Ariana, 21, says quarantine has given her more time to create content for her OnlyFans audience. As a single mom and a part-time waitress in a pizzeria, the website brings extra income. She takes the current unemployment levels into consideration and believes that her sales are likely to drop: “to make sure people aren't spending too much at the time of crisis, I'll be doing deals during this whole pandemic.”
First launched in 2016, OnlyFans, a subscription-based website for independent creators, has over 20 million active users worldwide. The content varies from cooking lessons to private fitness training. Most of its popularity comes from the distribution of the private content, rather referred to as “amateur porn”. According to Business Insider, having a ready-made fanbase can provide one with over US$ 100,000 a year. In an interview by The Times, Monica Huldt, a Swedish Instagram model, claims that this is a full-time job involving serious effort.
The “Coronavirus Insights” report by PornHub, the biggest porn distributing website, demonstrates that worldwide traffic increased by 5.7% higher than usual. The peak happened on March 25th, right after the company offered free Premium Membership to encourage the public to stay home.
Hannah, 20, distributes X-rated content to pay off student loans, and support her lifestyle. She was 16 when she first started buying sex toys and thought: “I would love to be a ‘cam girl’ (a female who poses for a web camera as a form of adult entertainment) when I am 18.” As of March of this year, she earns US$ 3000 a month: “I make enough now to pay my rent, bills, groceries, and gas. I was previously using student loans, so I am glad to make enough to start making bigger payments on them to get rid of all my debt.” Hannah believes that it is quite challenging to keep her income steady and growing, since she is “fairly new” to the industry.
According to Hannah, “almost everybody watches porn. However, the majority of people (predominantly males), who watch professional porn do not consider porn stars as real people. So, when they are confronted with a ‘real person’ doing porn it makes them uncomfortable”.
Ariana’s managers at the pizzeria have not yet become aware of her side project since it does not violate the company’s employee policy. However, as reported by Buzzfeed last week, Kirsten Vaughn, 24, was fired from her job as a mechanic, after her male co-workers found her OnlyFans page. Company’s human resources department blamed Kirsten’s work ethic, denying that Vaughn suffered harassment.
//Suggestion: Company’s human resources department motivated this decision with Kirsten’ poor work ethic, denying that Vaughn may have suffered harassment on the workplace.
Dinara Murzalina, a liberal feminist scholar, argues the debate is “at least hypocritical” and signifies that the society still tries to have control over women’s bodies and police their sexuality.
Hannah’s Christian mother also stigmatised her daughter’s decision saying: “Jesus doesn’t want you to do that.” She finds it hilariously hypocritical since her mom was giving out the “secret to blowjobs” when Hannah was a preteen: “Now when I remind her, she tried to bite her tongue.” Hannah further shares that most of her negative feedback was received from women: “They have called me a prostitute, claimed that I have no self-respect and bullied me on several social media platforms before I got to block their accounts.” She finds it “unfortunate” and encourages the feeling of sisterhood.
OnlyFans stands out from traditional porn websites by providing creators with cybersecurity and independent profit. To avoid catfishing and child pornography, the verification process requires an individual to provide photo ID and proof of their bank account. “I believe it’s quite empowering, it involves minimum risks to a performer’s safety unlike other types of sex work. Performers choose how they wish to present themselves and take breaks when needed,” says Dinara. Unlike the PornHub’s privacy policies, which restrict the account holders from deleting the video, an OnlyFans model can remove their account anytime they wish to.
Murzalina draws an example from the story of Mia Khalifa, a porn star, who later confessed about the traumatic experiences she encountered working in the business: “While I still think it’s very feminist to support sex workers in their decision, I do also acknowledge the implications of the industry.” Hannah's involvement in porn is in stark contrast to this assertion: she suffers from a complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of experiencing several sexual assaults and rapes. Doing OnlyFans became a life-changing boost in her self-esteem: “I am finally comfortable in my body and loving it for the first time in a long time”.
Kevin, 46, is a divorced man with three kids who does not see anything promiscuous about using the application to avoid loneliness: “I have a fat bank account and spending it on aesthetics involving physique and sexual interaction is just another form of entertainment.” He avoids asking the girls out, yet often “humbly” tips them to “get themselves something nice and pretty”.
Hannah argues that the interest comes from curiosity and the level of intimacy: “I think people are tired of the Hollywood stuff”. Her fans have often requested to meet, but she realises that you cannot trust anyone in the field: “Someone asked me to mail them a birthday card, which I will, but won’t be putting a return address on it”.
Huffington Post reports that theporn sites generated moremonthly traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined in 2020, generating a total of US $2.5 billion. “I don't think I'll ever look back and regret doing this. I'm doing this for me, to support myself and my daughter. I think people need to focus on that instead,” says Ariana.