Growing up, my world was complementarian, which is a fancy way of saying everyone was waaaaay too into gender roles.
We viewed men as stronger, braver, and less prone to irrational emotions. They were the federal head; the point of representation for their families. I remember asking my mom why we were moving states if she didn’t want to move; she said she must submit to the decisions of her husband, and her husband’s decision was to move. I remember our pastor’s daughter sleeping in a bunkbed at home at the age of 22 because she was required to always have male headship, and thus couldn’t leave her father’s house or go to college until she had a husband to take on that role. These are two easy-to-convey examples, but there’s a thousand more that manifested in tiny, insidious ways, that I can’t do justice to in this short an essay. Men could be pastors and elders in the church, but not women. Men were the gender that God had created to symbolize His relationship with His bride, the church; in this symbolic sense, men were to women as God was to mankind.
From the outside view into my old culture, the patriarchy ends there. Men, in charge, oppressing women.
But this view of male rulership also put a lot of pressure on men, and so the standards and punishments for them were higher. My father was an ordained minister and served as an elder in a church; he taught that eldership was contingent on having believing children. If someone under his headship screwed up, like hypothetically renounced her faith and did sex work, the formal consequences went to him, and he’s now no longer allowed to be an elder. The financial success of the family lay entirely on the man – he was expected to work however much it took to support his family (and stay-at-home-wife), which often could grow quite large. Any decisions for his family were his, and if anything bad happened, it was entirely on him. Social consequences for cheating were also incredibly harsh. Whenever we had our Biannual Adulter Reveal, the offender was stripped of any church leadership or removed from church entirely, and his offense was quietly made known.
The story of Adam and Eve reflects this – Eve fucked up first, and spread the fucking-up to Adam, but as Romans 5:12 says, “just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” This is what men were taught – that they lived in the symbolic role of Adam, and that when shit hit the fan, they were the ones responsible.
I suspect this is how most traditional gender role systems work. I once spent a long layover in Saudi Arabia and had a discussion with a man about their gender roles. I told him that in the US, people feel bad about the way women are treated. He seemed taken aback – women are queens, he said. Men’s role is a burden; all the pressure is on them. Women’s domestic lives are lighter – they are protected from external threats, and get to live in a softer internal bubble. He viewed the pressure on men as a huge, forgotten element, so important that all the restrictions women suffered were worth a release from that pressure.
In ye olden times, everything was scarier. People starved, killed each other, and died from teensy adorable infected scratches way more than today. When people are competing for resources, threats to the family increase drastically, and the role of men becomes way more apparent. The “male strength and responsibility” extends an expectation that they die for their country and family – or at least use their bodies at higher levels of risk. I mean, we still have a compulsory draft for men and not women. I’m dangerously getting close to spouting random theories about evolution here, but I suspect that men are physically stronger than women for a very good reason – males were subject to literally stronger physical pressure than women throughout our evolutionary history. Male strength is a living example of the weight their male ancestors had to bear in order to keep surviving.
I suspect that most people were more chill with the patriarchy in the past because the whole “men go to war” and “men have to earn enough for their family or else” thing made being a man way less exciting, and the benefit of safety for a woman, as touted by the Saudi Arabian man, was actually a way more important thing to have.
But the world got way safer – and when men stopped dying, maybe their advantages started looking way juicier. If you and your friend have had a delicate responsibility equilibrium that allows you to fight unique types of foes, and then your friend’s foe disappears, you might look over your shoulder and go hey, wait a second, why do you get to vote and I can’t?
Responsibility is weird. Ultimately there’s no free will and agency is a trick of the light, but we seem to have particular rules for when and where we throw responsibility at something. Sometimes we throw responsibility at the environment, and sometimes at the person. This seems to be mostly based on whether or not throwing responsibility at a person is effective. If someone is depressed, shouting at them to get less depressed isn’t going to work. Eventually our culture seemed to figure that out and now considers the individual mostly blameless. It does seem to work in other cases, though – if someone is very lazy, shouting at them to be less lazy can sometimes work. This also appears very clearly in moral shaming – if you go out and murder someone we consider it your fault, and you are bad, and we take the magic ball of responsibility and put it directly into your dirty, depraved arms.
Responsibility placement seems to occur along political divides, too. Conservatives tend to see everyone holding their own glowing ball of responsibility, while liberals see the responsibility in the environment and the cruel, unchangeable past.
We also seem to have different standards per person or role. We put the glowing ball of responsibility way more into the arms of people in power – people like to say Trump is an asshole more than they say Trump probably has dementia. Cops are held deeply responsible for every mistake they make, while the people they pursue are often far worse than the cops themselves. Basically nobody puts the glowing ball into the arms of kids – in the world of children, it’s their environment that’s aglow with fault, despite their brains being equally responsible for their movements and words as any adult. The placement of responsibility corresponds strongly to power in the environment, but gets a bit messed up with moral violations; we’re ok with the environment being responsible when an impoverished man steals a loaf of bread, but less ok with it being responsible when he steals an old woman’s medicine to sell for heroin.
Responsibility is not uniformly a good thing. It tends to occur with power, but increases pressure and consequences for failure. Having responsibility placed in the environment can be an incredible relief – to have a doctor say we know what’s been causing your mood swings, to marrying a very wealthy person, to being taken care of, to your suffering not being your fault, to don’t worry Eve, sin didn’t enter the world through you.
In my old society, men were formally and strongly given the glowing ball of responsibility. This was great, and it also really sucked. It sucked bad enough that I’m not totally sure being a woman was worse than being a man.
I talked a bit about the ‘men being expected to go die’ thing, but there’s another aspect here too. The nature of holding the glowing ball of responsibility means that if things are hard, it’s your fault, and you’re less likely to complain or try to institute systemic change. It means that your pains are more invisible, because it starts and ends inside of you. When you hold the glowing ball of responsibility, it doesn’t even cross your mind that you try to make the world change – no, what’s happening is yours. Yes, Eve gave you the apple, but the world entered sin through you. There is no room to blame others. You need to be stronger. You need to handle this. Your weakness is yours.
When the glowing ball of responsibility is outside of you, you search for change through others. You don’t consider this a weakness, and thus there’s nothing to be ashamed about. How can society change? You are fine with taking those antidepressants. When things are hard, the world could be better. You shouldn’t have to live like this. Your pains are visible, because making progress requires noise. You need to have higher standards. Your boyfriend shouldn’t be abusive, so you’re going to break up with him, and then speak loudly about signs of abuse and things you shouldn’t put up with and then join facebook groups where you affirm each other and list things you love about yourself.
These two modes have drastically unequal visibility from the outside, which means if you had an equal amount of suffering between men and women in a society of traditional gender roles, this would look like a society in which women suffer more.
The fundamental divide in my culture of traditional gender roles was the allocation of responsibility,and I see no evidence that our current culture is doing much different. Everywhere I look, in our advertisements, in conversations at parties, in our movies, I see men held self-responsible and women as environment-changers.
This is a bit of a meta-problem. Both roles create issues; men tend to be stoic/emotionally repressed (it’s my fault), in greater positions of power (i need to work harder/provide for my family), generally over women. Women tend to view themselves as more helpless than they really are (society is the problem).
But society’s answer to this isn’t to lower the amount of responsibility we give men and raise the responsibility we give women, or even to just acknowledge the responsibility gap at all, it’s to blame the issues that arise from the responsibility gap, on the side of the gap that is built to accept responsibility – men.
Patriarchy? Men’s fault. When women support it, we say they’ve simply internalized the messages of men, and then pluck that glowing ball of responsibility right out of their dainty little hands. Victim blaming? When we decry suggestions that women alter their behavior to reduce risk of assault (though appearance influences catcalling), we’re shoving responsibility straight into the environment.
There’s almost no body acceptance movement for men. Advertisements portray men as either the butt of jokes or muscular and handsome. Why? The attractiveness of a man is their responsibility. Contrast this to one out of a billion ads for women where their feelings about their attractiveness are taken out of their arms and placed directlyintotheenvironment. It’s also easy to find articles that place responsibility in the environment by listing ways workplaces can be more woman-friendly. If women aren’t in enough powerful roles, society’s reaction is to place the fault outside of the woman. Reversely, I tried to find articles on how to make women-dominated workplaces or housekeeping advertisements/communities more male-friendly, but I couldn’t find any.
I want to be clear: I don’t view either of these modes as inherently worse than the other. Both I need to work harder and The world should be better to me have benefits and drawbacks that fluctuate according to a thousand tiny variables in a highly complex system. I’m glad women are speaking out about the difficulties in their life. I’m glad men are conditioned to take responsibility. I’m not glad that these modes seem to be so consistently gendered.
Changing responsibility lines can feel really wrong. Right now we have the narrative that men have wronged and oppressed women. Men are the responsible party, and women are the victims. To change this narrative can feel both like absolving the guilty party of blame (maybe what’s going on isn’t totally your fault, men) and placing blame on the side of the victim (maybe you should push harder for raises and report rapes more often, women). This can feel really horrible.
So my suggestion isn’t to do this, exactly, but rather start expanding the options we give people. Maybe we can consider men fully responsible, but also stop shaming them, and say it’s okay if they want to blame the environment, or be weak – we can talk about how men need to protect women from other men, and also that it’s okay if they don’t want to do that. Maybe we can allow women to feel blameless if they want to, but also say it’s okay to suggest steps women can take to increase agency in their own lives, or take on responsibility themselves. We can simultaneously allow articles on “how to make the workplace kinder to women” and also “how wearing a longer skirt at night might reduce your risk of sexual harassment.”
And to be clear again – I don’t mean to minimize what women have gone through. I remember with great pain what it was like to be a woman in a complementarian household. I watched my mother unable to separate from her abusive husband because the pastor told her she needed to submit and pray more. I remember my parents’ horror when I suggested that I didn’t understand why I should go to college if I was only meant to be a housewife, and that maybe I didn’t want to have children. I remember crying myself to sleep when I was ten, asking God why He’d made me a girl and not a boy, because I had so many dreams I would never be able to fulfill, because I was ashamed at being so emotional. I remember refusing to cry for years, because I wanted to be respected like boys were. I hold visceral empathy for every woman who’s had to wear her gender like chains.
What I do want to do is also evoke empathy for the countless men who marched off to war, often barely more than children, dying in bloody fields far away from home. Or the emotional stifling that readied men for their role as protectors – don’t express your emotions. Do your duty. If you can’t earn enough to feed your family, you’re not worthy of a family. Or the homeless men nobody helped because men should be able to care for themselves. The lack of sympathy or emotional assistance men find in their social lives. Just because my role as a traditional woman sucked balls doesn’t mean roles as traditional men don’t also suck balls. After all – through Adam, sin entered into the world.
I also don’t view the role of women in my old upbringing as ‘victims’ of men. Women reinforced gender roles just as much, if not more, than the men did. They were just as complicit, and absolving them of blame here is doing exactly the same thing that gave my culture justification for putting them in that role.
Lastly, I don’t mean to imply that history has always been fair. There’ve been wide fluctuations in both safety and women’s rights in cultures throughout history, and it seems silly to assume they’ve always evened out into a fair trade. I do think that the gender divide in history was probably fairer than popular narrative implies it is, and there’s plenty of times in history I’d much rather have spawned as a woman than a man.
Included: Picking a site, security, equipment, lighting/angles, business strategy, psychological tricks, types of camgirls and members, how to make sales, dealing with the emotional burden, taxes, networking, personal branding, marketing, and a few other things.
My credentials: I was a camgirl for five years. My highest earning month was $50,000, and my highest rank (on MFC) was #7, meaning I earned the 7th most money that month. I was, at one point, one of the most (if not the most) widely known working camgirls thanks to some viral content. My average income per hour was $200. Getting there was not easy and took a ton of mistakes and work, so I hope this helps you.
(update: like most of humanity, I’m now on Onlyfans)
Disclaimer: What I’m offering are guidelines for starting, which are useful to follow if you have no idea what’s going on. Nothing I say is a hard and fast rule, and you can probably find at least one successful performer out there who violates every single thing I recommend. If something works for you, do it.
Also, I quit camming in 2017, so some of my advice may be outdated. Be particularly wary when I’m talking about market rates and website policies.
Trying To Decide
If you’re uncertain if you want to cam, know that there’s a lot of flexibility in how you do it. You can set whatever limits you want – the highest earning camgirl on MFC at one point, earning over 1,000,000 in a year, was a non-nude model! The more attractive you are, the easier camming will be for you. If you look like a potato you can still make money, it’s just gonna take more work.
Camming ‘pros’ involve: an easier source of money that’s independent of scheduling, bosses, and rules. The ceiling on cam income is very high – top-range models make around $200/hr, and the super-high end ones can make $1000+/hr. The average income is roughly $40/hr, based on around 200 girls I surveyed a few years ago.
Camming cons involve: potentially higher stress, identity risks, burnout, and self-esteem hits.
You can cam part-time, but you’ll make less per hour. This guide is written primarily for people who want to do this full-time (defined as 20+ live cam hours a week), all-out, going for the max amount of money per hour you can possibly earn.
Estimate your Earning Potential
I made a rough calculation chart to see where your hourly earnings might be in about six months of consistent work. This is extremely general and no guarantee and sometimes random chance just makes everything go crazy, but if you’re trying to make a decision about whether this is worth it, then this might help.
