The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Chaturbator

Adrian Nathan West at The Baffler:

WHAT IS A WOMAN’S MARGINAL UTILITY? The marginal utility of her ecstasy, of her suffering, of her time and attention? Are representations of women a fungible good, or is an investment in the human capital behind them worthwhile? These questions, however perversely stated here, are essential to the economics of camming, a curious, new-ish phenomenon that combines elements of prostitution, pornography, therapy, and friendship-for-hire. I say “phenomenon” because the label “sex work” seems not quite adequate: first because it is hard to say something so depersonalized can be called “sex,” and second because “work” alone fails to encompass the demands its precariousness imposes. Like Uber drivers, Taskers, and others employed in the gig economy, webcam models have no guaranteed wages, no insurance, no paid leave, no pension. Instead, their success depends on a nebulous combination of factors spanning initiative, availability, submissiveness, good looks, personality, and luck. The popular press is filled with stories of cam girls making thousands a week––they seem to be a specialty of the UK tabloids––but my own perusal of some of the biggest sites––Chaturbate, LiveJasmin, and MyFreeCams––shows a preponderance of Russians and Romanians aged eighteen to fifty (the older they are, the more conspicuous their assorted implants and injections) sitting bored in tiny, tackily adorned bedrooms, swaying forlornly to club music or giggling and repeating “thank you” to a lone visitor who types banal variations on “ur so hot.”

more here.