There is no universal truth that accurately captures what it’s like to be a webcam model. It’s fun or it’s awful, it’s both or it’s neither and on and on. As is the case with everything else in the world, opinions and experiences are as varied as the people offering them.
This doesn’t, however, stop people from attempting to gather enough similar opinions and creating vague generalizations. Nor does it stop people from internalizing presented generalizations as fact — and media outside the adult business love to generalize. We read what these presentations have to say and reflect upon our own experiences: Am I normal? And civilian readers, without a frame of reference, gobble up whatever they are fed.
In the immediate wake of all the January trade shows, for example, the internet was abuzz with stories about adult entertainment. Virtual reality, augmented reality, holography, live cams and various combinations thereof were hashed and rehashed by interloping reporters as everything from “gimmicky” to “revolutionary.” I found myself especially interested in the ways webcam as work was presented.
Consider this headline from The Daily Mail: “Inside the creepy world of ‘web cam girls’: How young women are stripping off in their own rooms for men all over the world ‘because it pays better than working in a shop.’” The article’s synopsis states:
Three young women have revealed what it is like working as a ‘camgirl,’ taking their clothes off in front of a camera and performing sex acts for strangers online. The young women who admit to leaving nothing to the imagination admit they are paid well for their trouble — and don’t even have to leave their rooms to get paid.”
Revealed. Creepy. Strangers.
Models Rosie Renee, Heidi and Tegan all weigh in, sharing everything from how much they make annually and per minute to the types of behavior clients have paid them to showcase. Throughout, The Daily Mail piece reads like a lurid tabloid or pulp fiction: “slim,” “risqué,” “18-year-old girl,” etc.
The story leaves the impression being a cam model is both fascinating and dangerous — something that’s great to look at but no polite person would dream of doing. We also get the impression The Daily Mail wants us to believe no one except young people unable to make sound decisions get sucked into cam. (I realize the “cam girl” is part of industry parlance, but the idea that a mainstream news source insists upon calling of–age adult women “girls” is telling.)
Compare The Daily Mail piece with Revelist’s “5 cam girls explain why they get naked for millions of strangers.” “Girl” here is delivered with a very different tone. Unlike The Daily Mail‘s article, Revelist’s piece compiles stories and experiences from a wide variety of models, all with full stage names and links attached: Jessica Wilde, Ashe Maree, Gaia Monroe, Elle DelSol, and Chanel Evans. This level of disclosure is telling: It speaks to the lack of shame the models feel about their chosen profession.
Revelist highlights the women’s insights:
“I like to control who touches me. I want to ensure my own safety.”
“I genuinely enjoy sharing my body and my sexuality, and not always simultaneously.”
“Being on cam is such a great, empowering feeling.”
“I thought it was going to be something really creepy, but it wasn’t.”
“One of the misconceptions is that we hate our job, and we think it’s shameful.”
Each insight comes with follow-up thoughts, images and some introspection. The most negative aspect of webcam addressed is that the job isn’t for everyone. No job is.
So here we have it: lurid coverage dancing around ideas of exploited teens to rosy glow and feminist empowerment. Which best represents your experiences as a webcam model at work? Chances are, neither take fully encompasses everyone’s perspective.
It’s interesting to consider how we may be internalizing outsiders’ descriptions of cam work. What impact do these sorts of presentations have on the way you think about your job? How do they shape the way civilians look at the world of cam?
Some days Erika thinks too much. Email her something else to talk about!