Rate your business acumen potential (sales, reading people, general intelligence, marketing, emotional labor capacity) on a scale of 1-10. Multiply this number by two, and add to the number of hours you plan on camming per week. We’ll call this number X.
If, on the traditional 1-10 beauty scale, you’re: 1-2, multiply X by 0.3 3-4, multiply X by 0.8 5-6, multiply X by 2.5 7-8, multiply X by 4.5 9-10, multiply X by 8
So, for example – if you consider yourself about a 6/10 businessperson, and if you plan on camming 25 hours a week, then 6*2 + 25 = 37.
If you’re 6/10 attractive, multiply 37 by 2.5, and you get a $92.5/hr estimate within 6 months, on MFC. This is the take-home amount after the MFC 50% fee.
None of this applies if you appear male. If you appear male, god help you.
Which cam category to choose?
There are two primary forms of camsites – token sites, and private sites.
Token sites operate sort of like busking, where you stand there, do things, and a watching crowd throws money at you. These websites often have private options (where only one guy can see you, and he pays per minute), but those usually aren’t the primary form of income, especially for higher-earning girls, who typically earn more through live tips than they do through the website-provided private options. Token sites generally have much higher total earning potential, but often require more intensive work and are more stressful. Token-site workers are also often more personality-based, tend towards more girlfriend-experience and performance aspects.
Token sites: myfreecams, chaturbate
Private sites operate sort of like a brothel, where you present yourself, get chosen by somebody, and then they take you into a private room for a while at a fixed rate. These sites tend to be a bit lower-pressure than token sites, because the biggest sell you make is getting someone to take you private, after which your income is a little more guaranteed. Private sites are typically lower-earning, and tend to be more wham-blam-thank-you-ma’am, with lower emphasis placed on personality, which is great if you want to zone out. This can be less emotionally taxing, too.
Private sites: streammate, livejasmin
My experience has been entirely with token sites, and so the majority of my advice is targeted towards those, and will be less applicable if you’re using a private site.
If you want to cam with a boy, know that some sites completely ban all male presence, and other sites will put you into a separate couples category. Generally speaking, if you’re going for the high end of income, you are better doing it with no penis on screen. More on this later.
I only have experience with Myfreecams and Chaturbate. These are both token sites, remember – private sites have different comparisons, which I can’t help you with.
MFC is higher pressure, as your rank on the website is determined by income per hour averaged over the past 60 days. This means the more you earn hourly, the higher your rank climbs, and the easier it is to earn more hourly. The reverse is also true, which can make this an extremely pressured experience, and also is the reason why girls on MFC earn more than girls on any other website.
MFC has an outdated interface and very little model support.
Recently MFC traffic numbers have dropped. The rumor I heard is that their contract with an advertising agency wasn’t renewed. I don’t know if this is affecting income levels – the girls I talk to say it hasn’t – but this is something to keep in mind.
Chaturbate ranking, last time I heard (it may have changed), is determined by a combination of number of people in your room and the time you’ve spent logged in. There’s no long-term effects on your rank if you have a low-earning day, which makes this mentally easier to handle.
CB has a more updated interface and has the ability to integrate custom bots, which can automate more detailed token games for you.
As of a year ago, girls on CB earned…. I’d estimate maybe 20% less than girls on MFC, on average.
The websites that give out the best rates typically take 50% of what is given to you, as is the case with MFC and CB (though I’ve seen them advertise 40% after token discounts and chargeback protection). It’s pretty common to find sites that take 70% or more.
One really promising, upcoming competitor is Spankchain, which is currently in beta and is taking an insanely low 5% only. They started up after I quit, but I absolutely recommend checking it out. They’re cryptocurrency based and I’ve met and trust the team behind it.
Why not ask for other payment methods, to avoid the hefty fees?
You can, but external-site pay makes up a small percentage of most camgirls’ earnings. Sites will often ban mentions of external payment. It’s also very common to have your payment channels shut down once they figure out you’re a dirty hoe. PayPal is a notorious example, having eaten the funds of many camgirls I know. Coinbase held some of my bitcoin hostage for six months!
Some of the less freeze-happy channels (Giftrocket) tend to also have higher fees, or have difficulty maintaining anonymity.
Camsites also incentivize tipping through the site, mostly through immediate feedback abilities, but also with things like the infamous MFC ‘camscore,’ which I will talk about later on – but basically, having money transfer overflow to offsite can end up hurting your rankings on-site.
The easiest way to get external payment is by gift cards, purchases off gift wishlists, or cryptocurrency.
What To Buy?
I know it sucks to invest in equipment if you’re not totally sure this thing is gonna work out, but lighting, background and quality is super important and will absolutely impact your income.
Camera: Nearly every camgirl I’ve seen has used logitech webcams. Logitech c920 Logitech Brio
I’ve also seen some camgirls do elaborate setups with DLSRs, which is great if you can do it.
Microphone: I rarely used an external microphone, though I should have. Keep in mind where you will physically be in the room – will you cam standing or sitting? I’ll talk more about that later, but this should enter into your decision. Here’s some my friends have used: Blue Snowball Blue Yeti USB
Webcam software: These are ones I saw commonly used among camgirls. You can use some parts free, but have to pay to do things like ‘get rid of watermark,’ at least for Manycam. I personally only used XSplit a few times. XSplit ManyCam
Lighting: This is super important. You can’t have too much light. Make sure you get neutral or as pure white as you can – don’t go for warm glow (unless you’re using it as background accent lights). You can make warm glow happen and look better with in-camera settings. Softbox Kit LED Ropes(I bought a few and twisted them into a huge circle, which I nailed to the wall behind the camera to function as a cheap, gigantic circle light)
Vagina Things (optional!) Hitachis are the most common, but I’d recommend something more delicate. Lovesense is pretty popular. I’ve never used one and they were getting popular nearer the end of my cam career, so I can’t say much. They are more interactive, but have a sort of ‘meme’ quality around them now.
Same with OhMyBod. Fingers also work just fine, and most people already have them lying around.
Setting Up Your Emporium
You want your backdrop to be comfortable, inviting, clean, and expansive. Basically, you want to make sure it’s clear that you’re not in a studio.
Studios are locations that provide a cam room, computer, and all the above listed equipment for girls too poor to afford their own. The girls go in, work for a few hours, and the studio takes either a flat fee or a percentage fee. Studios are much more common in poorer countries, particularly eastern europe, and it’s pretty easy to tell when a girl is camming out of a studio.
Studios usually have the girl sitting down on a couch or shallow bed, with a bold-patterned wallpaper directly behind that, sort of like this:
You don’t want this look.
Ideally you want a good deal of space between you and the wall behind you.
If you’re camming during the daytime, doing it with a window behind the webcam is usually fucking incredible. You can see a gif (nsfw) of me camming with this setup here, although ideally there would be another window or more decor on the wall behind me (I was in an airBnB, so I didn’t have time to set it up).
The space behind you should also be well-lit. I usually cammed with two sets of lights – one set for illuminating me, placed behind the camera, and another set placed behind me, to give depth and light to the setting behind.
A common option for that space is a giant bed, which you can climb on and roll around (if you prefer angles where you’re lying down, or if you play up the seductress feel more), or empty floor space (if you tend towards walking/dancing more, like me). Or you can do both – bed in the corner, and then rotate your webcam a bit when you want to transition.
Basically the important thing is depth and the ability to move within the space.
You also want your background to not look poor, trashy, or cluttered. You want to give off the impression that you’re at least a suburban girl-next-door, and you can go all the way up to a spoiled princess in a penthouse. Looking super-wealthy might seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. More on this later.
The most flattering lighting is wide/diffuse, in front of you. This is why large windows work perfectly. For a few months I used rope lights arranged in a huge circle.
The ideal angle for the light should be directly ahead and above you, diagonally up away from your face.
The camera angle should be just slightly above eye level when you’re sitting ‘at the camera,’ as that emphasizes your femininity and makes the viewer feel more masculine. It’s also more flattering, which is why selfies are always taken from above. This is less important when you’re standing/dancing/moving away from the screen.
You want your camera as close as possible to your screen, however, because you want to create the illusion that you are looking at the camera, which is very important. This typically means elevating your laptop on a precarious stand of books or empty amazon boxes.
You’re going to have to provide your real name, social security number, and a photo of an ID, at the very least. It depends on the site, but you’re probably going to function as an independent contractor and get a 1099 every year, so they have to register you in the system like a real human. If you’re not in the US then I don’t know what your deal is, good luck.
I’ve never heard of any security issues resulting from this, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it.
Some signup forms operate like a sort of test – they ask you to describe yourself, submit sexy photos or something. Don’t worry about this either, I’ve never heard of anybody getting rejected.
Choosing a Name
You want an accessible, feminine, non-sexualized name. My name was my name (and how I got my name, accidentally) – Aella. This is a fine name. Names like “Rachel Singer”, “Aspen Rae,” or “Veronica Chaos” are all fine names. You want to seem obviously female, obviously young (no outdated names), and obviously human (no porn names like SexyAngel).
Make sure that you check for availability in namespace – I have to pick “AellaGirl” in most platforms, because Aella is taken. Something like “Jessica Jones” is going to be already taken everywhere you look. Also keep in mind the availability of domain names – having an actual website isn’t necessary, but it can help.
My favorite name choosing page is NameBerry, where you can generate and whittle them down into your preferred style.
Setting You Up
Experiment with the way you present yourself! In general, though, I’ve found that no matter how much high-end super-lace lingerie and red lipsticks I’ve put on, the thing that gets the best reaction is a good ol’ thin, tight t-shirt with no bra. Anything that emphasizes your sexy curves to the max is ideal – and typically, anything that looks effortless. The ‘girl next door’ look is probably the most popular, where you just ‘rolled out of bed’ looking like this, with some soft, super-short shorts and bared midriff or something. Definitely no lipstick. Don’t wear lipstick unless it’s super neutral. Keep your makeup subtle, although remember you’re performing through a camera which might allow you to pack on a bit more.
Not to say other looks can’t work, but if you’re just starting out and don’t really know what to do, start out with the tried and true accidental-tittied classic.
If you’re going to be a top girl, you aren’t going to get by selling yourself on being porny and hot. Emotional connection is a huuuge part of high pay, and by dressing in traditional slut clothes you’re signaling that you’re only here to make them feel less lonely in the penis, not in the heart.
Your First Days Are Going To Suck Ass
Nobody knows you and nobody cares about you. It’s going to be horrible and you’re going to be discouraged. Be prepared for this. Know that your first few weeks will probably be a slog. (Some girls have an immediately easy time, but don’t expect this will happen to you)
You’ll log on, turn on the camera, and find that nobody is in your room. Maybe you get a few anonymous eyes or some rogue guy saying open bobs bb, but there will be nothing to interact with. You sit there, staring, and suddenly wonder, what the hell do I do now?
You’ll dance around a little bit, put the camera at various flattering angles, play nice music, light candles, and there will be nobody there watching. It’s super anxiety inducing.
But there’s a few things you can do to make it easier.
1. BEFORE logging on, watch other camgirls on the site you’re going to use, and follow them on social media. Pay close attention to mid-range girls who seem similar to you. Tweet at them personalized and flattering things about their show, and be clear, in your username and photo, that you are another camgirl, not one of the men.
You can also sometimes enter their cam room (if they don’t ban model accounts) and chat with them, but keep in mind this is a very delicate process and it causes bad blood to take up too much attention or sound like you’re trying to steal their members. When in another girl’s room, you should encourage her, cheer her on, and direct the attention of the men to her, always.
But basically, you want to make friends with girls who are willing to promote you – a retweet here, a link to your room there. This will help you, especially early on.
Also consider physical meetings – I talk more about camgirl networking later.
2. Camsites often will give new models a temporary boost in visibility. Research the boosts specific to the site you choose, and make sure you take advantage of it. For example, MFC gives you a special tag for 7 days, so start camming during a week where you can spend a lot of time doing it. Don’t start on Monday and then come back on Friday.
3. Sit down and write out a list of things you can do that are visually appealing. Brainstorm, get crazy and creative. Don’t worry about “what people will pay for” when writing this list. This can include things like: Dancing, changing costumes, spinning poi, doing hula hoop, anything with fire, singing opera, crazy masks, fucking yourself with something weird, covering yourself with baby oil with glitter mixed in, clipping things to your nipples, taking a cold shower, taking a hot shower, spinning around until you’re dizzy, building a pillow fort, taking your clothes off, drawing on yourself, drawing on other things, etc.
Once you have this list, do them. Be prepared to do them for yourself, with nobody watching, and the camera on. You need to be constantly interesting. Set a goal for yourself – e.g., I will log on for 2 hours minimum today and run through things on my list.
When I started, my go-to timefiller was putting on absurdly epic music and dancing hyper-dramatically, or getting very drunk and naked and trying to make mac-and-cheese. People would stop in my room to watch because it was so different from what everyone else was doing. I was a little extreme and it was all fueled out of nervous energy, but it still worked.
Things get a lot easier once there are people in your room, even if they aren’t tipping. Just having any interaction means you can start carrying on conversations, and that in itself is an interesting thing to do. You can help encourage people’s presence in your room with…
The OffCam World
When I asked how many hours a week you were going to cam, there’s a reason I said ‘cam.’ Your work in general extends beyond this to the off-scene world. This area is extremely flexible, and it’s easy to find the habits most convenient for you. This can also have huge impacts on your overall income.
