“ Do you like my pictures? Go now to my OnlyFans page for exclusive content!” Its a phrase you may have seen recently on social media pages of influencers and celebrities.
You then end up on OnlyFans, a British platform on which you pay to see – often sexually explicit – pictures of that person. The platform has grown tremendously over the past few months. Tens of millions of people close paid subscriptions worldwide to see more of the people they follow — often influencers, pornstars and celebrities.
Growth yields popular Onlyfans faces a lot, but there are also risks.
According to The New York Times, the platform had more than 90 million users and more than 1 million creators of images in December. A year earlier, there were 120,000. “That growth of users is not that crazy. Everyone sat at home last year and was bored,” says NVVS-sexologist Yuri Ohlrichs, working at Rutgers, knowledge center of sexuality.
Also, the platform appeared in the news several times through the accounts of celebrities. “Yes, one finds that interesting, of course, to see more than just the outerwear of someone you admire. Sex sells.”
The huge increase in the number of Onlyfans-makers started already during the first coronalockdown, says media scientist Linda German from Utrecht University. In the Netherlands it was mainly the sex workers who signed up at that time. “The platform offered sex workers who were not allowed to work because of the corona measures a way to make money.”
Ultimate revenue by fanbase
But sex workers from other countries also went to the platform. In the United States, new legislation played a major role in this: sexually explicit content on social media was banned, German explains. “As a result, sex workers left existing platforms and started looking for new ones.”
Influencers and celebrities also turn out to OnlyFans, which has been around since 2016. “The revenue model of influencers is based on revenue from their fan base. The technical capabilities of OnlyFans, such as getting money for private messages, make it easier for influencers to earn money from fans. That makes it attractive and so they can get the maximum financial out of their fans.”
Esluna, who spoke with NPO 3 last year about her Onlyfans page, puts a lot of time into her account. “Its not just about creating content, because you have to come up with strategies. If visitors want to talk to me privately, they pay extra for that. Sometimes I preview it and people can pay extra to see the whole video.”
She shares nude photos and videos and goes live as well. “Im trying to give it an artistic charge.” But there are also people who dont post sexy content, said Lana, another creator, to NPO 3. “There are also accounts that post episodes of shows or sell products. On the other hand, we share sex tapes.”
Reality stars and influencers
To earn a big sum of money every month, you have to have a lot of fans already. The platform does not have a timeline to highlight profiles. Only via a direct link you will get to a profile.
“ Thats why you see reality stars, or new influencers, do this a lot in recent months. The schnabbel circuit is flat, they are not booked at clubs and therefore do not earn money from their limited fame. For them, it is a favorable platform,” says German.
OnlyFans seems to be a good economic solution for a group of people, but the platform also carries dangers. Last year, the NPO Radio 1 program Alicante did research on the medium and found out that many images are stored and distributed illegally.
“ I went undercover in Telegram groups sharing full dropboxes with sexually explicit footage from OnlyFans,” says editor Elif Kan.
These groups consist of hundreds to thousands of members. “Someone then buys a subscription and takes everything off and then distributes it illegally. So you never know where all your photos and videos end up.”
A well-known phenomenon, says German. “This so-called (screen) capping is a problem that sex workers, who, for example, work via webcams or in porn films, have been suffering from for years. That will then appear on free porn website Pornhub and they will earn nothing from it anymore. These images can also wander around the internet for years.”
And that is a dangerous aspect that users should consider, says sexologist Yuri Ohlrichs on behalf of Rutgers. “It is normal that you want to use this or make your money in this way, but enjoy it in a healthy and conscious way. If you post a nude photo online, and its going to have a life of its own, its never gonna go away. Realize that you are vulnerable.”