Porn isn’t personal.
Not really. People absolutely have preferences, a soup of individual fantasies and desires. But while porn performers may seem like they’re gazing into a viewer’s eyes as they perform sexual acts, they aren’t really. They’re looking into a camera lens. Every tick of Pornhub’s view counter is another viewer gazing into those same eyes. So while it can feel personalized and even intimate, it’s not.
Something similar could be said for audio erotica. Performers speak into a microphone without any knowledge of who’s on the other side.
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But there’s something uniquely different about audio porn that doesn’t translate into video. Just as podcasts feel like you’re a friend joining in on a conversation, there’s a je ne sais quoi of settling into bed, earphones on, and having someone weave a sexy story (seemingly) just for you.
The experience is at least personal to ScarlettFever, a creator for the audio erotica site Quinn. Quinn is like YouTube for audio porn. Creators populate the site with content. Many times, the stories are self-insert, meaning the narrator is speaking as if performing sexual acts to “you.”
“I had a friend bring up a point that if he were to record something, it wouldn’t feel personal to the person you’re talking to,” Scarlett, who chose to go by her Quinn username for this interview, told Mashable. “But I actually disagree. I think it feels way more personal — and if it pleasures someone, I think it’s all positive.”
Scarlett doesn’t just make her living with audio erotica. Like other voice actors Mashable spoke to, she blends mainstream and commercial work with erotica. After graduating college two years ago, she’s taken odd jobs to supplement her acting, like tutoring SAT students. When a friend told her about Quinn, she loved the idea and went for it.
audio porn stars
Credit: Bob Al-Greene / mashable
Like Scarlett, Joe Bianco performs audio erotica in addition to doing commercial work. Bianco began his acting career in theater, but when he moved to commercial work he thought there’d be limited options. “I look like a Disney villain,” Bianco joked in an interview with Mashable. “I’m bald, I have ‘resting evil face.'”
Throughout his life, though, he heard that he had a great voice. He took a voiceover class and began booking freelance gigs.
One of Bianco’s top clients is Dipsea. Unlike Quinn, Dipsea is a content creation studio and produces audio erotica stories in-house. Their stories are sometimes guided and other times are voyeuristic tales where the listener isn’t directly involved.
Bianco, who records both kinds of stories for the site, found the opportunity through an audition website several years ago. Not only was the pay rate fair, which was enticing enough, but the audition material wasn’t smutty.
“I did a gig for … this potato chip company and I left the gig and I just felt dirty and slimy and kind of gross,” said Bianco. The client asked him to do “sexy” takes, which left Bianco feeling objectified.
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But Bianco said he’s never felt that way working with Dipsea — an actual erotica company as opposed to a potato chip company. “They create a workspace you’re not afraid to be as vulnerable as you have to, and it’s really nice, especially having that strange commercial experience.”
That’s why Dipsea has become one of his top clients. “I appreciate how professional they are because it’s such a delicate subject matter,” he said, “and because they are so professional it never feels like a delicate subject matter. You never feel like you’re walking on eggshells or anything like that. You can just really focus on getting the job done.”
Inside the audio booth
Shava’sha Dickerson, an actor, singer, songwriter, and voice actor for both commercial and creative projects, reiterated what Bianco said about Dipsea. She’s worked with them for about a year as of her Mashable interview, and it was her first foray into voice acting after a friend sent her the link to audition.
Dickerson initially thought that recording in a studio would be uncomfortable, but found that that wasn’t the case. She doesn’t see the audio engineer, and Dipsea accommodates her while recording. “They’re really good at that,” she said in an interview with Mashable, “Asking ‘Do you want to watch something? Do you need anything visual? What do you need before we go into this?'”
Dickerston plays Cory in a four-part queer series on the app called “Ride or Die.” She loves the character because, like herself, Cory is an intimate person. “I think they do that on purpose,” Dickerson said of Dipsea, “They find a character that represents the actor well.”
Dickerson voices a character in the Dipsea story ‘Ride or Die.’
She continued, “Because the script can get so intimate and descriptive, it’s nice to know that you have an engineer that’s cool.”
Both Bianco and Dickerson are public about their work with Dipsea. Their respective wives and loved ones know. Bianco’s wife was the one to push him to audition in the first place, and his 20-something niece jokes that she can’t download the app despite friends telling her about it. Dickerson’s mother even made a cameo when a script called for a mom character.
“Dipsea will take the extra step to incorporate things like consent in a very sexy way, very natural, healthy, not-mood-breaking way which I think some people will falsely say is not possible,” said Bianco, who signed an exclusivity deal with the app.
He works from home in a broadcast quality studio. While he’s alone, he has Dipsea producer in his ear along with his co-star, if he’s working with one that day. Bianco said the most awkward part of the experience is when his wife comes home and he’s making sex noises in his studio.
“You’re making out with your own hand,” he said. “You’re doing pushups or jumping jacks to try to make the breath [sound] real.” When his character reaches climax, there’s so much exhalation and breathing. “You will definitely get lightheaded,” he said.
Your guide to audio erotica apps and websites
The biggest adjustment for Bianco, however, is the type of performance he gives. “It’s really a cinematic performance,” Bianco said of recording with Dipsea. “I do voiceover all day every day, and a lot of commercial stuff or video games is just not in the same world.” Going down at the end of sentences, stumbling over words — basically, making his character sound natural — is different from the upbeat, stylized work of commercials and video games.
Dickerson said that while one may assume it’d be uncomfortable, the process doesn’t feel erotic. “You’re not even really thinking about the sexual aspects,” she said. “You’re just really trying to get them what they’re asking you for.”
