Last fall, I wrote about a weird little conspiracy theory making the rounds in the cam girl community, where angry fans accused cam performers of faking a sound-responsive vibrator’s reaction to the chime generated by viewers’ tips. To me, the whole thing seemed like bunk—if a cam girl exaggerates the pleasure she’s experience while on the job, well, welcome to sex work—but it got enough attention that it inspired one cam girl to do things a little bit differently.
Before she started camming on Chaturbate last month, Somnia Mia spent some time researching the ins and outs of cam girl life, which is how she learned that OhMiBod Club Vibes have become a near-essential part of entertaining an audience. If you don’t spend all your time on Chaturbate, here’s a quick explainer as to why that is: the OhMiBod vibrator will change its vibration pattern in response to sound, when cam girls hook it up to their computers, the chime generated by tips makes it vibrate harder. In other words, the more viewers tip, the more pleasure they give a cam girl—which, for a viewer who really wants to see a hot girl writhing with pleasure, means there’s a whole lot more incentive to tip.
Somnia was totally on board with all of that, but after two weeks of camming, she decided she wanted to do things a little bit differently. Because here’s the thing: while OhMiBod vibrators do respond to the chime generated by tipping, that response only lasts as long as the chime does. And Chaturbate tip chimes don’t last very long. A smaller tip offers just a second of sound for the vibrator to respond to, and the chimes max out at three seconds for those hefty 1000 token tips (according to a Chaturbate blog, that translates to $79.99 for the viewer, of which the model sees $50).
For a cam girl who’s hoping to inspire rapid-fire, near constant tipping, this isn’t actually a problem: if the tips are coming in fast and furious, the constant chiming will keep the vibrator going strong. But what’s a performer to do if they’re looking for quality over quantity? The 1000 token tip is a far bigger deal than the single token tip, but if it’s only generating an extra two seconds of pleasure for a performer, there’s not quite as much incentive for the viewer.
So, hoping to inspire some bigger tips, and assure big spenders that her reaction to their generosity is genuine, Somnia turned to her programmer friend, Rufus Toyoda, to find a solution. What the two came up with was something both incredibly basic and potentially transformative (well, at least for cam girls using the Club Vibe, anyway).
After a few hours studying the Chaturbate chat room code, Toyoda was able to create a browser extension that replaced the standard Chaturbate chimes with something a little more custom. Now when Somnia gets a coveted 1000 token tip, her browser offers up a full fifty seconds of thumping dance music for the Club Vibe to respond to. You can listen to Somnia’s custom chimes and the original Chaturbate sound effects, over here (the page is maybe NSFW).
Somnia’s only been using the custom chimes for a little over a week, so it’s a bit too soon to say if they’re going to completely remake the cam industry, or even be adopted by more than a handful of cam models. Somnia said she knows of only one other performer who is doing something similar.
But even if no one else ends up adopting Somnia’s strategy, the story’s still a really good reminder that open environments fuel innovation, and that allowing users the freedom to hack a platform often results in something far, far better than its creators could ever have dreamed up in the first place.
After all, it was cam girl ingenuity that transformed the OhMiBod Club Vibe from a dance-music-driven novelty vibrator into an income generator for a number of industrious sex workers; and it’s cam girl ingenuity that’s sussed out ways to improve the OhMiBod experience and make it even more interesting.
All of which matters quite a bit, because as porn ceases to be an easy source of revenue, more entrepreneurs are making the shift into cams and sex toys and, of late, a combination of the two. Earlier this year, Chaturbate competitor Cams.com and OhMiBod competitor Lovense announced a partnership that they hope will give users access to a true teledildonics experience. But unless they’re open to the kind of user innovation that’s helped Chaturbate pioneer new modes of cam performance, they might find that their futuristic tech quickly begins to feel stale.
Toyoda, for his part, thinks that ”makers of web-enabled pleasure sticks should be partnering with the leading providers of cam services to develop a standard open-source, extensible software API”—though so far no one’s come forth to do anything that extensive, and given the lack of unification within the sex toy industry, it seems unlikely that anyone will any time soon.
No matter how advanced the tech a company is able to provide to cam girls and cam girl fans, the experience is ultimately about the connection and relationship between cam girl and client. And if they’re not given the freedom to innovate and improve their ability to foster that connection, they might not stay interested in a platform for very long. (It’s a hard world out there, friends, and a cam girl’s gotta be able to be creative if she’s gonna survive—let alone succeed.)
But beyond all that: let’s all just be glad that at least one conspiracy theory out there finally resulted in something interesting. All 9/11 trutherism ever got us was some lame jokes about George W. Bush and jet fuel.