There are many popular myths about cam girls. The men who pay them often believe cam girls are lazy, superficial, money-hungry [insert gendered slur of your choice here]. A lot of women think the work will be sexually empowering, or at the very least, innocuous. These myths remain due to media and political propaganda that sex industry advocates fuel along with the fraudulent means by which sex traffickers, pimps and even other cam girls use to recruit new females.
However, I once worked as a cam girl and got to find out first-hand what being one was actually like. I learned that all the myths about webcamming are not only false and misleading but dangerous. Here is the truth behind three of the biggest myths.
Myth #1: It’s an easy way to make money and even get rich
Aella at Knowing Less goes into detail with the criteria for being a successful, full-time cam girl:
- Estimate your earning potential based on a beauty number rating system.
- Decide between a higher-pressure, better paying, less sleazy cam site, or the opposite.
- Buy an expensive, high-quality webcam, microphone, and a neutral or white lighting kit, along with a vibrator (or just use your fingers).
- Get a backdrop or work at a cam studio; care a lot about position and camera angle.
- Girlfriending off-site will get you higher earnings, as is filming your own amateur porn videos.
- Be a sexy game-girl hostess.
Did you notice that the chance of success increases the more vulnerable the cam girl is? The list of criteria goes on. Here are some apparent contradictions that jumped out at me. Already, even the non-experienced person can see it’s not easy or empowering:
- Appear feminine. Look like the “girl next door” with a natural face and no lingerie. If you wear makeup, at least look like you’re not wearing any.
- Make refusals as flirty as possible so that the men don’t feel antagonistic towards you, but don’t pretend to care about the men, either; be sincere.
- Act single and available, even if you’re not.
- Use VPNs and be careful about location-revealing visuals while filming, but you must still accept the risk of revenge porn and your identity being exposed.
There are also several common features or requirements of webcamming which she didn’t mention, but which I discovered:
- Get plastic surgery as you can afford it.
- Be young or at least have a perky personality.
- The men enjoy party girls.
- Private shows and extras such as photo albums, all of which are kept by the men, are common.
- Some women are exhibitionists and do public flashing and masturbation. Exhibitionism is a paraphilia and therefore unhealthy and undesirable behaviour. Self-objectification is related to self-harm and leads to lower self-esteem and mental health issues.
- Women also earn extra income from alternative modelling, prostitution and off-site pornography.
- Your natural looks allow you to be easily identifiable, making you vulnerable to revenge porn and doxxing.
- The “traditional” beauty number rating system is used by men to objectify women, even outside of cam sites.
Myth #2: You get to keep most of your earnings
It is common sexist belief that women can easily make lots of money by showing their bodies or being used as masturbatory aids. I suspect that many men who promote this belief are admitting their own autogynephilic fantasies. They also believe that women in the sex industry are largely underreporting or not reporting their income for tax evasion purposes.
Not only do cam sites function as pimps, but cam girls also have to withhold 15–35% of their income. Cam sites collect a massive portion of women’s earnings for “operational costs.” MyFreeCams.com claims that cam models keep five cents from that (50 percent). Other sites allow women to keep anywhere from 35 to 70 percent.
Writing for Broadly, porn performer Reed Amber says she made between $200 and $800 a day, but the site took 40 percent of that money as it’s “cut.” Cam girls can later claim their equipment as tax write-offs for self-employment or freelancing contract work.
Myth #3: Camming is empowering
Revenge porn is a problem among women and girls in general. But if you do a Google search for “cam girls,” you’ll find numerous screenshots taken without the consent of the women in the images. I suspect, in fact, that one of the motives for patronizing cam sites in the first place is to create and distribute this type of “revenge porn.” Many “free porn” photo and video sites rely on and profit from these stolen contributions from men to attract paying users.
MyFreeCams.com has a new policy where they’re working with RemoveYourContent and using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if a cam model finds her content posted elsewhere.
My biggest issue with how cam sites treat it is the concept of a copyright violation of Intellectual Property, rather than a prosecutable crime against the woman’s person as a form of obscenity and defamation of character.
Sexual harassment and predation
The top question men ask a cam girl is, “Do you enjoy it?” as if she is going to be honest, and lose tips by saying no. Men are not there to hear the truth, after all.
The second most common question is, “So, what’s your real job?” It implied that cam girls did the work on the side for fun, extra money, or that it was easy and not actual labour.
The third most common question is if the cam girl enjoys sexual acts like anal. If she said she didn’t enjoy it, they would talk about how much they enjoyed it anyway, how she should try it and insist that she actually did (or eventually would) like it.
It’s a lot of pressure with the promise of more tips for the sake of telling them what they want to hear. The cam girls also know that sexual acts like anal are inspired by porn. The sessions are not about what the cam girls themselves actually enjoyed but how much they could conform to a pornified image of sex.
The men didn’t seek out cam girls because they were just nice, lonely, awkward guys who needed practice talking to women. When they talk among themselves, the objectification is obvious. These are not desirable men for long-term relationships, much less marriage. Many of them have children and are seeking a girlfriend, or have girlfriends and are seeking a unicorn.
