How I shared an intimate moment on sex-based website Chaturbate

Vikram Johri
Vikram JohriJan 30, 2015 | 18:26

How I shared an intimate moment on sex-based website Chaturbate

As things in the online world go, I came to Chaturbate late. The site has been around for over a year in which time it has taken the sex-based web by storm. People log in and show themselves on cam. Anyone can watch for free - even without so much as a signup. Performers earn through tips which are shared equally with Chaturbate.


When I first visited the site, I had the distinct feeling that I was descending into truly murky territory. Shots of men and women exposing themselves filled the screen, in those neat squares that have become the ubiquitous webpage grid. Gingerly I clicked on the "Male" tab and ran my eyes over the several men who were willing to share their most intimate details with me, with no conditions whatsoever.

The first performer I saw must have been about 20 (the site rejects anything by those below 18) who was stroking himself for the camera. The right side of the screen had a chat window, as it does with all Chaturbate performances, where users can comment or spend tokens, Chaturbate currency in which tips are given. As this performer went about his business, users commented in glowing terms on his talent: "You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen"; "Show me your ass, bubble boy"; "Come to me - Daddy will make you happy".

The performer smiled through the lavish praise, as he juggled typing with one hand and using the other hand for his business. Looking at him answer queries in real time - "Yes ossan123, I know you like me" -brought on the strangely mesmeric, and rather unsettling, effect of feeling one was actually with him even as he, his stats indicated, was webcasting from some European country.


I watched him for a few minutes. He was well-endowed and hard, but every now and then he would cease the stroking to sit back and bask in the laurels coming his way. He would go limp, and then start afresh, all the time asking for tips if you wanted to see him shoot. When I checked back a few hours later, he was still on the site and he had still not come.

Another performer whom I clicked on sat in a dark room with only the glow from the computer screen brightening his face. He was extremely buff and wore a beater that left little to the imagination. While I was there, he said he would cut off his finger for 1000 tokens (which translates to about $50). He picked up a knife and placed it against the small finger of his left hand, and said to the camera: "1000 tokens and the finger snaps." I was new to the site and took his boast semi-seriously. I created an account just so I could send him a message. He laughed about it and spoke to the camera: "No cutting finger, honey. Ok?"


His playful reply was oddly satisfying, and even - if one were willing to completely surrender to the site's unstated premise - romantic. I did not know this man and he did not know me and never in our lives would our paths cross, yet he was speaking to me directly on cam and that felt special. This was surprising to me since I am a grown man who has never bought into the culture of anonymous webcasts.

I kept returning to the site for days and my consumption of traditional porn (a more oxymoronic term would be hard to find) lessened. Funnily, I was not on the site for sexual kicks. One time, there was this Chinese student from America who, the discussion on the chat board informed me, usually logged in with his boyfriend, but had logged in by himself that day. He roamed around the room shirtless and for the half hour I watched him he did nothing sexual. He pressed his socks into shape, revised academic notes on a white board, and just danced to some groovy music. It was as if he was happy to share his simple, unadorned life with the wider world. I kept looking at him, he in his cute spectacles, and wondered what drove me to watch him with endless patience. Watching him, I decided, met a need of mine that I had mistaken for sex but was less that than some harmless voyeurism.

In fact, it was impossible to get aroused by the men on Chaturbate, men who were willing to do for tips whatever you requested of them. These men were real and were webcasting from their own rooms. That gave them a humanity that was impossible to overlook. In traditional porn, actors perform to a script - I use script here to mean only the narrative sequencing of the porno. We know they are actors and we know that they have separate, reallives. So it becomes okay to look upon the porno as an apparatus for arousal. But the same is not true for Chaturbate performers. What they put out is who they are, and this lack of difference makes lust, at least to me, out of the question.

More interesting to me was the anthropological questions raised by both performance and consumption on the site. Who were these performers and what was their background? One interracial couple from the US was thick into the action, enticing users to tip more if they wanted to see the duo go all the way. It was painful watching them bring themselves to the point of release every few minutes and then hold back to earn more tips. It was exploitation, I felt, since they were lovers, we were told, and I wanted to believe they were. Besides, was I not participating in the exploitation by watching them for free? I switched off from their stream, and when I checked back later they had gone offline.

I kept wondering during my time on the site if it wasn't wrong to stroke oneself without in some way rewarding the performer? Was it not better to download a traditional porno and thereby keep the distance? Since the YouTube-isation of porn, the debate over how porn will evolve has centred on the rising popularity of DIY pornos. Chaturbate takes that to a whole new level by asking people to share of themselves freely (without restrictions) and freely (without paying).

All porn simulates intimacy, not merely between those who participate, but also between the participant and the consumer. With traditional porn, which too can be now watched free due to torrent sites, the hope is that one is only milking a giant conglomerate - the CockyBoys and Helix Studios of gay porn, say - and that the act of this milking would have little to no bearing on the performers themselves.

This is not half-true for Chaturbate. When you achieve sexual fulfilment watching a performer on the site, you have used the services of a standalone entertainer who perhaps earns his livelihood thusly. Since the system works on the performer delaying gratification till he has met his mercenary target for the day, Chaturbate can feel paradoxically asexual. There is no hurrah to the sex here, no mystery to the act of coming. Perhaps that's for the best given the economics of the website but it leaves one wondering if the intimacy that Chaturbate aims for can ever be truly sexual.

Yet, Chaturbate can be addictive. One performer with an angelic face and a slender body stroked himself for the camera, and seemed genuinely willing to accede to requests. When a user asked him to stand up and show his ass, he did so without a bother. He did not ask for a tip, at least not immediately, and when he had stood up, shown his ass and sat back again, he smiled into the camera and made a thumbs-up sign, in a purported communion with the user who had made the request. He was also the only performer I saw come on Chaturbate, because again, he was not taken with delaying the moment to make more money. I decided to follow him, which means I will know whenever he is online.

As the angel-faced performer stroked himself, I was engrossed in looking at him and appreciating his willingness to be friendly with anonymous people like me who had logged in to watch him. I realised that I wanted to, even if briefly, have a connection with him that was deeper than the idea behind the site allowed. The sexual allure he held for me was personal and was galaxies away from the self-abuse one is expected to breathlessly indulge in while watching a porno. Watching him was a beautiful, nearly transcendental experience. I remember goggling unabashedly at the tuft of slender hair jutting from his under arms. As he smiled into the camera, I smiled back, foolishly but also happily. There were 618 users logged into his stream but for that moment he and I were locked together in the intensely private scenarios that my imagination was greedily conjuring.

Last updated: January 30, 2015 | 18:26
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