Vassar College Digital Library
This project follows the shifting geography of erotic companionship and the changing demographics of women who take on this kind of work. From origins in mining towns, urban centers, and Las Vegas brothels to home-based, online performances for audiences across the world, erotic companionship continues to be a primary form of employment, albeit informal, for increasingly diverse and continually growing numbers of women. Engaging frontier theories, scholarship on informal economies, and previous case studies with sex workers, I investigate the construction of a newfound digital frontier, one with new opportunities, informalities, populations, and governances. Illustrating connections between previous frontier zones in real space and those now found on the Internet, I expect that we acknowledge the persistence of patriarchy and capitalism, despite transgressing real space boundaries into what is commonly perceived as a digital utopia. By working with and interviewing cam models on, this thesis calls attention to the expansion of informal economies, while also articulating the parallels and differences between real space and digital frontiers of sex work. In the end, I hope that by exploring the making of frontier, virtual, commercial sex work spaces, informal economies can be recognized as continually expanding, the myth of a digital utopia can be expelled, and the fundamental American frontier metaphor can be questioned.
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