Alicia informed me that she was working for a Belgian paid dating website. “A bit like OkCupid or Match.com,” she said. The site was new, and more men than women were registered. To make their business work, they needed to hire girls to keep their customers interested. All I’d have to do was pretend I was looking for a date in Belgium and try to get members to stay online as long as possible by video-chatting my online matches. “Please note, you are only allowed to show your face to the camera. Nudity on screen is strictly prohibited,” Alicia clarified. I’d earn 8.50 euros an hour per person I talked to. The more I stayed connected, the more I’d get bonuses.It didn’t take me long to accept. Anything to distract me from studying. Plus, I’d never had money of my own before, apart from what was in the Christmas envelope from my grandparents. And with no nudity allowed, what could go wrong?I virtually baptized myself “saskia04.” (That’s not the actual screen name; I wouldn’t tell you that today.) My guidelines were to log in to an online platform and create my “model profile,” upload three to four photos of myself, and not forget to smile. “In order to help you easily hold a discussion, here is a set of lines that you can use, which also helps in not deviating to unwelcomed topics,” Alicia added. They included:
Hello, My name is… I am 18 years old and you? I’ve just moved to Brussels for an internship I am a student in marketing I registered to this website because I’d like to meet people Are you looking for a date? It’s been some time since I’ve dated someone What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done with a woman? I think I am bisexual Maybe we could meet somewhere? Do you know how to be romantic? How would you like me to dress on our first date?
Reflecting on the experience with Chloe, however, made me think: What kind of scheme had I gotten roped into, exactly? If Chloe had also been approached by Alicia while living 500 miles away from me, had it happened to young girls all over France?This April, exactly 11 years after first becoming saskia04, I logged back into my Hotmail account and unblocked Alicia Pimprelle: “Hi Alicia, are you still hiring web models?” A few hours later, I received a reply: “Hello Sarah, I am contacting you on behalf of Alicia concerning your application. I am the new person in charge of recruiting,” wrote Julia2 from Dream Animation3.
After writing back with my availabilities, Julia asked to connect on Google Hangouts. There, she wrote: “So that there is no misunderstanding about the chat: most discussions revolve around sex.” I was told visitors do not pay to “exchange news and indulge in small talk.” My goal would be to attract subscribers and keep them talking for as long as possible. The pay would be broken down into two parts: The first at 12 euros per hour per subscriber for “fully clothed conversations” and the second at 50 euros per hour for “shows including a striptease (fully nude or partially).”At that point my 18-year-old experience fully came into focus as an early, nonconsensual version of an erotic entertainment phenomenon that today is formalized and commonplace.Curious to see what it would say, I signed the eight-page contract and immediately received a reply: “Congratulations, you’re an X Model, welcome to the world of cam girls!”
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