Webcam girls, virtual sex, sex tourism and the tax man

A search for ‘webcam girls’ just bought me 4, 470, 000 hits in google. I was investigating the following story from The Local, a news source in English about Sweden. I noted a couple of suggestive points in bold in the text and made further comments at the end of it. Note that the statistics treat Sweden alone. And what about webcam boys?

Swedish taxman chases webcam strippers

Charlotte West, 8 April 2009

The culprits are primarily girls who take off their clothes and offer sexual services in front of a web camera. The Swedish Tax Agency, Skatteverket, estimates there are between 300 and 500 individuals who earn money this way. So far the agency has identified close to 200 people. What the majority have in common is that they have neglected to declare their income.

“Young people are usually seen as poorly informed about how to file their taxes. That might be one explanation, but another reason is that their clients don’t want to be identified,” Dag Hardyson, project manager for Skatteverket’s investigation of online businesses, told TT.

In the last three years, Skatteverket has looked into three different areas: pills, poker and porn. During the course of their investigation, they noted that paid pornography sites have had an increasing difficulty peddling their wares as so much free content is available. But they also discovered that the demand for “webcam girls” has increased. At first, Hardyson and his team didn’t believe the phenomenon was particularly widespread in Sweden. “But our colleagues in Holland said, ‘We have a problem, so it’s obvious that you have a problem’,” he said.

They also explained that the success of the “webcam girls” rests in the fact they can speak Swedish with their Swedish customers, and it is that interaction that is most important. The business is entirely legal, but requires those offering the service to register for a corporate taxation certificate, as well as maintain records of expenses and income. According to Sveriges Radio, only one of the individuals audited by Skatteverket has submitted an income declaration. The businesses are estimated to generate around 40 million Swedish kronor ($5 million), at least 20 million of which is tax revenue.

While people usually imagine the biggest issue for webcam workers to be having the nerve to perform on camera, other problems are more important. As with phone sex, it’s an advantage to be able to work from home, but the question is how clients will find you, which leads to chat rooms, advertising and/or being part of big website agencies. Virtual brothels provide rooms and technology and pay wages. As usual with unregulated businesses, workers can get very bad deals. Recently I was sent a link to Cam-girl Notes, a site that describes itself as a place to ‘discuss the cam life and how people can cope with it.’

Most of the sex industry now uses the Internet in one way or another. Not long ago I posted something about paying to watch brothel sex. Let me know about other new forms you hear about (contact form to the right). I’m always interested in the blurry boundaries between commercial and non-commercial sex. Read about the cultural study of commercial sex here and here.

– Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

2 thoughts on “Webcam girls, virtual sex, sex tourism and the tax man

  1. Ginger

    This is very interesting… but what about those web cam boys? (I’m kidding)… but wait a minute… maybe I’m not !! In fact, I may do a little research on the web cam boys, myself. Laura, as always, you present some of the most fascinating and educational reads available on the internet… I truly appreciate, enjoy, and learn from your excellent work. Ginger


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