future of sex
VIRTUAL CAMGIRLS TAKING OVER THE INTERNET
Duncanson is a feminist PhD student researching the development
and maintenance of online intimate relationships, sex technology,
online safety and the ways that technology is driving intimacy
online. This article was first published in Future
of Sex (March, 2020).
Mel/Melly to fans, is an AI hentai camgirl that has become popular
across a range of social media platforms.
by Digitrevx, a 3D modeler, artist, game developer, Melody primarily
appears on the live-streaming platforms Chaturbate [NSFW] and
Twitch, posts videos to Youtube, and also provides exclusive content
for her Patreon and OnlyFans supporters.
appears to be the beneficiary of ProjektMelody's tips however,
this has not been confirmed.
introductory Youtube video and Chaturbate profile describe her
as “The first and only 3D rendered hentai camgirl,”
providing the story of her “creation:”
appearance and speech are rendered in real-time speech using cross-platform
game engine Unity and Digitrevx told Vice that she is run in a
similar way to virtual streamer Kizuna Ai.
virtual stars such as Melody on the rise, what does this mean
for the future of webcamming?
article, I talk to Sophie, a working camgirl as well as a fan
of ProjektMelody, Mark, to learn what they think about the hentai
Twitter account boasts 157,000 followers and counting. From initial
estimations, a significant majority of these followers appear
to be men.
on Chaturbate, Melody’s X-rated performances have earned
her thousands of fans. Her “Top Lover” (highest overall
tipper) has sent well over 4,000 tokens -- equivalent to several
hundred dollars -- no small feat given her short time on the platform.
virtual performances, Melody is portrayed to receive pleasure
from a sex toy, designed to look like the Lush 2 toys from Lovense.
This toy is known for use by webcam models as it sends vibration
patterns to the user, triggered by receiving tips from clients.
side of the screen during Melody's streams shows a Lovense Menu
with the prices for each vibration level, often building up a
long queue of tips from excited clients.
is also vocal throughout the show, responding to messages in the
chat-box from clients and even shouting “shut up”
in response to grey demands (requests from users that own no tokens).
most part, users in the chat-box remain encouraging and supportive
at every action Melody makes, aided by a host of strict moderators
who remove any aggressive content immediately.
HAS GONE VIRAL
out to a fan of ProjektMelody, Mark, to discover why the virtual
star has them hooked to her performances.
it’s that she’s a unique cam girl, unlike the countless
others that I have seen. She makes all kinds of good jokes and
devotes most of, if not all of the stream, actually interacting
and joking with all of her viewers. . . she has a great presence
with her fans.
writes that in a crowded field of webcam models, a virtual performer
stands out and overall, they prefer virtual performers to the
a virtual camgirl, Melody does not have to deal with the fatigue
of sexual performances and instead can continue the same intensity
throughout the show. This makes her more available to chat
with her audience and take on their requests, allowing the
viewers to feel involved in the show.
CAMGIRL TALKS CONCERNS OVER VIRTUAL COMPETITION
researching ProjektMelody, I decided to reach out to a webcam
model who could tell me about the effect virtual cam stars such
as Melody could have on the industry.
who works under the name ‘Dead Puddle’ on Chaturbate
told me that this is not the first time a virtual character has
tried its hand at camming. In the past, other virtual characters
have attempted to perform on platforms such as Chaturbate but
with mixed results.
described these virtual camgirls as doing the “absolute
minimum . . . yet dudes were throwing money at them. If an actual
cam girl did that she would make no money.”
raises questions to me why men want far less from a badly
animated girl than an actual girl that’s giving them
so much more for a lot less.
is a particular sticking point for ‘real’ models in
the industry. Melody has very few moves in her repertoire -- her
performance mostly consists of gentle swaying -- unlike the often
high-intensity and physically demanding shows of her live counterparts.
this does not seem to bother the thousands of viewers that watch
her streams and with tips coming through thick and fast, the virtual
camgirl is earning well above that of your average webcam model.
ARE VITUAL PERFORMERS SUCH AS MELODY JUST A TEMPORARY TREND?
believes so: “It’s a passing phase. Eventually, people
will realize hentai pornography is far better and cheaper than
ProjektMelody -- they’re not even talking to a real girl,
taps into what really makes webcamming popular over other forms
of sex work and entertainment -- and it is something that Melody
Cam girls have this over porn -- we’re live. We’re
not an actress. We also have infinitely more things we can
do instantly without being coded or controlled.
Melody is interactive, she is unable to fully respond to things
in a way that even slightly approaches Uncanny Valley and clients
are under no illusion that Melody is real. With bugs and glitches
happening during live-streams, clients can be pulled out of the
fantasy at any moment.
adds: “Eventually Melody will flop like the last hentai
girl did. Right now it’s the hot new thing but eventually
the clients will go back to their regular girls.”
Mark disagrees, arguing that we can “expect Melody to stay,
considering she has a presence on other platforms as well,”
bringing attention to Melody’s appearance across several
CAM STARS CAN REAP THE BENEFITS OF PERFORMING BUT WITH NO REPERCUSSIONS
discussing the impact of virtual performers on the industry, Sophie
raises the point that by being a virtual character, Melody gets
to earn thousands of tokens on Chaturbate but does not have to
deal with the associated risks that come with being a ‘real’
no girl to be stalked or found out in public. There’s
no girl putting her literal body online for the world to look
at and judge. If she’s on the Internet permanently then
who cares? She’s fiction. Yet she makes quadruple what
most girls make.
most cam sites taking a hands-off approach to harassment and other
threatening behaviour, many workers in the industry are unwilling
to take up this fight.
to sociologist Angela
Jones, this is due to the concern that “more
regulation will mean closer monitoring of models’ performances
and more surveillance of their already highly scrutinized and
being a non-contact form of sex work, webcamming has risks that
must be weighed up alongside the positives of the industry that
include freedom over performance and working hours, ability to
set prices, and high-earning potential.
means that managing the individual threats comes as part of the
webcam model package and makes it all the more painful when virtual
camgirls get to collect the tokens but dodge the danger.
this injustice begins and ends with the clients:
just wish the clients would spend their tokens smarter. If
you want to tip hentai girl, go for it. But she doesn’t
even have to risk herself.
it comes to the future of Melody, time will tell whether or not
she outlives her real counterparts.
Melody has shown that virtual characters can amass huge followings,
out-earn experienced webcam models and become a viral sensation,
all without the need for being human.