Adventures of Futureland is a three-part docu-series hosted by English filmmaker and standup comedian Jamali Maddix. In it, Maddix “meets extraordinary characters making a living in the digital era, from online sex workers to bitcoin millionaires and children supporting their families by uploading viral content.”
The first episode is titled “Virtual Sex” — so obviously, we’re going to talk about it. (Episode 2 is about “Instant Fame,” and Episode 3 is about “The Bitcoin Billionaire’s Club” in case you were curious.)
Virtual Sex — Florida
In this episode, Maddix travels to the US to get a taste of the cam model industry and “[explore] the world of digital sex, including virtual reality porn, where avatars interact with clients in 3D.”
Maddix first sets his sights on Miami’s Cam Con, an international convention for models, websites, studio partners and fans to gather. [Editor’s Note: Neither Cam Con nor “The Cons” as it was branded at some point appear to have an active website. Here’s an article about the show in 2018 instead.]
He interviews a number of sex workers, including adult performer Asa Akira, who told him everyone she talks to nowadays “only watches amateur porn.” The episode frames camming as the evolution of the porn industry — but still keeps cam modeling or what they call “amateur porn” separate from the traditional big-budget production.
After the event, Maddix described the work as “instantaneous [sic] gratification” — undermining the work it actually takes to be a successful cam model.
In several instances, Maddix hinted he doesn’t pay for porn and made it abundantly clear he’s never entered a chat room except for “research.” Although Maddix refrained from shaming the sex workers he came across, he was often shocked people spend so much on porn. It’s kind of like telling an artist they should keep creating art, but you don’t understand why anyone would buy their work. It’s high-key rude.
Virtual Sex — Nevada
In Las Vegas, Maddix visits a studio and talks to a client, who gave him some insight on why he chooses to spend money on one particular model, Missy. Maddix found it absurd that the client has spent upwards to $8,000 just to talk to a woman online. The client explains how his relationship with Missy is on a personal level, and he sees her as a long-distance best friend and girlfriend.
After the conversation, Maddix concludes he doesn’t understand the appeal and says he’s unsure about how healthy it is.
The episode did a good job at not judging sex workers and addressed issues some models face, like “darker fetishes.” In the studio, Maddix met another model who has experience in incest porn and age play. The model admitted, sometimes, a client’s fetish can become uncomfortable. She also said, however, that she was glad to provide an outlet for fetishes that could otherwise hurt other people.
Maddix walked away from the studio with a new perspective (kind of), saying he initially thought the studio was going to be a sad place, but it wasn’t. He still maintained the stereotype that most of the models in the studio came from difficult background and have turned to sex work to help them survive. *Loud sigh.*
Virtual Sex — California
The comedian then traveled to Los Angeles, where he met with a client who commissioned performers for a custom video. They watch the performers film the video and, on the sidelines, Maddix says things like “I’m trying to find out when this gets sexy” and “I wouldn’t pay for this.” His comments could have been an attempt at a joke — but he completely missed the fact that custom-made films are tailored for a person’s preference.
The last visit is to a studio where models are turned into virtual avatars. Clients can later interact with these synthetic companions through virtual reality technology. Although the technology is still a prototype, it’s a peek at what the future of cam modeling could look like.
For someone who doesn’t know the intricacies of sex work, Maddix did a good job looking at different forms of the industry. He ended the episode saying camming is a growing industry because “people want to feel included in porn” — and he isn’t 100 percent wrong.
I’ve definitely seen worse documentaries about the porn industry. This isn’t the worst. It’s also worth noting that, despite the episode being hosted by a comedian, it wasn’t all that funny.
If you’re interested in watching the series, it’s available for streaming on Channel4.com, but only in the UK. I want to make a special shoutout to my friend Marisol who FaceTimed me from London so I could watch the episode from California. Thanks, Marisol!
Here are some highlights from the 46 minute episode — enjoy!