The Crazy Secrets of Internet Cam Girls (NSFW)

If you think cam girls—those flirty naked characters that plague porn site pop-up ads—are raking in easy money, you're right. If you think cam girls are bleakly stripping online out of desperation, you're also right. Peel away the sex and pixels and money and you're left with the cloudy truth about the Internet's relationship status with these on-demand entertainers: it's complicated.

You've looked at porn online, which means you've likely been propositioned by advertisements for cam girl networks. They invade your peripheral vision; they pop up behind your window. The women wait for you to start staring, and, just when you're interested, they hit you up for money. You've seen them sitting at their keyboards, wearing barely anything, winking at you, typing to nobody in particular with thin, lethargic arms: bored and conventionally beautiful. The ads, with flirty video that might be live or recorded years ago, shout at you with promises of "Live Sex Chat" and "Sex Shows," with both amateurs and "pornstars" alike. It's a web red light district, and unlike some gaudy Dutch strip or seedy sidewalk, you're completely anonymous. The sex comes to you.

The basic premise of the cam girl game is a simple one: You pay a girl for her time, and in exchange, she'll take off her clothes, talk to you, play with herself (and others), or any combination thereof. When your money is up, so's your time—the two of you part ways until you've got the cash and willingness to go at it again. And when that time comes, you'll have thousands upon thousands of girls ready to swivel and smile for you in real time. It's a massive catalog of preening women of every variety: fat, skeletal, black, white, Asian, American, Greek, Czech, etc. To find them, look no further than the Big Three of cam girl delight: Streamate, LiveJasmine, and MyFreeCams. These three mega-networks advertise across the mainstream porn tube sites of masturbating ubiquity—PornHub, ClipHunter, etc.—but are shells and shadows themselves. So how do you get in?

How to Become a Cam Girl

The requirements are meager: a computer and Internet connection.

Odds are, you're referred by a newspaper or website listing. Maybe a friend suggested you try it out. Maybe you're shifting from traditional strip club work to the online equivalent—a popular trend in wealthier countries. Maybe you're working in a brothel where web camming is just another expectation. Whatever the case, you'll have to stream yourself through a web cam portal, one of the massive sites that catalogs thousands of models and acts as a go-between between customer and model.

Next, you'll need to decide which cam network to use. They all offer more or less the same "service:" You supply the body, the network supplies the eyeballs—and takes a cut of what your viewers pay.

Each network will ask you to fill out a brief bit of biographical information—list your interests, and try to sound fun—and then check a box or pull down a menu saying that you're 18 or above. You'll need to submit some sort of identification proving your age, but with standards low, laws international, and documents scanned, forging such a thing is a cinch. In other words, underage isn't a problem.

Streamate sells its models through a variety of repackaged and re-skinned websites, like PornHubLive—using the site's well-known brand as an easy in with porn consumers. In reality, it's the same old site in new clothes. Streamate itself is hard to pin down. Trying to find who actually owns it is dizzying: The domain belongs to Flying Crocodile Incorporated, which has a PO box in Seattle. Job openings point to a nebulous firm called NaiadDev, also based in Seattle (and hosted by FlyingCroc). But the company's custodian of records is one Rena Erotocritou, employed by "Ariel Secretaries Limited," a ghost of a company based out of Cyprus.

The massive LiveJasmin would have you believe it's owned by "Gestao e Investimentos, Lda," a company based in an autonomous region of Portugal—and has a host of fraud complaints lodged against one of its subsidiaries. But a recent tax bust against LiveJasmin's Hungarian CEO Gattyán György—one of the richest men in Hungary—and his corporation, Dolcer Holdings, shows just how muddled the corporate picture is. No doubt deliberately.

MyFreeCams, one of the most popular of the cam portals, has a domain registered to a Leo Radvinsky, and a legal contact in the Netherlands.

If you've got your own hardware, and connection, you can essentially be self-employed, putting aside the big chunk each site will take out of your earnings. It really doesn't require much. Here's the cam setup from one Romanian model I spoke with at length.

On her end, the website looks like this. This is where she sits and waits. (Click to expand)

But if you don't have this luxury—like a lot of girls across the world—you'll likely work for a "studio." That's basically a euphemism for another person's computer (probably a man), in front of which you'll perform on a tight schedule. You're still working through, say, MyFreeCams, but instead of only giving MFC a cut of your take, the studio owner takes a piece as well. Often a large one. If you don't stick to your mandatory hours, you'll be fired. You'll also be potentially living with strangers in conditions beneath the grimiest motel.

It's easy enough to read up on pointers from veterans.

A little research at mega-message boards like Stripper Web is fruitful—you'll pick up "Best Way to Recieve Money from Guys" muse in "Are you always beautious on cam?" And, of course, share war stories. One user started a thread spilling the most obnoxious, bigoted lines she'd recently been fed by "customers":

"Are you clean?" (As in STDs)

"You'd make more money if you can fist."

"You'd make more money if you can masturbate with a beer bottle."

"Are you mix with white? You're music is different."

"I hope you end up with a white man because there's only 2% hot black chicks like you and we don't need anymore nigger babies."

Sites do virtually nothing to curb or discourage this kind of treatment.

Entirely unsurprisingly, it's impossible to get in touch with any of the people who actually run these networks. None of the above entities from LiveJasmin, Streamate, or MyFreeCams responded to efforts to confirm that they do indeed exist and have some affiliation with the websites in question. All that's available is a semi-robotic technical support chat, which fields basic questions about how to use the site and credit card processing. These Web cam kingpins might as well not exist. We don't know where the money goes.

And as a cam girl, you won't know where it's coming from. You'll get your split—typically around 35-percent, but sometimes upwards of 70—siphoned to you via an innocuous credit card processing site like CCBill, while the site takes the rest of the cut. However you earn that cut is up to you. Some sites, like Streamate, allow actual sex to the point of orgy, while others limit your act to a solo show. You can flash, finger, vibrate—whatever you think will earn cash in the form of dollars-per-minute private shows or instant "tips." That's the formula. You're up against tens of thousands of women (and men, to a lesser degree) offering the same product in varying versions. That's a tough stab at making a living, even with your clothes on.

So who are these tireless women (or girls), these Internet sex pioneers? Where do they live? Where did they come from? How did they wind up these poorly furnished, fluorescent-lit rooms in this oversaturated, low-res corner of the web?