Note: This post features a frank discussion of sexuality and may be NSFW.
The night of my first show, I run around my room, cleaning up, checking how the light looks, deciding where and how to sit, and figuring out what I should wear. I try to set up my room like I have seen in other girls’ shows. What am I doing? What have I gotten myself into this time? What if no one likes me? Home for Christmas break, I have a lot of free time on my hands while my mom works nights. I have never reacted well to excessive free time.
It’s time to become Ariel, in live action for the first time. My heart starts to beat with excitement and nerves. I check my hair and makeup in my webcam, and am grateful for its low resolution. I turn on upbeat music and go live, staring at the room count and waiting for my first viewer to come in.
The viewers don’t rush in like I had hoped they would. But I knew it would likely be slow at first since shows don’t make it to the front page of the site until they have thousands of viewers. A few people come in and out, their screen names passing through my viewer list too quickly for me to attempt to engage them.
I finally get a few viewers and show begins. I find myself explaining that it is my very first show every minute or so as hundreds of viewers filter through my room, each asking me how I am doing and what I have planned for the night. The compliments are flying. BigDik34 loves my hair. Thank goodness my frizz magically disappears on cam. DaddysGirl is getting hard just imagining what my butt would feel like to spank. Not my thing, but whatever floats your boat, dude. I struggle to keep up with the flow of conversation in the chat window and try in vain to say hello to each new viewer as his or her name appears. It’s overwhelming and exhilarating.
Many viewers come in hurling insults: “Go run until you drop dead, Landwhale,” but I know the drill—never feed the trolls. I let Blagus, my moderator, remove them from the room so I can focus on talking to people. Most just try to compliment me into taking my clothes off, as if simply telling me that I am beautiful will instantly make my panties disappear. I stick to the game plan—stay polite and flirty and wait for them to pay for my clothes to come off. I make small talk with the room and answer the same questions over and over again.
“Are you a tight little virgin?” someone would type out. I try not to think about the creepiness of men wanting to think that I am a virgin.
“No, honey. I’m not.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. I love virgins. How was your first time? Did it hurt? Did you bleed?” The same interaction repeats itself endlessly through the night.
While it only costs the room, which has several hundred viewers, ten dollars worth of tokens to get a piece of clothing off, it takes well over an hour to get my shirt off. I hope it’s not always like this. The show slowly moves forward with each new token goal resulting in another piece of clothing on the floor. Finally I am naked with my favorite vibrator in hand, and my lady bits pointed at the cam. God, it’s hard to get off when people are watching—I am definitely not an exhibitionist. After some concentration, maneuvering, and awkward faces, I finally orgasm, joined by hundreds of viewers. I feel accomplished. I should get some sort of medal for this public service.
The show ends shortly after. I wish viewers a good night and promise that I will be back on cam the following day. As I lie in bed, back in PJs and contemplating my night, I am tired but thrilled. It feels like coming home after a first date. Three hundred dollars isn’t bad for sitting in bed for five hours.
Being live was so much more of a rush than just posting pictures on 4chan, and I am still coming down off of the adrenaline.
A few months into camming and I have the show down to a science. I clean the area of my room directly in the view of the camera, so they don’t call me a lazy slob. They probably will anyway; the fat girl is always lazy. I contemplate doing something new for the night to mix it up. My standard show gets boring, but it guarantees at least $150 a night without having to beg the viewers too actively. I don’t need the money, but camming fills my empty nights and gives me social interaction to look forward to. It’s addictive and thrilling.
I get dressed, fix my hair, point my lamps (draped in white T-shirts for soft-glow lighting) at my face, and put on my makeup, saving the red lip for live action on cam. See? Look at the effort I put in to look nice for you people. Red lipstick and all. So stop being so cheap.
The show starts, and my regulars start filing in, asking me for updates on the most recent episode of Bones, or how my day at work has been. We chat about politics and world events, only pausing to do whatever action, usually flashing a body part that is still clothed, a viewer has requested when the token alert sounds. You would think they would get sick of seeing my boobs after a while. Strange requests never cease to flow through the chat room. One viewer, an elderly man, tells me that I remind him of his dead wife. That’s kinda sweet, I guess. He then proceeds to ask me if I would be willing to wear a pair of stockings on cam and then send them to him. He has a stocking fetish. Nope, not so cute anymore.
Yet another viewer requests action on the blue exercise ball in the background of my frame. This exercise ball seems to hold some sort of strange power over my viewers, for no matter how many times I tell them that it would be a disaster attempting to balance on the ball while masturbating, they make the request over and over. Some even think themselves acrobats and tell me how they would bend me over the ball and “make me bounce.” A thousand bucks says not one of these guys have never gotten anywhere near an exercise ball and would promptly face-plant if they ever tried.
Todd, a regular who always bankrolls my night, comes into the room and I wrap up the conversation and start stripping, glad that the show will be over soon. I decide to try a toy auction, something I had been considering for a while after seeing another girl do it in her show. I bring out my entire collection, and viewers get to participate in a bidding war to decide which toy or toys I will use. The auction brings a lot of money, reaching my total token goal for the night in a few minutes. The winners are a combination of a butt plug and my Hitachi. Per usual, I turn on some porn, ignore the viewers commenting on my lack of noise or movement when using my vibrator, and get to it. Really? Do they honestly think that women actually act like porn stars? It’s hard to get into the mood. Every time I start to settle down, the token alert goes off again, and I have to flip windows to see what the request was. Who would have thought that masturbating for money would be so much work?
