The world of webcamming is becoming more mainstream by the day. It only takes a few Google searches to see the sheer size of the industry and get a reflection of the number of webcam workers it takes to maintain such platforms. It is estimated that over 35,000 people in the UK are currently using webcamming as a source of income, but experts say the number may be far higher.
One of the reasons that people turn to webcam models is the availability of instant messaging or ‘private chat.’ Despite what people may assume about webcamming, the majority of the work is reliant on building conversations and connections. Webcam models might ignite illustrations of glamorous women wearing skimpy clothes. However, the reality of the job is that conversation is the key to success and high earnings.
Alec Hardy, a webcammer and blogger, has always reiterated the importance of the emotional labor that webcammers have to attend too during their shifts. I spoke with him about his own experiences in the industry.
“Webcamming isn’t just about putting on a show for our viewers. We act as friends, counselors, therapists, and associates. We help our clients work through their problems or open up about their emotions. The vast majority of the people in my chat are not there to see my body or my cock, they are there because they want to talk to somebody. Whether it's opening up, or a pointless chat, people want to engage with me and have a conversation.”
However, there is an uncomfortable irony in the work that webcammers do. Whilst they may make themselves emotionally available for their clients, the same support is hard to come by for those who chose to pursue a career in the adult industry.
In a 2017 research project by the University of Leicester investigating sex work in the UK, it found the support avenues for webcam workers were limited in society. The lack of understanding about webcam work also worsens this issue. Especially by reducing the likelihood of medical professionals being able to understand the impact of emotional labor within their work. If people are unaware of the issues webcammers face, it is harder to offer help.
In 2018, one woman sought to change the lack of support for the webcam industry for good. Pineapple Support is an initiative started by Leah Tanit, who used to work within the adult industry. Their goal is to provide 24/7 support for all industry performers.
As their website notes: “There will be no discrimination, judgment or stigma.” They seek to obliterate the formal barriers that currently separate webcam workers from receiving support and therapy.
As the CEO of Pineapple Support, Leya understands the importance of emotional guidance in the confines of the adult industry. Entry into the adult industry might open one door but it often closes another.
Family members and friends may disapprove and are not willing to accept the sex industry as a choice of work. According to Leya, webcam workers are exposed to a number of emotional issues, which may jeopardize their well-being. She notes:
“Cam models face a unique array of mental health stresses — including cultural shame and stigma about their work, social isolation, financial instability, online harassment, and bullying. As a virtual workforce, separated by time and geography, they don't always have a close community to fall back on offline. Or friends or therapists who can understand what they're going through. Pineapple Support exists to fill in those gaps, and to provide adult performer and producers with access to sex-worker-aware, shame-free mental health resources."
It’s also worth considering that adult performers may also fall short of accessing health insurance in some countries, due to the precarious nature of their work. Even if the models have access to a doctor, there can be a high level of stigma and shame associated with the industry that acts as a barrier around speaking about their experiences.
Alec went on to explain to me, during our conversation, that there was a period of time where he publically left the webcamming world and distanced himself from his fans on social media. Simply put, he found the world of webcamming became too much for him to cope with.
The ‘fandom’ culture which often comes with success in the webcamming world means He reiterates the importance of the support that Pineapple is providing. Alec reminds me: “Pineapple Support could save someone’s life.”
Until the release of the project in 2018, there had been little to no consideration about the webcam industry in health and well-being. Pineapple Support is working to change the narrative about webcamming so that the problems faced by those in the industry can be understood.
We need to encourage a culture where we support and understand before we judge. This will help end the stigma that sex workers and webcammers face. There are problems in the adult industry, yes. But we must provide pastoral help before we judge. Pineapple support is about being human and responding to the complex needs of other humans, no matter what industry they are in.
By providing people with the tools to access the emotional support they need, they can learn to self-care in an industry which can take its toll on everyone. Pineapple support is about trying to guarantee every webcam model a chance to improve their well-being or letting people face any mental health problems they may be suffering from head-on.
“Pineapple is totally unique. And I think everybody in the webcamming industry deserves the right to have their mental health cared for and maintained with professional help. People are always so intrigued about the sex industry, they want to know more. But the truth is, we are normal people like everyone else - and we need support too!”