It was an absolute cliché. I was visiting Paris, meandering along winding, cobbled streets, and found myself flirting with a suit-coated, 5-o’clock shadowed bookshop keeper. I ended up having a whirlwind affair with him during the rest of my short stay. Usually, I enjoy brief flings that are put to bed as promptly as they begin: something about bracketing the encounter, with no pretensions of it going any further, makes it all the more romantic. But this one time, the bracketing wasn’t quite so finite.
Upon retuning to Canada, ‘monsieur’ and I kept in touch. While I love the written word in my native English, struggling through emails with my broken French was adorably pathetic (I speak much better than I write, I swear!). It was this fact that gave us the idea to use Instant Messaging video chat to talk, instead of trying to express ourselves through text. I put away my conjugation dictionary and plugged in my webcam (that I had to ‘plug in’ my webcam tells you approximately what decade it was!).
Inevitably, conversation would only be the half of it. Memories of our sexy encounters together led us to experiment with webcam shows. We found ourselves enthralled in mutual masturbation, getting each other off with dirty talk and epic displays of our frustrated libidos. Eventually, for a number of reasons, we stopped meeting online and went about our separate lives, but I hold the memory of our trans-Atlantic Internet-mediated encounters dear.
In an increasingly mobile and globalized world, our love lives are often marked by long-distance situations. And in the pandemic-ordered world, even our close-to-home lovers might have to be seen through the screen. Long-distance and Internet-mediated relationships can be difficult for many reasons, but we can still get some sense of the closeness we desire.
At the same time, commercial webcam sites have exploded. It is no surprise then that many lovers are using, or considering using, video chats to create intimate times together: striptease shows, dirty talk, mutual masturbation, and pillow talk.
Even if you and your lover are not separated by space, time zones, or pandemic protocols, video chat can be a really fun way to experiment and play. Streaming from different rooms in the house, teasing each other until you can’t stand it anymore…
This prospect can seem daunting for many reasons. There are a number of things you may want to consider before logging on for getting off:
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I worked in commercial webcam for about 12 years, so I’m pretty comfortable getting naked on camera in a room by myself – but this wasn’t entirely the case when I first began. I’ve also found that camming for lovers can be far more intimidating than camming for clients. Whatever your previous experience with online sex play, you might feel silly stripping in front of your laptop.
Just because something is initially a little awkward, however, doesn’t mean it won’t turn out great – you may discover an exhibitionist side, or an affinity for camera work, that you didn’t know you had. Or, perhaps you have always enjoyed sexual display, in which case cam shows may feel as natural as can be, and will help you realize some of your performance potential.
Either way, it is important to remember that if one person is pressuring the other in a way that doesn’t feel respectful, it might be time to have a dialogue about boundaries and consent. If you want to give it a try but aren’t comfortable with the visual aspect, you can start with phone sex, or sit on cam clothed and tell each other naughty thoughts, to test if you’d like to go further until the clothes come peeling off.
There are no rules of how little or how far you have to go, and using the situation to talk about any discomfort can be an eye-opening opportunity.
I remember a situation where I was playing online with a date while we were seperated over the winter holiday, and about half way through I started to feel like I was at work. It messed with my headspace and I needed to call things off mid-stream. Consent is fluid and its parameters can shift at any time, even if we are technically physically ‘alone’.
I have always felt strongly that long-distance or not, lovers should consider masturbating in front of each other, distinct from or as part of other sex play. It’s vulnerable, builds intimacy, offers an excellent tutorial in how someone likes to be touched, and broadens your sexual activity repertoire.
There is still a helluva lot of shame loaded into masturbation: not just the mere act of doing it, but also whether our ‘methods’ are ‘appropriate’ and ‘sexy’ or not, so for many people this can feel embarrassing. Like anything that scares us, however, that anxiety may indicate that this is precisely something to confront. Doing so can help us find out what kinds of shame or guilt are lingering under the surface and may be impacting other areas of your life.
For masculine folks – while there have been shifts in the sexualization of the masculine body, I still hear lots of masc people, mainly cismen, talk about how their bodies aren’t beautiful or worthy of erotic display (unless, perhaps, they are hyper-muscular).
‘Women have curves,’ they may say, ‘and men are just hairy.’ It saddens me when masculine folks don’t feel their bodies are gaze-worthy. If a partner really want to try but seems reluctant to show off, keep in mind that sometimes we ALL need encouraging praise to be comfortable exposing ourselves in new ways, whatever our gender or body type.
