Over the past decade, camming has grown into a prominent sector of the sex industry. Major sites like Cams, Chaturbate, MyFreeCams, and LiveJasmin feature thousands of cam models each, whose live shows garner as many as 10,000 viewers at a time. Naturally, with so many viewers, many of whom are regulars and eager to tip, there is some serious cash to be earned in this industry - but it doesn’t only come from streaming.
For many cam models, selling their dirty panties is a logical way to supplement what they make on camming sites. Because their viewers are a natural market for their dirty underwear, it’s easy money. That’s why, when you browse through Sofia Gray, you’ll find that many sellers are active cam girls.
But while camming and selling panties are similar forms of sex work, one leaves room for anonymity and the other leaves none at all. In fact, camming works expressly because it’s personal.
This personal touch is part of the reason that it’s actively changing the way we consume sex online and challenging the harmful (and sometimes, downright inaccurate) conceptions of sex shaped by modern mainstream pornography. Plus, it has the added benefit of empowering sex workers in the process.
So, what exactly does being a cam model entail? Keep reading to learn about this thriving digital industry and why it’s so unique compared to other forms of sex work.
Camming is basically live-streamed sex. When you open up any given cam site, you see dozens of video thumbnails, not unlike what you might find on a porn tube. But don’t get them confused. Camming is pornographic, but it isn’t your average pornography. Let’s call it’s porn 2.0. That is, interactive porn that the viewer can control (for a price, of course).
Click on a thumbnail to enter a “room” where you’ll find a cam model interacting with her viewers in real-time from her bedroom, or, as is often the case, a studio made to look like a bedroom.
Being in the model’s personal space is part of the appeal for viewers. When they look behind her and see framed pictures, scattered knickknacks, clothes hanging in the closet, they feel like they’re with a real girl, not some manufactured porn star. It’s intimate and almost feels like being in the bedroom of someone you’re dating.
Usually, cam models are single girls managing their chatroom and viewers alone, but that’s not always the case. They can be men, trans, couples, groups – you name it. Like mainstream pornography, there’s something for everyone.
Because camming has become such a large industry, many cam models are managed by agencies, which is almost always the case in Romania, for example, where camming is big business. Studios featuring themed bedrooms, costume closets, and luxury makeup parlors contract models to work exclusively with them. These models are easy to spot, with their generic, fluorescent-backlit bedrooms and thick Eastern European accents.
Of course, not all cam models are managed this way. Literally, anyone can become a cam model. Lots of people do it a side hustle to earn some easy extra cash. Even a couple of hours a day can earn you hundreds of dollars once you’ve built a following.
In each room, models set certain objectives, usually sex acts but not always, and put a token price tag on them. When viewers tip that amount, the model will perform the act. Each digital token has a real dollar amount, which can add up quickly, especially for performers that know how to put on a show.
Frequent tippers may be listed on the room’s leaderboard or as one of the model’s “favorites.” In addition to getting to control the model, this subtle competition is one factor that pushes viewers to keep tipping.
Superficially, camming may be about sex, but because of the direct interaction between viewers and performers, not to mention the personal setting, it ends up being so much more. It’s emotional labor. It’s about building and maintaining relationships. Cam models get to know their viewers, which keeps them coming back day after day, building trust and even friendship.
The same occurs between viewers, as well. They develop a community with a strong sense of fraternity. Sure, they may all be there to watch their favorite model strip down and get off, but they’re also there to chat, chill, and hang out. And if someone logs in and disrespects the model, they will immediately defend their girl. In the documentary Cam Girlz, for example, one guy likens the experience to being in a “pub with a hot bartender who everyone wants to make laugh.” Kind of sweet, huh?
Here’s another example: it’s 1 pm on a Friday and the top model on MyFreeCams is RocknRose. There are 250 people tuned in to her live chatroom, some of whom, the regulars, have named themselves after her – rocknbuddha, rockndj, etc. She’s sitting in a dark room on her knees, playing with her nipples, meanwhile holding a conversation with her viewers about what it would be like to own a pet panda. As other regulars log in, the group greets them like they’re old pals, some even using their real names.
Another cam girl, Eevie, told a reporter about a couple she met in her chatroom that she got so close to, they named their child after her. They even had each other’s personal phone numbers so they could check in offline. This is the kind of relationship you build as a cam model and it’s what makes it so pointedly different than other forms of sex work.
Camming’s tendency to build connections isn’t its only revolutionary characteristic. It also gives agency to performers that they can’t get in the mainstream porn industry. They have complete control over their chatroom. They get to choose what acts they perform and don’t perform. If someone harasses them online, they can easily ban them. And, unless they sign with an agency, there are no constraining contracts involved.
To some extent, selling used panties offers many of the same benefits. Though it involves less access into an individual’s personal life, it’s just as empowering and works on the same premises of intimacy. The difference is that, while camming from your bedroom gives strangers a peek at your sex life, selling your panties gives them a physical souvenir.