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For Virtual Camgirl LewdNeko, the Future of Sex Work Is Now

With her identity hidden behind a cute anime girl whose movements correspond to her real life gestures via VR tracking devices, LewdNeko can be anyone — and do anything — she wants

In the infamous carol “The 12 Days of Christmas,” the singer brags about all the bossy gifts their “true love” gave them for the holidays. But since since six geese-a-laying and a bunch of turtle doves seem unsanitary — not to mention a violation of city ordinances — we decided to gift you with 12 of something better: A handful of sex workers you should absolutely know about. Whether they’re becoming literary superstars, breaking the “stunt cock” mold or literally embodying gay Jesus himself, they’re the real gifts we need this Christmas. And no, not one of them is a turtle dove.

By day, 21-year-old “Nemu Konishi,” an online alias for a real-life person, is like any other college student. If she’s not in class, she’s at work. And if she’s not in class or at work, she’s cooking, practicing witchcraft or watching hours of anime.

By night, Konishi fires up her computer and morphs into a so-called “LewdTuber,” or a virtual camgirl. Her computer-generated avatar goes by “LewdNeko” or “Neko-chan,” and thanks to VR tracking devices, it follows Konishi’s real-life movements. You can find her on platforms like Chaturbate, ManyVids and ePlay, where she mainly plays video games and reads through adult visual novels while fans tip to engage her Lovense Bluetooth sex toys, change her outfits or remove her clothes to reveal a pink, paw-shaped bush. “I’ll do things like sucking a dildo while playing Overwatch or spanking myself when I lose in Dead by Daylight,” she tells me. In her recent “Spanksgiving” stream, she played HuniePop, an adult dating simulator, while slapping her ass with a hairbrush and occasionally pausing her gameplay to squeal when viewers triggered her vibrator

The character spawned from Konishi’s love of visual novels — namely, Nekopara, which is set in a world where humans live alongside catgirls, known as “Nekos,” hence Neko-chan’s feline ears. In addition to her base model, the avatar also comes styled as goth and “gyaru,” a Japanese fashion subculture categorized by heavily bleached hair, highly decorated nails and dramatic makeup. As an added bonus for her viewers, Konishi says she can easily tweak “breast sizes and hair colors” whenever she’s in the mood (she says the base model’s pink hair was inspired by one of her real-life nudes in which she was wearing a rose-colored wig).

By and large, Konishi considers Neko-chan to be an extension of herself, rather than a character on its own. “I don’t think I’d be able to consistently act [without an avatar],” she concedes. “At most, it’s an amplified version of my personality, since I can be more chatty and open when I’m streaming.”

This feeling of freedom is a big part of why Konishi uses a virtual avatar. In fact, she says being able to hide her real body behind Neko-chan’s is the only reason she can do what she’s doing at all. “I’ve always wanted to go into sex work,” she explains. “However, as it currently stands, I have different career and life ambitions that could get complicated if people publically knew I was a sex worker. Being able to use a virtual body while still expressing myself has been incredible.”

Virtual camgirls like Konishi are just one iteration of our current cultural obsession with digitized avatars. Lil Miquela, a computer-generated influencer, has more than three million followers on Instagram. On the likes of Reddit and Patreon, 3D graphics hobbyists have taken to selling avatars of real people to fulfill the sexual fantasies of anyone willing to pay. Virtual reality social network games like Second Life and Utherverse have developed their own in-game kinky communities, where people can engage in cybersex that feels more “real” than sexting through DM.

Furthermore, there are plenty of platforms, apps and websites that are directly dedicated to meeting the demand for virtual girlfriends: Kari Girl, My Virtual Girlfriend, Girlfriend Plus and Dream Girlfriend, just to name a few. These companions primarily act as chatbots, but they often have customizable bodies and can talk about all sorts of subjects, since many are equipped with A.I. “We leave it up to the user to train their own Kari,” Sergio Parada, developer of Kari Girl, tells me. “Some like to teach them sex. Other people teach them about Jesus. Some have even taught Kari about helicopter mechanics.”

Likewise, serves as a “comprehensive directory of all known virtual webcam models” like Neko-chan, who prefer to stream with a body that’s not their own.

