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On Discord, They Come for the Porn and Stay for the Friendship

Viewing porn on Discord is neither quick nor easy, so why are people choosing to use it over other platforms like Pornhub and OnlyFans?

When the bearded, soft-spoken Jason Citron launched the global text-and-video chat platform Discord back in 2015, his humble goal was to build a gamer-friendly alternative to old-school software like Skype. That vision soured in 2017, when a lack of regulation allowed white supremacists to create “servers” — Discord-speak for “group chats” — where they planned a fatal Black Lives Matter counter-protest in Charlottesville. An alt-right affiliation has lingered ever since, dominating interviews and spawning articles on the “dark side” of the app.

In 2019, abusive spam accounts were banned en masse to tackle these issues, just in time for a post-COVID popularity boom — now, everyone from teachers to Boy Scouts have flocked to Discord, where they’ve built virtual classrooms and wholesome online hubs for troop meetings. But since the internet is a huge, horny Wild West, the 18+ corners of the app have also become digital havens for porn. 

Discord porn is similar to what you might find on OnlyFans, but with one-off pictures instead of spank-bank folders, no monthly subscription fees and a far more diverse selection of content. From hentai clips and furry filth to sell-your-own-nudes servers, Discord offers almost every kind of smut imaginable, and the vast majority of it costs exactly zero dollars to watch.

Almost 30,000 of its servers are tagged “NSFW,” but there’s a catch: These slutty group chats often take far more time, effort and verification to join — most legit NSFW servers won’t let creators or horny viewers anywhere near the good stuff without a photo of your ID (with the details crossed out, of course). The layout of Discord is also far less intuitive than typical porn sites — you have to make several clicks before you see skin, and because the app functions more like Slack than Pornhub, it’s a lot harder to find exactly what you’re after. There’s a steep learning curve to Discord, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can really blow a gasket trying to figure it out.  

With that in mind, it’s worth asking: Given the endless smorgasbord of online porn, why would people choose a byzantine app like Discord to fap with? 

To understand what keeps porno savants logged on, you have to first examine the appeal of Discord as a whole. Citron summarized it himself in a recent blog post in which he attempted to reframe the platform as a place for gaming communities to share meaningful interactions. “For millions of you, it already felt like a home,” he wrote. “[It’s] a place where you and your world can truly belong.”

Schmaltzy talk of heartfelt connection aside, there’s truth to the idea that Discord’s popularity lies in the ease of interaction (which explains why its tagline is “Your Place to Talk”). Especially during COVID, chatting with a stranger on the other side of the world can feel like a break from the loneliness that’s now become the norm, and because the app was specifically designed to stoke discussion, people do use it to have real, meaningful and revealing conversations.

Other discussion-oriented sites like Reddit offer this sort of intimacy to an extent, but the chat features are nowhere near as robust as Discord’s, and there’s no real option to dive into a private room filled with boned-up strangers who share your kinks. On Discord, bored, lonely horndogs desperately craving connection can bookend their lewdest fantasies with general chit-chat, giving them an opportunity not just to beat off, but to make a digital friend in the process. To sweeten the deal, most servers allow you to attach “roles” to your profile, which broadcast your kinks and sexual preferences to other members in order to stoke conversation. 

Unsurprisingly, hentai servers are incredibly popular among Discord’s gamer-dominated user base, but there are adult groups aplenty if you look hard enough. Whether you dream of being a trad wife dominated by your misogynist alpha husband, or your real fantasy is to by  stranded in a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by hot furries, there’s a sexy chat room — and sometimes, a few accompanying photos and videos — for everyone.

“Dating” is another popular tag, currently attached to more than 15,000 servers. Don’t expect to find Tinder profiles, though; from “Loners & Boners” to “Simp Kingdom,” plenty of these are merely virtual fandoms for hot e-girls and anime chicks populated by people who wish they were dating them. That said, some are legitimately full of horny singles, and it’s not unusual for the chat to get flirty pretty quickly — from suggestive selfies to lovey-dovey messages, romance and soft porn thrive on Discord, too.

For a site that still bears the unfortunate reputation as a chat room for neo-Nazis, Discord is also pretty LGBTQ-friendly. Full of user-submitted hole pics and filthy, typed-out queer fantasies, it functions almost like Grindr gone global, which is important given its availability in countries where being openly gay is punishable by law and queer porn is difficult to access. (Of the world’s 195 countries, 70 still criminalize homosexuality in some way.)

Some sex workers thrive on Discord, too, selling their nudes in servers and advertising their members-only and cam site links. Given sex workers’ allegations that they’re often shamed, harassed or even banned from platforms like Instagram and Reddit for promoting their OnlyFans accounts, it’s not hard to see why Discord would seem like a better alternative. Unfortunately, though, OnlyFans leaks are also prevalent — some servers, like OnlyNudes, are hubs of stolen content, which can only be accessed by inviting new users or, in a supremely fucked-up piracy cash grab, by sending $5 payments to moderators.

That’s where things start to get shady on Discord. As the white supremacists in Charlottesville found out, pretty much anything goes on the app (at least until your server becomes so fucked-up that Discord’s official mods find out). Although each server comes with its own rules that are set and enforced by admins and mods, and there are training tools available to them, one anonymous admin of a gaming server tells me she finds it draining to keep on top of the drama and occasional hijacks. In popular servers, keeping everyone safe is a full-time job, and hacks aren’t uncommon — e.g., just a few weeks ago, a popular gaming server was hijacked by neo-Nazis and filled with wildly anti-Semitic, racist spam. 

Thus, even with added protections like photo verification and spam filters, it would be wrong to paint Discord as some sort of magical safe space — just five minutes after joining an LGBTQ+ server, I saw a user repeatedly spam the main chat with a slur-laden message before being banned. Far worse, there was a huge child porn scandal on the app in 2017

And so, Discord is likely to be a target of the same internet censorship efforts happening on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Pornhub. Most of these are the result of SESTA/FOSTA, a pair of bills passed in 2018 that hold websites accountable for publishing content that might encourage sex trafficking. But more recent bill proposals such as EARN IT (Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act of 2020) and SISEA (Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act) could limit what users can post on Discord even further. 

If it passes, SISEA could be particularly restrictive. As Input Magazine pointed out in their recent explainer on the bill, it calls for “a robust and severely limiting video verification process” that would require users who upload porn to any website to verify their identity with both a video and a signed consent form (every person featured in the video would have to do this). Sites would also need to “offer 24-hour support services and take down reported content within two hours of it being flagged.” As a result, Discord would likely experience the same thing other sites would — a decrease in the amount and variety of content. Or more simply put, the Discord porn we know today could look very different from the Discord porn we see tomorrow. 

For now, though, Discord still offers an open market for porn and conversation that’s hard to find elsewhere. The occasional hacks, racist tirades and right-wing reputation really don’t do it any favors, but if you’re looking for a little more personalization and (mostly free) interaction with your porn, it might be for you. 

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