Ways to do sex work – part one (cam work)

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My new occasional series about selling sex happily coincides with the impending release of a film about cam models (ladies who interact with paying and non-paying internet customers via web cams). It is kind of like live porn, being largely user-directed and featuring a solitary actor (it is quite complicated to do it with more than one person as every person must be registered with the cam model site they are using). The film is called Cam Girlz and is to be released on Feb 14 2015. I have watched a pre-release because I am one of the kickstarter backers (as listed on their webpage under “ninjas”) but I would recommend this film regardless because I love how it humanises the ladies who do this work in their full creative glory and gives a great overview of what is actually involved for anyone considering this kind of sex work. I have dabbled in cam modelling myself (more about that later) so I know a wee bit about how to get started if it’s your thing. And this film fairly accurately shows what is involved on a regular basis for those who are successfully making a living from cam modelling. If you would like a 50% promo discount code (expires 16 Feb 2015) to pre-order the film, please send me a text and I will happily supply it – I have six left to give away.

I really love this film because it is a celebration of women who know that men love to look. This film features cam models of many body shapes, skin tones and ages. As one of the cam models says, “There’s somebody for everybody’s tastes.” The cam models know it and they love to tease. One of the first cam models we meet is a married stay-at-home mother who wants to earn a decent amount so she doesn’t have to work every hour that god sends to put food on the table. A large-breasted lady who admits the only lover she has ever had is her husband – she wouldn’t really seem out of place lovingly looking after the toddlers at your local church creche. But in front of her web cam, she comes into her own as a playful, teasing web goddess, flashing her generous assets and removing her bra when the time is right. I assume the time is right when she has received the right amount of tips or tokens, depending on which cam model site she is with.

I’m not sure how far that particular cam model goes with her undressing or titillation, that is up to each cam model, and I have seen attractive young ladies who have a huge following on cam sites without even taking off their clothes, or even really talking dirty – all they are doing is sharing their lives and their selves with men who keep coming back. No different from sex work as we know it in New Zealand where prostitution is 100% legal. Some of my clients I consider dear friends, yet it’s a friendship which comes with no obligation of loyalty or expectation of favours or even return visits. Cam models form relationships with clients and they sometimes come back, while of course also being free to see others. Some of my clients also offer other kind gestures such as tips or gifts. This happens with cam models as well. Web cam clients can tip offline and some compete to tip the most and get publicly acknowledged by having their internet handles written up on a big board behind the cam model’s stage, or even on her body in marker or lipstick.

As a happy parallel, a real life client of mine actually has formed a nice friendship with a lady he supported while she worked as a cam model. They have many things in common and have met several times in real life even though they still live in different countries. She is now pursuing other interests, but if it wasn’t for cam modelling she would not have met the lovely man with whom she has an ongoing, genuinely caring, relationship.

The film makes it look easy to be a cam model, while also hinting at the hard work behind the scenes establishing your brand and offering things to liven up your shows. One lady is seen taking slips of paper from a lucky dip bag which will instruct her what to do next. As well as that, most cam models are active on social media plus they make passive income from short, amateur videos or photo sets which they produce and sell on their websites. These are also great things to give away, to the highest tipper of the night or to someone who tips above a certain amount, for example. The work that goes into preparing these goodies is not often realised.

The ladies who do best are well resourced with their own material to share or sell as well as being totally present and available at a regular time online. And here is the catch 22. To do well and be well-promoted by the cam site you are with, you have to be engaged with your audience, because the more you are engaged and the more you get paid, the more the cam site will promote you. For example one site gives their cam models a cam score based on their activity and sales (of tokens, which they convert to real money which they obviously pay you with). The first week is crucial as you are given a highish cam score but it can drop if you do not do well and then you will no longer be promoted on their front page. Obviously being promoted on their front page will get you a larger audience, which will help you to do well, and therefore cause you to continue being well-promoted by the cam site.

And that is where I failed. I thought that I could be a cam model while I was “in between bookings” or waiting for the phone to ring when I was at the house from which I work as an escort, after all I was already dressed and in the mood. But that did not work. It turns out that I was busier as an escort than a cam model. I would get back to my web cam from being Amber O’Hara the New Zealand sex worker to my cam model persona only to find my cam room empty. No sooner would men from far off lands come into my cam room and we would just start getting down and dirty, then my phone would ring from a Christchurch real life sex-enjoyer and a real man would soon be knocking at my door to get down and dirty. The twain can not meet unfortunately. (You can’t use cam modelling to promote your escorting work by mentioning it on your web cam or anything either – although that would be futile since generally cam models block their home countries. Mentioning that you happen to be an escort will get you banned from the cam model site).

