How Webcam Models Make Money
In his book, "The Dark Net," Jamie Bartlett explores, among other things, the large network of websites that allow amateur pornographers to upload explicit videos or perform live for a chatroom audience. We've highlighted some of the discussion below.
Websites like Chaturbate and WeCamGirls use a "tipping" system that lets viewers pay to see certain sex acts. The chatroom displays a tipper leaderboard, and the top tipper gets a prize. Big spenders are also listed as the cam model's "favorites." This system applies a soft competitive pressure on everyone to keep spending.
One UK-based cam model, Vex, tells Bartlett she can make in an hour what most people earn in a week.
Bartlett describes sitting in on one of Vex's sessions and seeing one viewer alone tip £500 ($782), which she shares with two models who perform with her. Vex claims the most she's ever made from a show is £1,000 ($1,500) and estimates her salary to be around £40,000 (about $62,600) per year.
Viewers pay using virtual tokens which the website converts into dollars. Then, the website takes a cut before distributing the rest of the money.
Many models also have Amazon-like "wishlists" where fans can go and buy them things, whether it be a breast enlargement or a washing machine. Bartlett recalls finding one wishlist which included books of left-wing social criticism and a Black & Decker Dust Buster.
Unlike other sex workers, cammers typically work independently and in a safe place.
As The New York Times noted, however, cam models performing for a large online audience are sometimes blackmailed or threatened into performing acts they are not comfortable with. If they don't comply, they run the risk of having their real identity exposed to friends and family.
Another threat noted by Bartlett comes from internet "trolls" who try to identify camgirls and ruin their lives just for the fun of it. He describes one nightmare incident, in which one camgirl, Sarah, was asked to post naked photos of herself on 4chan: one with her first name written somewhere on her body, and another holding a bottle of any medication she was taking.
As it turns out, Sarah had inadvertently provided enough personal information to allow 4chan users to track her down. Soon, her full name, address, and telephone number were revealed, and a fake Facebook account with all of her naked photos was made in her name. The account was forwarded to her family and friends, along with a message.
"Hey, do you know Sarah? The poor little sweetie has done some really bad things. So you know, here are the pictures she's posted on the internet for everyone to see."
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