Cam Modeling and “Future Having sex”
Emily Witt’s (2016) reserve Future Sex chronicles her seek out intimate self-realization as a fresh Yorker in her early 30s migrating to tech-centered SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA. The book is based both in interviews and personal encounters, stringing vignettes collectively into chapters with topics including polyamory, Orgasmic Deep breathing, Internet porn, and Burning Man. In this review, I emphasize her chapter on sex camming.
But first, I am going to start with a broad overview. A major theme in the book is the type of existential angst that comes from having way too many choices. Witt feels daunted by her sexual freedom as a millennial—the endless range of intimate partners and procedures—first permitted by the sexual trend, and then by the web. She (p. 12) explains:
What if love failed us? Sexual freedom acquired now extended to the people who never wanted to get rid of the old establishments, except to the degree of displaying solidarity with friends who do. I had not sought so much choice for myself, so when I came across myself with total intimate freedom, I was unhappy.
Witt spent her early adult life wanting to find enduring love—and perhaps even marriage—looking at this as a getaway from the routine of causal sexual arrangements, occasionally punctuated by periods of monogamy, that has until recently defined her passionate life. But Witt’s wishes turmoil with the world she inhabits, as Millennial sexual norms privilege freedom over security in interactions. She (pp.11-2) describes why security remains attractive, even as the web opens a lot more options:
The growth of sexuality beyond marriage had brought new reasons to trust the original handles, reasons such as HIV, the time limits of fertility, the delicacy of emotions. Even as I settled for freedom as an interim condition, I planned for my monogamous future. My sense of rightness, following the failed experiments of earlier generations, was like the reconstructions of the baroque nationwide monument that was ruined by a bomb but another kind of freedom had arrived: a blinking cursor in bare space.
In questioning these new intimate configurations where freedom prevails, Witt echos what public http://blablacams.com/hairy-pussy theorists Anthony Giddens and the past due Zygmunt Bauman respectively describe as “pure relationships” and “liquid love.” Both authors claim that the perfect of unconditional commitment has been supplanted by constant negotiation and the criterion of mutual advantage. And, even in coupling, personality remains central.
Missing a secure, dedicated romantic relationship in the old mildew, Witt sets out to explore the likelihood of fulfillment (or, at least, self-knowledge) in less conventional situations. As turns out, it is within the chapter on “Live Webcams” that Witt does the most theoretical work to clarify why seeking diverse encounters—the task of the reserve—might aid in her quest for sexual self-realization. In particular, she points to an article in the reserve Time Square Red, Times Square Blue by the gay African-American writer Samuel D. Delany about the time he spent having anonymous sex in porno theaters. Witt (p. 126) summarizes the article:
Delany described the advantages of his huge experience in casual sex. The movie theaters had served as laboratories where he had discovered to discern the nuances and spectrum of his intimate desire… His observations about sexual attraction consistently disproved standard notions of beauty and ugliness. (He uncovered, among other proclivities, that he previously a thing for Burly Irish-American men, including two who experienced hairlips.)
She estimates Delany who suggests we must “figure out how to find our very own way of experiencing sex sexy” and concludes:
I don’t observe how this is accomplished with out a statistically significant variety of partners… However supportive, the response of a single partner just cannot do this. This is a quintessentially interpersonal process…
Unlike Delany, Witt (p. 204) mostly lands back again where she started, finding monogamy rewarding however now embracing a perfect of dedication as temporary:
I am hoping that married collaboration would cease to be seen as a totalizing end point and instead become something more modest, perhaps am institutional basis for distributed efforts such as increasing children or making artwork.
But this go back to a somewhat standard notion of love demonstrates to be the most interesting facet of the reserve. Witt’s thinking about the freedom and variety of experience available to the present generation seems to progress. Rather than viewing the almost infinite selection of sexual options as daunting, Witt ends up seeing it as an chance to test until one discovers confidence and feels affirmed in their own wishes. She (p. 204) says:
I came across that… mostly I needed to live in a global with a wider selection of intimate identities. I hoped the primacy and legitimacy of an individual intimate model would continue steadily to erode as it offers, with increasing acceleration, before fifty years.
Though she does not condition it so explicitly, I would claim that Witt has uncovered an interesting dialectic between freedom and security. Though freedom to explore may help us in finding what we should find sexually desirable, exploration may, paradoxically, lead to security in one’s founded sexual wishes, when new experience continuously prove less gratifying and thus reaffirm the appropriateness of those desires.
And, while last chapter wonders off a bit, I think the desirability of embracing this stress between freedom and security is the clear (if unstated) bottom line of the publication.
Following this theme of intimate exploration as a mechanism of self-realization, I now want to carefully turn to the question of what camming educates Witt about her own sexuality (and what we should can find out about camming along the way). Witt (p. 114) identifies her encounters with the favorite camsite Chaturbate:
I first noticed Chaturbate and the many other live-sex-cam sites available online as porn… as the technical advancement of peep show booths and telephone sex lines. Like those, they had a performer and they acquired a voyeur… Then I spent additional time on the site.
As she dives deeper into the site, Witt decides that the resemblances she noticed between cam sites and other forms of sex work/performance were only superficial. The variety and interactivity of cam sites set them aside.
