In ‘Camgirl’ Isa Mazzei speaks openly about sex-work stereotypes

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Camera girl by Isa Mazzei. Rare bird books

Isa Mazzei is a writer, actress and filmmaker. She completed her studies in comparative literature at UC Berkeley, where she was among other things editor-in-chief of the bachelor’s magazine for Eastern European, Eurasian and Slavic studies and worked in front-end web development. She is also a former cam girl.

In her new memoir Camera girlTo her, the fact that Mazzei has undressed, masturbated, played games and more on camera for money seems as mundane to her as any other job she has tried, and that’s mainly the point. During and after college, Mazzei writes that she “did any job.” [she] might think in the hope that one of them will present themselves as [her] thing. ”She tried to work as a library clerk, web designer, English teacher, vintage clothing buyer, busboy, ice cream seller, art studio assistant, nanny, and copywriter, among others. She writes that she never kept anything longer than a few months because it didn’t feel right to her.

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Mazzei came to sex work for the same old reason that everyone tries different things: she thought she might be good at it. Not because she enjoyed sex – in fact, she says she “loathed” it – but because she was good at seduction, a fact that she wrote the first fifty pages of the book with stories about her romantic escapades in high school and in college. “I was meant To seduce men, ”she writes. “Damn it, maybe if I got paid for it, I wouldn’t even hate sex anymore.” What actually happens isn’t nearly as clean as that initial wish, but that realization leads to a compelling deep dive into the world of sex work, from someone who did it themselves.

No longer an active sex worker, Mazzei is now bringing her story to the public in the hopes of creating art in which consumers empathize with sex workers. She first released a psychological thriller in 2018 that she wrote based on her experiences, entitled cam.

The film, which is available on Netflix, follows the story of Alice Ackerman, a popular cam girl obsessed with reaching number one on her cam site. When her account is taken over by a girl who looks just like her, she is put into a terrifying race to find out who – or what – is behind the theft and what to do to stop it.

cam finally presents a Black Swan-esque story of art for art’s sake and rewrites the popular mainstream narrative of sex work to become a form of creative outlet. The film is based on Mazzei’s own experiences, which means that it covers the same area as the memoir in a way that feels repetitive to people who have both read the book and watched the film. But the film sets in towards the end of Mazzei’s story, and much of her ancestry is implicit there, while the memoirs take the time to articulate their ancestry story in a way that is both compelling to people not involved in sex work as well as is unexpected industry.

In the film, for example, we see Mazzei watching other camgirls for a few seconds and pushing her cat away with the words “I’m studying”, a split second that shows us her devotion, but in the book we see Mazzei’s calculated entry into this form of sex work ( she had already tried herself as a sugar baby) after watching other camgirls for weeks and assessing their strengths and weaknesses in a glittering pink folder.

However, perhaps the real meat of the book for those who have already seen the movie is the two-page epilogue in which Mazzei reveals that through camming and therapy she was finally able to face the memories of the sexual abuse that she had experienced before. This can feel like an “aha moment” to readers who are inundated with stereotypes about sex workers, as Mazzei anticipates, and she is quick to point out that while she fits into the stereotypical form of a sex worker, the stereotypes have prevented her from becoming a sex worker is . Rather, sex work was a tool for her that gave her a safe space to uncover a deeper truth about herself, in addition to a creative outlet.

Mazzei qualifies, however, that no two sex workers share the same ancestry story. Just as people become doctors or firefighters or writers for different reasons, people get into sex work for different reasons. Some people like to do it, others do it because they have to do it to survive. And Mazzei admits that sex work is “an area of ​​some of the most harassing and compulsive practices” and that she had the privilege of being able to quit at any time to find another job, which gave her a great deal of control over what she did. This is reflected in the repeated mantra throughout the book, which is taken from Julia Roberts’ 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman: “I say who. I say when. I say how much. ”

But what Mazzei’s memoirs ultimately achieve is to convey the image of sex work as work– as a job that is not fundamentally different from other jobs. Personally, I can’t imagine what it is like to be “the kind of person” to get into sex work – but neither can I imagine what it is like to be the kind of person who really wants to be a surgeon , or the President of the United States, two jobs that I think require different degrees of sociopathy. Mazzei doesn’t need you to want the job, nor does she need you to see sex work as a flawless industry that doesn’t need to be restructured. She just wants you to let the people do that to do want it to work in peace.

In 'Camgirl' Isa Mazzei speaks openly about the stereotypes of sex work

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