Cam Girls

04.29.13

Porn Superfans: Aurora Snow on the Relationship Between Cam Girls and Their Fans

Devoted fans shower porn stars with gifts and even career advice. Aurora Snow on the rise of the porn superfan and the ‘true friendship’ that exists with their favorite cam girls.

Widely available high-speed Internet and the rise of social media have made adult entertainment a lot more "personal" in recent years. "Cam girl" jobs have become a popular way for women to make money in the sex industry without having any actual physical interaction with their "clients" or fans. Some porn stars who spent many years having sex in front of a camera have taken to webcam sessions, either as an income supplement or as a replacement to their former job. And their fans have made the migration as well.

Thanks to the Internet, we have relationships that satisfy our needs but don't have to be consummated in person. Superfans are willing to go the extra mile, shelling out hard-earned cash for a girl they have never met and most likely never will, but they hand over their earnings regardless. It's a new kind of relationship.

Oftentimes through daily chatting—either by webcam or social media—a superfan begins to know more about the girl than the average fan, and with that knowledge comes a sense of a developing relationship, one which some fans describe as a "true friendship." In some instances, I can agree with that way of thinking. I have made friends on Twitter that I have never met (but hope to one day), yet consider them "real friends." 10 years ago, that would have sounded insane, but today with our busy lives and growing dependence on social media we chat more with our online friends than we do with our "real" ones.

Webcam sensation Ruby Knox is all too familiar with these modern relationships. Not only has she appeared in over 100 adult films, she's spent the last five years making a name for herself in the cam girl world. For Knox, transitioning from porn star to cam girl was a natural progression; she began an intimate relationship with the Internet at a very young age, predating her debut in porn. "I've been an Internet connoisseur for 17 years,” Knox told me. “I remember when the WWW was the Wild West. I can tell what a person is like from the first 30 seconds of an online conversation."

Knowing what her fans want, and being able to quickly read personalities online could be the secret behind her success. It's the personal relationship—that extra special bond—that keeps the fans coming back and logging in. Guided by her expertise, Knox took control of her own image by becoming a cam girl. "I stopped putting my effort into porn because I felt the industry was incorrectly dictating what type of persona I was exemplifying,” she said. “People don't know what they want until YOU show them. I couldn't trust the viewers to control my character anymore, so I decided to put my energy into webcamming."

For Knox, it's more about the personal experience, which is what fans have come to crave; it's not all about the sex. "I have a term with my friends where I explain I'm a ‘feelings hooker’—95 percent of my one-on-one, a.k.a. ‘exclusive’ time, is me either playing psychologist or listening to a tumultuous experience that has shaped a certain individual’s life. If I can help someone while I learn more about myself and humankind, that qualifies as a WIN." It's attitudes like this that create regular income from men, or fans, who are looking for a modern spin on today's male-female dynamic.

If a guy spent $1,000 a month on another woman, it may have been considered cheating, but that was before the online era. Now men spend money on other women without ever having any physical contact. Some men consider this a relationship; others who are in relationships consider it a hobby. Can it be considered cheating? These days, sex through a webcam is quite popular. Most of the super fans I spoke to spend a lot of time on cam sites or pay for one-on-one Web chats with the girls they idolize. One fan, Brent, a 28-year-old software designer, claims to be going broke due to his obsession with three different webcam stars. He considers himself in a relationship with all three girls and is better off because of it. "I see them regularly online, buy them gifts, and don't want to disappoint,” said Brent. “I do everything I can to make them happy. I spend just as much time and money on them as I would a girlfriend, and we never fight." Brent has tried dating and, while still open to it, prefers his hassle-free relationships with his favorite cam girls.

Some fans will form a relationship with porn stars they watch and follow them on social media, but have never contacted them directly. By the time contact is made, from the fan's point of view, it's the next step in furthering a relationship. Norman, another avid webcam connoisseur, said he's "in massive debt from doing all the cam shows." He can't resist paying for cam shows and taking the contact with his favorite stars one step further." In some people’s cases, like mine, watching porn isn't enough as I need that interaction,” he said. “Also, the relationship that is formed—I want it to continue and make it last, especially if it's one of my favorite porn stars."

Norman doesn't see how the relationships he's built with cam girls are much different from having a real girlfriend."I don't have a girlfriend and truly don't believe in love, unless you are talking about showing your love and support, making them feel good, especially when they are down, and investing lots of time and money with them [cam stars]."

Now men spend money on other women without ever having any physical contact. Some men consider this a relationship; others who are in relationships consider it a hobby.

It's not just the single men, or the wealthy ones, who contribute to their online lady friends. Alvin, a dedicated, self-described, unemployed superfan, said, "I would contribute whether I was in a relationship or not. I wouldn't contribute to them [porn stars] if I didn't feel there was a connection. Over time I get to know them, spend time chatting and ... you start to develop a friendship." Due to his financial situation, Alvin budgets his time and his gift giving, but is still adamantly sending gifts to his favorite porn stars in order to get that warm fuzzy feeling. "I love seeing her smile and the gratitude she gets from my gifts,” he said. “Knowing what I got her will help out so she doesn't need to purchase it and may use her money she earns for other things she needs to buy." By sending gifts (or gift cards) to his favorite stars, Alvin is encouraging a smile at his own expense.

Some superfans take things a step further and begin to form something of a partnership with a porn star's career. Nick, a superfan visionary, invested time, money, and patience into one of his favorite porn star's careers. "I spent a certain amount of money every month for two years on a certain porn star to invest in her career, so she could pay her bills and had regular money,” he said. “I presume it was like an investment: she had regular money coming in every month so she could plan for that." Tired of the monotonous content, Nick's goal was to help create better porn from afar, and he was willing to pay for it in an unconventional way. "I became a solid partner in her career; we discussed concepts and companies for her to work for."

Nick also does regular cam shows and through those interactions has built relationships with several of his favorite stars by encouraging them to take their careers in various directions. No one wants to see the same old boring content, he believes there are fans willing to pay for customized content, and he is one of them. "I always want to see the best people do the best stuff, and if I am paying for it, I want to see them do the best content. I don't want to see what the companies want me to see, so if I have to ask, I will." It's this type of fan personalization that may begin to have a real effect on what's being created in porn.

Superfans who are buying relationships with gifts, financial contributions, or their regular cam sessions stand out and the objects of their affection begin to take notice. Suddenly, there is more of an obligation to answer the superfan’s emails, to want to please back by filming the kinds of scenes he wants to see. While the generosity is appreciated (who doesn't love gifts?), fans don't have to buy our attention just to be heard. As adult stars, we know it's the fans who keep us in business. When we hear a reasonable request, we want to fulfill it. Even iconic stars take what fans say into account. Well-renowned adult superstar Tera Patrick has followed this successful philosophy with her company, TeraVision. "My fans kept asking me to make an Asian-themed movie, so I made a series [and it's] my best-selling series. I always take suggestions and listen to my fans."

Taking fan requests into consideration has been going on for decades in porn, but in the era of social media, fans are no longer mere consumers—now they are shaping what's being made.