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Repeat After Me: How Jerk-Off Instruction Porn Won the Internet

Sure, it’s hot to be told what to do, but JOI isn’t just getting people off — it’s helping them feel seen in an increasingly impersonal world

“I’ve been thinking about you,” says Alina Lopez in her Pornhub video “Jerk Off Instructions,” her long blond hair flowing past the naked skin of her shoulders. With her legs spread and her gaze fixated squarely on you, she moans out an order for you to fulfill: “I want you to grab your cock with one hand and just… squeeze it a little bit for me.” 

It’s an intimate command, especially from someone who isn’t your partner (or even your curvy wife), but it’s also the exact sort of closeness that millions of “jerk off instruction” (JOI) video viewers crave. For the uninitiated, JOI is a porn genre where performers give viewers step-by-step instructions on how to touch themselves. The tone, audience and theme of these videos vary wildly, but despite their range, they have one thing in common: The masturbation method is up to the performer, not you. In fact, if you follow their instructions correctly, the entire experience is orchestrated by them. 

This has always been an enticing concept, but JOI videos have become increasingly ubiquitous as of late. In the years since a 2016 VICE article described it as a “niche interest,” the dedicated community of fans in Reddit’s r/JOI has mushroomed from 28,000 members to 213,000, and its stranger cousin r/JOIP — which offers JOI through celebrity photos and user-created text prompts like this restraining-order-worthy series with Emma Stone — has reached 55,000 members. Meanwhile, JOI has become one of the most popular global search terms on Pornhub, and it’s also one of the more common forms of custom content on subscription sites like OnlyFans. 

Even performers like Lopez and Tessa Winters, who has a JOI video with more than 5.5 million views on Pornhub, have started making JOI videos for a more general audience, one that might not know that JOI actually started as a lesser-known fetish. This marks the ubiquity of the JOI renaissance we seem to be in, where you can find a JOI video for every possible emotional and physical preference you may have. 

Hoping to feel like a dirty little piss-baby while you touch your balls? Great, here’s Goddess Hasmik with her punishment JOI. Are you a gamer wishing an anime hottie would use the word “stroke” at least three times? Awesome! Check out Fap Queen, a free JOI video game. Or maybe you’re someone with a vagina, who was hoping to get some help “Jilling off” (because vaginas can’t be named “Jack”). Head over to Athena Asher’s Pornhub for some vagina-centered instruction. 

But with all this buzz and variety, one has to wonder: Will JOI go the way of other porn trends like fauxcest or ahegao, skyrocketing to popularity before its bubble bursts? Or does it have more teeth than that, a perennial porn staple whose appeal is here to stay?

As of now, things are certainly trending toward the latter, and it all has to do with the origins and versatility of JOI. In its early days — which seem to have been in the 2010s — it wasn’t nearly as popular or diverse as it is today. In fact, according to Geoffrey Celen, a porn expert and founder of porn-ranking site ThePornDude.com, it was fetish content closely associated with female domination, and you could only find it in select circles of smut. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I first encountered JOI,” he says. “But the first [JOI video] I ran into likely involved a stern mistress demanding you whip out that little worm, you little worm.”

At the time, Celen says that “homebrew clip shops where dominatrixes dabbled in various femdom-oriented fetishes like cuckolding, feminization and small-penis humiliation” formed the backbone of JOI. “I could see the JOI format growing out of that,” he continues. “Viewers were planning on cranking one out anyway, so maybe it was just a natural evolution to start adding verbal instructions, especially when the videos were aimed at obedient, submissive men to begin with.”

Clara Dee, a popular JOI creator on Pornhub, agrees that JOI likely sprung out of some deep wellspring of kink and fetish. “People who like JOI tend to be more sexually submissive,” Dee tells me. “Part of the fetish is giving control of your body to someone else. You don’t always know what’s going to happen, and that’s what makes it exciting. You can turn off your brain and get lost in the moment, because you don’t have to make any decisions. It’s kind of the same reason some people enjoy being tied up during sex, or following orders.” 

To wit, domination and sissification, a fetish where a man becomes a hyperfeminine woman, still make up a big part of the broader JOI scene. Things like goddess worship, delayed orgasms and the aforementioned cuckolding have been keeping JOI creatively submissive since its inception, too. That said, its recent expansion into vanilla territory proves it’s not just a kinky thing — everyone likes to be told how to masturbate, be it by a leather-clad dominatrix or a blonde-next-door like Lopez. 

