How do you make a living without getting out of bed? Katie Glass meets the webcam girls and boys providing a personalised peep show for the digital era
West Drayton is not a town that speaks of seduction. Its Barratt Homes, with white picket fences and white Audis parked outside, don’t promise erotica or even romance. But then I don’t suppose it matters where you are in real life, when what you’re selling is virtual sex. “You’re almost here,” giggles Rebecca More, when I call from the train station, near her west London home. “Hold on a minute. Let me just put some clothes on.” The neighbours have no idea what she does, she laughs, looking up from under fake lashes, as she opens the door to her flat. Her long blonde extensions fall over an Iron Maiden T-shirt, hastily pulled over her top half. On the bottom half, she’s wearing stockings and suspenders.
Rebecca, who’s 34, is a webcam girl. For the uninitiated this means she performs a kind of digital-era peepshow, which clients pay to watch via the net. Before she started she was escorting, although that was “a lot more effort” and sometimes earned her less money. “Sometimes you can’t be bothered to meet people. Sometimes you don’t want to shave your legs,” she says. With her new job, however, “sometimes I won’t even have a shower. I’ll chuck make-up on and you can still look pretty good on webcam and make a quick bit of money. I like being at home and having all my stuff. There’s a lot of housewives that do it — it fits in great with the kids.” But the best bit, she says, is that when she’s performing on the webcam she doesn’t actually have to have sex.
The concept of webcamming isn’t new. It’s been around since the birth of the internet, but thanks to increased bandwidths that have made streaming shows quicker, its popularity is soaring. For camgirls like Rebecca, better and cheaper technology has made filming easier too. It can now be done by anyone on a laptop or iPhone.
At a time when free online content is eroding the paid-for pornography industry, webcamming offers something unique: viewer interaction — the chance to pay someone to perform a personalised sexual service. On webcam sites, clients can pay to click on their dream girl, then direct her to stage a live sex show (ranging from a gentle erotic dance in full underwear to explicit sexual acts).
Internet traffic numbers bear out camming’s popularity. According to Compete.com, which measures internet traffic, LiveJasmin (one of the most popular webcam sites) got 24m unique US visitors in March. Alexa (another internet traffic monitor) ranks it as the internet’s 110th most popular site, and camming site Adultwork.com is the 173rd favourite internet site among British users.