Do This High: Visit the Cam Life Exhibit at the Museum of Sex

By Samantha Wahl

Fishnet stockings, stylish bondagewear, fur, boas, and spiked heels are some of the garb modeled by visitors of the opening for the Museum of Sex’s new exhibit, Cam Life: An Introduction to Webcam Culture.

That was expected. Cammers themselves made up a large percentage of the guests. But so did people leaving their 9-to-5s, photographers, art enthusiasts, historians, and people’s moms.

The opening celebrated individuality and inclusivity, reflective of the exhibit’s central themes. I was there, I was fully stoned, and I was learning about an otherwise unfamiliar profession.

Setting the Mood

The installations represent a collaboration between the museum and Cam 4, one of the world’s most popular webcam platforms. But the online sex industry didn’t start there. In order to explain camming’s place in modern culture, one must first look to the history of the internet itself. 

   Viewers begin their journey by walking through an interactive internet timeline. It follows computer development in the 50s, and moves through the introduction of sites like Youtube. One panel shows the world’s first internet transaction–cannabis sold from Stanford University to MIT in 1973.

Toward its conclusion, panels discuss the controversial bills, Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The bills, signed by President Trump in 2018, compromise the safety of online sex workers by limiting secure sources of communication.

In another, viewers sit in a dimly lit replica of a living room in the 90s. There are velvet posters, pink and powder blue wallpaper, and a cube-style TV playing loud, low-quality porn. On a dated side table sits a copy of Microsoft Windows 98.

There is also a documentary on the world’s first cam girl, viewing booths, a wall made entirely out of Squirt and Crush soda cans, and oh, yeah, an interactive sex carnival.

Into the Digital Age

You can visit this museum high like I did, for an elevated experience. Some installations actively celebrate cannabis, and seeing weed while on weed is like accidentally bumping into a friend in a foreign country. If anything, my highness certainly made the rideable, vibrating bull more exciting.

Or, visit for the sake of dismantling harmful taboos hindering the growth and education of our society. Humans have engaged in sex work for thousands of years, and into the digital age. Yet, we still cannot talk about it productively. If guests of Cam Life should walk away with anything, it’s how essential the normalization of sex work is to society. 

Emerald contributor since September 2019

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