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Maria, who manages one of Romania's largest sexcam companies, behind her desk. Photos by Mircea Topoleanu

Behind the Scenes of Romania's Booming Sexcam Industry

ByȘtefania Matachephotos byMircea Topoleanu

When you throw poverty, an abundance of underemployed English-speaking women, and exceptionally high-speed internet together, you end with Europe's biggest sexcam industry.

Maria, who manages one of Romania's largest sexcam companies, behind her desk. Photos by Mircea Topoleanu

This article originally appeared on VICE Romania.

I'm watching live footage of a beautiful woman wearing a black velvet bodysuit, sitting cross-legged on a bed in a Romanian film studio decorated to resemble a hotel room. Her feet are tucked under her knees, a laptop resting on her legs.

Seconds later, a message pops up on the livestream's comment section. "It will take me a few days to get to Romania," a fellow online viewer writes, "but, when I eventually get there, I will impale you like Vlad."

Using a murderous 15th-century prince reference as sex chat seems like a weird move to me, but the camgirl takes it in her stride. Smiling seductively, she types her response, her long red nails flying over the keyboard: "Ride me: yes, cum: no—haha."

Your options on one page of a Romanian sexcam site

The Romanian sexcam industry is rumored to be seeing annual profits of over $373 million, making it the most lucrative market of its kind in Europe. Many industry insiders I've spoken with estimate that there are more than 5,000 studios scattered across the country, working with around 100,000 models. But as far as the Romanian government is concerned, the industry doesn't exist.

While it's not illegal to run a sexcam company, the government doesn't give studios the unique business codes all other Romanian companies receive for tax and benefits purposes. As a consequence, many studios pretend to be model management agencies or telecommunications providers instead—using the tax codes connected to those. I contacted the Romanian Labour Ministry multiple times to find out why the government still doesn't recognize sexcam studios as official businesses, but I didn't receive a straight answer.

This gray area leaves the industry with a perfectly legal, completely unregulated means of making money, and the state with no grasp of how big the national sexcam business is.

"We don't want to lie to the government, but we feel like we don't have a choice," says Maria, who manages one of the largest sexcam studios in Bucharest. "We don’t want any trouble—not for the owner, the models, or the staff. But if we don't use a fake company code, we wouldn't be eligible to receive any state benefits."

Vera Renczi (left) has been working as a camgirl for years.

Maria tells me that Romania's dominance in the sexcam industry is down to three key factors: poverty, an abundance of underemployed beautiful women who speak English, and exceptionally high-speed internet.

Around 15 percent of young people in Romania are unemployed. This makes it easy for studios to attract college students and recent graduates with the promise of lucrative contracts worth well above the country's monthly minimum wage of $327.

"There are very few career opportunities in Romania," says Vera Renczi, who’s been working as a camgirl for several years after signing up when she couldn't afford the equipment she needed for a photography course. "We're a really poor country."

Maria (standing on the left), who owns one of the largest studios in Romania, offers her models the use of an in-house hair and nail salon.

"We'll make your dreams come true," reads one of the calls for models on Maria's company website. "You'll be able to buy yourself whatever you want and you'll live like a movie star." But especially at smaller studios, many of the camgirls and camboys end up not earning nearly as much as they were promised, so quickly give up, creating a high turnover.

It's the reality of many unregulated industries. Vera tells me there are always new sexcam studios opening, many with the sole purpose of exploiting vulnerable women; they promise lucrative contracts before either refusing to pay their models or shutting up shop, rebranding, and reopening in a different location.

"It’s not easy to make money," Vera says over tea in her kitchen in Bucharest, a few feet away from her bedroom, where she works as a camgirl for her own independent company. She used to work for a major studio, teaching aspiring performers the tricks of the trade, before moving to the other side of the camera.

Maria chatting with her staff in her studio's waiting area

The key to being a successful cam-model, Vera explains, is investing a lot of time and effort into building a loyal database of repeat customers and working out what certain clients want. "You might have to masturbate in front of someone a few dozen times before he really warms to you," she says.

Ideally, aspiring cam-models should learn at least one foreign language and have a good understanding of a wide range of cultures, says Vera. Some studios even invest in in-house beauty salons and fitness gyms, while most provide the girls with English lessons.

