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'Life in Lockdown' is an interview series focusing on people, organisations or student societies who are adapting to isolation in interesting and innovative ways. If you’d like to talk about your experiences in lockdown or share how your student group has adjusted during the pandemic, email email@example.com; we’d love to hear from you.
While the past few months of self-isolation have proved a struggle for some, the market for online sex work is at an all-time high. Curious to see how the pandemic had impacted her life and work, I reached out to my industry contact ‘Bella’ who I interviewed for MUSE several months ago. ‘Bella’ isn’t her real name, it’s just the pseudonym she chose to use in our last interview. She wanted to remain anonymous and, as a teenager, loved Twilight, hence ‘Bella’. Our previous conversation touched upon her experiences of the industry as well as the ever-increasing shift of sex work towards online content, and I was interested to see how this had changed during lockdown. She seemed keen to talk so a few weeks ago we caught up, this time via the omnipresent and erratic video conferencing software Zoom.
I start this interview by asking her how her lockdown has been.
“It’s been a weird time,” she tells me, “and out of all this chaos, camming seems to be one of the industries that is benefiting from it”. I ask her why this might be and Bella offers her take on the situation. “In a time when everything is so confusing and no one knows what’s going on, I think people turn to cam sites and porn because it’s like an escape, it’s not going to remind you of how shit the world seems right now and it’s a safe space. You can just tune in, and tune out of the real world for a bit.”
“Isn’t it also due to people being stuck at home, having more time to engage with this stuff?” I ask, unsure of whether that’s a naive or obvious thing to say. Bella agrees but suggests another element that she feels has been playing a part in the current boom in the online sex industry. “It’s more than that, to be honest,” she explains “I’ve got a lot of single clients on my streams who’ve never used cam sites before but they’ve been so deprived of sex over the past few months that they turn to people like me. It’s not exactly a substitute but I definitely think it’s a lot more genuine an experience than simply watching porn”. Bella explains this is due to the live nature of her content, as well as the interaction she can have with her clients through the chatroom elements of the site. People aren’t just bored right now, they’re lonely.
I ask her how she feels about this.
“If I can help someone feel a little less lonely, then I have no problem with that,” Bella tells me “I get a lot of clients who pay for private sessions via Zoom or Skype and they don’t just want me to perform, they want to talk afterwards as well. This is something I don’t hear a lot of people talk about, it’s comforting to have that intimacy and interaction.”
I shift the topic of conversation onto how this boom has affected her life in lockdown. “It’s kinda crazy,” Bella tells me “I’d say my earnings from camming have probably doubled since lockdown began, and that’s not even counting the OnlyFans”. Bella is one of the many sex workers who’ve branched into the pay-to-view market of OnlyFans, where clients can pay a monthly sum to have access to a regular stream of her content. It’s another site which has seen its membership skyrocket in recent months, as people jump on the trend of monetising often nude or explicit content. There’s a lot of money in it. “I’d say I make around £2,000 a month just from OnlyFans”, Bella tells me.
I ask her about why she feels like these sites are doing so well in the current climate. “I think it’s all to do with the feeling of inclusion.” She suggests “that people feel special accessing content that is so exclusive in a world of free porn.
“I think a lot of it is also due to the sheer range,” she continues “there’s probably an OnlyFans for everyone - if you like guys, girls, nudes, feet pics, whatever - there’s bound to be an OnlyFans for it”.
I ask if her ever growing fanbase has impacted her Uni life and work in lockdown. “Not really,” she explains “I don’t know how it is with everyone else’s degrees right now but as an art student, I’m finding myself with a lot of free time to work. I think I’ll probably scale down the amount I post or cam after lockdown, but right now I’m finding it pretty easy to balance my degree and my work.”
Last time I spoke to her, Bella’s business was booming and she had amassed a small fortune from camming, escorting and porn, which she was using to pay off her student loans and debts to her friends. As a working-class student, that money started off to support her studies. Now she has more money than she knows what to do with. “I started by treating myself and housemates to stuff,” she explains “but I quickly realised there was more I could do with that money than just buy nice wine and sex toys”. She laughs.
Bella is one of the many content creators donating a portion of their earnings from online sex work to charity, her page proudly displaying that half of her donations will be given to UK based mental health charities including Mind and CALM. “I know mental health has been something I’ve struggled with a lot, and I feel like it's even more important during lockdown as more people might be feeling isolated, alone or struggling. If I’m earning more, I can afford to donate more and hopefully that will make a difference to someone who might be in a bad place right now.”
I ask Bella if she’s got any final words. “Support your local cam girl,” she jokes.
Names have been changed at the discretion of the interviewee.
A link to my first interview with 'Bella' can be foundHERE