They understand cam girls to be fundamentally different from the “real women” they would consider dating in real life. To them, cam girls are masturbatory tools. They prove it when they openly scrutinize their bodies in ways they would never do to other women, going so far as to insult them and even accuse them of being men, even though sites like MyFreeCams.com only allow females to cam.
Finally, there are fake tippers. A “fake tipper” is a man who promises to give a tip to a woman if she performs a particular act and then doesn’t actually tip her at all. Men who frequent cam rooms want to see how much sexual access they can get to women for as little money as possible. If they do pay, they always demand more — routinely violating women’s sexual boundaries.
The men are protected by anonymity. This aggressive, entitled behaviour belies the notion that women are empowered or that they have the upper hand in the sex industry.
Mental and emotional implications
Many cam girls, like other females in the sex industry, have a history of being sexually or otherwise abused. It is this abuse that grooms them for the sex industry. Trauma from cam work comes from being reduced to an object or a commodity by anonymous men who are paying for sexual access to one’s body.
According to Carole Pateman in The Sexual Contract, sex cannot be separated from the body or the self. It isn’t really possible to just contract out sexual services.
Dissociation is a symptom of sexual abuse and a coping mechanism that kicks in when you are subjected to sexual activity that you don’t want. Like with other forms of violence against women, cam girls are blamed for the violence they experience and are expected to prevent it.
Drug and alcohol use
It’s universally humiliating and degrading to flash strange men online who invite women to watch them masturbate while their faces are conveniently hidden for their own anonymity. It is a fact that most cam girls use drugs and alcohol to get through sessions. There was also a financial incentive to get drunk since men will tip better when women play drinking games with them. These men are, of course, using alcohol to make the women less inhibited and more vulnerable to their requests for nudity. They then believe the cam girls’ lack of inhibitions means they are enjoying themselves.
Sex trafficking and paedophilia
I have first-hand seen women who were on drugs, where it was apparent a handler was directing them from out of sight. The handler’s job is to prevent the dosed victim from becoming lucid and attempting to escape. I also saw minority and older women being pressured into nudity much faster than young white women were.
There were even girls who appeared underage and who were secretly screen capped or recorded and posted online. These screenshots and pirated videos are fairly easy to come by under the search results in “webcamming.” One looked very much like the girl pictured here and here. I have no way of knowing exactly which cam site she was initially featured on since her video was pirated. She’s somewhat older now and one of her social media profiles says she’s a “business lady,” which (unfortunately) is a euphemism for prostitute.
Even if the cam girls aren’t actually minors, men encourage them to dress like little girls or schoolgirls (i.e. the “girl-next-door” look) as a legal loophole for acting out paedophilic fantasies. “Teen” is the most-searched-for porn genre. Other paedophile-reminiscent porn genres besides school girl are barely legal, jail bait, stepdaughter, and incest.
Some people believe that paedophilia only applies to minors in the single-digit ages. However, so-called “ephebophilia” and “hebephilia” are just as damaging to teenage girls who end up being groomed by and becoming prey to fully aware, adult males. Many men claim that paedophilia is natural for the male sex. Other common beliefs are that girls become women at puberty and that it is “women’s work” to be used sexually. Words ingrained in our vocabulary such as “cam girls” and “working girls” already infantilize women.
Of course, cam sites are quick to state that all women are 18 and consenting and that cam site owners and moderators “work with law enforcement” to prevent the use of the site by minors. They always have the excuse of plausible deniability, or that the women just so happened to look underage. Be aware that sex offenders, including sex traffickers, are criminals of opportunity. Opportunists will commit a crime if they think they can get away with it.
The sex industry is the only industry in which being young and inexperienced, especially underage, puts one more in demand. It is also the only industry that, unlike legitimate work industries, does not have to adhere to free speech exceptions nor any health and safety standards since the risks and dangers are considered part of the job.
Its connection to organized crime combined with the wealth to afford lawyers puts it above the law to avoid any type of liability or accountability. Finally, it is the only industry where exit services are necessary. And as sex trafficking survivors attest, reaching the age of sexual consent is not a magical event that suddenly means one has any options other than remaining in prostitution. It also does not mean that sexual slavery suddenly becomes fully informed, consensual and wanted once one is considered a legal adult.
The international crime of sex trafficking is a difficult thing to fight against for both underage and adult females alike. Large numbers of Eastern European women are trafficked into the sex industry to fulfil male demand. This happens on cam sites, too, such as Romanian women being raped and assaulted in cam studios by their employers. PornHub allows anyone to upload child porn and other rape videos, while sex traffickers hold live cam events on sites through which they sell tickets. The internet is big business for sex traffickers. If it weren’t, bills that aim to hold internet companies accountable for facilitating this trafficking wouldn’t be necessary.
Webcamming has a glamorous façade that people in the porn industry, liberal feminists and porn fans alike perpetuate with omissions and outright lies. It is a gateway to mainstream porn and prostitution, leading to drug and alcohol use and sex trafficking of women and girls. It has the potential to greatly damage a woman’s psyche if not ruin her life. The truth about webcamming is that it is anything but empowering, safe, easy or lucrative.