"It takes five to six minutes, tops, to masturbate," Vera points out. "So what do you do for the remainder of the hour? Well, you have to be interesting, captivating, and make yourself seem attainable. I think you have to know how to talk to that doctor who's had a bad day because he lost a patient, as well as to an aspiring musician."


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Vera's clients are trying to fulfill fantasies they can't in real life. She adds: "It’s really hard to reveal to your girlfriend or wife all your deepest, darkest, sexual desires without feeling judged. Our acceptance is how we make money."

LiveJasmin, one of the world’s most popular sexcam websites, attracts roughly 2.4 million unique visitors a day, which makes it the 61st most visited site in the world. Unlike most cam sites, girls on LiveJasmin won't get fully naked unless a customer pays for a private session, which costs $125 for ten minutes.

LiveJasmin calls this the "girlfriend package," because they train their camgirls to not only offer private, erotic shows—anything from a striptease to masturbating with vibrators controlled remotely by the customer—but also conversations and advice on life, love, or whatever might be weighing on someone's mind.

Penelope (left) and Perfect Lexy (middle), two of LiveJasmin's most popular camgirls

Perfect Lexy is a petite, short-haired redhead. She’s been working for LiveJasmin for four years, ever since she quit her job at a car factory in a small town in southern Romania, where she was earning about $270 a month. When I meet Lexy near LiveJasmin's office in Muncii Square, Bucharest, she just made close to $1,700 from an eight-hour shift.

"I kept my clothes on all day today," she boasts. "I spent the entire time in a private session with one of my most loyal clients—a Chinese guy I've been 'dating' on the site for over a year." During their eight hours together, Lexy and her client chatted, had lunch, and even took a nap.

"We’ve built a relationship of sorts," she tells me. "He really cares about me. A few days ago, he was saying that he's not even that bothered about seeing me naked, as he could just watch porn for that. He wants us to have a more emotional connection."

Vera's bedroom

It's not rare for clients to fall in love with the models, Lexy adds. Sometimes, the relationships become so toxic, the girls are forced to end them—like when an American threatened he’d commit suicide if Lexy didn’t agree to meet up with him in real life.

That said, in some cases models have been known to not only meet up with their clients, but even get married to them. One of LiveJasmin's former camgirls recently moved to Dubai to be with a client, while another girl wound up with a viewer who traveled to Romania to propose to her, not knowing she was already married.

Ana (left) with Dylan (right), who makes up to $12,000 in one day

Currently, the industry is expanding fast into the male model market. Ana, the owner of the only Bucharest sexcam studio to work exclusively with camboys, employs around 21 men who work across three daily shifts, seven days a week.

Ana opened the studio after working as a camgirl for a few years, before realizing the untapped potential of the male model market. Dylan Green, 21, is her most successful camboy. Last year, he won the prize for best male model at the Bucharest Summit—the Romanian sexcam industry's most prestigious awards ceremony.

Dylan started working as a camboy when he was 18 and still in high school. He was working out in a gym when a friend asked if he’d like to try it, and—tempted by the promise of good money and an exciting adventure—he went to Ana's studio the following day for an interview.

Dylan wearing the helmet of his gladiator costume

Despite having no idea what he was meant to do in front of the camera—relying on Google Translate to communicate with his clients—he made a respectable $50 on his first day. Now, three years later, he can make up to $12,000 in a single day.

Dylan pockets 75 percent of the money he earns, with the rest going to Ana's studio. He works for six to seven hours a day, which mostly involves dancing, flexing, and masturbating, sometimes while wearing gladiator, gorilla, or Superman costumes. Through all that hard work, Dylan has attracted a loyal base of customers—or "fans," as he prefers to call them—who are there waiting for him to appear online every day.

"Most members are rich, married men, living out their gay fantasies," Dylan says. "They come here to stop themselves from cheating on their wives."

Dylan isn't gay, but his fans are happy to look past that fact. "I'm here to dream," a client once told Ana. "I don’t really care about reality."

Dylan thinks his success comes from the fact that he loves what he does, and he's not just in it for the money. He encourages his fellow camboys to make friends with their fans and talk to them as if they were out having a beer with a friend. "I always tell the guys not to think of their fans as if they’re wads of cash because they’re not," he says. "They’re human beings."

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