The cam business, a kind of digital-era peep show, has been around for a few years, but as the technology has become better and cheaper, the concept of camming is proving well more than passing: it has created a money-making opportunity in a pornography business eroded by the distribution of free sexual content on the Internet.
Unlike prerecorded pornography, cam shows, which happen in real time, are hard to pirate. The traffic to the most popular camming Internet sites is substantial, with a handful of the top sites getting 30 million visitors a month, according to Compete.com, which measures Internet traffic.
At any given time, hundreds of models are online, some being watched by 1,000 or more people, others giving private shows. The money generated by cam sites is hundreds of millions of dollars at least, and very likely a billion or more, according to industry analysts and executives.
“Live cam has become the most prominent part of the industry,” said Alec Helmy, the publisher of Xbiz, an adult industry journal, eclipsing previous forms of pornography in popularity if not yet in total revenue. “Camming is driving the adult industry.”
The cam model sites are talent aggregators, middlemen, but only in the sense that Apple is the middleman for bands selling music on iTunes. The cam models work for themselves, listing thumbnail pictures and descriptions on the sites. The sites keep a percentage of the tips, but the amount varies. Big earners can get a bigger chunk of their tips, meaning about 50 to 60 percent.
Kari Lerum, a sociologist at the University of Washington, Bothell, where she studies the adult industry, said camming could provide more comfort and autonomy than other sex work. “The women work out of their homes, it’s safe, they have more control over working conditions,” she said.
Lawrence Walters, a Florida lawyer who is an expert in obscenity law, said that there was nothing inherently illegal about cam shows, as long as the models were over 18.
Cam Models think of themselves as digital geishas, therapists, consorts, virtual performance artists. Unlike traditional pornography, or even old-school peep shows, the cam medium titillates with the promise of virtual friendship.
“They’re defining a new kind of intimacy,” said Viviana Zelizer, a Princeton sociologist and author of “The Purchase of Intimacy,” about the interplay between economics and relationships. It’s not traditional sex work, not a relationship, but “something in between.”
Source: Original article The New York Times