“I’m not going to answer that,” said Madison Taylor, an ex-CamGirl, as she stared down at her phone, panicked. The phone read “Unknown caller,” and it put her on edge. Webcamming is a job that attracts men and women of all ages, but it may not be as safe as some may think.
In the 2015 documentary Hot Girls Wanted, it showed girls as young as 18 are drawn into the porn industry, some of which includes the girls entertaining on webcam sites. Webcamming is a live version of porn online, which as shown in the film, girls use to make money. Models or entertainers use their webcam to entertain through these sites, and users pay to watch them in group or private sessions. Most girls who webcam professionally work on their own, others use agents. Some women even make more than $1 million a year. The industry is filled with money, but not as much security as it should have.
Taylor, 26, started webcamming when she was 18, but she had to stop after three years when it began to interfere with her personal life. (She asked for her real name to be kept private.) It began as general curiousity. After creating an account, she was approached online by one of the admins on the site. He explained what the website wanted and what they could offer her. The site wanted entertainment to keep men paying to use the site, but there was no obligation to do anything. In return, she would be offered a portion of money if users went over their free minutes while watching her and more money if users with paid accounts spent a lot of time watching her.
Taylor decided to give it a try. Unlike most girls on the site, Taylor didn’t get naked. She would log on while doing homework and talk to people about her psychology readings. When Taylor was logged on, other users could watch her and write in the chat to talk to her. Some users even offered to edit her papers. “I’m actually still friends with a lot of people that I met through the site,” said Taylor. She began to feel part of a community, and it felt safe.
The site had moderators that would notify Taylor if anyone with an IP address close to her joined in the chat. If anyone tried to take a screen shot, the portion which showed her image would appear black instead. “I mean, if someone wanted to take a picture with their phone obviously they could, but it’s nice to have something there,” she said. Once, a member who joined into the chat said she knew who Taylor was.
“People always said this, so I would always test them to see if they knew my real name,” she said. To her surprise, the user wrote her real name. Within seconds the comment was deleted and a moderator tracked the IP address to Texas. The moderator figured she lived in the same city as someone else Taylor told her real name to, and possibly the two had met. It was a false alarm.
She ended up logging in almost every day after coming home from work. She was in college and working two other part-time jobs and the webcamming offered some easy cash so she didn’t have to take out student loans. Then, one day while out with her family, she got a call from a blocked number. A man on the other end said her real name and began slamming her, for no reason. “He was saying the meanest things, and right away my family knew something was wrong,” she said. Taylor didn’t want her family to know she was involved with webcamming. She quickly hung up the phone and called her service provider, Rogers, to find out who called her.
The Rogers employee explained they’re not allowed to give out blocked numbers, only the police can ask for that, but they offered to change her number for free if she was experiencing harassment. She stopped logging on to the webcamming site as frequently, worried about who was calling her. That wasn’t the end of her problems. Whoever was calling her managed to retrieve her number for the next year and a half. Every time she answered, it was the same voice saying similar harassing messages. During that year and a half, she tried everything to make the phone calls end.
Taylor went to the police, but they said they couldn’t help unless the number had called at least three times within a 30-day period. “Whoever was doing this must have known that rule, because they never called more than that within 30 days,” Taylor said. Then, she switched her phone provider, not once, but four times. And, every time, the calls would start again, even once when she only gave her number out to her mom. Eventually, she went without a cell phone for about three months, unsure of what else to do.
To this day Taylor only gives her phone number out to those she trusts and explains to not give it out to anyone. She believes the person harassing her must work for a Wireless Wave or have a related job where he has the ability to search names and find numbers. Sometimes she still logs on to the webcamming site to catch up with other users. Some, who she’s in contact with outside of the site, still wish her happy birthday years after she stopped using it as frequently. Taylor said all the people she met made the experience really positive, even if it ended with harassing phone calls, she doesn’t regret anything.