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The Truth About Webcam Girls (BBC3), TV review: A peep show that reveals how online intimacy is far from fantasy stuff

  • @willydean

You may know the acronym NSFW. It means "not safe for work" and indicates that a link might get you in trouble at work should your boss glance upon your monitor.

As chance would have it, the baleful shadow of the Independent's managing editor appeared on my screen just as I watched the first few, lingerie-heavy, minutes of The Truth About Webcam Girls (BBC3).

Despite protestations that this was a serious review about a serious documentary, the BBC3 ident blew my cover on that front and I felt it was best to watch the following 57 minutes at home. While my wife was out.

Webcam girls are performers who strip (and more) in front of their PCs in return for premium-rate fees. This film from director Chris Atteshlis, while not telling us all that much, showed us what life is like for three young women who spend their days (new verb, this) "webcamming".

First up, we met Sammie, a ringer for Fresh Meat's magnificent Vod with a line in pathos worthy of Alan Bennett. As we met her, she was waiting for a late estate agent: "I'm sat here thinking, 'Can I get naked or not?' I don't understand where people's decency is."

This was followed by a great little cameo from said estate agent who gormlessly asked her: "Don't I know you from somewhere?" Sammy, who hopes to use the cash from her gig to study psychology, diplomatically saved her response – "Yeah, mate, from one of my foot fetish films" – until he'd gone.

Sammie's tales of her previous career in hardcore porn – "I pushed myself to limits I didn't want to" – were genuinely upsetting. She seemed much happier working in this environment. So that's something.

We also met Carla, whose acumen in this field seems unrivalled. She's managed to attract niche crowds, who'll pay £2 a minute to watch her cook dinner in her knickers. She once made £300 in one night from people watching her play XBox. A state of affairs that makes one ponder both the state of mind of the punters and also the value of one's education.

It was hard to know what to make of all this. What fascinated me was the banality of the interaction. The whole thing seemed as sexy as grouting. The women, though, seemed fairly happy with their lot, viewing the work solely in transactional terms. The men? God knows. Thankfully, we only saw one side of the camera.