Director of “Cam Girlz,” a documentary about the women who perform sex acts online for live viewers, Sean Dunne, was interviewed on CBC’s Q last week. He told the host, Rachel Giese, that he wanted to make a film about women — “specifically women who challenge the establishment and societal norms.” Naturally, he felt the best way to do this was by making a documentary about women as masturbatory tools for men. The most powerful way, of course, to Fight The Power! and to “challenge social norms” is by reinforcing the socially acceptable, patriarchal notion that women exist for male pleasure.
Dunne tells the host he came up with this radical idea while he was watching porn. A pop-up ad for a “cam girl” showed up on his computer. Fight that establishment, brother!
Dunne goes on to say that people are threatened by these “cam girls,” though it’s unclear as to who, exactly, is being threatened by live pornography, except, perhaps, women, as a class, as we continue to be presented as things whose primary value lies in our ability to provide erections… Even when engaging in other activities, as the “cam girls” do — singing, chatting with their audience, ordering pizzas — they must ensure men are able to masturbate all the while.
You can watch the film in full at Vimeo, which I did, but I really don’t recommend it. It’s unlikely you will learn anything you don’t already know and the hour long documentary is really just a more-naked extension of the trailer. Watching the camera pan up and down womens bodies, focusing on bruised asses and pierced nipples only serves as an extension and reinforcement of the objectifying gaze Dunne tells us is revolutionary.
One of the women describes herself as “part therapist, part sex object;” many women who sell sex will tell you the same — that the men who pay them expect the women to pretend to care about their problems and lives as well as their orgasms. The “therapist” who fucks you and refuses to challenge you in any way, playing along with the male delusion that they are of interest to the women they pay — radical, isn’t it? The women on the other side of the camera are very clear they don’t want “real” relationships with their male viewers — it’s the men who are confused, unable to separate fantasy from reality, despite the fact that we’re told repeatedly, as feminists, that porn is “just a fantasy” and has no impact on “real life.” These men, some of whom are featured in the film, very clearly don’t know how to connect, emotionally, to real human beings. They believe they are experiencing intimate moments and building meaningful relationships with the “cam girls” because they listen to and dote on the men. Of course, these “connections” they’re making are completely safe — the men need not fear rejection or the very real, often not-fun, emotions and thoughts actual women have. These men would likely be shocked at the number of women who, in their real day-to-day-lives, don’t talk in baby voices.
“It’s the safest form of sex work you could possibly do, and when I hear anyone speaking out against it I’m so confused — like, who’s getting hurt here?” Dunne says in an interview with Vice. I suppose, as a man who has not been made to believe his entire purpose in this world is to be fucked, to look pretty, to turn men on, it would be confusing as to how yet another medium that reinforces this norm could be harmful. If one was insistent on compartmentalizing, as most porn users are, then it would be beneficial to ignore how camming fits into the spectrum of prostitution and how porn culture supports the global oppression of women. It’s far more convenient to paint that which keeps you erect as “empowering for women.”
Naturally, Dunne has no gendered analysis of pornography. When asked, by Vice, whether or not he looked into “male camming,” he said there was really no such industry — not in any notable way, in any case.
“The guys can’t make nearly as much money as women can on there. I’m not really sure why, if there’s not much of a demand for it. Maybe in the gay community there is, but I don’t know any straight women who want to go online and watch a guy jack off in their room. I think if I were making a film called Cam Boyz, the tone would be more different and decidedly more seedy.”
It is mysterious as to why only men are turned on by one-dimensional women who perform a fantasy that props up male egos… Another mystery: why do men like to watch women be hurt?
“…No matter what background and how different every girl’s show was, every girl seems to incorporate spanks. I think it just says something about us as a culture, that it’s a lot more ubiquitous than anyone expected. At least for me. I’m not big into it, but every cam girl was doing spanks, and had evidence that they’d been going hard!”
Put a detective on the case! Whatever you do, just don’t consider the possibility that the sexualization of male domination is anything but good for everyone. Liberating, in fact.
It’s odd how deeply Dunne wants to believe that somehow camming flies in the face of dominant ideology, “threatening” the status quo. He reinforces the fact that “no one is forced into it” and wants to prove there’s “nothing wrong” with the women who do this work, but fails to understand that this isn’t the point. No, there’s nothing really “wrong” with “cam girls.” They are just “regular women”… Regular women who are responding in a pretty unsurprising way to a capitalist patriarchy that commodifies everything, in particular, women’s bodies and sexualities.
Dunne calls camming, “the democratization of pornography” and says “it’s a beautiful thing.” And I suppose, for men, it is a “beautiful thing.” It reinforces their power and our subordinate status. But what he sees as a “democratization of pornography” is more aptly described as a democratization of misogyny — free and available to all.