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Shock Value

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A 40-year-old webcam model with a full-time day job tells all in this funny and insightful memoir about the world of professional sex work.

We all have litmus tests that we use to assess people, like how they treat animals or their favorite books. I have two: how someone respects and tips service workers--and their opinion on the decriminalization of sex work. Many laws that claim to fight sex trafficking (such as SESTA-FOSTA) actually end up endangering sex workers, and sex worker rights still tend to be absent from even the most liberal political campaign platforms. Even putting all politics aside, sex work is an incredibly vast umbrella term for a misunderstood field. What do sex workers actually do?


One answer to this question comes in Eliza Wilde's hilarious memoir Shock Value. Wilde ("Angelina" professionally) is a webcam model, which means she gets paid to livestream video of herself performing erotic acts. She's also a 40-year-old with a full-time job. Wilde needed additional part-time employment to help pay off her debt; she answered a Craigslist ad from a female-run studio, got a website profile, and started camming. Customers either interact with her in the chat or pay to take her private.


Most of Wilde's work focuses on telling wacky stories and explaining the quirks of the camming profession. For example, she only keeps 20% of her rates (the studio and website get the rest), so it takes a lot of work for the job to be lucrative. There are times when bonuses are available, but scheduling can get dicey...especially if you're on your period. Some customers are easy to please, while others can be demanding. One even requested an elaborate role play involving a contract killer: suffice it to say, Wilde declined that session. She's seen men use everything for lube, from yogurt to toothpaste. And as for unsolicited photos, she's got the perfect response: "Dick pics are the human equivalent of a cat giving you a dead bird as a 'gift.'"


Wilde doesn't shy away from the difficulties of sex work; you have to stand up for yourself and set boundaries (cam models can always end a call). Plus, should you tell your family, friends, or partner--or live a secret life? But sex work can also be empowering. Wilde thinks about men who've hurt her while participating in femdom as a cathartic release, and while the sections about race play are awful to read, it is what her customers asked for. Wilde admits that it's uncomfortable for her to call someone racial slurs, but there is something emancipating about taking something used to hurt you and transforming it into an instrument of pleasure. In other words, don't yuck anyone's (consensual) yums.

Reviewed by

Co-Founder of The Haint
Former:
Batavia Public Library Tech/Reference Assistant
Literary Agent Assistant at Barbara Braun Associates, Inc.
Personal Assistant to Marilyn Stasio at the NYTBR
Book Review Editor for KGB Bar Lit Mag
Business Manager of Columbia Journal
MFA in Fiction, Columbia U

The Beginning

About the author

Eliza Wilde is a new author, investigator, veteran and an artist. She is fascinated by psychology, sexology and human sexuality. She is known for her love of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, true-crime shows and documentaries, quality vodka, and sarcasm. view profile

Published on July 23, 2019

20000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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