Bucharest: The secret world of webcam girls

Video chatting with webcam girls is one of the fastest growing branches of the online porn industry and generated two to three billion US dollars in 2016. The webcam girls, to whom industry giants such as LiveJasmin owe their profits, are employed where income is low and job prospects are poor. In Hungary, Romania or Colombia, factories have sprung up, in which young women strip to entertain wealthy North Americans and Europeans. One of the industry hotspots is the Romanian capital Bucharest.

An inconspicuous building in the middle of Bucharest. In the Studio 20 branch, sterile white corridors connect 40 rooms on two floors. If a door is closed, it means that the room is currently being worked on, reports a reporter from the British TV station BBC. She has examined a business in Romania where thousands of young women work, but next to nothing is known about the outsider: the webcam industry.

The market leader has 2000 webcam girls online at all times

The industry leader LiveJasmin alone has 2,000 women online at all times of the day and night, and some men for homosexual customers. Every day, 35 to 40 million “members”, as the customers in this branch are called, watch online the “models” who loll around for them in front of the camera, talk to them, strip for them – and make them feel to be interested in them. Many work in their own homes, but also in the branches of the service provider Studio 20 – there are nine of them in Romania alone – young women undress for their customers without any prospects.

One of them is 31-year-old Lana. The single mother studied and worked in the real estate industry – until the economic crisis changed everything in 2008. The recession deprived many young Romanians of hope for a regulated life, youth unemployment is now around 30 percent. The young woman saw no other option and started a job at Studio 20. A well-paid: The models earn an average of 4000 euros a month – ten times the Romanian average income – the service provider collects about the same amount per model. The lion’s share – $ 8,000 (around € 6.8 million) per month – ends up at the LiveJasmin umbrella group.

First day: “I felt like there were hundreds of people”

Lana remembers her first day at work well: “I was alone in the room, but felt like there were hundreds of people around. I couldn’t concentrate on what they wanted from me and what they said. It was pretty shocking . ” But she quickly learned to pick the ones with whom she could make money in the flood of spectators. That only flows when a user books them for a private session. What happens in these sessions? “It’s primarily entertainment. I play role-playing games, a small part is nudity and masturbation,” says Lana.

The rule of thumb: the longer a member is in the private chat, the more everyone involved earns from him. Studio 20 is therefore keen to retain clients from North America and Western Europe for as long as possible. Studio 20 employs trainers, psychologists – and the English teacher Andrea, who not only teaches women the language of customers. “I also teach them about fetishes – what that is and why someone has it. We are learning Freud and a lot of psychology,” she says. Geography is also on the curriculum – to be able to chat about the countries from which the customers come. “When you have something to talk about, both parties feel more comfortable,” said Andrea.

“They want you to say their name while you strip”

In fact, many webcam girls seem to be quite comfortable with their jobs. Sandy Bell, who serves her clientele from home, reports: “Mostly they are nice guys, not crazy people. Many are looking for love, want a connection. Some want you to say their name or talk to them while you are stripping. ” The work is not dangerous. “You go online and work online alone. It has nothing to do with prostitution. What can a member do to me? If they overdo it, I can end it with a click of the mouse,” she says. The job was even okay for her boyfriend. Only the family shouldn’t experience anything.

But not all webcam workers see their job like Sandy Bell, who, like most of her colleagues, prefers to read her “stage name” in the BBC report because of her family. Oana (28), who was persuaded by her boyfriend to work on webcam at 16, says: “There are girls who think they always stay in front of the camera and make money. But the things they do there change them The next step is prostitution. I can see that now. ” She herself had slipped from the webcam scene into pornography and then further into prostitution. And this fate threatens many webcam girls, she believes.

Sex industry specifically targets young Romanian students

That is also known in industry, says feminist Irina Ilisei. She believes that companies like Studio 20 of all places in countries like Romania have a simple reason: a high rate of teenage pregnancies and subsequently a large number of single mothers who somehow have to get through with themselves and their children. And the high level of unemployment – even among young academics. Every third university graduate in Romania cannot find a job, which also drives well-trained people into the webcam milieu. “There is even advertising on campus. Students receive job offers on Facebook direct messages. And the studios are very serious – as with entry-level positions in other industries,” says Ilisei.

In Studio 20 you don’t want to know anything about it. “It is psychologically dangerous to sit in an office for twelve hours and get the minimum wage,” says the spokeswoman – and alludes to the relatively good pay of the models. However, she leaves one question unanswered: Would well-educated young women like the qualified real estate specialist Lana also work in the webcam industry if they could make a living from their actual job? Probably not.