Girls and boys live to fulfill your wishes: the millionaire and controversial sex industry with webcams in Romania (which has a branch in tumblr)
It is the fastest growing sector in the pornographic industry .
In Romania, thousands of women work as “cam-girls” or “girls on camera” from studies or from their homes.
It is a market that operates 24 hours a day seven days a week and most of the clients that connect online are in North America and Western Europe.
In the heart of Bucharest , on the sidewalk next to a high-rise apartment building, a group of young women smoke, talk and laugh. It is a common scene in any city. But it’s morning and these girls wear elaborate makeup, extra high heels and revealing outfits, very different from the summer dresses of other people who pass by the place.
Inside the building, Studio 20 occupies the first two floors. Forty rooms give impeccable runners, covered with images of glamorous women and not very covered.
If the door of a room is closed, it means that a woman in there is interacting with an international client through a webcam. And while I’m alone in the room, everything is legal.
In this world of virtual relationships and cybersex, women in front of the camera are called “models” and men who look at them are called “members”. Inside Studio 20 there are dozens of rooms. If the door is closed it means that a woman is interacting with an international client through a webcam.
Lana works in room number 8. The room has a large circular bed with cushions and there is a wardrobe with some of her outfits.
“I usually wear dresses, lingerie or leather clothes,” he says.
In one corner of the room there is a huge TV screen, an expensive camera behind and professional lights.
Many pairs of eyes may be watching Lana live through adult websites. But the young woman only earns money if a client asks for a private session .
Lana earns an average of US $ 4,700 per month, 10 times the average salary of Romania.
Lana works eight hours a day and earns an average of US $ 4,700 a month, 10 times the average salary of Romania .
As Lana’s employer, Studio 20 also earns about $ 4,700 a month thanks to its private sessions.
And at the top of this pyramid is LiveJasmin , the online site that streams the content of Studio 20 and is responsible for collecting credit card payments from customers.
LiveJasmin gets more than US $ 9,400 per month for the Lana sessions.
This online site has between 35 and 40 million daily users . At each moment there are about 2,000 models connected.
It is not difficult to understand how the sex industry with webcams generated between US $ 2,000 and US $ 3,000 million in 2016.
Young man in a bathroom in front of a large television screenCopyright of the LORENZO MACCOTTA image
A young woman prepares for a session in a bathroom with a sumptuous ceiling lamp.
Lana graduated from university and worked in the real estate sector until Romania fell into recession after the economic crisis of 2008 . It was then that she decided to be a “live girl”. The memory of his first day in front of the camera has never been erased.
“I was alone in the room, but I felt there were hundreds of people around me, I could not keep up with all the things they were saying and asking me, it was a real shock.”
“But then I learned to be more perceptive, to distinguish who was a customer willing to pay and not waste time.”
What happens during a private session through a webcam?
” Most of it is just conversation, I also play a role play and a minor part includes nudity and masturbation ,” Lana said.
Sometimes clients try to push her to do “things she does not want”, but in general it is Lana who directs the show.
“It’s up to you as a woman to take the baton and that empowers you.”
The important thing is to make a paying customer stay online as many minutes as possible.
“For about 10 minutes you can play to be sexy and adorable, but then you better have something to talk about or the client will leave,” says Andra Chirnogeanu , director of public relations at Studio 20.
Andra Chirnogeanu, director of public relations at Studio 20Copyright of the STUDIO 20 image
“If you do not have anything to talk about, the client will not be connected,” says Andra Chirnogeanu, director of public relations at Studio 20.
The company employs trainers, a psychologist and an English teacher. Most of the clients are in North America and Europe , and it is essential that the girls can communicate with them.
But the English teacher, Andrea, plays a role that goes far beyond language skills.
” I teach them about fetishism and sexual obsessions and why people have these fixations, we study Freud and a lot of psychology, and also a book of gestures, because women must be sensual, intelligent and beautiful.”
Young man in front of a large TV screen
Young women are expected to exchange messages daily with their clients.
Geography is also important for young women to talk with their clients about where they live.
“And also so they can talk about exotic sites,” adds Andrea. “This is not just a sex business, as many people think, but the models should be able to converse with their clients as if it were a normal online relationship, if they talk about many topics, the session is much more pleasant for both.”