Nathan Grant, an actor for the newer audio erotica site Bloom (formerly Audiodesires), feels sexy when he records. Like Quinn, Bloom has self-insert stories. The site’s protocol is for actors to conduct breathing exercises before each read. “Basically, we record a sequence of breaths that turn into a mini orgasm,” said Grant, who chose to go by his site alias for this interview.
To get in the right headspace, he imagines a sexy scene and connects with his personal life. “By the time the warm-up exercise is finished, I’m quite aroused and ready for some audio love-making,” he said.
Grant got his start narrating romance audiobooks. Over time, the writing became “saucier,” so the transition to full-blown erotica was seamless. Bloom approached him after they heard audiobook demos. “They described their erotic audio stories for women and couples as ‘body positive, diverse, equal, imaginative, relatable, and feminist,'” he said. “When I heard this, I knew that I wanted to work with them.”
“You’re making out with your own hand. You’re doing pushups or jumping jacks to try to make the breath [sound] real.”
Elle Corney, another Bloom performer who spoke to Mashable under her site alias, has worked in voiceover for nearly two decades. She even used to record voiceovers for adult movies — no moaning involved, just narrating up to the explicit sex. Bloom found her through a site that connects creatives with performers.
Acting is Corney’s first love, and she’s happy to be open and talk about sex — so she enjoys recording for Bloom. She figured it would be awkward with other people, but since she’s able to record alone, it’s a fun experience for her.
As Corney does “boring corporate stuff,” in her own words, she needs to get in the zone before recording erotic stories. “They like to get some room atmosphere at the beginning so that’s a good time to sit still and let all the other thoughts of the day go away and try to get into a more appropriate mood,” she said. “Then I will do some moaning and other noises for the story before starting to read. That way, I am loose and limber and ready to go, just like warming up.”
Grant also described a feeling of letting go when recording, both of oneself and the script. The script doesn’t articulate realistic noises that occur during sex, according to Grant, so the narrator needs to go beyond what’s written and put themselves in the scene. This work can conjure up self-consciousness and vulnerability, Grant said, because these noises are primal and intimate.
“Moans, grunts, mouth sounds, breathing, and cries of ecstasy are all very personal experiences,” he said, “so if a narrator is able to overcome certain acting apprehensions and really commit to brmaug honesty and a lack of inhibition to the erotic content, then authors and producers will appreciate this commitment and want to continue collaborating.”
Grant goes the distance for his work. For one series, which includes his favorite story “Shower for Two,” he recorded sounds in a gym, sauna, locker room, bathroom, and shower. “I had a huge amount of fun providing original recorded content for the sound design and hope that the level of immersion feels quite high for our members,” he said. “We are all working hard to take our audio erotica to the next level.”
While actors for Dipsea and Bloom receive a script, Scarlett improvises her stories for Quinn. “It’s just me sitting in a closet improvising different fantasies,” she said. Usually, Scarlett records from her booth in New York but she relocated to California amidst the pandemic.
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A choreographer who was connected to her sexuality once served as a mentor to Scarlett, and she was inspired. When recording to Quinn, she tries not to judge herself. “When I shed the judgment, then it is actually very liberating,” she said, “because I get to explore parts of myself that I don’t necessarily explore in my daily life.”
Sometimes she feels silly, especially if she improvises something and it sounds off. “I have fun with myself … I keep good humor while I do it.” But overall, it is freeing for her. “That’s actually the thing I tell my friends about it is that it’s incredibly empowering as well, just to be able to like explore.”
RedJess, another Quinn performer, found out about the site when she met the content creator on set for a commercial. Jess, also an alias, had never heard of any audio erotica platform and was fascinated. “Plus, I was already used to working as a voice actor, and liked the anonymity aspect,” she told Mashable. “Being in the business of saying ‘yes’ I thought of it as a fun, new adventure.”
Unlike Scarlett, Jess writes a short script herself and riffs when the moment calls for it. Since it’s only her recording, she writes in another person but no one else actually speaks. While she’s not an avid porn watcher, Jess knows there’s a loose plot — a situation of some sort, the relationship between the people involved, and eventually, sex. “That’s usually where I go off script and you know…make it sexy,” she said.
Like Scarlett and some other performers, though, Jess performs alone and finds it liberating. “I try to have fun, keep it real, and trust my instincts,” she said.
Innovation of audio porn
All the performers were adamant that they wanted to keep recording erotica. “Luckily you never see my face so I can probably keep doing it until I’m in my 80s,” Corney joked. “I might need some glasses to read the script by then though.”
“I could look different to different people. I love not having a face. Being no one. Being anyone.”
Dickerson believes Dipsea is groundbreaking in helping people become more sexually liberated. “They’re so intentional — and it shows in each and every email that they send down [and] up to every episode that they produce,” she said. Both she and Bianco said they’ll continue to record with them.
Scarlett reiterated the feeling of liberation in the work. “Digging into one’s own sensuality is a beautiful thing, to feel connected with yourself,” she said. “I think often in society we can push down. It can be freeing. And I think that’s a beautiful thing that I get to experience with doing this kind of work.”
Anonymity, which some performers prefer to maintain, is also a beautiful thing. Porn may not be personal, but audio erotica is as close as it can get. “I like being anyone they need me to be,” Grant said.
He enjoys having an experience with the listener that’s both collaborative and intimate. He continued, “I could look different to different people. I love not having a face. Being no one. Being anyone. Being the one to feed them the words on the page line by line, like delicious grapes.”
This article was first published in 2020 and republished in 2023.
Sex & Relationships