Porn’s Brave New World of Camming: ‘The Possibilities Are Endless’

Elva Mankin

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When I started doing adult films, the times known as the “golden days” were coming to an end. Sasha Grey marked the end of an era. Her rise to fame for being an extreme performer with no limits was as fast as her departure. Tube sites, that basically allow users to upload and watch adult movies for free, started to dominate the industry by profiting off of this pirated content, which then created budget cuts and business restructuring for porn companies. During this time we also saw a steady rise in camming and solo girl websites. Like a sort of guarantee, solo girl sites were a personal membership-based website selling clips, photos, and cam shows that could create residual income for a performer when they decided to leave the industry. But the options were limited—you either joined a network of other stars giving a percentage away to the host company, or you were decent at coding and ran your own WordPress site. That’s all.

It’s true that porn is very strenuous—you have to be in good shape both mentally and physically. But in some ways, porn is actually easier than camming. You have an agent who calls you with your bookings, you get a call sheet that tells you what you need to bring, you show up, they do your makeup and hair for you, they take your pictures, they tell you what the scenario is for the day. Camming is a sexy sister of porn, not a twin. A cam model is in control of everything so the responsibilities are as much or as little as they need them to be. However, the possibilities are endless.

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I will tell you a little insider gossip. Back in the day when I started in the adult industry, there was a lot of internal beef with cam models and porn stars. There was a deep lack of understanding around each other’s jobs and the worlds were very much separated, thus creating tension. Soon, however, we started to see the cam sites represented in a big way at the AEE and AVN conventions, our industry’s most prestigious events. Then, cam girls started appearing on stage as co-hosts for the AVN awards shows. The atmosphere changed and the worlds began to collide. And then something really big began to happen. It was a natural progression as the technology got better and the needs of performers became more obvious. Companies began creating all-in-one platforms where you could seamlessly do everything! You could sell individual clips, photos, memberships, fan clubs, and live webcam shows. Easy even for a complete tech novice like me!

Well this should be no problem, right? I’ve been a porn star for many years at this point and I know how to shoot my own content. Just a simple tripod shot, quick edit, fade in/fade out, upload to a site(s), promote on social media, answer fan messages, take custom video orders, schedule live cam show, think of more content, buy props, buy clothes, buy better equipment, and somehow find time to feed, care for and love myself! It took me years to transition from adult film work to digital-only, and I am still learning how to juggle it all on my own.

To all the cam models out there: I give you so much respect. You don’t get the credit you deserve for how much you hustle for your business, for how much effort goes in behind the scenes to produce these awesome 10-20 minutes fantasies and make clients happy. Yes, camming is hard work. Girls go on for 10 hours or more sometimes, and as a model you develop relationships with these different screen names. They become friends, and the shared love and gratitude is amazing. Happy people do tip more and happiness is contagious. Cam models always knew this and their individuality and uniqueness is what makes them popular among members. Now, through sites like Chaturbate, ManyVids, OnlyFans, and countless other platforms, porn stars and other celebrities are learning how this personal connection is what fans really want and it’s what turns them on. Content is Queen.

Is this a new world full of promise or a quick bubble that’s going to burst? I personally think it’s a great time to be a sex worker—even though things can look grim post-SESTA-FOSTA (“Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” and “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act”), both of which went into effect in early 2018, and they haven’t looked better since COVID-19. The virus pushed the adult industry online and it became a sink-or-swim moment for many. Luckily, a lot of us have been testing the waters for a while. The ones that had established regular revenue before the virus felt thankful to have this lifeline. Cam models realized they were pandemic-proof and that during these dark moments they were reminded of how important their jobs are. We provide more than nudity. We provide companionship, community, entertainment, fun, and intimacy. And we’ve all learned how hugely impactful those things are during the past four months while being locked away. Membership-site platforms, webcam companies, these technologies are keeping people of all walks of life fed, happy and secure, and bringing so much pleasure and comfort to the world.

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Ultimately the power is in the hands of the model/performer, and that is so freaking cool. Today, when a person decides they want to do sex work, they can compare different platforms, ask for girls’ advice and opinions, and follow Twitter accounts for tips or research—there is so much online support. The days of cam star vs. porn star are over and there is a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect between us. And a bonus, something I didn’t have 5 or 10 years ago, are the tons of great people, organizations, and resources available like author Lola Davina’s book, Thriving in Sex Work, or coaches like Amberly Rothfield, who’s dedicated her life to helping people master this unique and exciting field of adult entertainment. It is one of the most profitable businesses in the world and there is a piece of the pie for everyone. Sex workers deserve to be overwhelmingly rich, happy, and celebrate successes just like everyone else. I know we are all so thankful for all the companies that have put the power back in our hands, even if it costs 20-50%. Peace of mind and financial stability are priceless. Cam star or porn star, honestly what difference does it make? Right now we’re all shining bright and it’s a beautiful sight to see!

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That’s what Chloe Cables, the cam model I play in the SFW web series Cam_Girlfriend, represents to me when I envision her character. She is an independent woman who is on her rise to the top, and every opportunity is in front of her. I remember that feeling—the drive, the excitement. There’s something special about a person’s first three years in sex work. The show differs from real life in how absurd the situations are, but we tried to consistently ask ourselves while writing, could it happen? How would a man feel dating this woman? What kind of relationships do cam models have with their fans? Cam_Girlfriend at the same time asks viewers to question some of their own morals and values with its intensely awkward and hilarious setups. If you’re a cam model, can you go too far when it comes to reaching success in this business that intersects both the digital and personal? But I think most importantly, this series shows a woman succeeding and highlights her triumphs, and the viewer cannot help but smile at her failures. We get to celebrate with Chloe as she grows and learns to navigate this very unusual but thrilling world of online sex work, one strange lesson at a time.

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