Meet the webcam boys: the men who put their bodies online for money.
The rarely reported on, and occasionally low resolution world of male webcam shows is the subject of a brand new BBC Three documentary this evening. From paying the bills to exhibitionism, why are so many guys getting their clothes off for total strangers on the internet?
The numbers might very well surprise you – the BBC report that over the last five years alone, more than 100,000 British men have done webcam shows for money.
We caught up with the producer and director of the documentary Webcam Boys, Mobeen Azhar, to chat about the many straight men performing together on cam for cash, the parents who support their son with his camming career and a man who inserts traffic cones inside himself…
Your latest documentary, Webcam Boys, explores the world of men performing sexually online for cash, how did you even go about meeting these guys and persuading them to take part? There has been some academic work done on the increasing number of British men in the sex industry. Yet this is something that’s rarely reported on, especially in the context of webcamming.
Many men cam with a degree of anonymity and don’t even show their faces online so as you can imagine, some cammers ran in the other direction when asked if they would consider contributing. But I was surprised by how many men were willing to share their story and let me in to their lives. The aim was to capture the motivations, stories and working lives of cammers and I think the documentary does that really well.
I had a great team to work with and the three of us spent a lot of time contacting people via camming sites and Twitter. From there we would chat over the phone to work out who had an interesting perspective. We had to understand the camming landscape and distil the story of men camming in modern Britain. We then visited potential contributors across the UK and worked out who would tell the most compelling and representative stories.
If you really want to do well as a cammer you have to develop a camming persona. The most successful cammers are exhibitionists and many of the men I met revelled in sharing the absurdity of their chosen vocation.
The vast majority of the men you met performing on cam were straight – with many straight men performing together in the same room – what do you think this says about modern day sexuality or heterosexuality? This is one of the big themes of the programme. Spending time with men who identify as straight but have no problem camming together was fascinating and illustrated a real shift in attitudes.
Some of the men in the documentary have been camming for years and we explore how their boundaries have shifted in line with the demands of their clientele.
Martyn performs with his best friend. The boys do ‘football and rugby’ themed cam shows and spank each other yet they are both eager to tell me they are “110% straight”. As Martyn explains: “The clients know I’m straight. They get off on it.”
Despite many cammers initially telling me that “camming is just a job”, the documentary explores how difficult it can be to compartmentalise online life. All of the contributors told me the camming changed their sex life in the real world.
From your experience, what’s the main motivation for someone to start camming for cash? Is it purely financial? Or do people get a rush from it? All of the men I met told me camming makes them feel powerful and desired. Each contributor has a specific set of circumstances that brought then to camming, be it economics, a troubled history or a craving for fame and power. Cash may be an entry point, but the film aims to capture what it is about each contributor that means they are so open to putting their bodies online.
Do you think that it can be a dangerous environment for younger men? Could camming be a gateway to more dangerous activities? We explore the impact of camming in the film. Sure, it can be exploitative but there are also men who, on the surface at least, see camming as a route to empowerment. We look at whether taking your clothes off or performing sex acts for a paying audience is really a sustainable career and if it’s something you can keep separate from the rest of your life. It affects relationships, families, friends and personal boundaries. These are all themes we explore.
During your filming, you met a man who has his camming career supported by his parents, was that a surreal experience? What did they say about their son’s career choice? Joseph is a cammer from the Welsh Valleys and I spent a week filming at his house. He cams from a shed in his parents’ back yard that they had refurbished especially for his camming.
Every day his mother, Linda, would offer me tea and biscuits and talk to me about the weather, the family’s cats and camming. She told me: “Camming has been good for Joseph’s social life. He’s earning some money and building his confidence. So why not?” Some people could object to Linda’s attitude but I found her to be one of the most honest and thoughtful people I met while making the documentary. It’s all about motivation and I think many people will be able to relate to Linda if they really digest why her son is camming.
Some people cam to show off rather than make cash. What impression did you get from these men in comparison to the ones who are in it for the money? Every person I met whilst making the documentary was at least in part motivated by money. But there is a strong element of exhibitionism too. In the early stages of research I met a man who liked to insert huge objects, including a full size traffic cone, into himself while on cam. He was very clear that his primary motivation was grabbing attention, but most cammers and everyone featured in the film claim to cam for the cash.
Joseph who is featured in the film is a really skilled cammer. That might sound strange but I quickly saw how he works his clientele and gets them to spend money. He knows how to play people. For someone like Joseph, camming is about cash but it’s also a way to connect with the world, feel desired and develop a social circle. He prides himself not just on making money but on satisfying the people who watch his cam shows.
Web Cam Boys airs on BBC Three on Wednesday February 3 at 10pm and is then available on the BBC iPlayer.
— Mobeen Azhar (@Mobeen_Azhar) January 31, 2016