The other day, while out for drinks at Rebar with my friend Ridley, I noticed that his phone kept vibrating every other minute, lighting up our dark table.
Ridley, 22, is my most gender-fluid friend, his long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and his lips coated with the most beautiful pink lip gloss. He’s also my most respectful friend, not even glancing at his phone each time it brightened his perfectly highlighted cheekbones.
“OK, what on earth is going on?” I finally asked, taking a sip of my margarita. “You’re blowing up more than that egg photo on Instagram.”
“Sorry,” he shrugged, lightly caressing his collar bone. “It’s just this guy.”
“A guy?” I lit up myself, raising my eyebrows. “Do tell.”
“It’s not like that,” he went on disinterestedly, looking around the room. “He’s been sending me money.”
“Yeah.” Ridley picked up his phone, holding it close for face recognition to recognize him in the bar.
There were dozens of money transfers, from $100 all the way up to $2,000. “What on earth are these for?”
“Eh, this and that. The $100 is from a guy in India who wanted to watch me do my makeup.”
“He paid you $100? Just to watch you put on makeup?”
“Yeah, webcam. Then he asked how much it would cost if he touched himself while I did it, and I said $200. Then he asked how much to lower his camera to his groin, and I said $300. So he paid me $600 while I put on makeup to go out to The Box.”
“That’s insane.” When I was 22, I made $10 an hour at the now-closed Old Navy in SoHo.
“It’s not like I’m having sex with anyone. I don’t even do anything on webcam, you know? They just like looking at me, I guess.” He finished off his drink like it was water.
I consider myself attractive enough, but I’ve never been offered money just for that. I wouldn’t even know what to do with that kind of attention: If I had an OnlyFans, it would just be pictures of my cat, Thomas. I’m not sure even my mom would subscribe to that.
I did wonder about porn when I was younger—since I watched so much of it. But I’ve always been incapable of watching two boys bone each other bareback in a “public bathroom” without thinking about the actors: Who are they? Do they enjoy what they do? Would I be able to have sex, on camera, for money? Would I enjoy it if I did?
Would I enjoy a man in another country sending me money to apply highlighter? Do I even know how to apply highlighter? (The answer to that is a hard no.)
“It’s really not a big deal,” he shrugged again. “Want another round?”
“One more,” I said, “on you—now that I’ve seen your bank statement.”