It was just a little pop up at the side of the page on a video site I frequent to watch TV Shows that I can’t see on Netflix or Hulu. The women in the add was dancing around in a thong she pulled on delicately in the window of a video cam and in the right bottom corner the word “STREAMING” blinked in green. I clicked it mistakenly while trying to circle over the scroll bar and it took me to a site that explained the job position of ‘Live Cam Model’.
“A Live Cam Model performs from her home, providing entertainment for viewers, participating in live chat and sometimes offering private sessions for paying customers! Make Tips! Your room, your rules!”
If you asked me today, I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to fill out the application, send in ‘tester’ photos of myself scantily clad trying to look as seductive and sexy as possible (biting my tongue, lifting the hem of my skirt and popping my booty out like I was in a music video).
I was nervous waiting for an email reply. After an hour or so, it came. It wasn’t a robotic response and was extremely professional. It welcomed me to my new position, told me how to get started, asked for some electronic forms and explained how to find the rulebooks and tutorials on the webpage. And that was it. In less than a two hours I was hired at my first job in three years. Finding work as a full-time college student isn’t the easiest endeavor.
The website informed me about things like listing my schedule, which I would decide upon, though it wasn’t required. I could log in and live stream when ever I wanted, apparently even via my cell phone. It also explained how I could sign up and start working via phone for “flirty talk”. But, I wasn’t ready for all that. I wasn’t ready to be a professional. I just wanted a taste of the experience. I wanted to window shop. So, I put my bed in order, got rid of any items such as text books and college shirts that could give away my true identity or my location, and I put on some makeup, took off my bra and threw on a low-cut spaghetti strap tank top through which my nipples showed and a plaid miniskirt. And I hit STREAM.
Almost immediately, the chat filled up with guests and members. They asked about me. They asked how I was doing. They realized they could hear me and asked me to talk to them. They told me my voice sexy. They told me that my frizzy, hispanic hair was beautiful. They said I was thin and that my breasts were perfect. I didn’t take my clothes off or flash them anything. I talked about things I like, video games and sci fi. They replied happily. I told a nerdy joke. They called me lame, but funny. One messenger named “Kingpin” whispered (so that other chat members could see his messages) to me advice about what to do in public previews, like don’t show anything before I get tips, clearly list what tips will get the audience members and what I’m willing to do on camera. It was the exact opposite of what I had expected.
My Facebook feed is constantly updating with shared articles about feminism and female empowerment, but before I clicked that stream button, nothing has ever made me feel unashamed about my body. Until I clicked that stream button, I had never known what it was like to feel empowered. I was in control, in my own room, secretly streaming from somewhere in a web of hidden IP addresses and bouncing across the internet one jiggle of my breasts and shift of my hips at a time. I didn’t tell my boyfriend. I didn’t tell my friends.
I dreamt about feeding my body to the camera on my laptop, to the viewers, telling myself it was for the money and for the tips, but knowing that what I really got from it was the satisfaction that comes from holding a stranger’s attention and knowing that I was getting it from the safety of my own home. Like most women, I spend at least a few minutes everyday avoiding unsafe situations, like running alone at night, making sure to lock my door even though I live in a gated community with cameras on every street corner, walking quickly from place to play with keys in my hand and as heavy-footed as possible, and wearing shapeless clothing to deter the would-be attackers. I read articles with titles like, “How Not to Be a Victim”, “Why You Need Feminism”, and “Things to Keep You Safe if You’re a Woman”.
I’ve heard all the opinions about how girls who do porn were abused as kids or neglected. But, I’ve never been a victim. I’ve never been attacked walking home, my boyfriend and I have a stable relationship, my parents play a very active role in my life, and I’m financially taken care of. So, what was it about becoming a Live Cam Model that intrigued me so much?
Maybe I’m tired of being told that my body isn’t object or that it’s over-sexualized or over-exposed. Maybe I’ve always been smart and funny and pretty, but now, as a young adult, what I want to be is sexy. Or maybe I don’t need to explain to anyone why I want to show strangers my tits.