My Life As a Cam Girl Taught Me About Pleasure, Consent, and Healing

For two years, my days looked something like this: sleep late, buy props, clean my room, get online, do my show, get naked. This was my life as a cam girl.

I had always been fascinated by sex work. I was sexual. I was seductive. I was the girl who took her clothes off at parties. I was the girl who wanted to be wanted. I was the girl who needed attention—sexual attention—all the time. It would have shocked anyone who knew me to know that I never actually got any pleasure from sex. It was the control I craved—the sex at the end felt obligatory. The truth was, in my teens and early twenties, I didn’t know how to experience pleasure. I liked everything around sex but I didn’t enjoy sex itself. It was difficult to reconcile—so for years, I didn’t.

Sex work seemed like an enticing and empowering idea—a way to be desired so much men would pay me for my company and worship my sexuality in a transaction where my pleasure was irrelevant. The perfect job.

Only one problem: I had no idea how or where to get started. Then I learned about sugar daddies— found one on a sugar daddy dating website. We had a lot of fun together, but ultimately, I wanted more from my career in sex work. One night, I was talking to him about the fact that I wanted to try being a stripper. “Have you heard of cam girls?” he asked. I hadn’t.

Being a cam girl meant many different things, I soon discovered. Many cam girls perform sex acts and erotic activities via webcams for money. Many also paint, sing, make art, build friendships and communities, emotionally support clients, and more. I fell in love with what I saw these performers doing, so I made a profile on an upscale subscription-based cam site, built a cam identity, and signed on. I was pumped.

The first site I worked on had a culture based on privates—where viewers paid by the minute for my time. During privates, viewers made specific requests of me, which I pressured myself to comply with, for fear of them ending the private show. I felt like I’d felt almost every time I’d had sex IRL—like I was just going along with what they wanted because I was pressured into it either by the other person, or by society, or by myself. In all of those situations, I told myself I had seduced them, egro I needed to have sex with them. Now, I was being paid—I owed the viewers.

This was not the empowering sex work I had pictured but I wasn’t ready to give up on camming yet. I wanted to feel more agency over my sexuality, so I joined a different cam site. This one was free and based on “tips” for various acts: Tip to set the music in my room. Tip to dim the lights. Tip to tell a joke or sing a song. Tip to show my breasts. Tip to have me touch them. Tip to bring out a sex toy. Tip to use it. I created the menu and set the prices.

Every night I performed for my webcam, putting on quirky shows, trying out an arsenal of sex toys, chatting with the viewers in my room, building a community of regulars. Within months, I became ranked among the top 100 cam girls on the site.

The author during her camgirl days.

Courtesy of Isa Mazzei

This is what I had been looking for. Camming was this structure where I not only set boundaries but I enforced them. Just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I said who, I said when, I said how much. It gave me a sense of value of my body and more importantly, camming gave me control over that value in a way that was really powerful. It was a safe space to exist not only as a sex worker but as a sexual person.

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