Each of us has every right to do what we want with our bodies, including camming (a webcam-enabled “peep show” looking into the personal and often very naked spaces of women from across the web). It has become an increasingly popular trade within the sex industry, and now with modern technology, jacked-up bandwidths, and not to mention newly enforced regulations, camming is becoming more popular and more lucrative. Nonetheless, the common misconception of camming is that it is purely pornography, only serving to sate the sexual appetites of those engaged in it, and therefore this “live-interaction” is often viewed as little more than an effective proliferation of internet porn.
In reality, camming relies upon a connection more emotional than physical, that not only holds a new layer of foreplay within sex, but also brings cam girls gratification and feminine empowerment from their work. Embodying this issue in its entirety is Brooklyn-based artist Lindsay Dye. We spoke with her about turning online extortion (in the form of cam session recordings used as blackmail) into a reclamation of her own artistic integrity. Discussing how her work affects her life as well as the way she’s perceived by the public, Dye offers readers a look into her feminist reality—being a cam-girl and her latest BUY ME OFFLINE project.
How did you become a cam girl?
Very simply, I’m a webcam model and an artist. I started camming because I needed money quickly. I was in graduate school ($120,000 in debt for art school) and my boyfriend had kicked me out of our apartment. I perform and make art live on a website, and I’m tipped to do so while I’m streaming. I have complete creative control over everything I do, which is the most important thing to me and everything I ever wanted in a career. I am still camming because I’m good at it, and I look forward to it.
What’s it like being broke as a woman in America?
I don’t want to make an exorbitant amount of money. I’m in search of a career where I have autonomy and choices, something that keeps me endlessly working. Being an artist is the plan, and that’s how I represent myself to the general public; but what actually funds me being an artist? My camming performances. The BUY ME OFFLINE SHOP is a real project, but also a conceptual joke. A lil tacky, but it’s a circular system that intertwines it all, guaranteeing I make money and art.
I think the misconception is that I have to be a sex worker. Because I’ve hit the bottom and I have a big ass, there’s nothing else for me to do. That’s not the case at all. I have my master’s degree, and am perfectly capable of finding an ‘average’ job. I quit my last job in academia because of sexual harassment from my male boss, but nonetheless, am subjected to harassment on a daily basis. I can’t change or control how men respond to my physical appearance, however, I have a brief period, while camming, where I have creative control over the circumstances, the environment. I point the viewer where I want them to go and there’s a level of mutual respect, because it’s mutual participation—there’s no need for harassment. Not only do I get to have this other worldly experience in my chatroom, where things seem almost gender equal and everyone is just masturbating together, but I also utilize every skill I’ve been taught throughout my schooling. I perform, I market, I advertise, I make videos, I’m an artist, and I have sex with myself. I don’t understand why combining all of these things isn’t more commonplace.
What was your initial reaction to people stealing/blackmailing your work?
Two things initially hit me—I’m a nice person, and I work really hard. I don’t wanna be blackmailed. All of my art is in these photos and recordings, what can I possibly do to flip this and subvert everything?
I am now re-selling the stolen images as physical glossy prints, along with the option to purchase the piece of art that is featured in that image. I called it my ‘acceptance’ because it takes away the potency of the recordings. I’m past being frustrated with being naked on the Internet, and instead I want the circularity of the project to work in my favor, by taking back what is mine and selling what the recorders can’t, my physical artwork.
Lastly, the copyright component was inspiring because the site I work for protects me to an extent; copyright information is in place that protects models against user recordings. Thanks to Bill Clinton signing the DMCA Act in ’98, cam model’s property is secure and the act criminalizes production and dissemination of services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. So how do I get my recordings taken down? I have to go to each individual website, email them, prove who I am (share my identity), and politely ask for them to remove the link. Having my recordings taken down could be a full-time job, but no.
How regularly does it happen? Are they always trying to blackmail or are some just fans?
Yes, photos are emailed to me everyday. Sometimes it’s worse, just last night someone posted the links to all of the videos I sell in my chatroom. Videos people are supposed to pay for were given away free to hundreds of users. The community is fickle. I’m a sexually empowered female entrepreneur in a public space so I am opening myself to…basically being public property and undermined. People that are fans interact differently because they’re more delicate and supportive, and don’t approach models in this way. They just send me really bad fan art. Their support is genuine as tipping for ‘art’ isn’t common, and I’m still blown away when people are interested and engaged with me when the topic isn’t sexual.
The reason it doesn’t make sense to record a webcam is because the live interaction + limited intimacy + the option to pay someone (these are all fetishes) are the point! Why would you steal a webcam recording? It goes against the entire idea of the fetish. There’s also the communal element of the chatroom that can’t even be grasped, let alone give you the sexual pleasure it’s offering realtime if it’s in a recording. Though it just hit me that there’s probably a subset of people who get off to stolen webcam recordings for a whole other list of other reasons (pixelated HD1080p is their fantasy, copyright infringement gets them hard, etc).
Do you think there is a market for these images, or are you moreso for artistic expression?
To speak to the art market, of course there’s room for these images. The history of film comes into play in relation to my other photographic work—the degradation of the image as it passes through Internet hands is just as interesting as the person/bot whose job it is to record it. It’s a layered audience experience that I am experimenting with. There’s 1) the intended audience of people who don’t know me who are interested in webcam porn, 2) the resale audience of people I don’t know and have no access to, and now 3) an audience of my choosing; peers, fellow artists, family. I’m giving a select audience a controlled but alternative experience, with the option to purchase a photo, along with something inside a photo, and the photo is from this larger experience seen by unknowable sources accompanied by questionable ownership.
I keep thinking about the ART VS. PORN conversation mostly because of social media and the way women are presenting themselves via Instagram whether they’re an artist or not. In a way, this project is less about porn and more about selfie culture. If the selfie wasn’t such an accepted form of expression, I don’t think I would have been so drawn to the images. Regardless, porn isn’t the crux of this project. I’m prompted to make more art as art sells out, and since I’m selling my art through this cam model ‘model’, I’m prompted to cam more, for people to steal my image so I can be blackmailed and re-sell that image. I made a system for myself.
Any favorites that are included?
I’m attached to the pieces that I didn’t produce with too much intention, or objects that made an appearance and were integrated into the cam show, such as the kiddie pool (used in a grad school video I made a couple years ago), the yellow donkey (I bought at a bodega for a child I nanny for), and the portraits I drew of fans that happened organically on camera.
I also like that you can purchase a print of the stolen image, and then the object, but the object might be another print. So you’re making these 2D but 3D but 2D purchases. And if you can’t afford to get the 3D piece you can get the 2D version of it instead. There’s a trippy flow to the process. Of course the temporal items too, made with food or balloons or plants. That object will be completely different when it’s received by the buyer.
A lot of the objects I use on cam, I have used IRL for performances or gallery shows, so they also have a history attached which is exciting for the buyer to be able to purchase an energized, used (in many ways) art object.