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When we talk about online sex work, camming isn’t always top of mind. Cam sites, unlike most top free porn sites, offer performers the kind of benefits, freedom, and flexibility rarely found in other industries. While camming is considered safer than many other forms of sex work, cam workers certainly face their own challenges, and there isn’t a universal camming guide for performers or customers that lays out expectations and boundaries.
But if you’re regularly visiting cam sites, you should know that cam models are up against the effects of anti-sex-work policies in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA, which has made it illegal for websites to facilitate sex work under the guise of sex trafficking fears. To understand how to best support cam models, we have to examine what this form of sex work looks like, what cam workers face, and which sites are treating sex workers fairly.
Here’s your complete camming guide, including how live cam sites work and what sort of rules you should follow as a cam site user.
A complete guide to camming and cam sites
What are cam sites?
Simply put, cam sites are websites that host cam models and their work. Unlike porn, cam sites are live, and the interaction and connection with cam models are what attract viewers. Camming chat rooms mix a video recording of the model’s face and actions while incorporating a chat feature where the model can interact directly with participants via text.
Participants can give their own input and suggestions to the models for what can transpire during the session, but the model has full autonomy on whether they want to apply that request.
Cam models can be of any sexuality or gender identity. Some cam models prefer to call themselves “cam girls” or “cam boys” in their marketing.
Some of the most popular cam sites include Chaturbate, LiveJasmin, and MyFreeCams. All three sites are popular among both cam site users and cam models, but they don’t always compensate the same way. Most popular sites have relatively large cut rates of what they generate from models’ profits. Depending on the platform, some cam sites will also have more active protections in place for cam models.
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What can you stream on cam sites?
There are tons of live cam sites that stream a huge variety of content. Some choose to stream dirty talk, while others stream themselves masturbating or engaging in foreplay. Other performers will stream themselves engaging in sex acts. The content that a cam model performs depends on their personal preferences and the site’s own content restrictions.
For example, one cam model might stream themselves chatting with participants in the chat room, showing viewers their breasts, while other cam models might host private solo sex streams or co-host “games” with other models.
How do cam sites work?
Cam sites are relationship-based. A performer’s goal is to connect with their audience make money, typically through user-generated tips.
Cam models often host their own individual chat rooms on sites like MyFreeCams and Chaturbate. You don’t have to pay to host your own cam page on most sites. However, cam models are more likely to lose a huge cut of their earnings if they choose to host a free room. For payment, cam sites use a “tipping” system to pay cam models—if viewers enjoy the models’ content, or if they spend any amount of time with the model, they should tip with tokens or credits during these streams. This translate into real money for the model, who is usually working off tips only.
Models can also participate in private chat sessions with participants, where they are paid by-the-minute.
However, not all cam models earn the same. Much of this comes down to how performers market themselves, the sites they host on, and how big of a following they’re able to amass. Many models spend a majority of their time bonding with and marketing to their fanbase. They need to be able to stand out in a crowd of performers offering similar content.
Even cam models that make moderate earnings can sustain themselves by letting their personality shine through and connecting with fans. Not every act being performed is sexual.
Are cam sites illegal?
Cam sites are legal for anyone 18 years and older, both as performers and as viewers. However, in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA, there are shifts to the ways that sex workers can connect with their viewers on these platforms.
The passing of SESTA/FOSTA in April 2018 greatly impacted the livelihood of many cam models. Intended to stop “sex trafficking,” the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) now hold internet platforms responsible for their users’ content. After SESTA/FOSTA, many sites tightened their restrictions or banned sexually explicit content indirectly. The law’s broad definitions make it hard to understand exactly what can be determined as liable, and so many platforms are erasing anything that could be interpreted as against the regulations.
The result? Sex workers are finding that platforms that they relied on to safely engage in work are being erased.
Craigslist shut down its personal ads section, dating sites that focus on offbeat or niche interests and identities (like Pounced) closed. Sites like Google and Patreon are tightening their restrictions on accounts that mention anything sexually explicit. Even Backpage, one of the only sites that users could post advertisements directly, went dark.
Though cam sites themselves are fine, this impacts payment methods and communications (this includes PayPal, Skype, Google Drive, etc.) that models may use in conjunction with cam sites for work. In addition, SESTA/FOSTA has also criminalized the platforms where sex workers discussed and kept bad client lists, even though the objective of these lists was for sex workers to protect themselves from previous clients who are abusive, violent, or otherwise a threat to them and their work.
The effects of SESTA/FOSTA’s passing has translated offline as well. There’s been an increase in sex workers returning to the streets, where their likelihood of experiencing violence, rape, or death increases tenfold. Sex workers and activists were vocal that SESTA/FOSTA’s passing would be life-or-death for sex workers, and their words are ringing true.
What are other challenges of having a cam site?
Oversaturation is a big problem for cam models. Because of the low threshold to become a cam model (all you need is a computer with a good camera and an internet connection), many models turn to cam sites to enter sex work. However, they face a market that is full of similar content, so cam models have to work hard to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Harassment is also a huge problem. Chat room etiquette calls for participants not to use graphic language or ask provocative, invading questions to the models. This kind of behavior will usually result in a chat room banning or blocking from the model or an appointed chat moderator (usually someone from the community who frequents the chats themselves and has built a rapport with the model). Proper chat room etiquette necessitates treating models like people, not objects.
In addition, cam models and other sex workers are vulnerable to doxxing, where their personal and private information is exposed and posted publicly online. Just because they are working online does not mean their private lives are to be exploited and shared.
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Can I go to cam sites for free?
There are free cam sites available online. However, viewers must keep in mind that performers are reliant on receiving tokens for their work in order to get paid. It is the equivalent of tipping your server, except cam models don’t even get paid an hourly wage.
Performers also have to watch out for streaming sites stealing their cam content without compensating them. Some of the most popular porn sites on the web, “tube sites,” base their high viewership and online revenue from stealing content, making it far more difficult for sex workers that focus on streaming as part of their business model to make a living. This problem goes beyond cam models—porn performers and anyone that creates online content also face these issues. So out of respect for cam workers and their livelihood, stay away from sites like PornHub or YouPorn.
Learning how to navigate cam sites ethically, while also keeping in mind the need to center and treat sex workers with respect, is paramount for consumers that continue to use cam sites and other forms of sex work.