Cam Models, Sex Work, and Job Immobility in the Philippines

Paul William Mathews

Using online participant observation, ad hoc conversations, and off-line interviews, this study explores the work of Adult/Asian Cam Models (ACMs) in the Philippines – women who present themselves live via Internet webcam to solicit customers to view the women naked or engaging in sexual activities. ACMs are commonly construed as trafficked pornographers or (digital) prostitutes. But, the models do not identify their work as prostitution or even as sex work; nor are they trafficked. Thus, ACMs challenge common perceptions about sex work and agency, revealing a range of possible social stigmas and self-identities associated with such work. The study goes on to a comparative exploration of several forms of sex work and presents reasons for a lack of occupational mobility within the Philippines’ sex industry for each form. In particular, because ACMs do not necessarily identify as sex workers, they are unwilling to move to other forms of sex work.

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