To Girlfriend, or Not To Girlfriend?
Girlfriending is the act of providing emotional support to members off-cam.
I was not a girlfriend. I ignored my members off-cam. My work day ended when I turned off the camera. This was great for my mental health, but I had difficulty catching any hyper-loyal whales.
Some of my camgirl friends Girlfriended hard. They’d text their high tippers throughout the day, send them photos or occasionally free porny videos of themselves, and sometimes even have phone calls. They knew about their high-tippers lives, and the high tippers would send them gifts. All of these things were done for free, to create an ongoing relationship very slightly divorced from the direct tip-n-flash model of actual camming.
If you have the mental bandwidth to do this, I recommend it. This is what can boost you from an average earner to a top earner with less total stress (I had to compensate for my lack of Girlfriending by spending more hours on cam).
Keep a list of the people who’ve tipped you the most in the last month (some sites automate this for you), and send them thank-you messages, cute exclusive photos you haven’t posted anywhere else, whatever. It keeps them remembering you and makes them feel special.
If you are brand new and don’t have any tippers, do this with the people who chat in your room.
Offsite Content and Social Media
Sign up for everything – twitter, instagram, snapchat, tumblr, reddit, etc. – all under your brand name. You probably won’t use all these platforms, but claim the name just in case you want to come back to it later on.
Post nudes or something to twitter. Hunt down some twitter accounts that share nudes (google ‘nudes twitter hot sexy girls’) and tweet your nudes (or lingerie or whatever) at them. You’ll be amazed at how many followers you’ll get with just a few well placed titty shots.
Buy twitter followers, probably around 300-500. This is mostly worth it at the very beginning, when you’re sub 1k followers. Make sure you do this after you post nudes. You can keep buying followers afterwards if you want, but it’s less important and it’s hard/expensive to get the likes and retweets that indicate that they’re real. Google will tell you follower-buying is dangerous and will get your account banned, but I’ve never heard of this happening to anybody I know.
Consider buying followers for other social media accounts, but this is less important. Twitter is the biggest social pornhub.
Post a link to your camroom on your social media when you’re logging on, and include an eye-catching photo of yourself.If this gets you even one new person willing to talk in your room in the first few weeks, this is what you want.
Keep in mind most platforms ban direct links to cam sites. You can get around this by linking a redirected URL through a service like TinyURL.
Also consider making password-protected secondary accounts to your social media of choice. This allows you to do things like post a censored photo to your public media, while promising the uncensored photo if they buy your password. You can post early-access content, diary-like tell-all emotional dumps, or unusually raunchy photos in your private accounts. Or you can post regular shit – people just like having access to private things.
It’s common for girls to film amateur porn of themselves and sell these – either directly through the camsite (Chaturbate has this automated, last I heard you had to send a link for tokens on MFC), or upload them to clipsites such as Clips4Sale or ManyVids, which take less of a cut out of your sales.
Link to your social media and your camsite wherever you sell videos, and you’ve already begun building a network of people who might get funneled into your cam room when you’re streaming (or vice versa).
Selling b/g (boy/girl) porn has some pros and cons. They tend to be more popular videos, and you can sell them for a lot more. I sold my b/g vids for $100+ each (though I really played up the rarity and importance of them, mostly because I was too lazy to make a lot of them)
Unfortunately, they also seem to make you less likely to catch a Whale. This ties deeply into Whale psychology, which I will talk about more later.
In general, I’d make a low-confidence recommendation to avoid selling b/g vids if your estimated income from the equation earlier was above $200.
This is something I did a lot, but is very rare for girls to do. This involves spreading awareness of you outside of the camsite – this can be on other porn sites, on social media, on reddit, twitter, tumblr, etc. This is easier to do because there’s less total saturation of camgirls outside the cam market, and so it generally takes a bit less work to get noticed (tag a popular nudes account in one of your nude posts on Tumblr and watch what happens), but it also has less direct translation into the cam world.
It can help raise your status in general, however – you don’t need people to come straight from seeing you on another site to tip you, all you need is for your tippers to know that you are popular in general, and this will make them perceive greater competition for you, and thus a sense of greater victory when they do tip you.
The Cam Session
Your first weeks are probably gonna be the fetus-stage, where different rules apply because your primary goal is building up viewers, not building up money. Asking for tip amounts should be more performative or novel rather than income-driven – e.g., ask for tips of 69, 42, or 1. Orient your offers to things that are particularly visually interesting – ask for very low amounts of tokens to do a sexy dance or wear a silly hat or put on crotchless panties. Promise that you’ll ask anybody who tips 3 tokens a deep question about themselves.
But once you have viewers and you’re exiting the fetus stage into “okay now I want to pay my rent,” there’s a common system a lot of tip-based camgirls take.
This revolves around countdowns, your bread and fucking butter. Countdowns are when you set an amount of tokens as a goal, and then do something you’ve promised to do once everybody has collectively tipped that amount. This is incredible for momentum – everyone sits and watches the goal slowly inch closer. You can talk about the thing you’re going to do, or tease at it, or insult them because you don’t want it to happen. Anticipation builds. Typically room count (the amount of people in your room) will climb as a countdown gets closer, and drop off after you’ve done the thing. You can countdown to anything you want. You can do anything. You are great.
Most tip-based camsites have their countdowns automated. You should be able to input a number and a description of the goal, which will update for you as people tip.
Set up a small countdown.
This is a “testing the waters” countdown. You want to get a feel for how many people are online, if any of your big tippers are online, and how your own emotions are doing. This is a countdown you should expect to clear within no more than the first 10% of your scheduled camtime. If you’re just starting out, this might be 20-200 tokens ($1-$10). You can promise things like “take off this hefty jacket and see what’s inside,” or “change the color of my lights,” or “play a song you all vote on” or “stop playing this song we all hate”, or anything cute and minor. Not everybody starts out with small countdowns, and you don’t have to either.
Do 1-3 build-up countdowns
These start escalating things, and typically girls remove their clothes at this stage. You can do 1 countdown to “get naked,” or a series of smaller countdowns to take off individual articles of clothing.
This doesn’t have to be clothing removal – it can be anything that builds to your ‘final show.’ If you’re a newb, try putting the total amount of tokens for this stage at around 500-1000 tokens ($25-$50).
Do a Final Countdown
This is the countdown to your Ultimate Goal – basically whatever the craziest or sexiest thing you’re planning on doing that night. Most people masturbate, but again, you can do whatever. Some girls are non-nude and they do things like “play an instrument” or “cover my face in whipped cream”.
The amount for this can vary hugely – some keep it small, as a perfunctory last minute anticipation build, and others keep it huge. The size can also be influenced by how fast you’ve hit your previous countdowns – if too fast, then set the price higher. I’d weakly recommend a range of 200-1000 tokens ($10-$50) for this, given you are still in Utter N00b terrain. Of course raise the price of this countdown over time if it’s getting cleared faster than your goal.
Do your Final Goal.
Some girls often pick goals that don’t earn much income during performance of the goal – for example, “Anal fuck the wall 10 min”. This is fine, just be sure to increase your countdowns accordingly so that you make most of your desired income for that day before you do the goal.
Some goals are an ongoing interactive state that incentivize tipping during the performance. For example, “Anal fuck the wall 10 min” could be one of these, if you also had options like tipping options to speed up or slow down.
I used to do a performance where I was having sex with an invisible man (a chair dressed up as a man), and if people tipped x amount before the show was over, I would reward them with a bonus invisible blowjob.
One popular option (and one that I relied on very heavily) is a control show.
Control shows give the tippers options to speed up, slow down, or quit a vibrator, which would result in people warring with each other to ‘deny’ or ‘reward’ you the orgasm.
Who Are These Men And What Do They Want
There’s different types, obviously, but the most common tipper is single/divorced/unhappily married man in his 40s-50s, who is too depressed/anxious/unattractive to be able to get any affection from women in real life.
I have a lot of empathy for these people, and in a lot of ways I felt like I was genuinely doing good, especially when I got to talk to them one-on-one. Remember, in this job, underneath all the sex and money, you’re still dealing with real people with real needs, and remember to treat them with kindness. Some of them are actually really wonderful and I’m thankful to have me them.
That being said, there are some aspects of psychology that increase their spending. Men want a few things, and probably one of the biggest is winning a competition.
You see, you’re not just trying to get a guy to pay you – you’re trying to get a guy to pay you in front of a bunch of other guys. This is a super key. A man wants to feel attention from an attractive women on him, and this is made even more satisfying when it’s to the exclusion of those around him. He is showing off his power by buying your happiness.
So, when tipped, make sure you say his name (or username). A lot of girls use subtly masculine-competition language when referring to high tippers, such as “hero,” “champion,” or “winner”. I often would ask questions like “who is going to save my night?” or “who is going to be the one to make me feel x”?
The ‘control show’ I mentioned above plays into this. Give men a way to fight against each other, with tokens. A common tactic is to have guys buy into “teams”, and whichever team tips the most, wins (with the prize being a video or literally anything – you’d be surprised at how many competition prizes are just the guy’s name being listed on the girl’s profile). Have guys fight to put on or off your clothes, or force you/rescue you from doing something gross.
The most profitable thing I ever did was have a ‘war’ with another camgirl, and it became my tipping members vs. hers. Competition is bread and butter. Competition is love. Competition is life. Competition is your key to a life full of luxury handbags and butlers.
Just don’t be too obvious about it. All of this stuff I’m saying can be done with too heavy a hand, and then guys feel gross and leave.
Antagonism towards you
I recommend, if you have the money to spare, go find a low-earning camgirl and tip her an amount you think will make her happy. Pay attention to how that feels.
A huge draw towards this is the power – to make someone happy, or sad, to make them do whatever you want. You want to let men feel this power as viscerally and directly as they can – and one of the easiest ways to do this is antagonism towards you.
I don’t mean this necessarily in a negative way – I mean to imply the narrative that you don’t want to do a thing for whatever reason. “That dildo is too big,” “Oh my god I can’t have another orgasm,” “I don’t want to spank myself,” etc. This can be done in an obvious tone of fun, I don’t mean to say that these guys are abusing you or want to abuse you – they almost always do not want to abuse you – just that some playful tension between you and them makes them feel with extreme clarity their connection with you.
You can pay attention to what people say. If someone stupid comes into your room and says ‘baby wud u suck on that dildo’, you can say, ‘I’ve never done that before, I don’t know about that, but I guess I would if…. nah, I don’t think anybody would want to tip that much,’ and then bam, guys have a hill to climb, a mind to change, something to accomplish.
I don’t think women easily empathize with the life of unattractive men. Women get constant messages that you are beautiful and you are desirable – they get social support and easily accessible casual sex, if they ever wanted it.
Men do not live in a world where people are supporting them even when nobody seems to want them. Men are lonelier and have fewer options of healing that loneliness. They also have a greater (initiatory!) sex drive, and are stuck with the social burden of being the one who has to act and pursue, because if they don’t, they will be alone forever.
And so for you to smile at them, laugh at their jokes, be warmly interested in what they have to say, to be willing to bare your body for them and feel pleasure with them – this is something that they crave.
Obviously money is involved. Obviously you wouldn’t do this without money and you shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything. It isn’t your responsibility to heal other people’s loneliness. But keep in mind that this is a fundamental yearning of the people you’re dealing with – they want you to approve of them, to deem them worthy of affection. To maximize money, you should give out approval proportionally to the amount they tip you. You don’t have to maximize money in this regard, though, if you don’t want to. I paid more attention to higher tippers in general, but I also paid more attention to people I genuinely liked. Camming would have been unbearable for me otherwise.
Some guys like easy approval, but there’s a whole class of guys who like hard approval. They don’t feel like your approval is real unless they’ve worked for it. And thus we enter the pretty substantial world of fin doms, princess bitches, and dominatrices. Some extremely high-earning girls are demanding, barely give any attention to those who tip, and are constantly displeased. These pull in the demographic of men who want a huge mountain to climb – this girl is angry at everybody, how incredible could it be for him to be the one to get a slight smile on her face! And so he pulls out his wallet.
Feel this one out. It will probably take a while, though one might immediately suit your personality. Keep in mind that being overly grateful for every tip might not be the best idea, and might alienate the demographic of men who want to work for it. I’d recommend looking at girls who are slightly above you in rank and watch the level of excitement they display in response to tips, and roughly try to match that – don’t go over.
Climbing The Ranks
So you’re now consistently earning $30/hr. That’s great – but how do you rise up? How do you actually get tips?
You probably know about whales. Whales are the rare, wonderful person who comes along and gives you a significant chunk of your income. Most girls I’ve talked to have about 50-70% of their income coming from 1-3 people. Pleasing a whale is really important once you have them, whether that involves being nice or mean to them I don’t know, but usually it involves giving them a lot of free stuff and offline attention.
I went over this a bit earlier, but I’ll reiterate: Keep a list of little things that you might charge for ‘for show,’ but you’re prepared to give away for free to anybody who tips you past a certain amount. Blurring the boundaries of “you give me $ now I do x” is especially important for retaining higher tippers.
How do you get whales? A lot of it is high variance – a tiny fraction of the camwatching population is made out of very rich men, and so you might get one passing through your cam room once a week without you ever knowing, and you have no idea when or if you’ll be doing something interesting at that point.
