I moved to the San Fernando Valley at the worst possible time. Right after the financial crisis hit at the beginning of 2009, Los Angeles was probably running at about 50% unemployment. My friend Kate worked at Trader Joe's, and they received 300 applications for one job opening. The only people working regularly were the Mexican fruit pickers standing outside Home Depot, and even they would sometimes wait half a day before anyone drove by. The counseling center I volunteered at started to fill up with clients who had been unemployed for a year and were deeply depressed, considering suicide. Los Angeles is a terrible city to be desperate in.

I was sending out ten resumes a day to Craigslist jobs, with no responses. I assumed that the moment they clicked "Post," HR directors were immediately inundated with resumes and panicked, choosing new employees at random. My boyfriend, Jason, was struggling to pay his part of the rent by selling musical instruments on eBay. We were living in a pool house and eating street-cart tacos every day because it was cheaper than buying groceries.


So I went to the fallback job: internet porn.

I signed up with a third-party website to be a cam model. It works like this: you have a webcam. Guys go to the website, pick you out of a lineup, and instant message with you a little bit. When they decide they want to fork over $3 a minute, they click the "Pay Now" button and take you to a private chat room, where you can do whatever you want. I got half of the money for each minute, and grew quite adept at stripping slowly. The guys mostly just wanted straightforward tits and ass; I learned how to pull my pussy lips open, how to use camera tricks so it looked like I was shoving four fingers in my asshole.

As porn work goes, it was incredibly low maintenance. I didn't have to shave my legs or wear high heels, or even put on lipstick; I didn't have to actually touch or talk to any of the guys who were watching me take my clothes off. I spoke into a microphone and never heard their voices. Sometimes I got strange requests: put a can of hairspray in your pussy. Let me hypnotize you. One guy wanted me to pee in a cup and pour it on my chest. I said no to anything I didn't want to do. Jason walked back and forth through the house as I worked on the living-room sofa. I'd wave at him over the top of the camera, while showing close-ups of my ass cheeks to some unseen guy jerking it in his darkened office. It was a steady paycheck, and these gullible souls all believed I was twenty-two years old and my name was Samantha.


Except for one guy. Screen name: THEPROFESSOR. He showed up one day and immediately made me laugh — really laugh, not the fake "tee hee" that actually meant "Just click the button, asshole, time is money." His repartee was witty, and his vocabulary was huge. All the other guys sounded like panting idiots hoping to trick me into a free show, begging me to shove things in my ass or dramatically fellate a dildo. The Professor enjoyed being the smart one, the one who knew the truth behind the facade, who I really was. It was only a few messages before he said, "You're not 22. How old are you really?" I tried to pass it off, as I'd learned to do with private questions — keep them on the hook, believing the fantasy, and you make more money. Make them think they have a chance with you. But he wanted to know, really, so I told him how old I was, what I liked to read, that I wasn't actually in university anymore. He hoarded the information I gave him; he was always careful never to say anything where the other guys could see.

One day, he finally clicked "Pay Now" and took me to a private room. But I don't think he knew what to do with me. We just talked for a while, at $3 a minute. By then, I knew him a little bit, and liked him. I asked him what he wanted to see. He said he just wanted to watch me get off. So I did, and for once, I wasn't faking it.

The pattern continued: he'd come in almost every day and message me for hours, throwing out comments about the other guys that they couldn't see, sometimes taking me to a private room when he could afford it. He wanted to see me enjoying myself, instead of simulating bad porn. He wanted to see my face when I came.


I started getting to know him. His name was Arthur. I found out he was a real professor — he taught at a small liberal-arts college, which is why he was online all day, grading papers. I found out he was occasionally cranky, often bitter, but always receptive to banter. He mentioned children, in passing. I mentioned Jason, which, since I pretended to be single online, was another slice of my real self.

Finally, I told him one day that I couldn't keep taking his money. It wasn't fair. I liked him too much. I wrote him a long email from my personal email account, the real one, told him my real name, and said I couldn't keep our interactions financial. It felt wrong. We were friends.

To read the rest of "Samantha" and THEPROFESSOR's story, click on over to Nerve.com.


This post originally appeared on Nerve. Republished with permission.

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