I’ve been camming for about eight months and like it a whole lot. I’ve been noticing that Honey,* my online persona, is fiercer and sassier and more creative than I am in IRL. Sometimes she can be a real bitch, though. Do you think camming could be changing my personality?
— Sweeter Than Honey
Dear Sweeter Than Honey,
The phenomenon you’re describing is familiar to many sex workers.
Erotic labor offers the chance to access hidden sides of ourselves. We might find ourselves dressing, talking, moving, even breathing differently on cam. We might experience new states of sexual arousal or unearth into previously undiscovered fantasies. We might venture into role-playing or experimenting with power or pain for the first time. Many of us who gravitate towards sex as a job tend to find this exploration exhilarating. Others might see it as frightening, or at the very least, unsettling. But it’s worth asking the question: Is this what we should be doing on the job?
Our Personas and Personalities Change All the Time
As much as we might think of our sexuality as static, most of us experience a great deal of fluidity in our desires throughout our lifetimes. You may find that Honey demonstrates certain traits you don’t necessarily let show IRL. Perhaps she’s quicker to laugh or get bored than you are. Perhaps she’s more comfortable playing the role of seductress or feels freer to talk dirty than feels safe in your personal relationships.
This is actually one of the truly awesome things about sex work — getting to explore ourselves while getting paid for it.
You’ve expressed concern that Honey is meaner than you are in daily life. And it may very well be that through performing Honey, you’re learning how to access your anger in different ways. That can be healthy. Through role-play and fantasy, you may well be accessing repressed sides of yourself. Finding ways to safely express darker or more aggressive urges, as long as it’s consensual, harms no one.
And frankly, this is just my personal opinion, I think the sex industry is the ideal place for folks to go off-road in their sexual expression — for clients, fans, and sex workers alike. Far better to explore in a boundaried, paid-for arrangement where communication is routine than expecting civilians to have the skill set to meet all of our needs.
But…Will This Change Me?
Your question implies anxiety that expressing this anger could damage you in some long-term way, that your personality might get dented somehow. I’d flip that question around. Rather than worrying whether performing Honey might cause you to become bitchier — like letting some evil genie out of the bottle — it’s far more likely that if you don’t attend to your emotional needs, you’ll burn out.
The potential for emotional exhaustion in sex work is high, and rage, pettiness and bad behavior are often the result. If you find yourself churning for hours after you’ve been on cam, that’s a sign that someone has hurt you. I encourage you to tend to those feelings head on—don’t let them live rent-free in your head. This is where being a part of a camming community is invaluable. It’s also helpful to have a support system you can talk freely with about your work, including friends, family members and mental health professionals. Additionally, I write about combatting burnout extensively in my Thriving in Sex Work series, and I offer lots of free resources on my website.
Finally, when exploring different personas, one of the nice things about camming is that there will always be another fan right around the corner. That fact makes the stakes of any particular interaction pretty low. So if you come off horrible at any given moment – outrageous, snotty, entitled, greedy, cruel, disinterested — there will always be plenty more chances to behave better in the future. I’m not recommending mistreating fans on a regular basis. That’s bad for business. But it’s worth keeping in mind that even if you do occasionally cross a line, the world won’t end.
Walt Whitman’s words are as true today as the day he wrote them: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” Self-exploration can be a life-changing journey. I encourage you to enjoy yourselves.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money, her followup to the formative Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry. You can get the audio version of Sex Work and Money via Awesound here. Contact Davina at Lola.Davina@ynotcam.com and visit her on Twitter at @Lola_Davina.
Image of Lola Davina courtesy Pat Mazzera.