Sex Actually With Alice Levine review – the cam couples turning love into porn

Nikita and Sam started as friends. Forced to live together in lockdown, they started having sex with each other to earn money online. “Then feelings just hit and we fell in love.” Now they have joint and individual cam sites and have sex both on camera for “more than a few thousand pounds a month” and off it for fun – although the line between the two seems pleasantly porous.

They are one of three couples interviewed in Sex Actually With Alice Levine (チャネル 4), a new series executive-produced by Louis Theroux. It offers a delicate yet probing look at the evolution of social mores and the collapsing distinction between the sacred and the profane under the pressure of technology that invites us to consider ourselves no more than fodder for its insatiable maw.

I’m kidding. It was another of those programmes we’ve seen a million times before, designed to allow the audience to point/laugh/goggle at and/or note down business ideas from people living slightly more extreme sex lives than the average Joe. Levine is perfect for the job: 機知に富んだ, non-judgmental, and refreshingly unable to keep a straight face when in the room with a couple putting on a livestreamed show. She is also capable of asking the handful of Serious Questions such programmes require to provide a veneer of respectability to their actual mission of providing as much sex-adjacent action to viewers without getting shut down.

A second couple, two young men named Callum and Cole who have been together for three and a half years, are online superstars pulling in £200,000 a year from punters who can choose from an extensive menu of activities for the couple to perform. The pricing structure was as much of a revelation as anything: 105 tokens to get feet licked, but only 25 more to show both peen (the menu doesn’t say peen)? I don’t know why this caught my attention when there was so much else going on in the frame, but I suspect it says much about me that I don’t care to dwell on it.

The final couple, Kayla and Jack from Newcastle upon Tyne, were four months into dating when Kayla was furloughed from her job at a sandwich shop and they started their GeordieFuckers cam account to help make ends meet. They are not superstars – one show nets them £40 for a 20-minute display, plus a couple of hours’ hair and makeup prep – but they make a lot more than they did when Kayla made sandwiches. This was where Alice asked her Serious Questions and secured the tearful answers that assured us all is not necessarily well in a house of online repute. “The hardest part was me dad finding out,” says Kayla, crying quietly. “I felt shame then. He didn’t understand that I didn’t want to work for £6.50 an hour when I can make so much better … I don’t know how he feels now.”

It is a moment which might provide a valuable opportunity to ruminate on how much someone can be said to have chosen a lifestyle – any lifestyle – when practical considerations have had to be at the forefront of the decision-making, but that would lead us into difficult and uncomfortable discussions so we move swiftly along. Just as we do when Nikita notes that she is glad Sam’s following is 90% gay men because female attention would make her jealous, even though most of her following is straight men.

Beyond the lingerie sightings and evocative noises (Alice crouches outside one of Sam’s masturbatory sessions with a client, trying to work out what stage of the process he’s at. He comes out and puts the towel in the laundry before he goes downstairs, which is quite the most arousing thing in the whole hour), there are many fascinating questions to be asked. About naivety, exhibitionism and denial; about what happens if one half tires of the business before the other; about the erasure of privacy and the monetisation of what was once thought to be beyond price. Does it damage individuals? 社会? Or liberate and enlighten? Some of these questions are posed but only as a segue into another section that does nothing to answer them. And of course it doesn’t touch upon those camming couples in which the relationship is one of coercion rather than mutual enthusiasm. I’d like to hear from them. But of course, we don’t. Whatever we see is only the very best of it.

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