Popular cam sites like Chaturbate and MyFreeCams sell a dream scenario: no-strings sexual relationships with world-class hotties, in exchange for a few tokens here and there. With the obvious catch: the action you’re getting is strictly virtual.
But how does webcam sex compare with the real thing? Is your Internet the only real ‘connection’ involved?
Whether you’re thinking with your head, your heart, or your boner, camsite relationships can get pretty intense.
I’m about to dive into the post-cum haze of what happens after the fap, how camsite members really feel about the models they watch, and whether the feeling is ever reciprocated….
Looking For a ‘Real’ Good Time on Cam Sites?
Before we look at some of the most recent research in this area, there’s a question that needs answering:
Do camsites claim to offer a substitute for real relationships (and real sex)?
MyFreeCams is often mentioned as the camsite with the strongest sense of ‘community’. It’s one of the biggest presences at X-rated conventions like EXXXOTICA Expo and the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, giving members a chance to hang out face-to-face with their favourite models.
Unlike many of its rivals, MFC allows unlimited contact time between members and models in public chat rooms, without any spending on tokens. Models are allowed to exchange personal contact details with members and develop relationships outside of the website.
MFC’s Rules and Guidelines state: “Behind the keyboards are genuine people, with genuine emotions, moods, fears, etc. People have bad days, a few too many drinks, miscommunications (especially online), and some people are just nicer than others.“
A lot of MFC models have a small number of regular viewers (or even just one ride-or-die ‘reg’ who’s always in their room) and the site’s Room Helper feature means those members can be given moderator-like privileges.
Chaturbate is a bit more cagey about performer-viewer relationships.
On its Broadcaster Guide, CB’s Chaturbate 101 video offers some advice on keeping your distance, with the help of some of its models.
“Never cammed before? That’s great, because no experience is required! The more genuine you are, the more users you’re going to attract,” says Scarlett Baecon.
“It’s best to pick a username not associated with any of your personal accounts, and to never give out any identifying information for extra privacy,” adds Johnny Stone.“It’s highly recommended to block your home state from viewing your cam.“
These sensible privacy precautions for new models are some of the first barriers to forming genuine connections with members – and learning a model’s real name is often seen as a significant step in any model-member friendship.
Kudos to Stripchat for actually addressing the elephant in the chat. In 2019, in partnership with the Sexual Health Alliance, the camsite surveyed 6,000 users to find out how they felt after watching live sex cams.
The study found:
- 42% felt some anxiety about watching cams
- 31% had experienced IRL relationship conflicts
- 29% worried watching cams counted as cheating
- 11% were frequently or constantly anxious
Max Bennet, vice-president of new media at Stripchat, said at the time: “Cam users are passionate about cams, but the outside world doesn’t always accept. Cam fans are more likely than other adult fans to struggle with shame and anxiety about their desires.“
It’s clear that camsites care – either about their users or about their revenues – but the conflicts of privacy and personal connection, sexual desires and social taboos, means friendships between models and members are far from plain sailing.
Is Cam Sex Ever A Substitute For The Real Thing?
So what about sex? Is a really great private show more like a porn flick, or more like a porn fuck? How real does it feel?
Independent scholar Xtine Milrod and the University of Portland’s Martin Monto studied over 10,000 Chaturbate users with a 93-question survey about their webcam use, sex lives and mood.
Their results were published in The Journal of Sex Research in November 2023, and reveal a mixed picture.
Users who filled in the survey were almost all male (94%) and mostly straight (75%). About two in five had had no sexual partners in the previous year.
They were looking for a shopping list of qualities from their favourite performers: a dream sexual partner, an emotional connection, a certain power dynamic and/or a model who would comply with viewers’ wishes.
Most (55%) said using CB made them feel better about their sex lives, and two thirds had become more educated about sex by using the site.
Some said their experience had been less positive – but only about a quarter of those who completed the survey.
The Numbers Are Surprising
Nearly a fifth (19%) of users said they considered watching cams to be the same as “real sex”, which honestly sounds quite high to me.
That means out of every five CB members, one of them gets as much out of watching webcams as they do from IRL physical contact – pretty impressive really.
On the flipside, nearly three quarters (72%) said that IRL sex is more satisfying than webcam sex, which is maybe less of a surprise…
Whatever Gets Your Rocks Off
In the end, it’s not about fully substituting for real-life sex, it’s just about getting your rocks off and boosting your mood, and nearly two thirds (64%) of the members surveyed said using camsites improves their mood.