“The nice thing about JOI is that it’s very versatile,” says Dee. “There are a ton of subgenres, like cum-eating instructions or JOI games.” Take her video “Shy Girlfriend JOI,” for instance. According to its description, you’re on a Skype call with your girlfriend, but she needs a little encouragement to simultaneously masturbate with you. Classic shy girlfriend! “As JOI becomes more popular and reaches more of a mainstream audience, more people are looking for a positive, affectionate vibe,” Dee explains. “That works out well for me, because I like being encouraging and affirming.” 

This makes sense. For the non-fetishist, discovering your submissive side with JOI is much more entry-level than joining a sex dungeon, taking the time to discover if BDSM works for you or letting a latex-clad woman lead you around on a leash like the stinky little doggy you are.

The increased interest in sweeter JOI is also likely related to social factors like the pandemic and the crush of climate doom, both which have made people desire attentiveness and warmth in a whole new way. The explosive popularity of OnlyFans during the early days of the pandemic is the perfect example. As people adjusted to being sequestered indoors — oftentimes alone — the intimate, intensely personal nature of OnlyFans became particularly attractive. You could message with performers, request custom content and glimpse into their day-to-day lives in a way the tube sites have never allowed for. You could even ask them to tell you how to masturbate, an artificial intimacy that, while being far from the “real thing,” at least approximated it. After all, it’s nice having someone look at you and care about your orgasm, even if they’re just a person behind your computer screen. 

But global anxiety is nothing new, and JOI’s audience has been heading this way for the past few years. “Is there a [subreddit] for wholesome/encouraging JOI for depressed people?” one redditor asked in 2019. And a year earlier, redditors were grateful to a performer who made a JOI video followed by uplifting “aftercare,” like a sweet instruction to do something today that you would thank yourself for tomorrow. “Who needs therapy when they have you?” one comment read, referring to the person who posted the video. “You surely helped thousands of people. Love you. Keep doing this.” 

Another notable change in modern JOI is the increased market for trans and gender-neutral JOI. Yet, according to Erica Cherry, a trans adult film actress who’s been making JOI for the last few years, broadening the scope of JOI could get complicated. This is mostly because, as you might be aware, cisgender men really like porn. “It’s easy to rely on the penis in a JOI video [for both performers and viewers],” Cherry writes over DM. “What else are you gonna be jerking off in a jerk-off instruction video? Plus, the (usually male) viewers do want to get off in the end, and that’s going to necessitate some penis play.” 

But an emphasis on penises can also sometimes bring an advantage to trans female performers. “I can show [viewers] exactly what I want them to do,” she says. “‘Now do it like I’m doing it,’ is something I lean into a lot. However, it’s true that we could all ultimately be more creative in our work and ultimately make an even better experience including more of the body.” 

Dee agrees, telling me that although her “viewers are mostly men, there is increasingly a female audience for JOI.” Because of this, she tries to make some of her JOIs either body-neutral (by avoiding gendered language and including instructions for both penises and vaginas), or specifically focused on women and people with vaginas. 

It’s clear that a lot of modern JOI creators, who also tend to skew female and amateur, put a lot of thoughtfulness and creativity into their content. This intimate approach to porn coupled with the unquenchable thirst of old school JOI communities like r/JOI and r/JOIP are proof that despite becoming somewhat of a recent trend, it’s not going anywhere. At least, not anytime soon. “I don’t really view JOIs as a bubble or a passing fad, although the trend of having videos titled ‘JOI’ might be,” says Cherry. “There’s a lot of overlap in this genre between JOI videos, cum-eating instruction, erotic hypnosis or guided masturbation sessions. It will always be around in some form or another.” 

Dee feels similarly, and even hopes for more futuristic JOI as the genre develops. “I’m really excited to see what people do with VR and teledildonics,” she tells me. “Teledildonics is the field of computer-controlled sex toys. With all the different possibilities and technological integrations, it’s a really fun and interesting time to be making JOI.”

We’re living in a particularly lonely point in history, where rent and anxiety are high, screens divide us all and huge, world-changing events leave us feeling especially powerless. JOI appears to be a sexy answer to that stress, offering you a moment of submission and connection with a person of your choosing. So as long as anxious people need a release, JOI will be around, instructing you to take life (and yourself) by the balls, one step at a time. 

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