Some time last year, I did a one-month stint webcam modelling as somewhat of a personal experiment. As somebody with strong opinions and the internet at my disposal, I felt like I’d done so much blabbing re: sex-positive feminism and the sex wars without truly experiencing all sides of the spectrum. So, I decided to throw myself, with all my temerity and no expectations, into a form of sex work I knew absolutely nothing about. To my surprise, I ended up growing more in those weeks than any other singular experience. It was like an Ayahuasca retreat for my self-concept, for lack of a better analogy.
This is what I learned being a cam girl.
Photos by Jimmy Lin
1. PEOPLE HAVE NEEDS
One of the biggest plot twists I encountered on my ~cam journey~ was discovering that the people on the other side of the screen were, in fact, people. I always thought they’d be the same pervs I used to come across as a bored high school student on Chatroulette, but many of them were nice and never struck me as creepy. Although the users are mostly male, they’re wildly diverse in terms of age, race, personal beliefs, and any other way you could think of. Suffice to say, visiting live cam websites is pretty common if not normal once you get past the notion that it’s taboo.
Of course, sex is a huge part of the business, but I realized an even bigger element is emotional labour — performing emotional displays in order to foster a sense of authentic intimacy (regardless if it’s actually there or not). I came across dozens of dudes who were either too busy or ‘weird’ (by social standards) to connect with somebody in real life, so I found myself spending most of the time just talking about my day or my thoughts on various topics. Despite being a type of sex work, it’s a lot less sexual than people think. In my privileged life as a freelancer with more than enough human interaction, I tend to forget loneliness exists in the world.
I quickly learned not to judge, and ended up coming across some wild shit. I won’t go into detail, but there’s a fetish for basically everything and everyone has one (or two, or three, or more). I’ve found that in most cases a person’s desires can be traced to a very specific moment from their childhood, meaning they’re deeply ingrained and frankly quite permanent. It’s fascinating. A live cam website happens to be a safe place to exercise those needs without being condemned as a freak.
2. I’M AWESOME
After having explored countless worlds through webcamming, I found myself heaps more comfortable in my own skin. Prior to this unusual method of self-discovery, I had always been self-conscious of my bold personality. As an ~online influencer~ I used to tone down or completely omit pieces of myself to make others comfortable, so being thrown into a new environment where I could be myself (and furthermore have people accept me for it) allowed me to realize I’m kind of f*cking awesome and whoever doesn’t agree doesn’t matter anyway.
I was also able to further develop my own opinions on sex work (although they remain fluid). I think it’s important to get to know all sides of the spectrum, but after having experienced first hand what it’s like, I can conclude that I’m hella sex positive and will never let anyone slam me for it. Pun not intended. Maybe.
3. THE LINE BETWEEN SEX WORK AND FEMINISM IS BLURRY AF
There are endlessly varied viewpoints surrounding the sex work industry. Not to be confused with coerced/non-consensual sexual transactions, the notion that sex work is immoral or degrading is so radical, it’s literally caused a rift among feminists. On one hand, there’s the wave of people who believe sex work exists on a foundation of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy – it’s an industry that benefits men and reinforces women as inferior. The other wave simply believes in women having a choice in the matter without being devalued when she decides to go for it. “Complex” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
For me, I deeply associate with the latter point of view. I’m a firm believer that women can do whatever they want with their bodies and am disgusted with the fact that we’re shamed for almost everything we decide to do. I’ve compared sex work to mainstream marketing by dissecting ad campaign after ad campaign (in my years of fashion school and subsequent industry jobs), and the double standard is nauseating. A body on a billboard or magazine can be easily dismissed as an object but as soon as it talks/has a personality/is a human, she’s virtually crucified for revealing herself. Why are we okay with commodifying women, but not okay when they commodify themselves?
Overall, my experience was actually fun and super chill — plus, I managed to cover my rent by sitting on my sofa, barking opinions at my laptop screen. Now that I’ve closed the webcam modelling chapter of my life, I’m going to remember it as one of the most profound learning experiences of my young adult life.
Sex Positivity for Everyone!