After the show is over, I am drained and annoyed. The show took six hours and I only made $150. It’s not even worth the effort. I contemplate ways to avoid doing one the next night while knowing that I have nothing better to do and I should make some money. I just want to spend a night with myself without a single horny man, phallus in hand, watching me.
Now offline, I complain to Blagus about the repetition in my shows. He suggests that I start off naked and set the show up so that there has to be a consistent flow of tokens in order for me to stay naked. He is convinced that the money will come in much quicker. I am skeptical. There is far too much free porn, too many (free) exhibitionists, and too many girls that would be cheaper. No, I need to play on their need to get off and deny them until they pay up.
What would become my last show starts with voyeur flair. I’m naked and cleaning my room, pretending not to notice the camera. Yup, need to pick this sock up. Just have to bend all the way over to get it. There’s a small group of viewers who love this, so I do it before the normal show just for them. It doesn’t make much money, but it’s relaxed and I don’t feel as much pressure. Once the show starts, I refuse half of the requests that come to me. Can’t you see I’m busy painting my nails? I am not messing them up to flash my breasts. They all want the same thing over and over again: The same pose, the same flash, the same answer to the same question.
“How big are your tits?” a nameless faceless user will type out.
“Read my profile.”
“Awe BB don’t be like that. Just answer the question.”
“Read my profile.”
I take any excuse to talk about anything other than my sex life or how horny I am. Why in the world would I be horny right now? I’m tired, annoyed, and just want to put clothes back on. Debating about politics loses me viewers, but at least I keep my sanity.
When I see Todd come in, I contemplate shutting my camera off, but he starts throwing tokens at me before I can decide. Well, damn. Now I actually have to do things. He recently bought me a glass dildo; the cheapest thing on my Amazon wish list. But ever since, he has been obnoxious. He demands that I remove other users he doesn’t like from my room since he’s the only one putting out any money. Contrary to your belief, Todd, I am not your girlfriend, I will never be your girlfriend, and you do not own me.
I told all my friends, and even my sister, about camming. Knowing me, they weren’t really surprised. I have always been interested in sexuality and had frequent debates with friends on the topic. A few of my male friends said that wanted to watch. Since I obviously couldn’t stop them from doing so, the compromise was that they weren’t allowed to comment either in the chat room or in real life. I didn’t want to hear what they thought of my show. Even without the commentary, my relationships started to change. Suddenly, I wasn’t one of the bros anymore, and they were all now aware that I did, in fact, have a vagina. No, this is not some elaborate scheme to get you to ask me out, and, no, I do not want to have sex with you.
I shift through my fan mail after the show. With over 5,000 followers on the cam site, a 1,000 on Tumblr, and a few hundred Skype contacts, the fan mail often got to be too much. There are two main types of fans: business-minded and those who want an Internet girlfriend. Of the choices, I prefer the former. Those who imagined me to be their potential Internet girlfriend all wanted to be special, to pull themselves away from the pack and to get to know the real me. There is one thing that they share, however: An overwhelming desire to show me pictures of their penis. They sent them as if their lives depended on it. The pictures come in by the dozen, always with a request for comments. Oh look, another penis, so much different than the one before it. It has extra hair.
I was so sick of spending five to eight hours at a time, several days a week, doing the exact same thing. The past few shows had not gone well and I was out of new ideas. I no longer blushed when the compliments poured in and I found myself resenting my commitment to my fans. Stripping had become a chore necessary to keep viewers in my room so I could chat with them. But even the conversation was becoming boring and tedious. The thrill and excitement was replaced by disdain and weariness.
The burnout happened quickly. Suddenly, I was done with all of it.
It’s been almost a year since my last show. I haven’t logged into Tumblr for months and I stopped the automatic forwarding of my fan mail to my normal email account. I, or a fan, occasionally find recordings of my shows on Motherless, but I’ve gotten used to the reporting process to get them taken down, and the last time I Googled my screen name, there were only a few image results left.
I met a guy who became my boyfriend, and eventually I decided to tell him about Ariel. He was pretty relaxed about it and seemed more concerned in making sure that I was OK than passing judgment. I’ve shown him the site and some of my old pictures and videos and he’s even asked what kind of money we could make doing a show together.
What he is not so happy about is the one fan I still keep in contact with—Adam. I met Adam back in my 4chan days. He always stuck out because the only thing he ever requested were pictures of me in business casual. And unlike everyone else, when he sent a picture of his penis, it was of his bulge in a well-tailored pair of slacks. We just recently connected again when he sent a random email asking how I had been. We rarely talk about how we met and just chat as friends through email, but even so I let my boyfriend read all the emails to assure him that there is no need for concern.
Walking away from my experience as a sex worker, I realize how lucky I was. I never caught an STI, never got pregnant, never had a stalker, never got harassed, and never broke the law. My year as a camgirl has become something to shock people with at the bar, but only if they are drunk enough that they won’t remember.
I still have moments of panic that when someone is looking at me strangely, it’s because he’s seen my show. But for the most part, I don’t often think about being in front of the camera anymore. The experience has left me with an intimate knowledge of what every inch of my body looks like from every conceivable angle, and the knowledge that there are a lot of secretive freaks out there that only need the mask of the Internet to let go.
This post originally appeared on xoJane and has been reprinted with permission.