Despite virtual camgirling being a monetary hustle for many, it’s more of a hobby than a job for Konishi, at least at the moment. What little money she earns in tips is funneled straight back into tech upgrades, a pricey but necessary expense for LewdTubers. Movement trackers can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, especially if you want to capture slight motions like facial expressions. Avatars and virtual environments are another cost. To support it all, you need a powerful computer and software.

For now, Konishi is limited to a motion-tracking webcam, a Leap Motion Controller to capture her hand movements and ​​VSeeFace software, but she hopes to buy a new computer, improved tracking and a brand-new model of Neko-chan soon. Though, this may be difficult, as the online sex work industry isn’t as profitable as sensational new stories about Bella Thorne and the “Catch Me Outside Girl” make it seem. Estimates claim that most OnlyFans creators take home less than $145 a month, and Konishi averages around $500, depending on the content she releases. “Sometimes I do more SFW, chill streams, which means tipping will be a bit lower on those nights,” she explains.

If you’re wondering why someone would prefer a virtual camgirl like Neko-chan to a real one, it’s because it’s a lot like personalized hentai (mind you, “hentai” is consistently one of Pornhub’s most searched terms). It’s for people who appreciate suggestive video games, visual novels and anime, which is the type of person Konishi’s targeting. “I wanted to create a space where people who felt like they were weird for enjoying kink or porn games could feel welcome,” she says. 

As an added bonus for Konishi’s viewers, she adds that you can do much more with a virtual body than you can with a real one. Neko-chan’s cat ears are just one example, but there’s unlimited potential. LewdTube pioneer Projekt Melody has Cyberpunk-esque features, and many others have wings, tails and horns. “While my tech isn’t quite there yet, there are LewdTubers who can do things like have sex with tentacle monsters — a classic hentai scenario — and instantly change outfits and appearances to fit a certain roleplay or theme,” Konishi explains. She points specifically to LewdTuber Vex Ruby, who’s clothes melt off her body whenever someone tips. “She has some really cool penetration animations and so many unique outfits and environments.”

This freedom from the normal constraints of reality feeds a widespread desire for virtual porn — each year, Pornhub searches for the likes of Fortnite, Apex Legends and Minecraft top the charts. We know that fetishes often develop during puberty, so it should be no surprise that the oversexualization of female characters in video games and cartoons (hi, Jessica Rabbit) seems to have resulted in a demand for camgirls that resemble these personas. It goes both ways, too: Real-life performers like Purple Bitch have taken to reenacting hentai-like scenes with the help of cosplay and some very, very large dildos.

There’s also an imaginary aspect that many fans enjoy — when they trigger Konishi’s Bluetooth vibrator, sure, they hear her moan and see Neko-chan squirm. But they also have the opportunity to fantasize about the real-life Konishi, which provides a bit of a tease that you don’t often get with fully exposed human sex workers. Likewise, just as Konishi feels more confident disguised as Neko-chan, her fans may feel more at ease interacting with the types of avatars they know and love than they would with a real person.

That said, fans don’t always tune into Konishi’s streams to jerk off — sometimes they’re only there for the games. “Some nights, I’m mostly gaming,” she says. “Other nights, I’m overwhelmed by orgasms. Either way, I’m having a good time.”

While you might be inclined to think that the inherent openmindeness necessary to indulge in a virtual camgirl would lead to extra strangeness from fans, Konishi says her fanbase has been surprisingly wholesome. “When I started out, I was super worried that I’d get lots of creepy DMs, dick pics and whatnot, but for the most part, that hasn’t happened,” she explains. “I really try to emphasize the importance of consent and communication within my community.”

Likewise, Konishi claims that real-life sex workers have been nothing but supportive of her virtual hustle. “I’ve even helped some sex workers get into VTubing,” she says (VTubing stands for virtual YouTubing). “It’s great to see more SWers focus on creating community and lifting each other up.”

As for how Konishi feels about being a virtual camgirl, she believes it’s a great way to avoid the stresses that come with putting your real body out there. “There’s nothing more exciting than getting to end my day with a cam show,” she concludes. “It’s a huge stress reliever, and an opportunity to step away from my everyday responsibilities for a moment.”