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 20s, 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.
Allowing someone, including yourself, to give you pleasure is an incredibly vulnerable and intimate place to be.
The first site I worked on had a culture based on privates—whereby 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, ergo 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.
This is what I had been looking for. Camming was this structure through which 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 important, 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.
Every night I masturbated for hundreds of strangers, the rawness of my orgasm glowing through their screens. My show was a safe space, so masturbating felt safe too. I was in control, and gradually I began to realize that pleasure during sex might be possible for me. As the months progressed, I started to feel more comfortable in my body.
As a cam girl I realized this agency, this pleasure, was how sex was supposed to feel. My experience with sex up until this point in my life had been warped, I realized. And I finally understood why: I’d been wrestling with the shame of childhood sexual trauma that I wasn’t ready to confront.
Sexual trauma tells you that you’re never safe, that your body has no value, that you don’t deserve to have control over it. Camming was a way for me to reverse that conditioning. It created a safe space for me to recognize my trauma—and it gave me agency over my own pleasure.
Feeling like you have agency in every sexual situation is so important. Something that I learned from sex work is the strength of consent. I feel it in my body when I say yes. I can set boundaries, I can say no. If I look back on a lot of my sexual encounters before camming, a lot of them were consensual but I was still putting pressure on myself. I was still not fully in control.
Having agency over my body was paramount to being able to experience pleasure. Pleasure is difficult because pleasure comes with vulnerability. Allowing someone, including yourself, to give you pleasure is an incredibly vulnerable and intimate place to be. You can only get there with the safety that comes from consent, whether that’s with a single partner or with a chat room full of viewers.