“I have two guys that tell me they love me throughout the day. These are the people I can always count on and can talk to about anything,” said “Lauraleigh,” the assumed name of a full-time “Internet girlfriend,” who works on of a site called MyGirlFund. “It’s hard to explain. One might say [it’s dishonest] to go along with it. I like to make people feel good and genuinely care for the ones I get close to. I’ll chat for hours, even on days they don’t contribute.”
And by “contribute,” she means financially. Men pay her and many other women for their time and company online. They have never met, and will never meet.
MyGirlFund is a website for men to interact with women via text and video chat. A system is also in place for men to privately pay the women if they want to. After that, it’s rather open-ended.
Over the last six years, MyGirlFund has developed into a unique community with its own norms and economy. While there is a “sex cam” aspect to it, the more interesting phenom here is the platonic relationships that men and women form on the site. Money changes hands on the site for any of a number of reasons, even for something as innocent as a guy helping a woman pay her rent that month.
MyGirlFund is host to roughly 8,200 women from all sorts of backgrounds and sees 15,000 new male members signing up each month to chat and spend money. Members buy credits worth $US1 apiece, and spend it on whatever they’re looking for within the site’s rules, which mainly prohibit exchanging personal info and meeting in person.
‘People can go there and interact with real people, not porn starlets.’
The lack of physical interaction, coupled with a cash transaction, would seem to perpetutate the most shallow, short-lived exchanges possible. But in many instances it has led to months or years-long relationships that seem to have a degree of genuine emotional investment.
The prospect of a man sending money to a woman he’s never met in person is a bit puzzling. Here’s how Brian, founder and CEO, explained it: “Guys send girls money whether it’s for content or simply to be a nice, generous guy. Some guys want to feel important to these girls … we’ve heard of them helping pay for things from tuition to speeding tickets.”
He says the site is not only a unique type of social network, but it exists because they are “very serious about empowering young women as autonomous economic agents. People can go there and interact with real people, not porn starlets acting, but real girls being themselves.” By and large the site is full of down-to-earth women.
They’re not models or “performers.” They’re the girls next door — literally, as most work from their own homes.
This Army vet is paying for her PhD via MyGirlFund.
“Lauraleigh” has been on MyGirlFund for three years. Prior to joining the site, she was in the Army for two years and worked as a security guard for three years after that. She’s recently begun graduate school to pursue a PhD in Human Genome Studies.
Despite the site’s ban on in-person meeting, she said it’s pretty easy to get friendly with people: “I like to talk and I ramble a lot. I’m also very silly. A lot of girls will chat a guy and just push content. I never mention content unless they bring it up first.”
When the women of MyGirlFund refer to “content,” by the way, they are talking about videos and photographs that they sell through the site. It’s up to the individual to decide how graphically she’d like to represent herself.
The site isn’t a one-way system where the men chase the women. The fact that there are far more incoming male customers than females on the site means that the women have to adopt sales skills to generate their own demand. “There are a lot of components to marketing yourself on here. I send out messages to people, post contests, [and] post blogs,” says Lauraleigh.
MyGirlFund can net women enough money to constitute a full-time job. It is Lauraleigh’s only income right now, and it’s enough to support herself and her 6-year-old daughter while living “in one of the more expensive parts of the country.” While she wouldn’t disclose how much she makes, she said, “Looking at my income history over the years is a classic example of how [putting] time and effort into relationships makes all the difference.”
Women can make up to $US55,000 — without leaving the house.
It’s difficult to pin down consistent financial data on how much money these women make. There are varying levels of involvement to consider — some women may only use the site once in a while, whereas others make it their full-time job. One such full-time user anonymously shared that she makes between $US40,000 and $US55,000 a year on MyGirlFund.
27-year-old MyGirlFund user “Kandidreams” has been on the site for three years. She told me about her life outside the site. “I’m a stay-at-home mum with two kids (my first-born [died] in 2008),” she said. “I just run the house while the husband is at his job. Taking care of the kids, house, dog. During the day I am just your typical mum, honestly.”
She and her husband met on a different site that she described as being for “pinup nudes, so he kinda knew what he was getting into.” She had previously been a body piercer, working out of a tattoo studio for “a number of years.” After studying graphic design and “doing a real job for a company,” she decided it wasn’t for her.
MyGirlFund was “something I was curious about and [my husband] has been nothing but supportive. If I tell him I need to ‘work,’ he makes sure that he can watch our kids so I can escape for however long is needed to talk to guys on here or make videos and such,” she said.
Kandidreams also has her regular visitors. “I certainly have a few [men] I talk to daily but some of them travel a good bit so it’s tougher to stay in touch. Some come back randomly throughout the year and pay for certain content and are off again doing who knows what, but others, we have real conversations — ‘How was your day?’ [or] ‘Was so-and-so at work a d-bag again?’ etc. Then there are guys that just send you a message to tell you what they would like to get from you and that’s that. You never hear from them again. Personally, I love getting to know someone.”
Her activity on the site earns real money that improves her family’s quality of life. “It certainly helps with bills and such,” she said. “I know this past Christmas would have been pretty tight if it weren’t for the extra little bit I brought in [on MyGirlFund].”
‘We don’t need ads or user data.’
“Pixiedoll” is newer to the site, having been a member for just under six months. She graduated from culinary school in 2012 and now uses MyGirlFund to make ends meet while working in a restaurant and paying off her student debt. In general, other women on the site don’t seem especially concerned with protecting their private information, but Pixiedoll has blocked all interaction with men in her home state.
“I didn’t want to have to worry about accidentally seeing my boyfriend’s co-workers,” she said. She otherwise engages with the rest of the site’s users to chat and sell content.
“I have a couple guys that write me all the time, I have a few guys that ask for custom videos, I chat to well over 15 people regularly. I try to keep up with old friends and make new friends everyday,” she said.
The site has a huge advantage when it comes to monetizing as a social network. Stefan, the site’s director of business development, said, “No one wants to pay for interaction, so Facebook introduced ads and data sales. But a guy is willing to pay to interact with a girl he likes as long as he gets responses. We don’t need ads or user data, so we can leave our network pristine.”
The MyGirlFund team maintains that the site is unlike anything else out there. Most adult sites revolve around the sale of specific content, but Stefan and Brian believe that “selling content isn’t a good business model.” Instead they looked at “what’s wrong with the adult world and what’s wrong with social networking sites” to build something that revolves around “the relationship that forms between users.”
Just as conventional relationships come to their end, not all relationships through MyGirlFund work out. Lauraleigh told us what it was like to break up with a man in England: “It sucks … I cried my eyes out. It sounds silly, but he was an awesome guy and I could talk to him about anything and everything. All of the sudden he stopped logging on and for months I would continue to send him messages in hopes that he would log in, but it still hasn’t happened … I honestly would have moved to the U.K. for him.”