What is OnlyFans?
Basically, it’s a popular platform that permits fans to pay to see content from their favourite performers. Anyone can use the site from models to personal trainers to chefs, but it is most widely used for adult and explicit content.
The OnlyFans site is a covid phenomenon, as many have faced income cuts and had to find other sources of cash. The site has grown from 7.5 million users last November to 85 million now and has 1 million creators worldwide receiving over $2bn in commission and subscription fees.
Many OnlyFan creators, mostly women, claim it as a tool of empowerment and the final step in destigmatising sex work. While we hear about many success stories the reality is many struggle to make any real money and live in fear of being ‘found out’.
Risks of OnlyFans?
Out of financial desperation, many young people are shifting their content creation from Instagram or Twitter to OnlyFans. OnlyFans is seen as a way to make extra cash since the pandemic has made it harder to find other jobs or sources of income.
Recent research about the impact of Covid on students’ finances, and how this is linked to mental health, found that 4% of the 1,000 students surveyed have started an OnlyFans account due to their financial situation being affected by the pandemic, with many more considering it. One student told us:
“There aren’t really any side hustles available at the moment, and the ones that are available would mean there is an increased chance of bringing covid back home with me. As I am in a support bubble with my last grandparent, I really don’t want to risk it. The only thing I could do is create an OnlyFans account but I don’t think I’m brave enough or pretty enough for that. Still, as the potential for income is there, I do find myself considering making an Only Fans account more and more often.”
Save the Student’s wide-ranging annual money survey found that some 4% of students had tried sex work while at university, with just over a fifth of those (22%) using OnlyFans.
Not a get rich scheme
OnlyFans is not a get-rich-quick scheme – it is true Bella Thorne made £1.5m in her first week …. but that’s because the top 1% of accounts make 33% of all the money earned on the platform. Thorne, for context, has 24m Instagram, and 7m twitter, followers so she had a huge ready-made audience.
The average earnings are in fact £120 per month and most accounts take home less than £102 per month.
In order to have a chance in making money on OnlyFans, there’s a lot of work that has to be done to build an audience. Creators report that even when they put in a lot of work, and build an audience the work doesn’t always translate into adequate financial compensation. And there is pressure to keep producing to keep “fans” loyal and engaged.
Digital evidence long-term risks
OnlyFans can seem less dangerous than other options. In fact, another student commented: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to include OnlyFans and sex work in the same category as ‘dangerous financial activity’ and gambling.”
While OnlyFans is certainly more secure than in-person sex work, there are nonetheless risks of digital sex work in our digital age. Many who are posting photos, and videos of an explicit nature, may encounter difficulty in securing a professional job in the future. These photos and videos will be on the internet forever.
Some OnlyFan creators have been a target of “doxxing” (a form of online harassment in which users publish private or sensitive information about someone without their permission).
In more extreme examples, some OnlyFans creators have also been stalked and received death and rape threats on social media according to an NYTimes exposé in January.
When using Onlyfans you are an independent contractor. What does that mean? That if or when things go wrong, you are on your own. There is no legal body or regulation to help or protect you.
This may change as the Government puts forward ambitious plans for a new system of accountability and oversight for tech companies through the Online Harms White Paper. But for now, it is unregulated.
Do your research and understand the risks before you decide to use OnlyFans. If you are at uni and having financial difficulties please contact your student support services.
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