When I was younger, I used to get emails inviting me to work as a webcam model almost every day. The money they promised was unbelievably good, and the job was easy — only as sexual as you chose it to be. Back then, this job seemed like a scam that could potentially be humiliating. It was hard to believe someone would pay that much money to talk to a girl on a video chat. But because I never had to worry about money before, I never gave this offer much thought.
It all changed when I found myself broke and depressed soon after my breakup with the person I thought I was going to spend my life with. I was left in our apartment we shared with both of our cats I couldn’t afford to feed anymore. I wasn’t ready to be alone and take over everything we were sharing and working on together. The money I was making with freelance projects was not enough to support me on my own.
Yet, I couldn’t find an extra job. I spent most of my time crying in bed on a cocktail of antidepressants and antipsychotics my therapist had prescribed me. Due to work problems at the time, my parents couldn’t afford to help very often and I could see how much I was complicating their lives by asking for more and more money.
Halfway through my treatment, the medicine kicked in. I felt capable to get a job, but after 5 interviews and one unsuccessful internship, I lost my hope. Having no money in my pocket and no food in the fridge made me think of the webcam offer in a different way after I found another email invitation in my inbox. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try this job. After all, I didn’t have anything to lose and really needed the money.
I didn’t tell anyone about the interview I’d set up later that week. I arrived at the tasteless basement in one of the buildings near the central station decorated in the most vulgar, pornographic way. Based on the shoe collection in front of the entrance, I figured the place was packed. Back then it seemed like a good sign.
As it turns out, there’s no such thing as an interview for a webcam job. They promise you a lot of money and take a few pictures of you to set up your account. We agreed on my first shift, and I went home, both excited and frightened.
My first shift was embarrassing. I had been sitting on an uncomfortable couch for 4 hours when I realized I hadn’t made any money. Of course, the don’t-have-to-do-or-show-anything thing was a scam. It was naive of me to believe it wasn’t. Everybody wanted to see me naked, play with myself, or say something disgusting to turn them on.
Two hours later, my shift was almost over. I had made about 5 bucks when a guy invited me to a private conversation. He asked me to stand up, then take my shirt off. The picture of me in my underwear obviously pleased him and he immediately tipped me enough money to buy myself the drinks it would require to forget that night.
He kept asking for more, sending more and more tips to keep me interested. About 4 potential drinks later I ended up in my panties in front of a strange man I couldn’t even see. I was hoping he’d be satisfied enough so I could make enough money and end this, but all he wanted was to see me masturbate and come in front of him.
Although being half-naked wasn’t new to me after years of working as an underwear model, I was uncomfortable with the idea of doing anything to myself in front of someone I wasn’t seeing or sleeping with. Yet, I felt like I had to do it. After all, I wasn’t planning to continue this job but wanted to make as much money as I could while I was there. I pretended I was touching myself and faked my orgasm. Luckily, he was foolish enough to believe I could turn myself on by perverted comments he made about my body and come in two minutes.
After I got home I took two showers hoping I could wash out every disgusting feeling in me. Needless to say, it didn’t help even a bit.
They say you do the craziest things after you break up with someone you love. The craziest thing I’ve done was keeping this job.
I decided to go back on my own terms. I wouldn’t do anything I’m not comfortable with and I’d respect my boundaries more than any money a man can offer.
Soon enough, I made friends with all the girls who worked there — from college students trying to make rent to much older widows and teachers trying to provide for their families. Younger more attractive girls could get away with showing their beautiful bodies, entertaining their clients with some dancing and stripping, while older or less attractive women had to be more creative, keeping some toys and costumes in their bag to use in role-playing scenarios.
Setting up boundaries
After my first experience, I wasn’t that open to any sexual actions. I was turning down offers to do role-playing, masturbation, or showing my feet — even though some men were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for it. There were also the ballsy men who felt particularly powerful from the act of paying a woman to order her around. I would turn them down and leave the chat room as soon as I recognized that behavior, even if they simply wanted to see my breasts.
