As dating apps like Tinder and OKCupid and gadgets such as virtual reality headsets and Wi-Fi-connected sex toys change the way college students meet, date and have sex, the gray area between human interaction and technology becomes wider by the minute.
“The internet obviously opened most doors for me financially, and at least presented the opportunity to make money this way,” said Andrea Zamora, a transfer student at SF State who describes herself as an escort. “Without technology, there wouldn’t be a way that I could even get a hold of the opportunity.”
Despite the newfound potential to make money as an escort, the communication major still has her doubts about the positive impact technology has on her line of work.
“It also hindered me a lot,” Zamora added. “On the internet, any old person can create an ad or a post and claim whatever it is they want. I can’t confirm or identify people. It’s those doubts, those fears … it’s a risky game.”
Zamora said she most often meets clients on Craigslist, who offer her a stipend to go on private dates, pose as a long-term girlfriend at family or work events or even be introduced as a friend or coworker.
Outside of an occasional kiss, Zamora does not offer sexual physical contact for pay.
Escorting is not the only aspect of the business that has been irrevocably changed by technological advancements.
“Typically, in the beginning it was a person behind the camera, doing things for the person on the other side,” said Jordan Emery, BeACamStar.com owner and contributor. “But at this point, the possibilities are endless.”
His blog offers guides, tips and tricks for people making money as webcam models.
Emery, a search engine optimization specialist who has never worked as a webcam model, requested to be identified only by his pen name, to protect his day job at a marketing firm in Wisconsin.
BeACamStar.com offers a myriad of information about some of the newest technology available to the pornography industry. The site’s most popular piece is “How Teledildonics Evolved, Making Camming More Fun Today,” which explains “teledildonics” as an umbrella term for the use of “interactive” sex toys controlled remotely via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
The gadgets were intentionally explored with long-distance couples in mind, but have been widely adopted for pornography actors that perform live via webcam and allow viewers to control their devices.
“It’s evolved in such a way that you’re really able to garner more regulars if you use this technology, and there aren’t really a lot of people doing it yet, so there are plenty of viewers who are willing to pay more so they can, you know, fullfill their fantasies,” Emery said, who hopes that the site will empower readers to make money in nontraditional ways.
The website generates revenue through native advertising and commission when a user signs up for a camming service via BeACamStar.com’s recommendation.
The sex industry has once again proved its profitability through online marketplaces, some more creative than others. PantyDeal, an online “haven” for self-proclaimed pantysniffers, offers women — specifically “amateur,” college-age women, a place to make “extra cash with your unique intimate fragrance,” according to the site’s home page. Information on the site touts an impressive 25,000 registered buyers.
“Our students are using technology in a lot of different ways, but I think they especially are using tech to find community,” said Reyna Aguilar, director of SF State’s Educational and Referral Organization for Sexuality (EROS). “For example, let’s say a student wants to explore a very specific fetish or a kink and they can’t find anyone that they share that with. They can go to different sites, join different groups, find different people in the Bay Area, which is great.”
EROS hosted a public forum on campus about sex work last year and is currently planning to host informational events about sexting, webcam modeling and making money as a sugar baby.
Aguilar said SF State students have shown interest in new sex technology to an extent, but many remain cautious because of a desire to maintain privacy in their online communities and a concern about losing the intimacy and “naturalness” of sexual interaction.
Aguilar stressed the importance of consent and sex worker rights, and mentioned that EROS offers “tons” of resources for SF State students involved in the industry, including a library of books and a wide network of mentors, professionals and confidantes.
When asked to conceive of an online tool that she would benefit from while working as an escort, Zamora said, “I would want an inconceivably detailed client background check device. I want to know criminal background, family life, credit reports … I would love something that could get more clarification and solidification as to who a client really is before I subject myself to their company.”
As far as hardware goes, Zamora added, “I would also like some sort of tool that could make me feel a lot safer when I’m alone with a person, so I don’t have to inconvenience or pay off my friends to come with me and make sure I don’t die. I know that’s kind of a messed up joke but I’m also kind of serious. Sometimes you can’t avoid seclusion.”