Finally, finding a comfortable chair or bed to lounge on can make all the difference. Use furniture that you can move around on as your preferences dictate, and if it isn’t very washable, like a computer desk swivel chair, think about putting a towel or sheet down (and for those who ejaculate in one way or another, consider draping some plastic film over the keyboard or just moving it out of the way).
When I first moved out, I had a brief long-distance relationship with a lover from my hometown. At the time, I didn’t have my own computer, and my phone line wasn’t yet connected in my apartment. Cell phones weren;t a thing yet, so in order to speak to each other I either had to go down the block to the nearest payphone (in the middle of Canadian winter – needless to say our conversations were short!).
Otherwise I had to go to an Internet café to write an email or chat. Clearly, without a private place from which to do the deed, webcam shows become impossible or downright illegal (“I’ll take a latté, the Wi-Fi code, and some lube, please…”).
Being interrupted, while possibly part of the excitement, can for many people be utterly embarrassing or devastating, so I would strongly advise against playing online together from a space where you can’t shut and lock a door. Roommates and children have a knack for terrible timing. If the phone rings, ignore it, or answer and see how long you can continue without giving yourself away and having to hang up (but beware, I have done this before and was shocked to hear my dad’s voice on the other end. Much buzzkill).
I think it’s safe to say most of us don’t actually read the often long-winded and inaccessible legal jargon in the ‘terms of agreement’ for a given product, but you may care to consider if the app you’re using has any explicit rules against using its services for sexual purposes. A quick scan of Zoom’s terms of service asserts, under Section 3d(vi) of Prohibited Use, that:
“You agree that You will not use, and will not permit any End User to use, the Services to: […] (vi) use the Services to communicate any message or material that is harassing, libelous, threatening, obscene, indecent, would violate the intellectual property rights of any party or is otherwise unlawful, that would give rise to civil liability, or that constitutes or encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense, under any applicable law or regulation” (emphasis added).
By internet standards I’m old, so I also looked up Skype’s terms and they too specify in the Code of Conduct Section 3a(iv) that one agrees:
Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).
Given the extremely sex-hostile attitude in tech these days, largely due to the wide-sweeping ‘anti-trafficking’ provisions of FOSTA-SESTA legislation (which is still being challenged), most platforms that are not explicitly pornographic are likely to have some such provision. Generally a complaint would have to be made for these Terms to be enforced, so like always consent is key.
When I did commercial webcam shows, customers could choose to stream their camera to me as well. Often when they did, the screen would light up to !INSTANT DICK!, front and centre, in a dark room. I love cocks, don’t get me wrong, but to keep video chats interesting one must think outside the box. Experiment with what you show, the angles you make, keeping ‘the goods’ just out a view as an anticipated tease. A bottom lip lingering at the top of the frame, a curve accentuated by shadow…
Watching myself online over the years, I learned a lot about my body and which poses make me feel my best. Being on camera less these days, I’ve started to fall out of practice, and my posing confidence has actually suffered – so practice is key! You can always try things out in the mirror before logging in with someone else, and work out some of the kinks (lol) on your own.
Until we possess cameria confidence, we may prefer darker ‘mood’ lighting – and this can be totally hot. If, however, you want to give a clearer visual quality in your show, the common rule is what we call three-point lighting, where you basically make a triangle of light around yourself to remove shadows. This is easily done using the overhead light fixture and a couple of lamps on either side of the camera. Ring lights are fantastic for close up camera work, and are pretty affordable these days. Experiment with it all; candle light, night vision, whatever intrigues you. Playing with illumination can allow us to see our partners and ourselves in, well, a whole new light.
Watching your lover touch themselves is a great way to learn about their sexual tastes. There is also a lot of freedom to go wild when you are only focusing your touch on your own body but still sexually engaging your other senses with someone else.
If you and your lover are pandemically-parted, find yourselves apart often or for long stretches of time because of circumstance and travel, or you just want to try something different, playing with webcam is a great way to keep desire alive, fulfill your horny needs, and learn a lot about each other and yourself.
And like any new sexual play, it is best served with a heaping of humor – if something goes ‘wrong’ try to laugh about it and use the experience to further bond with your partner.
So when you accidentally knock the camera with an errant foot, find yourself cleaning cum out of a keyboard, or forget to close the curtain and shock the hell out of the mail carrier, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sex can be serious stuff, but it is also, and should always remain, playful.
- Ava Mir-Ausziehen