Saying no can be a privilege for women in other life situations when every cent counts as a chance to make a living for at least one more day, but I believe that the only way to survive such a job is to set up your own rules and boundaries in order to maintain your power and integrity among an audience of men who like to call the shots. It was important for me to feel in charge and know that I can’t be humiliated and humbled by a dick with money. I had more rules and boundaries than most other women, but I managed to make my living by attracting another type of client.
Types of clients
You’d be surprised by the variety of people you meet in this line of work in one day — perverts, psychopaths, old, young, poor, rich, husbands, widowers, students, doctors, professors, army boys, teachers. From people who are ashamed of their sexual fantasies in real life to lonely decent men who want to be heard and loved.
The people I was working with were in the lonely, desperate to be heard category. Often, they were widowers or divorced and missed a simple connection with people. They are ready to talk to you for hours, listening to your stories about life, and complaints about perverts you meet at this job. They want to feel like you connected with them, and aren’t just being polite to get their money.
I was always trying to talk to the person, and get to know him. Mostly, because I was lonely and depressed myself, and felt the urge for connecting and talking to people. Soon enough, I gained a decent list of regular clients. They’d always wait for me and get upset if I canceled my shift. We’d always talk for hours — about them, their problems, my life, and plans. All of them knew everything about my breakup and were very supportive of it. Of course, even that kind of job implied some form of sexual activity such as stripteases and dancing. My clients might have been lonely and could be easily distracted by engaging conversation, but their emotional problems were strongly tied to sexual issues they couldn’t express in real life.
Judgment and hypocrisy
During my time there I told my closest friends and family members about my job. Those who didn’t know never questioned the amount of money and free time I always had because they knew I was enthusiastic about my projects and thought I could make a fortune by translating work from home. In a day, I could make enough money to cover my rent, in a week — enough to dine at restaurants every night and buy whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
My friends in the know enjoyed hearing the stories I collected at my job. At the time, it was easy to treat the situation with humor — I always had a lot of funny stories to tell about the people I met and the questions I’d been asked.
Unfortunately, a few people had a lot of judgment about the job. They’d say I was humiliating and selling myself because, in their minds, there was nothing more shameful. They’d tell me they felt sorry for me because they believed I felt worthless and abused on a daily basis. The interesting part is that people who said that did not have any job and were living off their husband’s or boyfriend’s money.
People like to believe they don’t have a price, yet everybody can be bought for the right number. We can see people betraying their beliefs, lowering their standards, doing uncomfortable things, and sucking up to the worst people in most humiliating ways for the right amount of money or promises. The biggest hypocrisy is — people only see it that way when it comes to sex work.
I didn’t feel nearly as humiliated as when I was working in retail, restaurants, or cafes for a pittance — I never had money, always worked late and was often treated badly and yelled at by the rude customers or my bosses.
The right time to exit
While I felt respected and empowered for the time I was doing it, the only way to survive this kind of job without harming yourself is to be comfortable with it. I felt desired, respected, and comfortable with myself and my body. Talking and helping people was truly recharging me after being depressed and alone. In a way, I felt like a therapist with benefits who’d show you their underwear or nipples at the end of a session.
But the more work I did with my therapist, the less medication I had to take, and the more uncomfortable I began feeling at my job. At that point, I didn’t want to feel sexy; I didn’t need to be desired. Getting naked in front of people started to feel like a burden.
While I was on medication I might have felt like the men I was dancing for were just blurry shadows and a way to make a living, but clearing my mind made me take everything more personally. I didn’t want to be wanted by other men, neither online nor offline. I still felt an attachment to my ex-boyfriend, and exposing myself in front of strangers felt almost like casual sex and intimacy with other men I was not ready for.
For a while, I couldn’t think about my experience without wanting to get drunk. It felt like a dark, and very confusing time of my life. Still, I have a lot of respect for the women who engage themselves in any kind of sex work. Not out of pity, but because I know how truly empowering it can be when you are open to it.
I’ve always been a sexually adventurous person, but for me, it was always about connection. With the right person, I could go crazy and do anything in and outside of the bedroom. But casual sex and attention from other men I don’t care about never felt right for me, which eventually overcomplicated this job for me.