Studio 20 is the largest study franchise of its kind in the world. It has nine branches in Romania, including one that employs “live guys” for the gay market.
Its other branches are in Cali, Colombia, Budapest (Hungary) and Los Angeles (USA) .
Man in shorts in front of a cameraCopyright of the LORENZO MACCOTTA image
One of the studios has male models to satisfy the gay market.
Not all models work in studies.
Sandy Bell , who earned two college degrees, talks to her clients from her home, like many other young women in Romania. Sandy earns about $ 120 a day with her sessions, which complement her salary as an interior designer.
One of the advantages of working from home and dealing directly with companies that do online hosting or web hosting is independence. Another is that girls are left with a higher percentage than their clients pay.
“Most of my clients are normal and nice types,” Sandy said.
“Many members are looking for love, they want to feel connected, some ask you to call them by their first name, or to talk to them while you dance or strip, I am very honest with them, they know that I have a boyfriend and that we will never have sex in the real world . ”
Sandy lives with her partner in an apartment on the outskirts of Bucharest. He knows what his girlfriend does, but Sandy’s parents have no idea. It is common in this industry that the girls and even the owners of the studios hide what they do.
The young women who spoke with the BBC were only identified by their fancy name or their first name.
Unlike many women in the sex industry, Sandy Bell does not fear for her safety.
“What could a client do to me?” If he’s rude or goes over the line, I simply disconnect him with a click, “I can talk to the administrator of the site and ask him to ban his web address.” These men are thousands of kilometers away . I can not touch myself, I work alone, what I do has nothing to do with prostitution. ”
Is Sandy Bell a victim? She says no, although feminists like Irina Ilisei point out that this is a more complex problem than it seems.
“Do these young women make a choice? Or do they end up in this industry because they can be manipulated psychologically or do not have economic stability? It’s probably a combination of the two elements.”
Ilisei believes that two factors help understand what leads young girls to become “live girls”. On the one hand, Romania has a high rate of teen pregnancy . On the other, 30% of university graduates do not get employment.
Irina Ilisei believes that women end up working as “live girls” because they have no other job options.
The webcam industry also goes to great lengths to attract young women.
” There are announcements on university campuses, ” said Ilisei.
” The students receive direct messages on Facebook with job offers, the studios are presented as real companies and talk about training, skills and empowerment, and even offer them bonuses if they convince their friends to do the same.”
In the case of Lana, the online sessions have allowed her to earn enough money to educate her daughter.
The young woman says she will invest the rest of her earnings and leave the business in two years.
But other women can not make decisions with the same freedom as Lana. Oana feels fortunate to have “escaped” from the sex industry.
When she was younger, at age 16, she fell in love and her boyfriend persuaded her to do sessions online.
“He told me that I should just talk, but he was with me in the room and what we did there was pornography.”
A bed and a camera in one of the Studio 20 rooms
“There are girls who still think that they will only be in front of a camera and they will earn a lot of money, but everything that happens in those sessions affects your mind, the next step is prostitution,” Oana warned.
It is illegal in Romania for a man and a woman to appear together in one of these webcam sessions, but it is difficult to control whether the law is fulfilled.
Oana ended up working as a prostitute in Germany until she gathered the courage to return to Bucharest and start a new life.
Now she does prevention work and talks with young people about her own experience to show them the dangers of the online sex industry.
“There are girls who still think that they will only be in front of a camera and they will earn a lot of money, but everything that happens in those sessions affects your mind, the next step is prostitution, now I realize that.”
Lana does not agree.
“In this business you sell your brain, not your body,” he says.
Sandy Bell on screen
“What could a client do to me? These men are thousands of kilometers away from me, none can touch me,” says Sandy Bell.
“I see it as a performance, as a show, but this is not a job for anyone, many girls leave it after weeks or days because they feel they are selling their body, the important thing is your mental attitude. I do not feel exploited. ”
Andra Chirnogeanu, the director of public relations of Studio 20, also rejects the idea that online sessions are dangerous or harmful from a psychological point of view.
” What is psychologically harmful is being 12 hours in an office working for a minimum wage ,” he said.
But the fact that many of the models choose to hide what they do is revealing.