Chaturbate was full of serendipity… the sensation of clicking through the 18+ disclaimer into the starting matrix was the one of turning on MTV in the middle-1990s, when music videos performed most of the day and kept audiences captive in the anticipation of a favorite performer or a new discovery. Or maybe, to reach further back in time, it recalled the sooner days of the Internet—the web of strangers rather than “friends.”
Witt’s decision to approach her subject material through the lens of her own desire—as defined in the first section of this review—demonstrates both interesting and difficult in this section.
Why is Witt’s strategy interesting is that, in bypassing the favorite rooms that she largely finds uninteresting, she takes us to the margins of the websites, searching for the unforeseen. This consists of an Icelandic woman who strips wearing a rubber horse face mask and fedora. In a passage representative of her snarky but appreciative style, Witt explains (pp. 112-3):
maybe it was the home that she is at or her high definition camera or an over-all feature of the Icelandic people but even faceless she gleamed with the well-being that emanates wherever per-capita intake of seafood oils is high and citizens benefit from socialized healthcare.
Witt also represents a college-age women who discussed books and made $1,500 doing a 24 hour marathon that featured much talking, some nudity, no sex. A third woman suspended herself from a hook made of ice. And an other woman held nude sex ed conversations.
Taking a cue from one of her interviewees, Witt describes the designed use of site—one or two performers broadcasting to numerous audiences in each room—as “mass intimacy.” But, the most interesting area of the chapter was Witt’s exploration into a culture that has emerged around using Chaturbate to help unpaid, private, 1-on-1 sex.
Assisted by two performers that she interviewed, she “multiperved” or “audio-Skyped with each other while sifting through videos online” (p. 124). Together, logged to see the countless pages of men loading but being watched by no-one. She details (pp. 124-5):
not even the most popular men, instead clicking on through to the second and third pages for the true amateurs, the forest of men in desk chair… It proved that they waited there for a reason… in order that they will find somebody who will cam-to-cam with them…
Witt (and her manuals) come across a man she discovers relatively attractive, and she chats with him. The person quickly invites her to carefully turn her cam on. She obliges and creates a password-protected room so only he can easily see her. While Witt will not seem to get the encounter particularly satisfying, she (p. 125) does offer some insight in to the value others find in the experience:
here, where hopes resided in the opportunity of an electric encounter between two different people, tokens mattered much less. If, on its website landing page, Chaturbate was a large number of men watching a few women, a couple webpages in, the figures changed to 1 or two different people using Chaturbate to communicate privately with another person.
Witt’s experience highlights a really interesting case of technology being utilized against the grain. It is a rougish activity for users to get non-transactional intimate or sexual encounters on sites whose profits come from viewers purchasing tokens. While these sites afford such activity and do not prohibit it, they don’t plan or explicitly condone it either. It is, perhaps, for this reason lack control that sites wants Chaturbate remind Witt of the earlier Web.
While Witt’s study of the margins of camming sites is disclosing, she also, arguably, fails to represent most of the proceedings these sites and is even somewhat dismissive of the popular performers. Because she focuses on her desires as a thirty-something NYC writer, Witt sometimes displays a hipster bias, where, if something isn’t weird or edgy, it isn’t seen as deserving attention.
Witt is also not really a joiner. Her desire to experiment as part her own search for intimate self-realization, drives her visit many places; but, for the most part, Witt will identify or feel a sense of owed with the individuals she satisfies. She appears to participate only at a distance, looking at others as topics just as much as human relationships. Witt (p. 172) details her own romantic relationship to a sex party she attends, saying “I used to be still thinking of myself as just a visitor, or rather neither here nor there, someone starting an abstract inquiry but not yet with true intention.” This distancing is valuable insofar as it brings with it a degree of objectivity (almost every other things discussed Orgasmic Mediation, for example, sound like marketing copy); however, it also means she’s unable to offer an insider perspective through her personal narratives.
What’s missing in the section on camming—due to some combination of her hipster bias and insufficient personal experience—can be an examination of the countless sizes of creative labor that goes into producing night time the most normative-appearing shows. Acquired Witt attempted modeling herself, this might be readily apparent. The seeming convenience with which models embody normative wishes is area of the work—part of the performance of authenticity.
A most troubling second is when she uncritically relays one of her interviewee’s characterization of the very best performers as “zombie hot girls” (p. 124). This privileging of the weird in porn feeds a kind of whorearchy, where certain forms of sex work/practice are denigrated as a way of validating others.
Witt http://blablacams.com/profile/tattoo-babe certainly is not consciously anti-sex work. In the previous chapter, in truth, she offers significant amounts of compliment for the artistry women porn directors and producers, and she spends a substantial time questioning her own beliefs designed by mainstream feminism and considering more inclusive feminisms that accept sex employees and porn as a medium. And, quite insightfully, she argues very much fetish porn is a response or response to new taboos set up by anti-porn feminists.
Nevertheless, Witt will not seem to extend the interest and regard she’s for women-directed studio room porn to the women-directed shows of popular cam models. I’m certain they have unique insights and fascinating stories to tell.
Regardless of these few criticisms, Witt gets one key thing right: The continuing future of sex can’t be reduced to a tale of technological development but must be understood in terms of changing patterns of human being relationships. She (p. 210) concludes “America got a great deal of respect for the future of items, and less interest in the foreseeable future of human plans.” Because of this by itself, Future Sex probably deserves more attention.