Miami Is New Epicenter of "Camming," Interactive Online Porn

Leia Cinn has appeared on Playboy Live and in the print magazine.
Leia Cinn has appeared on Playboy Live and in the print magazine.
Photo by KarliEvans.com

Inside a windowless warehouse across from the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, workers rip up carpet and pressure-clean AstroTurf. Construction of several film sets is underway. One is meant to look like a college library; another, a receptionist's office. A third is modeled after a stereotypical 20-something girly-girl's bedroom, complete with teal walls, a purple comforter, and a yoga mat in the corner.

Soon, here in the middle of one of Miami's poorest neighborhoods, Playboy LIVE models will speak to men under the illusion that the young women are at home or work. Over the internet, these men will pay anywhere from $3.99 to $10.99 a minute.

See also: The Women of Camming Con 2014

The ambitious effort, led by a 42-year-old father of three, Clinton Cox, will make Miami the epicenter of a burgeoning adult industry. Though locals complain his business is a blight on the neighborhood, Cox points out that he's creating jobs. He has five full-time employees, and the renovation project will pump tens of thousands into Little Haiti. All this good, he says, while also helping lonely men in square-shaped states live out their fantasies.

"Say you're a doctor in Kansas," Cox explains. "How else would you ever get the opportunity to meet a [Playboy Live model]?"

Over the past decade, revenue for online porn has plummeted because of the easy availability of free content on so-called "tube sites" — video-sharing websites that are similar to YouTube but feature porn clips. Experts estimate online subscriptions and sales have decreased from $10 billion to $12 billion in the mid-2000s to about $3 billion to $5 billion today.

But there's one sector of the adult entertainment industry that's growing: camming. Customers log into a chatroom to see their preferred model for free and then pay exorbitant rates for a live, two-way, one-on-one session that is sometimes vanilla but can involve hardcore sex.

Last year, several news outlets raised concerns about the safety of camming. For instance, a CNN journalist wrote about teens in the Philippines being forced to have sex with one another on camera. The New York Times raised concerns about cam girls being stalked. And New Times published a feature about a ­13-year-old girl in Miami who posted photos of herself on messageboards before the industry was regulated. She was groomed by pedophiles on Instant Messenger and stalked by fans through her 20s.

But Cox is an evangelist for the medium. He says he's helping to standardize and legitimize it. All around the warehouse are photos of models holding their driver's licenses and a copy of that day's newspaper. Cox even owns a machine that makes sure the IDs aren't fake.

Cox's business model is paradoxical. Although he has tried to get camgirls union memberships and health insurance, the entrepreneur also represents the old guard's attempt to colonize a female-driven industry and blur it with the exploitative business of days past.

So are the women whom Cox employs being taken advantage of? "The models make their decisions," says Cox, who has mesmerizing hazel eyes and the mannerisms of a manic Tom Cruise. "What I do is facilitate giving them a safe place to work."

Either way, he's become the Hugh Hefner of Miami, having licensed the Playboy Live name four years ago and helped the iconic magazine break into the new age of porn. Cox watches cam sessions and analyzes them. Although other camming sites include hardcore sex acts, Cox says Playboy Live has a strict rule of "no pink," meaning there is no "insertion" and no anatomical closeups.

"I've watched people order pepperoni pizzas together or watch each other sleep," Cox says of some of the site's more dedicated users. "People will literally click 'play' on a YouTube video at the same time and watch a whole movie together."

It's an expensive movie date. Though girls set their own prices for private chat, the least expensive Playboy Live model costs $3.99 per minute. Taking in an hour-and-a-half feature film together would cost $359.

So far, Cox's company is definitely not a heavy hitter in the cam world. The most popular site for web models, MyFreeCams.com, receives about ten times the traffic — and rakes in much more cash. Last year, the New York Times reported that camming is a billion-dollar industry.

But before it was big business, camming was a personal form of expression, kind of like blogging. In 1996, 20-year-old Jennifer Ringley began broadcasting from her Pennsylvania dorm room. She wasn't putting on sex shows, but because she would film her room at all times, viewers would sometimes see her in intimate moments.

