On a sweltering summer day in South Beach in Miami, Florida, half a dozen cam girls attending Cam Con, a conference for online erotic performers, decided to shed their bikini tops and swim in the hotel pool. They giggled, splashed, lounged on inflatable animals and made emphatic gestures towards their sun-kissed torsos and gyrating breasts. But the pool party had been relatively tame until Cam Con cofounder Stacy Havoc jumped into the pool topless, prompting the other women to cheer and the DJ to crank it up.
People didn’t just flock to join 28-year-old Havoc because of her curvy figure, flowing hair and lean, tan limbs. She’s one of the most successful and business-savvy cam girls working today, having moved up the ranks from cam performer to director and Playboy TV producer. By the time Havoc retired from camming three years ago, she said she was making $7,000 to $10,000 a week.
Havoc is one of a growing number of women who have “made it” in the online adult entertainment industry, becoming financially independent and wealthy enough to invest in her own business ventures.
“More women are directing and producing [adult content],” Havoc said at Cam Con in Miami. “I think we [cam girls] are changing the industry, there’s just so many of us. Hundreds of thousands.”
Although thousands of men have joined the estimated billion-dollar camming industry worldwide, the vast majority are women, often referred to as “cam girls.” The burgeoning webcam industry has provided more opportunities for women to network with business influencers and take charge of their own careers, whether behind or in front of the camera.
While there isn’t much data as to how fast the camming industry is growing and how much money is really being made, Clinton Cox, Havoc’s husband and Cam Con’s co-founder, led an internal case study with half a dozen sites over six months, monitoring the front pages with top “rows” of popular performers. Cox said even this limited sample revealed that at any given time, an average of 25,000 models were performing live for a quarter-million fans and clients.
“Profits are definitely going up, social media [promotion] is trending. [Performers] are mainstreaming adult entertainment,” 44-year-old Cox said in Miami. Cox is an industry veteran who, with Havoc, created the World Wide Modeling Network for cam performers. Their network is collaborating with United Healthcare and Wells Fargo to help cam models manage their health insurance and retirement funds by inviting fans to pay medical bills and sponsor retirement savings.
For decades, women were largely excluded from the business side of the porn industry. As Jane Liszewski, vice president of sales and marketing at Classic Erotica succinctly put it in her profile on the Women In Adult industry website: “Thirty years ago, this industry was basically male-run and male-driven.”
Even in today’s traditional porn market, male bosses typically control the means of production, while female performers often make significantly less money than directors and male co-stars. Unlike Hollywood actors or other types of performers, porn stars don’t earn royalties.
Many camming sites do take a sizable chunk of the profits performers reap on their platforms, occasionally even more than half their earnings. But they also offer performers the opportunity to start their own businesses, control their content and build their personal brands without industry gatekeepers. Film editing and production experience from running their own webcam shows can help performers develop technical skills as well.
Regardless of how much a cam performer makes, the job is fairly flexible: women can make their own schedules, set their own hours and determine when and how they’re willing to appear on camera. Panel discussions in Miami about women moving up in the industry, from tech to marketing, filled the air with chatter about independence and female-solidarity.
BDSM cam girl and entrepreneur Tequila Mockingbird said that camming has made her feel more confident and helped her explore new facets of her sexuality. She sees this work as an expression of sexual freedom.
“I am a feminist. I believe if you choose to do the work and you love it, it’s empowering,” Mockingbird said. “We’ve gone through the corporate world, [and now are] choosing to do something else.”