But one technique to help is to give them something to do. If you have listed tip options as “40 tokens spank! 20 tokens kiss the mirror!” and your whale has 40,000 tokens he wants to drop today, then the best he’s going to get from you is some crying and screaming.
Thus, always have the absurd “nobody would ever buy that that would be insane” option. This doesn’t have to be listed live in your room – you can have it written on a chalkboard behind you, or listed on your profile, or something – but the point is to have an option present that is absurdly expensive, because the whale will look for that if he wants to tip you.
This can be something like, “take an ice shower for 20,000 tokens ($1000) or “actually show my vagina (I used this one; I typically kept my spread vagina just out of sight of the camera)”. Pick the price by imagining the total amount of money earned in one day that would feel like a realistic but really encouraging day’s work, and then multiply that amount by 5 or so.
Also, develop a habit of implicitly/casually referring to your higher list items as unachievable. Be careful not to hold a tone of pity, here, don’t be all poor me, nobody will help me – address it with more sass, like “Yeah I just threw it up there to dominate you guys” or “I put it that high cause if I had to do it it would be so embarrassing”.
Always have listed options for things that are slightly higher than you think people would tip. If people almost always tip in the range of 20-300 tokens, then have something regular or everyday that you list for 400 tokens. If you want to climb the ranks, you need to push your expectations a little higher, because you will attract tippers according to what they can afford, and you want to start moving in the direction of wealthier tippers.
Games are also super, super important. Games are a great way to kill time, have fun, interact, and earn delicious greens, and by greens I do not mean salad. Just glance around at any top girl’s feed and you’ll see a game soon, I promise. It can be stuff like “tip the right random number between 1 and 50 and win a prize!” or “tip and I’ll spin this wheel and give you the prize”. At one point I even designed and printed an entire ‘camgirl game’, which failed because it was too complicated, but still I mean that’s how important games are.
Sophia Locke, an ol’ camgirl legend, designed a popular game where she would write prizes on Jenga blocks, build the tower, and for tips she would pull out blocks, perform the action written on the block, until the whole thing fell, at which point something would happen. This is a brilliant game for tension, because when will the thing fall? The moral of the story is, you can be innovative and find good cam games in unexpected places.
Being The Girl They Want To Tip
It might sometimes be tempting to go the route of pity – guys want to save girls, right? Begging or crying girls who desperately need to be saved – wouldn’t that work?
This is a pretty common tactic, but in general one I would avoid or use sparingly. It probably is useful when used on people who are already very familiar with you and want to help you as a person by this point, but then you’d be manipulating people who support you long-term and that’s kind of a dick thing to do. I mean, I know this whole thing is a giant manipulation game, but this is a bit too far.
Also, though, think of the kind of people you really viscerally enjoy being around. Are they sad? Probably not (sorry if you are sad). People like being around optimistic, playful, vivid personalities, so, generally speaking, the more upbeat you can be, the better. Think manic pixie dream girl direction – your role is the stock female character who is sparkly and takes the man out of his dreary, lonely life.
Also, look wealthy. This again might seem counter-intuitive to some – is it weird if you’re asking for a thousand dollars if you are surrounded by absurd wealth? Yes it’s weird, but only if you’re poor. If you’re rich, this makes total sense. And you want to attract the richest men.
I don’t mean you have to go all out and only cam from penthouses, but just, don’t look poor.
Think of it this way: Joe wants to date, and anybody would make him happy. Seriously, just a little bit of affection would be amazing. You are attractive. You’re incredibly attractive and you would make Joe shit his pants if you glanced at him. You glance at him, he shits his pants.
Bob wants to date, but few people would make him happy. Attractive girls try and fail. He has standards, or something. You might be able to make him happy, but you’re not sure. You glance at him, he doesn’t notice.
Both of them ask you out – which one are you more likely to accept?
In this way, a rich guy does not want to tip a girl for whom any tip would make her shit her pants. A rich guy wants to tip the girl he’s uncertain about.
And this is why looking expensive is usually good for business.
Make Them Forget This Is About Money
Divorce what you’re doing from money as much as you can. Never refer to tokens as money!! Refer to tokens as little as you can while still being clear. One of my camgirl friends would use the technique where she’d say, “This is like – I’m sitting at a bar, all alone over here. Is someone gonna be a gentleman and get me a drink?” And then someone would tip and she’d drink.
I would often ‘ask for tips’ by telling people I did not want to do a certain thing. My style was much more ‘antagonistic’ than others so take it with a grain of salt, but it is one possible avenue. I’d say “Okay fine I’ll tell a joke but whatever you do don’t make me spank myself” and then they’d tip and I’d spank myself. Telling people NOT to tip is a great strategy for making it feel like it’s not about money.
In general, focus on the ‘result of the tip’ and not the tip. If you are frustrated nobody is giving you money, talk about how much you want to do the thing everyone is working towards, or ask about what you think might happen, or say you’re thirsty (if you wanna get tipped to drink a beer), or talk about how you feel comfy and safe tonight, you have a good feeling, you don’t think anybody’s actually gonna tip for [insert intense masturbatory experience here].
You have no other men in your life. You forgot about your boyfriend as soon as you became a camgirl. Boyfriend? What boyfriend? You just like playing, you’re not serious, everybody on cam fulfills you sexually anyway, why would you go out and look for more? Nope, you say, closing the door so they can’t hear your boyfriend playing video games in the next room.
Men in sex videos you might make is a little trickier. B/g vids sell for more, but also can turn off certain whales. Whales often attach to you because they’re looking for something like a relationship – they expect that, with the amounts of money they can pour – and seeing other dicks in you can turn them off.
I personally did sell b/g vids. I earned good money from them, though who knows if I’d have caught more whales without them. I was never a big ‘communicate with any members off cam’ girl, so I was worse at keeping whales anyway. If you make them or not is up to you, and you can always take them down later (though the internet will make sure everything lives on).
Hooray marketing! Keep the name you use the same across all platforms. Don’t change your name unless you absolutely must. Change your avatars rarely. Think about catchphrases and signatures. Get a theme.
Lots of girls pick a theme – “space,” “anime,” “horror,” etc. You can theme your prizes along these lines, design your profile like this, and use associated terms for games you play.
Find a character groove and sink into it. Most girls pick their real life personality and emphasize it a little bit.
Dealing With The Emotional Burden
This job can be incredibly stressful. On MFC, your rank on the page heavily influences how many people see you, and thus how much money you earn. How much money you earn per hour also influences your rank on the page. This means that a low-earning session threatens to reduce your earnings per hour even more in the future.
This is stressful. Sometimes I would cheerfully announce I was going to take a quick break – I’d turn off my cam, bawl into my hands for two minutes, wipe my makeup, and then turn the camera back on, smiling warmly.
Other websites are less stressful, but the extreme fluctuations in earnings can drive you insane. It was common for me to earn $50 one day and $1000 the next. Sometimes I would go on high-income streaks, and sometimes it would be months of nothing. This can be really difficult to handle, and a common bitching topic when camgirls would hang out.
Going in, be prepared for this. Decide ahead of time how you’ll let these things affect you. Keep your expectations low and work hard. Know now that there will be days where you earn nothing and you feel like your career is over, that today is the day where my average hourly dropped a hundred dollars and never climbed. Be prepared to drop your earnings at any point. Enter ready to lose.
Men can suck.
They’re actually pretty fine. They were pretty great in my experience – I had almost no trouble with shitty people, though some of my friends had less luck. Still, though, most girls steel themselves to deal with insults about their body – this is less common than you might think. Most comments are overwhelmingly flattering. Remember – guys want your approval.
More common, I think, is subtle emotional manipulation or control that can come from higher tippers. If a guy is 80% of your income and he sends an angry text over nothing, it can be really terrifying, and easy to feel like you need to fix this right now. And sometimes you do – you just are going to be this person’s bitch as long as he’s paying your rent. Be prepared for this. It can be really hard. Also be prepared to cut off a whale as soon as it’s not worth it anymore. Be wary of relying too much on too few people; there’s pretty high rates of emotional abuse once people feel as though they have power over you.
Be prepared for the inevitable comparison of yourself to other girls. There’s a literal ranking here, where you will find where you fall in regards to attractiveness. You will see what feels like objectively hotter women who are earning more than you for less money. It’s easy to forget the women who are earning less – don’t forget them.
This can eat away at you slowly. Keep an eye on it. Keep your emotional distance from the money you earn and what this means about your sexual desirability. Remember that no matter how bad it is, you still are earning more money in this job than any man could – at least you’re a woman, and at least this is an option.
If you have a partner who is uncomfortable with you camming, this sucks. I’ve seen this a lot, and it has never once ended well. Not saying it can’t, but that you should expect it to suck and not stop sucking. Me from my lofty position of non-attachment-to-your-boyfriend can easily say you should break up with him. This is going to wear on you and make your stressful relationship to your work even more stressful. Make sure that the money is worth what you’re going through, and keep checking in regularly with that question. The minute it stops being worth it, then quit camming or quit your boyfriend. Don’t let something not worth it become normal.
Some Last Things
Stalkers are rarer than you think – it’s a minority of people who care enough to stalk you, and a minority of those who aren’t too lazy to actually go through all the work of stalking. Camming is pretty safe, physically.
But still, privacy is good – getting blackmailed or having your identity discovered and spread everywhere is still something to be worried about.
Don’t go into this business if you absolutely cannot survive the exposure of who you are. It’s a low risk, but facial recognition is on the rise. Don’t give in to extortion – if someone threatens to send videos of you to your family, be prepared to go to your family first. It will be okay, this stuff blows over. Own it, if you’re in a position where that’s possible.
Be careful about where you take photos or the backgrounds in your cam. I have a camgirl friend who bought a new house and uploaded a selfie of her inside it, no view out the windows. Someone figured out the general city she was in and went through every “recently sold” house listing until they found one with internal pictures that matched the layout in her selfie. I had another friend, for fun, see if he could find exactly on google maps a girl was camming from based on the view outside her window – and he did it.
I don’t mean you have to be paranoid, but always be thinking of the kinds of information you’re giving away by what you share. I would often give away little ‘false’ information, like casually mention “oh yeah this thing is 15 minutes away” when really it was five, or I’d take a selfie outside somewhere and imply that it was just outside my house when really it was a long daytrip.
Use VPNs if you do skype calls – or at least this is what you should do back when I was camming, I’m unsure if they’ve changed the settings. You don’t have to use VPNs for camsites, at least not the mainstream ones.
Most main social media sites erase metadata (information about when and where your photo was taken hidden inside the photo file) from your photo when you upload, but some don’t, so make sure you check to see if your uploader deletes it or not.
It seems usually safe to be public about your city, as long as you’re in a big one. It’s common for girls to be open about that and can make some things easier, like if a guy wants to send you a gift on your amazon wishlist.
Amazon wishlists, by the way, are good but if you allow shipping through third parties, they might be able to see your address. Some girls use P.O. boxes. I never used one because I moved too much; I figured if someone figured out my address it wouldn’t be a problem for very long.
Check out http://www.ambercutieforums.com, which is an amazing forum with a ton of resources. You have to get verified as an active camgirl in order to get access to the camgirl section.
Attending networking events is great! Camgirling has exploded over the last few years and now you can typically find big camgirl booths at porn conventions. The AVNs and Exxxotica are two of the biggest, camgirl-heaviest conventions, complete with camgirl afterparties and camgirls getting hotels together. Don’t be worried about this being too advanced – all types of girls from all different earning levels attend, and it can be a serious boost to your career. Lots of girls will cam live from these events, which draws a lot of attention.
You can work with other girls, too. The best way to do this I’ve found is to put your laptops together, with both streams running simultaneously. You can also both cam from one account and split the money, though this is generally more useful if you’re trying to primarily help the ranking or publicity of the girl whose account you’re using.
You can do stuff like tip wars (e.g., whichever girl earns the most in 1 hour gets to spank the other) and smoosh your faces together. Camgirls very often have sex with each other on cam. It might seem weird to do this ‘for work.’ It’s a little weird but not too bad. Get a lil drunk.
Camgirls tend to drink a lot. Drinking is another common thing to tip for, and it makes camming easier. My friend once told me that she used to get on cam, black out, and wake up every morning with a thousand dollars.
Generally camsites do not withhold taxes, so you will have to withhold them yourself and pay quarterly. Save between 15-35% of your income, and record everything you spend that is for camming. Yes, that dildo is a tax writeoff.
Do research on this yourself, I hate taxes.
Be hot, don’t expect to be too hot, chill out, don’t look like you’re trying too hard (but really try as hard as you can), look rich, be accessible, don’t beg or be sad, create tension and competition, be kind and address emotional needs, also use emotional needs for financial gain (but also be kind), work your stuff like a business, prepare for stress so much that you aren’t stressed, maybe be a bitch but probably only a little bit.
And like, have fun and stuff. This can be a super fun and rewarding job if you approach it with a spirit of playfulness.
CW: Childhood abuse
This is a post about my journey through and healing from trauma. I’m going to describe some things I’ve experienced that have induced trauma. Most of this is in Stage 1, so skip that section if you are sensitive to descriptions of childhood abuse.
Stage 1. Initial Pain
When I was a child, my parents spanked me a lot. The spankings I experienced were not the common idea of spanking – they were significantly worse, done with a strip of rough leather (the ‘wisdom whacker’) designed for this purpose and to not leave permanent marks, and usually sustained a 8-9/10 on the pain scale for 10-30 seconds.
