Webcam models being called upon to play a new role during this pandemic

Tianyi Ma

As the fifth week of quarantine rolls around, many Montrealers are turning to online sex work—either as new cam models or customers—to get through isolation.

"Finding that rush of oxytocin through human interaction is important right now," said Bella French, the co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based adult streaming site ManyVids.com, which hosts hundreds of cam models performing erotic acts online for pay.

According to French, the website has not only seen an influx of models, who are registering on the site to make money during the pandemic, but also an increase in customers looking to find human connection while in isolation.

Models and customers are able to communicate with each other through text chat, audio, and two-way cameras. In public chat rooms, customers can comment on real-time video streams. 

But French says it's the private chats with one-on-one performances that remain the most popular for customers, and most lucrative for models. 

"It's definitely close to 50% of the income generated by cam girls and cam boys that is just connection, interaction, communication, and a little bit of psychology," she said.

French said the essence of the business revolves around boosting the mood of customers, which explains the swell in site engagement since the start of the pandemic.

But she said a lot of people stuck at home are turning to online platforms for both emotional and sexual gratification.

"Live webcamming is pretty much like a regular relationship. At first there's more sexual interaction, but very fast you start to have conversations and just want to stay connected," she said.

An internal survey conducted this weekend shows 40% of cam models on the site have increased output since the start of the pandemic.

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