How safe is cybersex?

A life without risk would be very boring indeed. Sometimes, depending upon your particular pleasure, it can become increasingly difficult to protect yourself fully without compromising some important aspect of your enjoyment. When it comes to sex in the real world, there are always condoms. But, how can we protect ourselves during a cybersex session? It’s quite true that cybersex doesn’t expose you to the risk of sexually transmitted infections, but there are specific dangers inherent to it as well. The most obvious one is that our ‘private’ chat is nothing of the kind.

A few years ago, I worked as a fetish consultant for several webchat companies. I found it to be a fascinating sector, especially when I was given free credit so that I could play the role of a punter and chat, anonymously with the webcam girls of my choice. The declared objective of the exercise was to increase my understanding of how the webcam business really worked. I must confess that I felt like a voyeur instead of an objective observer. As I interacted with the girls, I knew that I could see them but they couldn’t see me. As far as they knew, I was almost certainly a man, typing with one hand and masturbating with the other. I can’t deny that it was highly entertaining noting all the tricks the webcam girls used to keep me online. They earned more money the longer I stayed connected; every extra minute counted. They all promised, without a single exception, that they’d be far more daring if we switched to a private chat. As you can imagine, that option was much more expensive.

Surprisingly, the webcam girls who made the most money weren’t necessarily those who put on the most explicit show. On the contrary. In fact, the most successful ones were those who offered foot fetish, high-heel fetish or long fingernail fetish as their specialities. They didn’t have to show their faces or expose their genitalia at any time. These women were paid four to five dollars per minute just for showing their high-heels to the camera or, in a more specialist session, by digging long fingernails into an apple. Simply put, the fetish aficionados were more than willing to pay extra to see less. Naturally, when comparing the sales figures of the web-cam girls, the company saw a lucrative business opportunity that could be more fully exploited by investing in the expansion of their fetish categories.

cybersex lourdes ribas

Photography by Lourdes Ribas

During my time there, I had a colleague whose job it was to observe the webcam girls during their sessions. In my opinion, he walked a fine line between maintaining quality control and flat-out spying. I couldn’t believe there was such a role when he explained it to me. I discovered that the purpose of his unusual surveillance job was to ensure that the girls were complying with companies terms and conditions. For example, they were forbidden to be seen consuming drugs during the session as well as other prohibited activities.  I wondered if the girls were even aware of the possibility of this additional layer of voyeuristic content that they were providing. Perhaps it was something that had been present in the small print of their contract. This revelation brought into question the integrity of a ‘private’ video chat. At best the concept is compromised. At worst, it was always a complete lie.

Clearly it’s difficult, or impossible, to eliminate the risk of being spied on by third parties during a cybersex session. Sometimes, however, the danger may come from the very person you are chatting with. To reduce these risks, here are four tips that will help you to enjoy cybersex in a slightly safer way:

  • Don’t have cybersex with someone you don’t know.
  • Don’t show your face.
  • Don’t show more than you want to show. If you feel under pressure, end the session.
  • Ensure that you aren’t being observed by third parties without your knowledge or consent.

The risks inherent with cybersex won’t persuade me to stop having it. So, Mr Skype, or whoever you might be, if you’re watching me the next time I’m online, I hope that you’ll enjoy the show!

——

Translated from ‘Los peligros del cibersexo‘, published in El País.

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