Spankings began when I was a toddler (as an infant they slapped my arms) and were warranted for any number of things, such as not saying “Yes mom” or “Yes dad” when spoken to, for interrupting an adult, for screaming loud enough to worry the neighbors during a spanking, for delays of even a few seconds when responding to being called to receive a spanking. They happened often; I distinctly remember setting goals for myself to obey so well and so quickly that I wouldn’t get any spankings for one whole day.
My father worked from home, and I was homeschooled for all my educational years (minus a 3-month stint in public highschool, from which I was removed because I had access to computers without parental supervision), and so his power over me was absolute.
He had narcissistic personality disorder and was emotionally abusive. When I was a teenager, he secretly installed recording software on my computer. He would often force me to stand still in front of him for ~15-60 minutes as he berated me and made me admit that I was lazy, rebellious, disobedient. He would pinch the skin under my chin and pull my face close to his as he yelled at me. He told me often that he would break my will by taking everything I loved. At one point when he took everything I loved, I was so distraught I became depressed and stopped showering, combing my hair, or smiling, and he forbid me from being unhappy, that my ‘pouting’ was a display of rebellion towards him, that if I continued he would force me to clean the house morning to night, every day, until he broke me of it. Everything he did was driven by the goal of breaking my will so that I would obey him regardless of how much it hurt me. He succeeded – he eventually destroyed me so thoroughly that I voluntarily cut contact with my best friend and only source of emotional support (who did not break any rules in himself; he was Christian, and all our discussions were pg rated, it was just that our conversations were unsupervised) out of desire to be obedient to him.
He was abusive to the rest of my family, particularly my mother, who was submissive, gentle, kind, terrified of him, and believed divorce was a sin. He used to trap her in rooms when she tried to escape and pushed her, until one day he pushed her in front of us kids and she called the cops. He stopped the physical violence after that, but he was no less rageful or skilled at twisting her words and convincing her that she was wrong.
At the time, I thought most of this was normal. I felt huge amounts of pain, but I thought this amount of pain was normal.
Stage 2. The Symptoms
Once I left home (and refused to see or speak to him), I started noticing effects from my childhood. A partner roleplayed ‘angry’ during sex and I had a violent panic attack. I was uncomfortable being touched or hugged. I absolutely refused to let anybody else touch my computer, ever. I was emotionally shut down, unaware of my feelings. I was deeply, cripplingly insecure. Obedience towards rules and authority was a compulsion for me; I obeyed confident strangers quietly and without question and physically could not force my body to do things like hop a deserted turnstyle even when I was going to miss the train and my friends were upset with me because they wanted to catch the train and why couldn’t I just walk past the stupid imaginary line?
But I did not view myself as having been traumatized. I did not view myself as a victim, and I did not view my father as abusive. Abusive was a weird word. He’d done some things that made me very upset, sure – but that? He didn’t starve me or slap me in the face or anything. I generally felt okay inside, besides being angry. I was a fine, normal human being, I liked hanging out with friends and I was pretty happy overall.
I also didn’t recognize that what he’d done was abnormal. I vaguely thought most people’s fathers were kind of equally as shitty, and if they didn’t appear to be so – well, mine didn’t either, to the outside world. People loved him – my father sometimes would hand me the phone where a fan of his would tell me how lucky I was to have him as a father and how I should trust and obey him more – and so when I saw other people admiring the qualities of fatherness in other fathers, it didn’t disrupt my worldview.
This stage lasted about a year.
Stage 3. Trauma
It started with little things – casually mentioning an aspect of my childhood to a new friend and seeing them recoil in horror, or reading essays about people going through things milder than I had and calling it abuse. I started to pick it up from TV shows, from discussions around consent, from seeing people nonviolently communicate difficult things with each other.
I started to realize that what I had been through was considered “very bad” by society (although of course by no means the worst – many kids have had way worse childhoods; we knew a family who chained her daughter to the bed all day, my parents were lenient by comparison) – that I could tell people honestly about my life and they would be disgusted, because it was abnormal.
Before I had just been in pain, with symptoms like scars – but now I began to feel that I had been deeply violated, that a great injustice had been done, that I was a true victim of an abuser. I took on the narrative that I had been deprived of some fundamental human right by an evil man. I started having semiregular nightmares of my father coming to kill me, or me killing him.
This is what everybody else believed. It was easy to agree with them, because it put me in a position of authority and power – I was an authority on suffering, now, because I had gone through the thing stamped by society as “bad.” I had power because I adopted a frame where I could explicitly label what I had gone through and pull it out when needed in conversations, as a piece of my identity, and a shortcut for gaining sympathy and support from people around me.
The way I say that sounds a bit like I’m dismissing it, but I don’t mean to. I think those things were very useful and I’m glad I had them.
But – I was in pain all the time, much more than Stage 2. I called in sick to work on father’s day because all the celebrations and cards and advertisements were too triggering. I would often go to bed and fantasize about saying everything I’d ever wanted to say to him, with him unable to shut me up. “You should have loved me,” I would scream at my image of him – a false image, because it wasn’t shouting over me to drown me out – “You were my father, you should have loved me,” and I would cry myself to sleep. I was full of a constant rage towards him so intense it made me sick, insane. I could feel it in my chest, hot and tight, every waking moment of the day.
This stage lasted about five years.
Stage 4. Healing
It was probably around my 20th acid trip. I was alone and I took maybe 200ug or so, and listened to the soundtrack of the Fountain.
I relived my past, played in detail every single memory I had held on to so tightly, in as chronological order as I could. It was agonizing, and I sat there and sobbed.
It was different here, though – on acid, narrative was dissolved. I was not a victim, I was in pain. I just hurt, and hurt and hurt, and it passed through me and sliced me open over and over again and it was so exhausting and it wouldn’t let me go.
I was on a timeline, and eventually my memories rolled one into the other into my leaving home. Here my agony abruptly turned into sheer ecstasy. I remembered how good it felt to be free – to be able to run to the store at 2 am if I wanted, to talk to anybody I wanted, to have the friends I had, to contact all my old friends I’d lost, to watch any movie, listen to any song, make any facial expression, to be upset – visibly upset! I’ve never been able to talk or write about this without crying.
I remember looking around the room and feeling myself fill it – all the possible sets of actions I could take without fear, and I was so grateful I thought I might fall apart. What was there to be afraid of, anymore, now that I wasn’t locked in a box with a monster? This was the deepest joy I’d ever felt, and I thought – if I could give this experience to anybody else, I would do whatever it took. Any amount of suffering would be worth this.
And then I realized that that’s what my father had done to me – he’d given me the ability to experience life with such ongoing lightness, and what he’d done had been worth it. All I’d been through had been worth it. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change my life at all. This pain was mine, now, chosen by me, held by me deliberately, and nothing about it was wrong.
This experience permanently and completely cured my hatred of my father and eliminated my daily suffering and rage (It also, incidentally, destroyed most of my motivation, which I had to rebuild from other sources later on).
This experience did not cure my symptoms – some of my anxieties listed in stage 2 were eventually cured by MDMA use, some of them faded with time, and some I still experience today.
Some popular cultural rejections of victimhood aren’t really rejections, and they redefine victimhood – for example, “I refuse to be a victim – I will not let this stop me, I’ll keep going and make my own business/marry johnny/work out all the time/experience happiness”. This views victimhood as helplessness, which is kind of a socially embarrassing state and it’s pretty safe and easy to say “No, I’m not in that embarrassing state.” I don’t mean victimhood in this sense.
What I mean by victim is the idea of being transgressed against; that some ‘rightness’ in the universe has been violated, like a sin has been committed.
I wouldn’t have been able to find healing under the narrative that I was a victim. Part of the victim narrative is an injustice so fundamental that there’s nothing that can balance the scales. It is an absolute state, and more importantly it’s a state of suffering. Suffering is when you believe something ought not be, and victims ought not be, and the nature of being a victim is suffering.
In this sense, the people around me who reacted with horror to my stories of my childhood were actively increasing my trauma and suffering.
Some tribes have nasty coming of age rituals for children. I have a belief that some cultures had ritualized sexual assault of children, but I’m on a plane and can’t check to see how true that is. Young girls are genitally mutilated. Did all the children of these cultures grow up with deep traumas? In a sense, probably not – if all the adults act like it’s no big deal, then you as a kid don’t think it’s a big deal either, and will probably never think it’s a big deal, and you’ll grow up and mutilate your own daughter the same way you were mutilated, because tradition. These people would probably strongly deny being traumatized, much like I didn’t believe I was traumatized – at least in the narrative sense – in stage 2. They also probably don’t experience the suffering that I did in stage 3, and in that sense have better lives.
Of course there are still symptoms, though – maybe these cultures end up with lower rates of trust and higher rates of PTSD or something.
The cultural narrative of trauma seems to me to be a very slow process of identifying a symptom like compulsively wearing very large brimmed hats, realizing “Hey, this is caused by forcing our children into the desert to build character!” and then saying “Forcing children into the desert is bad, if you’ve been forced into the desert you probably will have these symptoms, which are bad, and you’ve been subject to a bad thing.”
This progression does good things! It helps the society collectively shorthand agree what is wrong and right, and makes standards known. It creates a default ‘support the desert children more than usual’ mode. It makes people who shove children into deserts less likely to do that.
It also gives people who’ve gone through pain space to reevaluate how they interpret their pain, instead of ignoring or suppressing it – society won’t judge them now, or call them weak for reacting to it. This can often give people space to/encourage people to feel pain they wouldn’t have otherwise, because ‘being hurt when you are forced into a desert’ is now the socially expected thing, and to feel otherwise would be abnormal.
To be clear, I think that society-induced feelings are often just as real/valid/whatever as … not-as-obviously-socially-induced feelings. I don’t think there’s a such thing as a “natural reaction” or a “true, organic feeling”.
I know I said that people who told me my childhood was bad increased my suffering, but I don’t think they were wrong to do so. It gave me new feelings of suffering that fit the new society mold, and those feelings were real and valid.
Where I got trapped was in letting the narrative rest in a ‘true’ place inside of me. I didn’t view the new set of laws as a useful thing to set general standards of behavior, I viewed them as touching on some truth, as setting upon my head a victimed crown, long may it reign.
I know I just went from shitting on narrative to supporting it, but I’m about to shit on it again.
I don’t like how the trauma narrative is presented with so little self awareness. I feel a bit weird now, when someone comes to me and tells me about something bad that happened to them, and then I’m supposed to say I’m sorry, or how terrible. I don’t want to do the trauma-narrative rain dance, to perform society’s horror-judgement upon them.
But – doing things! Achieving change! Keeping children out of the desert! if we accept pain, then do we just accept children in the desert?
I think we can do a lot of ‘saving children from deserts’ through action that doesn’t reinforce a trauma narrative. If someone is in pain, getting them mint tea or making public the facts about what hurt the person is not propagating the trauma narrative, it’s an attempt to reduce total harm and can be done gently, without judgement, like you might put safety foam on sharp edges of furniture.
And of course, introducing the trauma narrative would probably be useful in times where there’s sufficient meta-awareness – “What’s it like, to feel like a victim?” or “What X is doing to you is very abnormal in society. People will react with shock to this information.”
Besides the practical things, of course there’s emotional support. What do you say when someone comes to you, hurting, if you can’t call upon the great Badness Designators as platitudes? There’s probably a lot of options, but personally I just want to sit down and hurt with them. In a way, In a way I feel this is another purpose of enduring large amounts of pain – it allows for joining others in their pain, a place that is often the loneliest. I want to endure the greatest agony so that I can reach others in their farthest places. This was a part of the reason why I did so much LSD – it could make me hurt like nothing else could. Pain is sacred to me, because it allows for this facet of love.
The trauma narrative feels like a rejection of the pain, because it’s a belief that the pain is somehow not supposed to be there, like it’s a foreign invader. I feel uncomfortable treating it like an invader (although I still do it sometimes because of social pressure).
There can be a lot of healing in surrendering the narrative and all the power and authority it gives you. I don’t mean that you have to abandon it entirely, it’s useful, after all – but evicting it from a place of identity inside yourself is necessary. If your wound is held open by a sense of wrongness, it will never have space to heal.
PS: Unwelcome comments include anything that frames me as a victim. Please no “I’m so sorry, that’s terrible.”
“I took a tab” could mean anything – I’ve seen tabs with anywhere from 50ug-250ug.
I’ve also seen a guy go completely delusional, divorced from reality, and then not remember anything afterwards on 300ug – while another guy, on the same dose with the same tabs, was completely lucid.
And if you mix in other drug use like SSRIs, fatigue, set and setting variations, tolerance, experience with the drug, and the fact that doses on tabs from the same sheet often have high variance, when you tell me “I took a tab,” I get almost no information.
When talking about a trip, I want to know about some measurement that tells me “how much it was for you” – tabs and micrograms don’t always do it. Visuals and thought changes var per person – so my preferred method is ability to act in the environment. Thus I hereby present to you Aella’s Psychedelic Scale, which probably overlaps with a lot of other scales but has a specific focus on functionality.
Definitions! Simple tasks mean basic things that include a few familiar steps, like going to the bathroom, getting dressed, throwing things into the trash can, screwing in a light bulb. Complex tasks mean things that have several, sometimes novel steps, like cooking a meal, voting in your local election, assembling a desk, etc.
