The first date I went on after I retired as a webcam model was the earliest sign for me that the work had changed my dating standards for the better. During the date, the guy (who was handsome) was honest with me that he just wanted sex. We hadn’t spoken much prior to the date but I knew I wanted more, thanks to the newfound sense of worth that webcam work had given me. For the first time ever, I didn’t change my mind after a few drinks for the sake of one night of validation.
Before becoming a webcam model at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was intimate with most men I met after a few drinks (providing I was attracted to them). I was convinced it would make them want a relationship with me, even when that was unlikely to be on the cards. In some instances, I used sex as a form of self-harm to get over heartbreak or my own insecurities.
In truth, I would let people get away with a lot of bad behaviour towards me — even those who were just friends — because I didn’t have the confidence to assert my boundaries.
Thanks, in part, to growing up in the 1990s with Disney on tap, I bought into the fantasy that one day a man would come along and sweep me off my feet. But because of the abundance of options to be found on dating apps, I've come to believe that a lot of men who are attracted to women want maximum return for minimum effort on their part. After all, if it doesn’t work out with one pretty girl, there are plenty of others just a swipe away, right? (This is especially true of big cities like London.)
By taking easy sex off the table, I’ve drastically cut down the number of men who want to see me for a second date because that would require effort from them. But as the number of options has narrowed, my confidence has increased. My time as a webcam model has changed my relationship with my body for the better. I thought I was reasonably attractive before but I still had hang-ups about my body. For one, I have inverted nipples. A previous ex mocked them and joked about my ‘deformity’ to mutual friends. But on webcam not a single person complained — my profile had over 27,000 views at the time of my retirement. In fact, some people came to me because my boobs were different.
My story isn’t unique.
Ally, who operates on AdultWork (the same site I worked for), told me that the work not only boosted her confidence but helped her set better boundaries in general. "It made me realise that sex was worth more to men than to me, and that I was giving it away too freely before," she said.
Georgina Ogden, a glamour model and OnlyFans creator, told me that the work improved her dating standards because the people she dates must be accepting of what she does for a living. "I have found that those who accept [sex work] are far more confident in themselves and have a more open outlook in all aspects of life," she said. Like me, she found that as her attitude to her body improved, so did her confidence. In any situation – relationship or otherwise – you need confidence in order to have standards and implement them. "The professional photography really helped me to see how others perceive me and [in turn] I saw myself in a new light," she added.
But no one really wants to have this discussion because sex work is still stigmatised in society. I was shamed by former friends who had managed to convince themselves that I was taking advantage of men as they couldn’t get their heads around the fact that sex work is work. It deserves to be paid for, just like any other service.
I think sex work can teach people a lot about themselves, in the same way that nursing can teach people how to be more compassionate. But because of the stigma that surrounds the sex industry, people aren’t open to hearing about these potential benefits.
I feel like I’m part of a club that only its members understand. The industry has its downsides but that doesn't take away from the profoundly positive effect it has also had on many lives. This is exactly why I recently went to a sex party on a boat. I knew I wasn’t going to have sex or drink (bar one glass of wine) but I decided to go because I knew I’d be around similarly open-minded people and most likely other off-duty sex workers, too.
And I was right: I noticed a woman shut down a man with pure confidence and self-assurance. "I'm open to meeting guys," she said. "But they can't just ask me for sex. Even here. Make an effort. Ask me about my day." We ended up speaking about men and the lack of effort that so many of them make. She told me she’s an escort; I told her I’m a former cam girl.
I've been thinking recently that perhaps it’s because of our swipe-heavy dating culture that you only truly understand the value of your body once it becomes a commodity. Now, sex is going to be on my terms and to fulfil my needs — for pleasure, for fun, for connection. I’ll never again use it as a plaster for a bigger wound.
Which is why I’ve had sex once in the past year. It was my only second date ever and I did it because I wanted pleasure (it had been a while) and to put some distance between me and my most recent boyfriend.
I’ve been on about 10 dates since I stopped webcamming and I’ve never got past a second date. While I’ve met some lovely men, I know I want a real connection and I’m happy to keep having interesting discussions with relative strangers until the stars align and I find what I’m looking for.
I don’t tolerate bad behaviour now, either. Recently I forgot the name of a man at a bar and he said: "Well, since you’ve forgotten my name, how else can you be good to me?" It was entitled. I felt uncomfortable. Instead of laughing to defuse the situation and — God forbid — giving into his request, I turned and walked away.
At this moment in time I’ve been talking to a guy for over a month. We’ve met once and haven’t had a second date yet because of our busy schedules but the fact that he’s managed to maintain interest for this long is proof that having higher standards does equate to more effort.
In the film Pretty Woman, Vivian (played by Julia Roberts) says that she wants the fairy tale. As unconventional as it might be, that’s exactly what I’m going to find — even if this princess had to find her standards in the most unlikely of places first.