At the end of a winding road within a nondescript corporate park in Edison sits the New Jersey Convention and Expo center, a grim gray building with an illuminated quick-change sign out front, the kind that usually shouts “GO TIGERS” or “2 FOR 1 WELL DRINKS.” This one reads “WELCOME TO EXXXOTICA 2014.” The building seems like the sort that hosts SATs — until you open the doors and are hit by a wave of deafening techno and ass cheeks as far as the eye can see.
Several young women in bras and panties horse around (sexily) on a pair of beds set up by the doors while a smattering of men in boxy leather jackets awkwardly brandish their iPhones at the women from a safe distance. There’s a handful of crumpled bills on the floor near the beds, a trend that continues throughout the expo, where the distinction between promo model, presenter, and booth draw is not entirely clear.
The promo models at the annual Exxxotica expo (it bills itself as “the largest event in the USA dedicated to love & sex”) earn between $100 and $400 per day, not including tips, while the adult performers here stand to make much more. According to legendary adult performer Stoya, some have traveled to Exxxotica on their own dime — but as she points out, “there’s a financial risk, but also there’s no risk of getting chlamydia” (she is not among those who have swallowed their Exxxotica costs). The performers here dot the spectrum of the adult industry — icons like Evan Stone and Tera Patrick are headlining the expo with performances on the main stage, while the aisles are populated by top-earning film stars, novice cam girls, and bachelor-party entertainers.
See also: Stoya, Pop Star of Porn
At the top of the food chain are the big-name stars like Sydney Leathers, who crossed over to the mainstream when she became the target of former New York congressman Anthony Weiner’s lust. Her paycheck and residuals for her Vivid film, Weiner and Me, earned her “the most money I’ve ever made for anything in my life.” Leathers supplements her income from porn, from which she now earns several thousand per scene, with signed photos and DVDs ($10-$40), camming on Streamates.com ($4.99-$8.99/minute), and live appearances ($2,000 and up). Leathers prefers film over her other gigs because, as she puts it, “the camming is really draining for me because I’m actually really introverted and you have to interact with so many people.”
In contrast, star performer Adriana Chechik favors the freedom of camming, saying, “I can just get stoned on my couch and do that” — if only we could all cash in on our lazy Sundays. Chechik also brings in between $1,000 and $2,500 sexting fans through SextPanther.com. Of this service, she says, “I probably average $1,000 to $2,500 a month just from doing that in my spare time, so if I was religiously on it, it would be really good!”
At the MyFreeCams.com booth, we spoke with one novice model who chats on the site as “Jen on the Cock” and also sells clips to her fans. When asked what brings in the most money, she replied, “Just being on the cock.” Jen says she’s no stranger to bizarre viewer requests, the most outlandish of which was to ship her own feces through the mail (she refused). She wholly supports herself with “24/7” camming and is about celebrate her 10-month “cam-iversary” on the site, a milestone for which she may earn additional tips.
Cam performers are tipped in tokens, one of which typically translates to a nickel for the performer. While this may sound like pocket change, these tokens add up quickly, and most performers also cash in via extensive menus of extras, ranging from more standard fare like custom video clips and phone conversations to random ephemera like used headphones and expired chocolate bars.
Wishlists are also common, says Shirley Lara, who runs free amateur site Chaturbate.com. Cam performers have received everything from lingerie to a new washer and dryer from loyal fans. Lara continues: The average cam performer can expect to earn around $1,000 per week with a three-day schedule, and top performers earn as much as $10,000 a week.
In her seminar, “Camming for Fun and Profit,” Lara went into tax details and also repeatedly stressed the importance of keeping mum about one’s cam endeavors. As she put it, “Our site is secure. Your best friend’s boyfriend at the bar with his bros is not.” Her advice for would-be cam girls would ring true in any industry — “The performers making the most are the ones who put the most into it” — and a quick scan of popular rooms on her site confirms it: Top cammers have unique angles (like a 1920s jazz-inspired burlesque show) and Twitter followers numbering well into the thousands.
Besides making serious cash, every performer at Exxxotica expressed enormous levels of job satisfaction. Stoya, whose freelance writing career for sites like Vice and Refinery29 has taken off in recent years, loves that she can “write some pieces, then do a scene and still make rent every month.”
As we exited Exxxotica, one of the pseudo-pillowfight performers was inadvertently providing the most realistic “teen girl in bedroom” performance yet: She sat texting cross-legged on her prop bed. The crowd had thinned, but the pool of bills had reached an impressive height. Everyone would go home happy.