Level 0 No noticeable effects. Microdosing falls at this level. Possible dose range: 1-25ug
Noticeable effects, but no decreased ability to perform nearly all tasks on a typical behavioral range.
This stage usually happens before visual movement, and includes increased body sensations, energy, and mood. Possible dose range: 15-80ug
Level 2 Simple task performance: Unaffected
Complex task performance: Difficult, but capable solo
Complicated things start to get hard but are still achievable with focus; easy, familiar tasks are still easy and familiar, though they might be more fun.
Some visual movement usually begins at this stage, and audio may seem different. Possible dose range: 50-175ug
Level 3 Simple task performance: Difficult, but capable solo
Complex task performance: Incapable solo, but capable with assistance Simple tasks become difficult, and complicated tasks can only be done with assistance – where someone else is present to remind, help, and guide the tripper through the process.
Visual movement is usually pronounced at this stage; time dilation and significant confusion tends to occur. Possible dose range: 125-300ug
Level 4 Simple task performance: Incapable solo, but capable with assistance
Complex task performance: Incapable even with assistance
Simple tasks can only be done with assistance, and complicated tasks are impossible even with assistance.
Visual movement is usually overwhelming at this stage; significant time dilation, moments of infinity, and auditory hallucinations occur. Possible dose range: 200-500ug
Level 5 Simple task performance: Incapable even with assistance
Complex task performance: Incapable even with assistance
Neither simple nor complicated tasks can be done even with assistance; people may urinate themselves, scream, or be unaware of their surroundings.
Visual changes are usually all-encompassing, with inability to see the environment and complete detachment from reality. Amnesia can occur at this stage. Possible dose range: 300ug+
In my ideal world, instead of asking “how many tabs did you take?” people would ask, “What level was your trip?” and it would be so much more meaningful. Most of my LSD trips have been Level 3, with only one trip hitting Level 5.
It took me a long time to realize that people actually liked dancing to EDM, and weren’t just doing it because there wasn’t another option. It took me even longer to realize that what people were doing when they were dancing wasn’t the same thing I was doing when I was dancing – that the two types of dancing were so different in motivation that I feel weird calling them both ‘dancing.’
Type 1 music tends to be repetitive, with low variation and high attention to texture/layers, with emphasis on beat. It’s played for the purpose of inducing trance states, and for strong social cohesion – like a crowd all jumping together. Images of dancing to this type of music typicallydepictgroups.
This music is also submissive to the dancer. The music operates like a minimalistic framework, and the dancer invents moves to decorate that framework; the dancer dances over the music, or on top of it.
Type 2 music tends to have high variation, with higher emphasis on melody and emotion. This is the type of music often used for dance performances, for expressiveness/poetry reasons, and is much more individualistic – depictions of nonchoreographed dancing to this type of music usually are of only one or a fewpeople. This music dominates the dancer – it informs the dancer how to move, and ‘good dancing’ is measured by how well the dancer can manifest this music into physical reality. The dancer dances under the music.
It seems like cultures tend to lean towards either Type 1 or Type 2 dance music at different times. The swing and disco eras of dance were heavily Type 2, while Burning Man which I just got back from seems to think Type 1 music is the entire universe.
I’m very curious about Type 1 dancing. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do it – when I try to dance to Type 1 music, I find myself ‘seeking out’ instruction from the music and feeling frustrated when I don’t find any, and I have no urge to move my body (what I feel like is) independently from the music.
I’m also curious about why certain types dominate cultures at different times. What does it indicate about the culture? How did it come to be?
Examples (Mostly popular western music) (also my own opinion, yadda yadda):
A common way of thinking about the self is something like the following: “My consciousness comes from a brain, and that brain is a product of evolutionary pressures. I am a small creature inside an expansive reality. I cannot perceive reality directly – I make constructions that I hope correspond to it – but it is there. I want to believe true things, if and only if they correspond to the reality outside of myself.”
This isn’t wrong, because it’s very useful, and gives us things like object permanence and the ability to understand what doritos are – but useful is not always satisfying. This viewpoint feels deeply unsatisfying to me, incomplete, like someone has made a really wonderful and sturdy building, but has forgotten about the outdoors.
What I’m not saying is a lot. I’m not saying the reality framework is a bad building, or that I’m presenting a bigger and better building. I’m not presenting a framework, even though I need to use what sounds like a framework to present it. I’m not presenting anything useful or goal oriented. I’m writing this out of play, and I am ultimately saying nothing. Do not ascribe truth unto my words.
Maybe this sounds like nonsense, or maybe you sense something of a hint. The thing I’m attempting to undermine is something so basic and far-reaching that it’s often forgotten as a construction. My request to you is to read the following as though it’s a riddle, not a series of arguments to be refuted, despite its alluringly argument-like shape. The answer is not something you decode with your concept-body of construction and storytelling; you cannot uncover it as an answer to hold in your hands and rotate, as something with a boundary. If you find yourself attempting to solve this, to ‘get at’ something, simply be aware of this attempt.
A concept is..
You can hang a painting on the wall and treat it like a singular item, much like we treat the concept of consciousness as one thing. But if we’re rolling up our sleeves and going ham on the nearest philosopher, this will get us into trouble. The hard problem of consciousness is an obvious example of trouble, as well as all the weird wibbly wobblies around philosophical observation and self.
A concept or thought is, at the most fundamental level, a connection between two points. One thing is ‘like’ another. An idea is given boundaries by its difference from other ideas.
It exists in context. Weird Al’s song White And Nerdy is only meaningful to me because its elements are so different from others, and because it has connections to other thoughts, like my memory of when I wrote and rapped its parody Brown And Hindu in a college religion class and somehow still got an A.
In this sense, a concept cannot possibly exist in isolation, or encompass the whole. In conceiving “of everything,” you’ve defined it – you can write down “THE SET OF EVERYTHING,” and it might seem satisfying until someone comes along and writes a +1 after it and asks if it was really everything without that +1. To hold a concept in your mind at all is by nature giving it a boundary; in other words, a concept is a boundary placement.
A concept is not…
A big problem with consciousness is that something about it seems to be not-a-concept.
Mary’s Room is a great example. To summarize, a scientist named Mary is trapped in a colorless box and spends an infinity of time learning about color – light waves, measurements, brains, eyes, etc. She can recite every fact perfectly. There is no more information for her to learn.
The question is – when she steps outside and sees color for the first time, does she experience something new?
If we say no, we’re saying that all of our existence is made of concepts, because we’re considering the experience of color to be something you can get by learning facts about experience. If we say yes, we’re saying that something about our existence is not made out of concept, or is fundamentally inaccessible by concept, which some find a little weird or unnerving. I’ve set up shop in the Yes camp, and you’ll have to step in here if you want to do business.
The concept of consciousness is something very specific: it is a boundary placement around a type of pattern. The pattern is roughly “things that are similar to me.”
Often people say the pattern is “a sufficient brain with certain conditions“, but people have lots of unclear disagreements about this. Are brains simulated in a computer, conscious? What about brains simulated on paper? What about p-zombies? Are other types of ‘brains’ we can’t recognize capable of producing consciousness? What are jellyfish, even? Plants? Do plants hate your metal music?
I don’t mean that these aren’t good questions, just that “things that are similar to me” seems like the smoothest, densest rule. Imagining a violation of it feels weird – what’s a world where we understand consciousness such that we might deem a stop sign with more awareness than a dog? What sort of system would be necessary to make that work? Perhaps we’ve detected neurons in the stop sign that light up when we walk by, and we’ve discovered that good ol’ Spot is mechanical and running the same loop over and over and we’re actually a little bit slow and had just been projecting love onto him for the last eight years. But even this means that dynamic reactivity – a thing we feel deeply in ourselves – becomes the metric for consciousness, and we’re back to “things that are similar to me.”
This is a side hill I don’t want to die on – my point is that there is a “concept of consciousness,” which is a very distinct thing and has boundaries and things can either fall in line with it (e.g., your neighbor) or not (e.g., your mom).
Paint and Canvas
This concept of consciousness is very much like the paint making up an image on the canvas. It’s a representation of a recognizable thing. I’m going to call this concept of consciousness Paintiousness, for which I immediately offer the deepest of apologies.
We can recognize Paintiousness by a few things. We can ascribe Paintiousness to multiple subjects, sort of like we’re blessing them with a mystical light. We can drink alcohol in group houses and debate which subjects we think have Pantiousness and how much. Some of us don’t eat animals, because we believe they shine with Pantiousness (though maybe more dimly) – and thus are under sacred protection. On a core level, though, the existence of Pantiousness is uncertain. Maybe this is a simulation, or a dream? Maybe you all are p-zombies? When we imagine this, the lights around us go dark, and it feels scary.
Pantiousness is the boundary placement around the pattern “things that are similar to me“, and, in a way, believing someone else is conscious is when we find them as a mirror, flashing our own conscious light back at us.
Paint only really works if you put it on something, which brings us to the canvas – consciousness that is not ‘concept of consciousness,’ but rather the thing that you have, right now, reading this screen – the thing that gave an all-knowing Mary the novel experience of color. I’m going to call it Canvasciousness, with a slightly less but still substantial amount of sheepishness.
If paint is boundary placement – concepts – then canvas is the thing which is doing the boundary placement. You can’t think about the canvas – or, you can, but thinking about the canvas is really just painting an image of the canvas onto the canvas.
A few ways to know if your canvas is just an image is to test to see if it has some of the properties of Paintiousness. Is it multiple? Is it fundamentally uncertain? Can there be degrees of it? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not holding Canvasciousness, you’re holding Paintiousness.
In fact, you can’t even hold Canvasciousness, so stop trying. These words do not hold Canvasciousness. Canvasciousness is the thing that happens when you LOOK DOWN AT YOUR HANDS. It is necessarily singular, because multiplicity requires boundary between things, and we all know boundaries belong to team Pantiousness.
Canvasciousness is fundamentally certain. Even if this is a simulation and everyone else is p-zombies, there’s still something happening when you LOOK DOWN AT YOUR HANDS. Canvasciousness, without boundary, is infinite – an inconceivable, boundless thing, undeniably present, and absolutely undoubtable. This is what people sometimes mean when they say I Am God.
Conversations about consciousness frustrate me constantly, because people take Paintiousness and Canvasciousness and mix them up like they’re one thing. To me, this seems to be the source of all confusion around the nature of consciousness.
“But Aella,” you might say, “you’re really just talking about qualia here, which isn’t that new. We know a lot of things about qualia – what brain states make what qualia happen.”
“No,” I might say. “I mean, yes. Qualia is a word that means subjective sensation, but it’s littered with too many bad associations for my preference. People talk about your qualia vs. my qualia, and that’s not something that makes sense with the word Canvasciousness. There is no “Your Canvasciousness,” because it’s singular and only I have it.”
“What do you mean only you have it? I’m pretty conscious,” you might say. “I’m like, really sure about that. I’m LOOKING AT MY HANDS and everything, and they are definitely right there. Sure, you’re Canvascious, but you can’t tell me I’m not Canvascious too.”
“I am Canvascious, and Canvasciousness is necessarily singular,” I say.
“That’s weird and solipsist and weird,” you say. “Are you trying to convince me I don’t exist?”
“I don’t think so. Remember that we’re talking about Canvasciousness here, which, as a boundariless non-concept, isn’t something we can actually talk or think about, so it doesn’t adhere to the same sorts of rules around language, which is why buddhist koans are so damn annoying. But basically, multiple people can say “I am Canvascious,” with Canvasciousness being singular, without this leading to a contradiction.”
“This doesn’t make much sense.”
“I understand. Let’s try another thing – imagine you’re dreaming a very realistic dream. None of this actually ties into an external reality. Now – who am I?”
“You’re a character in my dream.”, you say.
“Yes – and the essence of me is basically the essence of you. Your sense of self can really be a flexible thing, and if you expand it to include all that you witness, if you shift the boundaries of your identity, then all claims of canvasciousness belong to you.”
“This seems a little mind warpy, or word-gamey. You’re saying it’s not a contradiction because you’re redefining the terms “I” and “self” and “me.” But I have a feeling of ownership and identity when I say ‘I am canvascious,’ and I have no feeling of ownership or identity when you say it. No matter what you say or how you play with the terms, I still feel a difference and that feeling is real.”
“You’re associating the claim “I am canvascious” with your sense of ownership and identity, which means you’re treating canvasciousness as something inherent to that which you own and identify with. This is a key point, here – this association is something that can be lost. Your sense of who you are – the traits that make you unique – are all, at their core, a series of models, concepts, boundary placements. If you pay attention to canvasciousness fully, and abandon those boundaries, then you will lose that association. Multiple claims of canvasciousness do not contradict each other when the boundaries of yourself are erased.”
The Useless Idea of Truth
We usually handle truth like this: We imagine some sort of large reality around us as it is purely; untouched and unfiltered by our fallible brains skewed by millennia of evolution. And we imagine ourselves in this reality, as the fallible brain skewed by millennia of evolution. And our fallible brain holds an image of the pure world around us. It matches up in some ways, and in other ways it doesn’t. Maybe it matches up in no ways at all. If the images match up, then we say the claim our brain is making is true. If they don’t match up, then we say the claim our brain is making is false.
