What is OnlyFans? As the intrigue surrounding this social media platform notorious for hosting all kinds of adult entertainment rises, let’s unpack what lies behind this fortress where everyone – from regulars to celebrities – is arriving to lay fearless claim to sexuality.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the paywall of OnlyFans. In this gated community of creators, prices run high as does the creativity of content. From cookery to fitness to porn, all that makes up facets of human living thrives here in tandem with each other. But inarguably, it is the pornographic content, as expected, that distinguishes OnlyFans from its mainstream social media counterparts.
On the OnlyFans playground, rules are minimum and entry is open to all (above 18 years of age). And going by its skyrocketing popularity, it seems like this is the hottest new carnival in town.
How The Site Works: Understanding What Is OnlyFans
Launched in 2016 in London, OnlyFans was founded by entrepreneur Tim Stokely. It works on a subscription basis, where content creators can sell their photos, videos and other services to ‘fans’ at anywhere between $4.99 and $49.99 monthly or give pay-per-view access.
For the most part, the social website has been shrouded in secrecy with only restricted information available about its parent company Fenix International Limited. Data on its aggregate finances, too, is limited.
A Bloomberg report, however, suggests that OnlyFans has over 1 million creators and a total of approximately $200 million a month is being rolled out to them. Customers cross the 90 million count, indicative of the dramatic money the site is raking in. It’s lucrative, so much so that pandemic-induced unemployment prompted a reported 75 percent growth in signups last year.
But why would anyone pay for nudes and such when a universe of unlimited porn, subject to individual choice and kink, is available for free? A key feature that sets OnlyFans apart from its pornographic sister websites is that the experience is immersive and personalised here.
Where other NSFW (not safe for work) sites offer a one-way user experience, OnlyFans offers demand-based content. Clients and creators can communicate to the effect that there is an assurance of conscious participation on both sides of the screen. Then there are regular customers who re-visit the same content creators dedicatedly, establishing a more intimate connection.
“You can get porn for free. Guys don’t want to pay for that. They want the opportunity to get to know somebody they’ve seen in a magazine or on social media. I’m like their online girlfriend,” OnlyFans creator Dannii Harwood tells The New York Times.
When one thinks about it, it’s not those on Instagram but those on OnlyFans that qualify as social media influencers in the truest sense of the coveted term. Such is their ‘influence’ that audiences are flocking to them despite paywalls. If this is not influence, what is?
Is It Changing The Nature Of Sex Work And Porn?
The business of online pornography has always been mired in controversy, with proofs of illegal rape porn surfacing on certain platforms to featured artists like Mia Khalifa themselves claiming exploitation. According to a report, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found 118 cases of child abuse on porn site Pornhub between 2017 and 2019. The site’s parent company, MindGeek, has also faced legal charges for allegedly hosting non-consensual videos through their GirlsDoPorn channel.
In the face of this industry now always shrouded in skepticism over whether its participants are content and being fairly treated, OnlyFans looks to be the more straightforward path to walk. Here, creators make exposés to the extent they are comfortable and, within site ceilings, are allowed to name their own price.
Could this be why OnlyFans has successfully attracted the most unlikely demographics of people?
The website has become a preferred option of cash inflow for a varied milieu of persons, from 40-plus mothers looking to pull in cash for their families to members from the LGBTQIA+ embracing their identities sans judgment. New York Post reported that an OnlyFans mom from Colorado not only monetised her risqué content but also coached around 200 homemakers to do the same. In another, a husband claims to happily shoot raunchy content of his wife to post on the website.
Last year in August, actor Bella Thorne joined the platform to a record-breaking earning of $1 million within 24 hours. Others like model Blac Chyna, singers Chris Brown and Cardi B, drag queen Shea Couleé are also wildly popular on the site. For some other celebrities, OnlyFans is more than recreation. Australian sportswomen Angelina Graovac and Renee Gracie, who admitted to running low on finances, turned to OnlyFans to support their careers.
The convenience, willingness and candour with which people are tuning into OnlyFans holds meaning different than pornography. It’s clear many don’t see themselves as porn stars – despite the obvious resemblance in content – but influencers making money. Like any creator in any field, they are charging a price for their services/products relative to their fan following and public appeal.
What is that doing for the sex work industry? Is the sexual agency afforded by OnlyFans hacking away at the stigma surrounding adult entertainment? Are adult creators finding safer spaces to exhibit their work? Will it normalise X-rated content by bringing more people into its fold? Firm answers to all these questions will only come once the website gains a few more years. For now, it remains a hub of social exchange, some resemblance or none, depending on perspective, to other hangouts on the internet.
Views expressed are the author’s own.