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The Ins and Outs of Being a Camgirl Explained by Isa Mazzei

Isa Mazz LGBTQ&A

This interview was conducted as part of the interview series LGBTQ&A, a weekly podcast that documents modern queer and trans history.

In her new memoir, Camgirl, Isa Mazzei writes about just how much work goes into being a camgirl, calling it the hardest job she's ever had. On top of coming up with and executing fresh show ideas to make sure regular viewers were never bored, Mazzei's energy was focussed on the online community she was building: remembering viewer's birthdays, checking in after job interviews, and responding to emails and private messages, playing the role of a de facto therapist.

"There's so much work that goes in for it to look so effortless," she says on this week's episode of the LGBTQ&A podcast. Mazzei also talks about what she learned about herself as a camgirl, how transformative it was to finally feel a sense of control over her body, and how it reshaped her views on consent in sexual relationships. 

Read a preview below and click here to listen to the full podcast interview. 

Jeffrey Masters: Can you talk about the work that goes into being a camgirl and why it's much more challenging than people generally think?
Isa Mazzei: Camming took so much labor and it really tested all of these different skills. First of all, you're building a brand, a social media image, a website. And you're creating content, you're lighting the content, you're shooting the content, or you're hiring people to light and shoot the content. You're doing your makeup, you're coming up with your costumes, and then you're coming up with your show ideas, which when you have a group of regulars that are watching you every night or a few nights a week, you can't do the same thing every single night. It's boring.

And more than that, you have to play with what's going on in the outside world. Is it the Superbowl? Is it some giant holiday that you're going to need to be on theme for? How are you going to interact with the Superbowl so you can get those viewers to watch you and the Superbowl at the same time, or are you just going to be there in an empty room?

Then you're trying to remember regular's birthdays and if they have a job interview and you want to send them a message to ask, "How'd your job interview go?" You're coordinating with other girls like, "I'm going to fly out and shoot with you next week." And it's just, it's so much stuff all at the same time.

Often, all of that stuff can be going on in the background while you're sitting in front of the computer, smiling, looking pretty, and performing. There's so much work that goes in for it to look so effortless.

JM: You had more control than I expected. You could kick people out of your room if you wanted, you set prices, and you controlled if you took your clothes off. 
IM: I think that having that control was what really drew me to camming in the first place and why I found it so transformative, ultimately, is because it was this place where I set boundaries. I was in full control over who saw me and what they saw.

Especially growing as a woman and feeling constantly like my body was not allowed to belong to me in society, just being grabbed, and catcalled, and harassed. Just all these pressures coming from the outside and then being able to be in this space where I was like, "Alright, if you want to look at me, give me money."

JM: You said you were uncomfortable with sex growing up. 
IM: Yeah, and I think I was just having this conversation with someone the other day where we're kind of told that if you don't like sex after a certain point, there's something wrong with you. It's like, "How often are you having sex with your husband or your partner? It should be X amount of times."

We have all these "shoulds" around sex and what we really should be framing the conversation is, "How do you feel about sex? What do you actually desire? What brings you pleasure? What makes you feel safe and comfortable?" I think that's kind of how the conversation needs to shift because for so long, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn't enjoy sex.

JM: How did being a camgirl affect your sex life when having sex with a partner in-person? 
IM: I think it made my sex life a lot better just from the fact that I felt sexier. I felt so much shame around my body and I just thought that my body was gross and my vagina was gross, and then here I was on this site where hundreds of people every night were telling me that I was beautiful and that my vagina was beautiful and I was feeling power over it and feeling the power over setting my own boundaries, and that made me feel so much sexier.

So I was able to take the feeling into my personal sex life and really start to explore the things that I enjoyed sexually with my partner in private that I had never really felt like I was able to do before.

JM: If you didn't think your vagina was beauitful, what made you feel comfortable enough to show it to people on the internet?
IM: It was the desire to feel like it was beautiful. I had watched sex workers, I had watched strippers, I had watched all these camgirls, and they felt so embodied to me. They felt so confident to me and they were people that I watched who seemed to genuinely enjoy sex. I looked at that and I said, "I want that. I want to feel that way about myself." And so I kind of put myself in the situation where I said, "OK, well if I do the things they're doing, maybe one day I will also be that way."

JM: Did it change what you found to be sexy? 
IM: I think it totally reframed how I view consent in sexual relationships. When I have sexual relationships with people now who are really comfortable with the way that I talk about my body and my boundaries, that's a huge turn-on for me.

I've encountered a lot this misconception that explicit verbal consent will somehow not be sexy, or will somehow ruin the mood. If it's like, "Oh, can I go down on you?" But actually, I find it really hot when someone asks me before they touch me, and that's a turn-on for me because I feel safe, I feel respected, and it kind of becomes a part of the foreplay. Like, "Oh, can I kiss you here? Oh, can I touch you here?" It becomes erotic and that's something that I learned through camming as well.

JM: It's trendy to talk about choking in the gay community right now. That's something that requires consent, but there's also a semblance of, "Oh god, now I need to be cool with choking."
IM: Totally. When I was camming with another girl, you kind of sit down and have a business chat. It's like, "What are your boundaries? Can I do this to you? Can I do this to you? How much do you want to charge for this?" And we had such frank, matter of fact discussions about sexual acts, that I kind of realized I could carry that into my personal life and how I negotiate sex.

And it works really well, because I think as a queer woman too, a lot of growing up for me was not really sure if the girl I was with was straight, or if she's into me, or if I can kiss her, or if I am kissing her if it's okay if I touch her. And now it's so much easier to just be like, "Can I touch you?"

Just ask. And that can be a part of it.

[Click here to listen to the full podcast with Isa Mazzei.]

Camgirl by Isa Mazzei is published by Rare Bird Books and available now. 

New episodes of the LGBTQ&A podcast come out every Tuesday on the Luminary app.  

Isa Mazz LGBTQ&A

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