In this case, both the pure world and our image of ourselves within the pure world are both taking place inside our image of the world. The idea of an external reality is a concept, something that lets us feel the sense of predictability and control.
We might try to explain this in terms of evolution and our brain (e.g., we evolved to simulate external reality) – but no matter what sort of explanation we have to address our perception of truth, that explanation itself lies within our imagination and our subjective assumption that truth is external (e.g., the idea of evolution requires the assumption that an external world featuring evolution does exist). It is circular – you cannot argue for external existence without first assuming external existence.
One counterargument is the sensation of surprise – “if everything is me, where does new information come from?”
This is a question we can break down quite a lot. Surprise is the sensation of encountering new information, which happens all the time on minute levels. All experience seems to be built out of novelty. When you stare at the wallpaper too long, it fades away.
And so the question becomes, if the ‘new’ information is not separate from myself, and everything is me, why am I not omniscient? My response to this would be that it is impossible to be omniscient – that this is an oxymoron. To have ‘complete’ experience would be to experience no change or contrast, because a movement from one state to another means that not both were experienced simultaneously; if you experienced both simultaneously, then there would be no contrast. Experience without contrast is not experience, and that which does not experience is not you.
So we might feel surprise and say “there is something else out there,” which is a model that gives us the feeling of predictability and is very pleasing – but this does not mean that the concept in your mind of an external reality is anything more than an concept in your mind. No matter how convincing the painting of the canvas is, the canvas itself is what is fundamental.
“Okay,” you say, “what does this have to do with the whole ‘you’re a dream character’ thing?”
“I’m saying that reality is, at its core, a framework, and that you are its author. To hold this authorship inside of yourself means that when I shout “I am canvascious!”, it is an experience grown out from the singular canvas – yours.”
“You’re talking about ‘my’ canvas. What about your canvas?”
“Yeaaah, I know. The poetry of the thing would be more elegant if I only used possessive pronouns when referring to the canvas, but that might get a little confusing at this point. I don’t actually believe you have a canvas, don’t worry.”
“That part’s weird to me too. I don’t really understand why Canvasciousness isn’t something multiple people can have – or, I guess, why there can’t be multiple canvases,” you say.
“You’re modeling Canvasciousness as an entity separate from the self. Really, the problem is that you’re modeling it at all. Modeling Canvasciousness is just painting an image of a canvas onto the canvas and finding it weird and arbitrary that you supposedly can’t paint two.
“Okay,” you might say, “but I’m not talking about painting multiple canvases. I’m talking about that canvas beneath it. Why can’t both of us have two separate, fundamental canvases?”
“Because the separation of canvases, if you pay attention, is just the concept of the separation of canvases, and as we know, once you’re doing concepts to it, it’s no longer LOOKING DOWN AT YOUR HANDS. Besides, it sounds like you’re modeling a world outside yourself where two separate canvases could occur. Remember that the universe is a just a painting on your canvas. It’s a useful painting, sure, but ultimately the fundamental property of the universe is you, not the story you have about it.”
“Are you just trying to convince me that I’m dreaming up the universe and nothing is real? Solipsism isn’t very interesting or useful.”
“To be fair, I did imply early on that usefulness was not the goal – satisfyingness was. Right now a lot of the discourse around consciousness is done with a narrow purpose and with a narrow model, which serves ‘usefulness’ well, but leaves us with confusing paradoxes and the Hard Problem of consciousness. My point is to demonstrate that Paintiousness and Canvasiousness are things we have the option of treating separately when we talk about this stuff.”
What Nothingness Gives Us
You can’t suffer without believing that what is, ought not be. Getting punched in the gut by sole, lonely authorship over reality is a way to rearrange, on an extraordinarily base level, the sense of pain, injustice, and insecurity. Solipsism in this way might not give you greater understanding of science, but it can smooth out the sandpaper walls of existence.
I recently liked a boy who didn’t like me in the way I wanted to be liked. He liked another girl, and it hurt. I was more raw than usual, sandpapered down by a few recent intimacy losses. The looming pattern of it made me despondent.
I thought I would spend the rest of my life alone, understood by nobody. I would remain on the outskirts, looking in, built out of a substance made for rejection. I was in a state of itchy agitation; like I kept wanting to reach out but having nothing to grab. Life kept proving me right.
Then I did acid, 250ug, somewhat for the purpose of solving this problem. It was in an AirBnb in the woods of upstate New York, and the house was woody smelling and there was a film crew. I spent the first hours crying, staring at the camera, trying to paint; but finally I rolled outside into the rain and found myself alone. I couldn’t see into the windows, and it was a distant-feeling cold.
I felt alone out there, and I let myself feel alone. It barreled through me, where all my fears became true. My isolation became a body; I stepped into it and wore it as mine, and it was tangible flesh, and its weight was my weight. I bent over in my body of isolation and sobbed. It was a screaming, ongoing pain that I couldn’t think around, couldn’t reason with. It hurt it hurt it hurt.
I saw that I had been trying to reduce the pain by placing expectations on other people and the world, that I wanted someone else to save me from this, to swoop in with the delicious story that the pain was wrong, as if it had been making an incorrect claim or breaking a law. And that’s what I thought, on some level – that there was a perversion of reality, that this pain should not be. And if the pain should not be, then intimacy with others is what should be, and the gap between myself and others became a burden that became both mine and theirs to resolve. Of course I’d never had these thoughts explicitly – but somewhere, deep down, that’s what had been happening.
But here, on the deck in the cliche rain, I couldn’t tell the pain that it was wrong, and I didn’t resist it. The body of isolation I wore was mine, and I wore it with agony and love. I surrendered to it, died to it, and forgot what I had been.
Usually my pain was held in a great reservoir above my head, and it was too much to feel at once, so I would open a very small drain, and the suffering arose in the narrow pressure of that release. But here I tore the reservoir open, and the pain was immense but pressureless, because there was no contrast between want and do not want. I found that I could bear it. I could bear it infinitely.
This pain should be. I welcomed it.
And against this I felt a deep gratitude for the speckled moments where I felt not-alone – in flashes of strangers on the street, the memories of lovers, the odd frustration of my family. The intensity of the isolation channeled an equally intense relief into these moments, and I imagined stars made starlike by the night.
It was as though I’d picked up a flat river-rock, and on one side was printed LOVE and the other PAIN, and that both were pressed into my fist, that they were a singular weight, that it was one thing.
I still wear the body of isolation, and with it is an ongoing pain. I can feel it settled into me, every day, like a cradle – but the body of isolation is also the body of love; a rotating mask, each bolted onto the backstage of the other. It is the isolation which allows me love, and love which allows me isolation. I am suffocated by gratitude.
I found out I wasn’t immortal shortly before I turned 19. I’d been religious, so I assumed death was a just a transfer to heaven. Losing my faith meant I had to face the fact that my identity would end, and it was terrifying for many years.
Then I heard Alan Watts frame it as such: When we imagine dying, we imagine something like being locked in a dark box forever and ever. But once we imagine the experience of being dead, then we’re not really imagining death at all.
Experience is the only thing to be afraid of, and being dead isn’t an experience. If we are afraid of a non-experience, then at some level we are imagining an experience.
I think about this when it comes to the Great Isolation. I don’t mean the Great Isolation in inability to find intimacy, in being ejected from the tribe, or in standing outside alone in the rain. I mean it in the sense of perpetual solitude inside your own mind; that no matter how much you love someone, it will always be your projection of their understanding; that this is a dream, that you alone are the one who generates the experiences you have of being understood. “Isn’t it lonely?” people ask, when I describe my solipsism. The fear of undertaking the Great Isolation is the fear of loneliness.
The body of isolation is the body of love, and this body needs an Other to exist – much as you cannot feel love without an Other, you cannot feel isolation without an Other. And so, if you feel lonely when you imagine the Great Isolation, then you are not truly imagining the Great Isolation, much as if you feel afraid when you imagine death, then you are not truly imagining death.
Loneliness is not terrifying. It’s not some great existential shadow or a condemnation to a psychedelic hell – it’s just the other side of love.
You are in a room built out of your framework of the world. The beliefs you can describe make up the walls, and the beliefs you can’t make up the floor. The ceiling is a mishmash of memory, patterned like dreams.
In the chair in front of you sits Crazybrain. It looks just like you. You’ve stared at its face way too much.
“You’re back,” you say. “I was hoping you wouldn’t come back.”
“We need to talk about your rejection of reality thing,” says Crazybrain. “You can’t delude yourself forever, you know that.”
“I’m not deluding myself,” you say. You remember the chalk words “you are beautiful and worthwhile” scrawled on the sidewalk outside the post office from earlier today, and the memory flashes briefly on the ceiling.
“I am beautiful and I am worthwhile.” You don’t have to look up to recite it.
“No,” Crazybrain sighs. “You have no true value to offer to the people around you. You are not as intelligent, interesting, or creative as you hope you are. Everyone around you knows this. They simply tolerate you, usually out of politeness but sometimes out of pity. You are an outsider in their world. You are a secret embarrassment.”
“But that’s not true,” you say. “They reassure me about this. They hug me and smile at me and invite me over to things. Joseph even gave me a really heartfelt compliment the other day. And Alex bootycalls me at least twice a week.”
“Come on now. Of course they would hug you and smile at you and invite you over to things. Social pressure is intense. You yourself sometimes smile at and hug people you don’t really like, and I know last month you extended Jill an invite to the acroyoga workshop even though she’s really annoying, so what makes you think they’re not doing that to you? How many compliments have you given that you didn’t really mean? And you should know better, trying to use Alex as an example. Alex is using you out of lazy arousal and possibly for validation. You aren’t special, you’re food – and you offer it up willingly because it’s a cheap way to feel liked and accepted. You can’t achieve that on your own merit, because you don’t have merit.”
It would be easier to fight Crazybrain if it were cruel, but it isn’t. It feels gentle, matter-of-fact, almost parental.
“This is insecurity,” you say. “People talk about insecurity like it’s silly, so I know this must be silly. This is a thought loop. This is stupid to believe.”
“I knew you would say that,” says Crazybrain. “Of course you would try to rationalize this away – that’s exactly what a self-deluded, dishonest person would do who wants to believe anything but the truth. People say insecurity is silly, but they say that only when insecurity is actually unfounded. You know, deep inside, that there are things you actually need to conceal. If people knew what you were really like, you would be alone. You can feel that deep clench of fear when you look at yourself, how can you be so stupid as to think anybody else would like something so terrible?”
“I don’t believe you,” you say, believing it. “And even you just saying this is ruining things. People don’t like insecure people, and you whispering this in my ear is turning me into the person that nobody wants, that I don’t want. People love confidence, ease, grace. I need to be that. I need to be that so they will like me, for real.”
Crazybrain laughs. “Even now, your drives are dependent on what they think. Even at your very core, your desires to escape insecurity come from insecurity. If you were actually a valuable person, you would never have even started thinking this way.”
“Then I need to be independent of what people around me think,” you say.
“Why do you want that?” asks Crazybrain.
“So that… so that they value me,” you say, weakly.
“So that they value you,” Crazybrain says, and shakes its head. “You can’t climb out of this hole. The more you try, the more you fall.”
You know Crazybrain is right. No matter how much reason you throw at it, you are trapped here with a voice that carries the weight of true knowledge, and your fight against it is just a symbol of your weakness.
The Call to Truth
Crazybrain is a tricky thing, because it’s constructed a bit like a disease that’s evolved to propagate when our own ‘immune system’ of reason tries to get rid of it. More rationality does not make people more likely to be secure. This is how on some level I believe I am unattractive, despite having spent 5 years making absurd money as a camgirl. Hell, even as I wrote that, I can hear Crazybrain in my head whispering excuses (makeup. lighting. you were fake. people felt sorry for you.).
Crazybrain can live only in that room built out of your framework of the world. There is something inside your network of assumptions, about the way you process beliefs, that allows it to be so horrifyingly convincing. Crazybrain feels separate from you and what you want, but it grew out of your own network of roots. Shooting at it won’t help – you have to find the roots and sever them.
The roots that keep growing Crazybrain’s is the call to truth. Crazybrain triggers your desire to know what’s really going on, via your assumption that there is this true external world that we can uncover. We imagine that we are half-blind, feeling our way through an accurate reality that we can only sort of touch. Crazybrain is so convincing because we feel that it is less blind than we are.
The problem is that “knowing what’s really going on” is, at its heart, a sensation. To feel as though you have any access at all to an ‘external world’ – that this is even a possibility at all – is fundamentally a feeling that happens inside your existence. A little shock in the right places in the brain can convince anybody of nearly anything, and that internal feeling of “knowing” – in the same way Crazybrain knows – would be equally as convincing from the inside.
We use the feeling of “knowing” to guide us because we have little else to – but it’s easy to forget that at no point do we actually hold any truth, nor can we ever. The idea of holding truth is fundamentally nonsensical. We have the sensation of belief, the sensation of prediction, the sensation of control. Getting caught up in the idea that we could ever know what’s going on in any sense is what gives Crazybrain such power.
Crazybrain appeals to your belief in “the truth” – so stop believing in truth – or at least suspend it, as a framework you can put on or off depending on its usefulness. Transitioning to a mindset where you believe what is most functional, even when it’s hard, is death to Crazybrain.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“That is not a useful belief to me,” you say. “Neither of us will ever really know what’s going on, because the concept of ‘what’s really going on’ fundamentally makes no sense.”
