Internet porn: it objectifies women, desensitises men and is digital kryptonite for monogamy, right? Not necessarily.

As the backlit world of online sex evolves and the power balance shifts, it can open a whole new world of erotic possibility…

“I was in a long-term, long-distance relationship when I started watching cam girls,” explains Jessica*, a 31-year-old paralegal from Joburg.

“I first came across them in my boyfriend’s search history and, after an initial period of jealousy – I mean, these girls really could be your next-door neighbour – I realised something: I actually got a kick out of watching them.”

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For Jessica, and thousands of women like her, that double take (or, more aptly, double click) was a turning point.

Initially, discovering her boyfriend’s webcam habit was an obstacle. After all, “camming”, where real women put on live interactive shows, varying from the sublime (a burlesque strip tease) to the ridiculous (a game where, if viewers get the answers right, an item of clothing is removed), is one of the more controversial internet mediums.

“At first, the live element upset me. It felt one step closer to cheating.” But that didn’t last long.

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Wanting to understand why her boyfriend did it, one night alone in her flat, Jessica went online, punched in her credit card number and watched the cam girls perform.

“I thought it would be vulgar. Obviously, there are seedy sites, but the one I watched was incredibly sensual.

Watching a live performance, in the comfort of my home, without any physical contact, I understood why it turned him on. I had never experienced anything like it before.”

Before long, she found herself getting off on it.

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Inspired, Jessica, who at the time was doing long-distance with her Cape Town-based boyfriend, suggested she should cam for him.

The result was something neither of them expected. Previously shy and bookish, without even the confidence to try role-play in bed, Jessica bought a webcam and started to strip for her partner.

It wasn’t just Skype sex – she was putting on a show for him just like the cam girls did.

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“It was an unusual time, but ultimately it opened up a whole new dialogue for us as a couple, that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.” What’s more, it had a profound effect on Jessica’s own erotic sensibilities.“

I now watch cam girls regularly as part of my sexual play,” she says. “It’s made me less naïve and more accepting of diverse sexuality. I tell all my girlfriends to do it too.”

*Name has been changed.

This article was originally published on Women's Health South Africa.