To be a successful cam model, you need to be there and ready and know what you are going to be doing in your show. Besides needing a great web camera, the best that money can buy, you also need great lights so your room does not look dark and dingy. You also need to be prepared to show your face. That’s right, show yourself to the world, possibly at some stage in the nude or at least being rather salacious, where there is the possibility that someone may be screencasting your activity and that film could surface on any number of the free porn sites out there. (Of course if your cam site owners catch them they will definitely take legal action, but you have to catch them first. And the reason that the cam sites will take legal action is because when you join, the fine print can say that they own rights to all the footage and can reproduce it for promotional purposes or anything else if they so wish, so they take a dim view of anyone else trying to usurp this). As I mentioned, you can block certain countries from being able to see you, but as a kiwi cam model friend of mine discovered, that does not always work, and anyway, geeks know how to access forbidden sites with proxies and who doesn’t have access to their own geek in this day and age?

If you are thinking about doing it, you are probably wondering, what is the money like? Of course, prostitution in New Zealand, even with our weaker dollar, makes it look pretty poor. One lady in the film says that she made $500 on her first night. That’s ok money, but an independent New Zealand sex worker could probably make that fairly easily most nights, although that obviously involves meeting men and having actual sex with them. However with cam work, there is no guarantee of $500 from cam work per day on a regular basis, unless you become one of the stars. Having said that though, the actual cam work is not generally the only source of income for savvy cam models as I mentioned above. And one of my camgirl friends has financed a boob job, travelled the world and still lives pretty well from what she earns as a cam model and selling related products.

The cam site I was with paid twice monthly into an online banking facility I signed up with. Very convenient and simple. They are a reputable site, which is essential, as when you sign up you have to verify your age and identity with a photo of yourself holding government issued identification, such as a passport or photo drivers licence. Some ladies are simultaneously signed on with lots of different cam sites, but this is a risk that you are spreading yourself too thin and it’s best to give one your full attention and establish yourself there. You can always move to another one later. Some cam sites take ages to process your application, but it turns out to be worth it in the end.

If it is something you are interested in doing, I would recommend watching lots of cam models and paying them fairly so you can join in with their conversations. Tell them you are thinking of being a cam model and ask for advice. If their room is quiet at that particular time they will be happy to help, it is human nature to give people a hand up, and some may even be willing to be a kind of mentor to you and even occasionally promote you via social media etc to help you get off the ground, as some other cam model may have previously done for them – the cam model community is very kind and supportive. Once you decide to take it further, the next step is figuring out a niche you can fit into and setting up an online brand. If your niche is as close to your personality as possible and what you are prepared to do, that is obviously best for you.

And that brings me back to the Cam Girlz film. I was delighted with the way the cam models shared of their gifts and talents. As one cam model says, “I’ve always had the tendency to try to make everything in life special. And so I decided with my camming that I wanted everything I did, every second of what I did, to be something that someone would find interesting.” I guess you can only spank yourself so much before it becomes a bit boring (it does?) so it was great to see some of the cam models dancing, acting, singing, playing music, ventriliquising and miming as part of their shows. So much creativity out there, it’s great to see.

I can relate to that because I started sex work while I was heavily involved with developing another creative interest/talent of mine – it does suck how when you are beginning as any type of artist, you are poor as a church mouse, and in fact many of my sex worker friends from past and present are actors, designers, singers, artists and other types of musicians anywhere on the scale from amateur to well-known (in their field) professional. Some of us, myself included, even get small royalties or other kinds of income on a semi-regular basis from our other creative work, and are even slightly world famous, but enough of us. One thing that ladies who work in the sex industry have in common is that they are often quite intelligent, creative and gifted people, and the Cam Girlz film shows how this gets expressed on a regular basis.

“There is somethin’ very Nashville about a naked titty on a guitar”, said one cam model as she strummed a guitar in the nude.

I’m not sure if cam modelling is something I would do again, mainly due to the huge time commitment required. It was fun and I made some great friends and contacts, but there sure is a lot of work involved. If I ever had an aversion to having actual sex for money, I definitely think it would be a fun way to earn ok money while still being involved in the sex industry. And that is the thing, even though you are not having sex for money, cam modelling is still not something that can be openly discussed or mentioned on your CV when applying for a straight job. So I’ll leave the last word on the topic to cam model Aella.

“I thought, what I’m giving up, which is basically society’s blessing on my life, what I am getting in return is the absolute freedom I have now. It’s a no-brainer to me, it seems like the most logical thing that somebody can do, is sex work.”

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