Character On A Shelf
It is before your birth, and you’re standing before a vast wall of books. Each book is a character. The book doesn’t detail the type of life – location, parents, job, school – but rather the internal experience of the character. Is the character optimistic? Is it sad? How does it react to things?
You choose the book of a peaceful, graceful character, at ease with themselves, without fear. How would that character respond if Crazybrain appeared in their mind?
You are going to die. Is this the character you wanted to live?
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“I’ve got one life, buddy,” you say. “Neither of us know what’s really going on, and living with you in my head is not the life I intend to live. This is not the character I chose to be. This is not the experience I desire, and so I absolutely reject this.”
Through The Fire
Give in. What are you afraid of? Let it consume you.
Crazybrain threatens you with being alone, with loss of your friends, your status, with tearing you away from love.
So let it. Don’t fight. Nobody actually likes being around you. There is nobody on earth who could know who you are, fully, and embrace you. You will lose everything you love. You will never find someone who will make you feel whole. You will suffer. So let yourself hurt. Don’t fight it. Don’t feel outrage, injustice, anger – just pure, grieving acceptance. This is the way the world is, this is the way you are. Relax into it. I really like doing this exercise on high doses of LSD, which I recommend if you feel ready for it.
If you feel as though you’ve hurt all there is to hurt, try to imagine something worse, and then hurt more.
Be cautious of resisting, because this might amplify the fear. If you find yourself struggling, ask yourself – what am I resisting? What am I afraid of? Actively seek for the parts that are avoiding that plunge into cold water, and push them in.
Crazybrain works through fear, and the thing we fear is pain – of seeing something about yourself that hurts, at other people rejecting you – so the only way to stop fearing is to hurt. Confidence comes from grief.
And hopefully, after the hurting runs itself dry, we might notice the small ways in which we do connect with people, and feel gratitude, and the ways in which we don’t connect, feel sorrow. Sorrow is inescapable, so don’t try to escape it. It’s okay. Sorrow of loss is the thing that gives us the ability to feel gratitude with connection. They are paired, bonded together, and like two sides of a stone, they are the same.
Holding that stone is infinitely more tolerable than fear.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“I am ready to be alone,” you say, in agony.
Look At Me
Your Crazybrain is not the only Crazybrain. Most other people are walking around with Crazybrain lounging in a chair inside their head.
You are not different from others. You are a creature in a world writhing with other creatures begging to be seen. Look at me – writing songs, earning money, giving birth, wearing fashion – they are all done to be seen.
You have the power to give people what they want, so badly. You know what it’s like to want to be seen by others, and so you know exactly how valuable that gratitude is. It’s gratitude you can generate. You can be the person to others that Crazybrain says doesn’t exist to you.
And so, when Crazybrain opens its eyes and starts whispering powerful sanities in that little room, turn it against itself. Yes – you are insecure, and longing – but so is everyone else.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“You whisper this in the ear of humanity.”, you say. “You drive everyone to their knees – and even if you aren’t wrong for me, I know you’re wrong for them, because I know I can love them. And so I will love them.”
You Have No Choice
Free will is an illusion. Scientists can predict choices you’ll make before you make them, and given perfect knowledge of the universe, we would know exactly who would say what, why, and when.
Sure, maybe this is a useless concept in general, but against Crazybrain it is a weapon. Crazybrain functions on judgment – on the feeling that you are not what you should be.
“You should be better, kinder, smarter, hotter. You are not, and you are a failure.”
The reason this feels convincing is because our minds assume we could have been something else. This is an illusion. Your mind was going to fire the way it always did, your feelings cascade in the most predictable pattern.
Every part of you is exactly as it should be, because there is nothing else it can be. Every sensation is reasonable, rational. The things about yourself you don’t understand can be understood – there is a perfectly sensible explanation for literally everything you have ever done, even if you don’t know it. How can you judge a simulation for acting out code you can read?
So why have shame? You are a bubbling forth of perfection.
“Nobody likes you,” says Crazybrain.
“Anyone could have been the one to live my life,” you say. “It just happened to be me.”
I don’t know a lot about spiritual traditions. I haven’t read any Buddhist books (minus the Tao te Ching), I don’t meditate regularly, and most of my knowledge about chakras comes from Naruto.
But I do have ‘episodes,’ which I’ve mentioned briefly elsewhere on this blog. I don’t know what these episodes are, if other people have them or how common they are. Some people on Facebook suggested it might be Kundalini, which I’m uncertain about because the wikipedia article involves a lot of jargon I’m unfamiliar with. It’s possibly Kenshō, though descriptions of Kensho seem to lack the intensity I feel.
A few people have asked me to make an effort to describe the experience in depth, as well as any suggestions on how to enter the experience, so here we are.
An episode usually lasts 3–20 minutes, with visible symptoms such as crying, gasping, writhing, laughing, and mutism. The mutism onsets several minutes before and lasts several minutes after, and is usually an early warning sign for me that an episode is approaching.
Physical symptoms vary a lot, but most often involve an extremely pleasurable tingling at the back of my head at the top of my neck, spread between my ears. Less often it occurs in my lower back on the sides of my hips, and in my chest, stomach, and throat.
Internally, I experience ego death, at least a little and sometimes a lot. I view ego death as a spectrum, not a binary, and these episodes definitely push me onto the spectrum. It’s a little bit dissociative (but not really in a ketamine way), with overwhelming feelings of gratitude, increased awareness of sensation, and overwhelming bliss or pain.
Some feelings are harder to describe. There is the sense of a great eye, slowly opening and turning towards me, and it feels like my existence is gouged out by its gaze, like a chasm has opened up inside of me and I look down and there is no bottom, and my skin is prickling up and down I want to scream but I’m too far away to scream and so I just rely on the automatic physical process of gasping.
There is the sense of like… cracks in dry ground, or clouds parting against a bright sky, or water evaporating off a surface, where I am the ground, the clouds, or the water, and I become aware that what was previously an uninterrupted image now has very distinct edges, and that the edges are moving closer and closer towards myself.
I’ve had at least one very intense experience in my life where it felt like the edges consumed me whole and I was gone — the clouds completely vanished — which was accompanied by blindness and total loss of memory and contact with my body. These episodes are not that intense, but they are absolutely on the road in that direction.
My thoughts themselves feel slower, less noisy, and like the spaces in between them are very great. When they do occur, they feel ‘suspended’ — as though my consciousness is thoughts painted on a canvas, and most of my awareness transfers from the painting to the canvas, and the painting becomes less notable, even though it’s still there.
The aftereffects are pretty great. Mutism lasts for 5–20 minutes afterwards, and fades slowly. I usually end up really tired. I feel grounded, centered, more peaceful, and, if I’m struggling with something like insecurity, anxiety, or fear, the episode wholly relieves that for days to weeks afterwards.
For how fancy and spiritual it all is, I have a surprising amount of control over where and when it happens.
Do you know that sensation in a lucid dream where you become aware that you’re dreaming? You then might get pretty excited about it, or think a lot about what’s happening, or about the things you want to do in the dream — but the more mental activity you put in, the more likely you are to wake up. So you might find yourself trying to push this awareness to the periphery, to not ‘look’ upon that thought so directly. You’ve gotta sidle up on the dream, casually.
This is an important aspect of how I induce episodes (or how ‘episodes are induced,’ as I rarely feel responsible for it). If I sit down and think very hard “I would like to have an episode now,” it will escape me. I have to perform a mental movement that pulls my awareness into the canvas behind the thoughts, while leaving behind the thoughts themselves. It’s a very ‘periphery’ type of exercise, and really meditative.
But it’s especially triggered when trying to explain my episodes or the type of ‘philosophy’ that makes it more likely to have an episode. The fastest and most reliable trigger is if someone looks at me in a way and context that makes me think that they understand exactly what I’m saying. That look will drop me like a rock, which ends up being pretty confusing for them if they don’t actually understand what I was saying.
A good chunk of what I write about on this blog feels like a gentle cycling around the edges of a vast funnel, like I want to try to point out how reality is sloped ever so slightly, and what might happen if we slow down and let ourselves slide? There’s a thousand angles, and sometimes the slope is right and other times it’s left, but there is only one place to fall.
I used to think doing psychedelics was the same thing as ‘having an episode.’ I thought the higher the dose, the more of an episode people had. It took me a long, confusing time before I figured out that people weren’t always having episodes on psychedelics, and in fact you can have episodes while not on psychedelics. Psychedelics lubes the entry quite a bit, but you’re not going to fall in if you’re still holding on.
So I’d like to attempt to describe some mental movements that I think might help induce an episode — or at least ones that induce episodes in myself.
In a similar vein to Mythic Mode, this requires taking on ‘beliefs’ that might seem incorrect, which might feel like asking a foot not to expel a shard of glass. It might help to practice this as taking on a mask, where you step out of your own skin and into a new one, and the more you unite with the new skin, the more powerful the effects of the new beliefs will be.
I feel as though I hold both beliefs (my old set and my ‘episode inducing’ set) simultaneously, and pick one according to usefulness or some unknown whim. They don’t feel as though they contradict, because I’ve abandoned the premise that “there is no Truth but One”.
To watch yourself split into a chasm, you must believe:
Time is an illusion.
The universe could have popped into existence a half second ago, preloaded with your brain that feels like it has memories. Your memories, expectations, stresses: all of them exist right now. If you simulated a universe, picked out one single sliver ‘snapshot’ of time, and deleted all the rest, that single silver would feel indistinguishable from your existence right now. This might not be very ‘functional’ to believe, but this isn’t about functionality — it’s about inducing an altered state by changing your narrative about your experience.
Nobody else is conscious.
When you look at your friend or lover and believe that they are aware, what does that belief feel like, as a sensation? You might imagine ‘being them’ and looking out of a different body and feeling a sense of “I”. You might experience different emotions, the different thought patterns that they must have because they react differently from you.
But at the core of it, their awareness rests entirely inside of your own experience. It’s like a dream where you talk intently with another character, where you believe that they must be real, and then upon awakening realize that it was an illusion. In the same way, the people around you are indistinguishable from a dream.
Again, this might not be a very useful belief, but you must believe it in order to let the great eye find you.
You are the creator of reality.
Typically we imagine a great universe with a bunch of rules and history and a future, and we are a small part inside of this whole. We imagine that we have a limited perspective, that we can’t totally sense the world around us, that sometimes we believe false things.
This is a story we use to help us make sense of the feeling of novelty (the feeling of learning something, or of being surprised). But if this is just a story, what is it I’m experiencing right now? What is that couch over there, the music playing, the memories I hold?
Information does not lie in the content, and the meaning of a book does not lie in its pages. To summarize a possibly poorly remembered analogy from Gödel, Escher, Bach, imagine we have a beautiful record player, which plays records. We typically think of the information of the song as resting inside of the record. We play one record and one song comes out, and a different record makes another song come out.
But a genie comes before you and produces a new record player, its insides outfitted with new technology. “This is a more fashionable record player,” it says. You put on one of your familiar records, and find it the player pulls out an entirely different song – and you realize the information doesn’t lie in the record, but in the reading of the record.
Information as a concept is rendered null unless there there is the act of ‘witnessing’, or rendering meaning. It makes as much sense to claim there is a song contained inside of a musical record alone as it does to claim there is information inside of the universe alone. To imagine a universe without a reader might feel useful for things like prediction, but at its core it is an illusion.
So in this sense, you are giving rise to what you witness. To think of anything as meaningful without you is a mental trick. You can’t escape yourself. Thou Art God.
These ideas are ones that must be felt more than thought. Look down at your hands. Why are those hands yours? Who is it that is looking at your hands? Pay close attention to the meaning bubbling up as you take in your environment. Feel yourself forming the shape of that tree, or that cup, or your hands. Who is it that is looking at your hands? Feel the sense of identity, this character that you are looking through. Notice the stories that occur in your mind: your memories, the way you are different from others, your preferences and insecurities. Watch them occur as sensations, like a book you’re reading about someone you’ve never met. The thing that is observing is not your character. The thing that watches is not your identity. Who is it that is looking at your hands?
You may be familiar with the Mary’s Room thought experiment, but if you’re not, it goes like this.
Mary is a scientist who has lived her whole life in a black and white room and has never seen color. She is very intelligent and knows everything there is to know (i.e. everything that can be measured like information) or will ever be known about color. At no point can anybody present her with a piece of information that will surprise her.
But one day, Mary goes outside and sees color for the first time. The question is: Does she learn something new?
You can do a lot of things with this experiment, but in this case the point I want to make is that stories about the world (the wavelength of color) can never bridge the gap into being the world itself (experiencing color). Your stories about yourself, everything you know about yourself, will never bridge the gap into what it is to look down at the hands in front of you.
Abandoning everything you know is a form of death. This requires a deep surrender.
Sometimes I fear I won’t come back, but that fear comes from an attachment to my usual story. The more willing I am to never come back, the more easily the great eye finds me.
But I have come back, each time, probably for the same reasons that it’s difficult to maintain a lucid dream. It takes energy to slip into the periphery, and reality probably always comes back. It seems really unlikely that my brain can sustain a state like that for too long.
Plus, time is an illusion anyway.
I recently was the subject of a film that captured several of my episodes. It’s not released yet, but you can listen to a podcast with me and the filmmakers here.
And as usual: Nothing I say is true, do not ascribe truth unto my words.