The researchers wrote: “A majority of viewers experience their webcam activities as a means of obtaining sexual release, but this is not considered actual sex.“
What about models?
I don’t want to neglect the models. If cam relationships are real, then they must be real on both sides – or is it just a job?
Back in autumn 2016, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society published an article by Angela Jones about how adult cam performers experience pleasure and danger.
Her research used real MFC models’ posts on ACF (AmberCutieForum), a discussion forum where camgirls can share advice and offer support to each other.
She found that models often have a lot of control over what happens in private shows, and that many will not fake their orgasms (or at least, claim that this is true).
One model wrote: “I’m hard to take private because I’m choosy about who I’ll go with. I like to enjoy my time and feel comfortable with the person I’m with. It doesn’t matter how many tokens a member has, if I don’t enjoy my time with them, I’m not going private with them.“
Emotional Connection vs. Emotional Labour
Jones found that for many cam models, there is not much ’emotional labour’ involved – that is, pretending to be ‘into it’, faking orgasms, or acting out an emotional connection that doesn’t really exist.
“Sex work is not merely a matter of sexual commerce or a calculated economic exchange of services,” she wrote. “Instead, the encounters between clients and workers are both physical and affectual.“
While many models said they preferred more intimate private shows, this wasn’t just about avoiding sex acts.
One Streamate model said:
“My favourite was a guy who took me exclusive on SM – he bought a block of time. He had me get off for him, but let me choose how to, and wasn’t overly crass or anything else.
“After I came he said he had cum also – but he stuck around for at least half an hour afterwards and we just talked about Doctor Who and World of Warcraft. It was AWESOME.“
The Hierarchy of Intimacy
It’s not rocket science to see that there are different levels in the model-member power dynamic, especially where private sex shows are concerned.
- Member-controlled privates with a complete script, scene or role play
- Mutual control with ‘requests’ by the member instead of full direction
- Model-controlled privates (e.g. “just do what feels good for you”)
These affect the authenticity of the show, and as Jones noted: “What customers want is an embodied authenticity. They want to see a woman’s body quiver in ecstasy, but they must believe it is real.“
She added: “Overwhelmingly, according to the women in this virtual community, the most successful models are those who do enjoy their work, and those who are open to and desire more from their clients than their money.“
“I Dated a Camgirl“
If camsite relationships are real, then despite the T&Cs, the privacy concerns and even the geographic distances involved, you’d expect love to find a way to make it work.
And while it’s not very common to see stories of webcam to IRL romance, it does happen. A Quora user, Tim, shared his experience of dating a camgirl.
“We met online on a camgirl platform,” he said. “I went into it knowing that these girls were there to make a living and that it most definitely was not a dating site. We sparked up a conversation and over time it became more of a friendship than a camgirl tug-and-run.“
He described a gradual process, during which the model stopped accepting money from him, and found ways around the camsite’s rules against sharing personal contact details.
Eventually they met in person, and then Tim moved to live in her state, to save money on air fares.
“We are very much in love still and I can only hope that we defy the odds and pull it off for a long long time to come,” he added.
Webcam to IRL: Did It Work Out?
Unusually, we actually have an answer for this. Tim’s original answer was posted in July 2019 – and in the summer of 2023 he added a new comment.
“Came across this again and figured that I’d give it a quick update,” he wrote. “We are in our 7th year together now. She left the camsite behind a couple of years ago after a good run. We have moved to another state and are still very much in love.“
Tim is very much the exception – and it’s probably not healthy to think of the leading camsites as dating sites – but it sounds like this one time, a member found their happily ever after.
The Minefield of Camgirl Relationships
Model-member relationships on camsites are a minefield. There are barriers due to camsites’ own rules, models’ desire for privacy and security, and the distances involved.
For members, there may be trust issues, as well as doubts due to low self-confidence or a lack of dating experience – and those who set out to find a girlfriend are probably least likely to succeed.
But all that being said, there are countless stories of positive, healthy friendships and even intimate relationships between members and models, often leading to in-person meet-ups when the time is right.
Even without reaching that stage, there are plenty of intimate, respectful and consensual private shows where emotions go hand in hand with tokens, and everyone gets what they need.
Is it a full substitute for IRL sex with a loving long-term partner? Maybe not. But it can come close to replacing a one-night stand with a stranger, if the aim is just to get laid.