The practice was commercialized — and sexualized — in 2004. That's when MyFreeCams popped up. Users could log in, message with models in an open room, and then take them to an expensive one-on-one "chat" that was often overtly sexual. It essentially dynamited the porn world, and today it's the 344th most visited site on the internet.

Now, the traditional adult entertainment brands like Playboy are hurrying to catch up. Penthouse, for instance, purchased Various Inc. for $500 million in 2007. The print magazine paled in comparison to the company's other properties, such as AdultFriendFinder, a cam site and social network that has more than 50 million users.

(Today Penthouse Media Group has been rebranded as FriendFinder Networks, which has corporate headquarters in Boca Raton.) Hustler has yet to venture into interactive porn, but some experts say it must innovate or die.

"My feeling is all adult brands are getting in on cams as a matter of survival," says Stephen Yagielowicz of XBIZ, an adult entertainment market research company. "With declining magazine sales, these companies are most relevant as brand icons. This is your grandpa's porn — and that is a huge hurdle for any company targeting younger audiences to overcome."

Playboy was a publicly traded company until 2011. Then it split in two: The magazine and traditional properties remained based in L.A., but the camming arm moved to Miami, Cox says. And although camming is diffuse by nature — because any entrepreneurial girl with a webcam can broadcast from her home in Any Town, USA — Cox hopes to make Miami the unofficial headquarters for these models.

Cox grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, moved to the Tampa area as a kid, and attended Florida A&M University to study journalism and public relations. After graduating, he worked for Zoom Culture, a proto-YouTube startup backed by almost $7 million in venture capital. Cox traveled the Southeast pitching film-department chairs for content made by college kids.

He followed his ex-wife to South Florida in 1999, he says, so he could be close to his children. Cox got his break filming a sexually explicit music video called "Baby Mama Drama" for the artist J-Shin. In the credits, he's listed as "Cheetah Rock."

Two weeks after the film was released, Cox was offered a position in business development for Reality Kings, he says. That was in 2005. But the budding porn mogul also kept a foot in mainstream media. In 2006, he produced a live stream — the first of its kind — of the Ultra Music Festival. He has continued to do this kind of video ever since. "I produce good music and hot porno," Cox says from his cheetah-themed office. "And I know the industries inside and out." That same year, he helped launch naked.com.

Cox is as bullheaded in real life as he is in business. In 2007, he was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer after a cop parked in his space on Washington Avenue. According to a police report, the producer demanded the officer move his car and threatened to have it towed. He then shoved the officer who tried to put him in cuffs. The case wasn't prosecuted because Cox underwent a pretrial diversion program.

Also in that year, he founded Converge Media Works, which today manages several cam sites, including Playboy Live, and rents a $2.5 million Surfside mansion. He says that so far, he's amassed $65 million in revenue for his partners by recruiting 3,200 models.

For the models who end up on Playboy Live, it's a way to break into the high-profile company. Leia Cinn, for instance, is a brunet beauty based in Hollywood, California, who says she received a Facebook message from a recruiter who said she had the Playboy look.

Cinn explains that she underwent a weeklong training session that taught her how to interact with fans and set the proper lighting for shows. "I learned to ask open-ended questions to get people talking about themselves," she says. Unlike the majority of the 180 Playboy Live models, she has appeared in two pictorials for the print magazine.

Then there's Stacey Havoc, who is Cox's live-in girlfriend. Aside from camming on Playboy Live, she has a job as host of Money Talks, a Jackass-style program that airs on Playboy TV. The 27-year-old also recently appeared in EM3, a straight-to-Redbox drama that's set in Miami. "Camming for Playboy Live allowed me to eventually host a TV show and break into acting," she says.

Some neighbors of the Little Haiti studio are less enthusiastic. Jan Mapou, owner of Libreri Mapou Book Store for the past 24 years, inspected the nondescript Playboy Live building in Little Haiti recently and became angry. The neighborhood doesn't need more seedy businesses, he says. Others have become incensed after seeing scantily clad young women walking in and out of the Playboy Live building. "That is not my vision for this area," Mapou says. "The next thing you know, they'll be trying to set up in the Little Haiti Cultural Center."


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