bodies are involved. Does the idea of porn without pictures sound strange? Jim doesn’t think so.

In 2018, he began sharing his audio porn on Reddit, simply as a hobby and for fun. That was until 22-year-old Caroline Spiegel — the sister of Snapchat’s founder Evan Spiegel — contacted him in January 2019. “She offered to pay for my audio if I published it on her new audio porn website, Quinn,” he says. “So I thought, ‘hey, maybe there is something here.’”


As shown by the latest figures, there is certainly something about audio porn. In 2019, audio erotica startups have collectively raised over 8 million dollars (£6.1 million). Dipsea, a podcast app that releases erotic audio stories, has been valued at 17 million dollars and downloaded over 300,000 times.


Even though websites like Literotica, YouTube, Reddit and Tumblr have been hosting audio versions of erotic stories for a very long time, the recent audio porn take-off is little wonder in the wake of a thriving podcast industry. In the UK, Ofcom says that nearly 6 million people tune into a podcast each week, double the number of five years ago.


This doesn’t mean the audience for traditional porn is dwindling — not even close. Last year, 6.83 million videos were uploaded to Pornhub, which attracted 43 billion visits in 2019 — that’s a daily average of 115 million visitors.


In comparison, audio porn continues to be a niche market despite considerable popularity growth in the past year. Our survey found that only 18.75% of respondents had ever consumed audio porn. So how can this format attract people’s attention in an ocean of visual content?


For Jim, the lack of visuals is definitely not a downside — but quite the contrary. “The auditory stimulation in the form of erotic stories takes more engagement of the imagination and builds a visual narrative in your mind,” he says.

With audio porn, it’s just you, the voice and your imagination — which has been considered key for female arousal. Research by sex education platform OMGyes and The Kinsey Institute found 90% of women use ‘mental framing’ during sex. That means switching off from what’s around you to focus on the sensations and create a scenario that works for you.


To achieve this, sound effects are key. “Little effects as silly as a zipper can help people immerse in the story and get into their desired scenario,” says Jim.


However, psychosexual therapist Silva Navas argues that scenario creation is not exclusive to women. “Many men are aroused with the straightforward penis-in-vagina intercourses and no talking, but many other men are sexually aroused by a story and a scenario,” he says.


So why are audio porn platforms like Quinn and Dipsea mainly aimed at female users?


“Some women don’t feel represented by mainstream porn as it usually doesn’t depict females being the focus of pleasure and sexual acts involved,” says Jim.


Jan Macleod from Women's Support Project — an organisation campaigning against pornography and sexual exploitation, says: “Mainstream porn is made by men for men, it sexualises inequality and mainly focuses on the male’s point of view”. This seems to be supported by the results of our survey, which found that 92% of respondents think mainstream porn is mainly tailored to men.


For some, audio porn might be a more accepting and even feminist alternative, as most erotic audio stories made by platforms like Dipsea or Quinn portray women having safe and happy sexual encounters. They are not being manipulated, demeaned or coerced and always are in control.


“In audio porn, you are the focus, your pleasure is the focus,” says Jim. “Audio erotica makes you the centre of the action, instead of just watching as a third party.”


The ethics of audio porn are another attraction for the ethically conscious masses turned off by mass-produced porn. As abusive and precarious labour practices within the industry dominate public discussion worldwide, audio porn creator and sex blogger Sarah (better known as Girl on the Net) argues that people are increasingly keen to understand where their porn comes from.

As people are more aware of the ethics of porn, many believe that things like audio porn are more ethical because they do not come with the same baggage as porn consumers are used to accessing on tube sites,” she says.

However, audio porn, like any porn production, is open to abuse by those who want to make a profit off others while treating them badly. Sarah believes that automatically assuming audio porn is more ethical than visual porn could be dangerous.

“It leaves the way open for large sites or platforms to become a central place for people to find audio porn, but without actually living by important ethical rules — such as paying creators, for instance,” she says.

22% of those surveyed said their body image had been distorted through watching porn. “Porn made me insecure about my vagina,” wrote one of the respondents. As audio erotica doesn’t present unattainable bodies to compare oneself to — nor does it discriminate race — the lack of visuals could allow people to imagine their own versions of beauty while consuming porn.

However, Silva argues that although it is easy to blame body image issues on porn, it is clinically not the case most of the time. Instead, it all comes down to sex education. “Poor sex education can create issues with how people see their genitals or how they think sex ‘should’ be like,” he says.

The popularity of sensual listening shows no signs of slowing down. As Quinn grows its user base 11% on average every week according to the New York Post, it’s no wonder audio porn creators like Jim are so optimistic about the future of this promising X-rated genre.

Compared to mainstream porn, this is something not a lot of folks really know about yet, but even with this small market we are getting good numbers,” he says. “I think I will be able to do this full time by 2022,” he says.

Despite this, Sarah believes audio porn will never replace visual porn. “While audio is amazing, it's not going to be a great turn-on for deaf people, or for others who may not be able to listen or find audio-only a turn-off,” she says.

“The world is better when we have a variety of different creative people making a diverse range of sexy stuff, so people can pick and choose what they want to engage with according to their individual tastes.”



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