Gay for pay has been a porn sensation for nearly two decades now. I personally found myself enamoured with it since early adolescence. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, gay for pay stands for porn featuring men who identify as straight but perform gay sex in exchange for money. The advent of websites like OnlyFans and JustForFans made this phenomenon even more ubiquitous, with thousands of ostensibly heterosexual men dabbling in gay action for pay.
Many believe that this trend accelerates the shattering of gender stereotypes and is an indication of our society’s discarding of sexual labels. But is this truly the case? Or does the gay for pay obsession only solidify our toxic relationship with masculinity and deep-rooted homophobia?
Nearly all the major gay porn studios today, including Sean Cody, MEN.com and Corbin Fisher, produce enormous volumes of content portraying supposedly straight dudes getting tricked or lured into having gay sex. Other websites, such as Broke Straight Boys, are dedicated exclusively to making films featuring young heterosexual bros reluctantly engaging in gay action for money (seeing their bewildered faces as they begrudgingly accept a stack of cash has been a relentless turn-on for me as a teenager).
On platforms like OnlyFans and JustForFans, where people have the ability to produce their own adult content, men who identify as straight produce all sorts of content directed at gay people—whether by experimenting on their own or doing collaborations with other men (most of whom also classify themselves as heterosexual).
Some argue that by allowing themselves to experiment with other men, even though it’s supposedly strictly for financial purposes, these guys break the rigid conventions around masculinity. In an article titled The straight men doing gay for pay on OnlyFans and JustForFans published on Dazed, journalist Josh Schot writes that men performing gay for pay sex “are proof that there are innumerable expressions of heterosexuality,” adding that, they are “contributing to a rupture in the expectations that are placed on heterosexual men.”
It is true that many interviews conducted with gay for pay porn actors reveal an overall casual approach by the actors to their work. Straight men running OnlyFans and JustForFans accounts seem to especially represent a shift in attitude toward male-on-male action—describing it as a no-big-deal type of thing that they do not bother hiding.
Yet for all the supposed ‘sexual-liberation’ promoted by gay for pay actors, claiming that they “detoxify masculinity,” as stated by Schot, seems to be a bit of a stretch, considering that the actors’ perceived heterosexuality is their biggest selling point and allure. The entire emphasis in this type of porn is placed on the guys’ professed straightness and willingness to engage in a sexual activity that they don’t ordinarily find appealing. This is particularly evident in OnlyFans and JustForFans content, where guys proudly announce that they’re ‘pushing their boundaries’ by performing gay sex. This implies that same-sex action is still very much taboo; a boundary, as they say.
What’s more is that gay for pay content overwhelmingly features broad-shouldered, muscular men who are dripping with testosterone, almost invariably refer to one another as ‘bro’ and never miss an opportunity to flex their muscles and bounce their pecs at the camera. It seems to me, then, that these guys don’t so much “rupture the expectations” placed on heterosexual men as they overcompensate for violating them. To a great extent, gay for pay porn doesn’t upend mainstream tropes of masculinity, but rather reinforces them.
But what is at the root of queer men’s obsession with guys identifying as straight performing gay sex? The most obvious explanation is the fantasy that’s associated with it—the thrill of attaining what is supposedly unattainable or, to some, even forbidden.
It could also be seen as an indication of internal homophobia entrenched in the psyche of many queer men, and a primal desire to win the validation of the alpha male. Our glorification of textbook machismo and rejection of any type of behaviour that is visibly queer or feminine as inferior and unappealing could be viewed as testaments to lingering and unresolved shame about our identities.
There’s no denying that our society is becoming increasingly tolerant of diverse expressions of gender and sexuality, and the fact that more men who identify as straight allow themselves to engage in gay sex is certainly a byproduct of this unfolding change.
But claiming that these men or porn studios are the impetus of this shift in consciousness is downright misleading, for by emphasizing the actors’ heterosexuality and masculinity so bluntly, gay for pay porn perpetuates restrictive perceptions of gender and the classification of queerness as taboo and fundamentally flawed. After all, gay for pay is still all about the labels.
Over the past three years, a silent yet growing revolution has rattled the porn industry with the advent of OnlyFans—a website and app offering a monthly subscription service to self-made adult content in a way that mimics the culture and interface of social media. Praised for putting the power in the hands of content creators, as opposed to studios, and granting viewers a more intimate look into the lives of performers, OnlyFans seems to be on a trajectory to change the landscape of the porn industry forever.
The platform was launched in 2016 by British tech entrepreneur Timothy Stokely. After founding Customs4U, a fetish website where users could order customised adult content, Stokely went on to create OnlyFans. While the website is not a porn platform per se, as it was officially created in order to grant viewers a look into the behind-the-scenes of influencers’ lives, it has nonetheless been used primarily for sharing of and monetising on adult content.
The layout of OnlyFans resembles a typical social media feed, only the content uploaded on it typically reveals more than a bikini shot or six-pack abs. Performers upload content regularly (some on a daily or semi-daily basis) for a monthly subscription fee that normally ranges from $10 to $20. At the request of fans, some performers choose to create special content tailored specifically to the user’s request, which is sent directly to their inbox for an additional payment. Currently, the platform has over 12 million registered users and over 70,000 content creators who, combined, generate an average of over $150 million a year. Some of the most successful performers on the platform have reportedly raked in tens of thousands of dollars a month.
As many adult film actors (also called pornstars) are underpaid by studios and offered less-than-desirable working conditions, a considerable number of them have been migrating to OnlyFans, where they get to keep 80 per cent of their profits, have control over their schedule and content, and be their own boss.
It isn’t only established adult film actors who flock en masse to OnlyFans, however, but also influencers and bloggers who had never before entertained the notion of joining the porn industry. As a matter of fact, that was the primary goal of Stokely when he established the platform—enabling influencers to monetise directly on their content, without the intervention of a third partner or having to win the graces of a brand, all the while satiating the public’s thirst for a more ‘intimate’ gaze into the lives of social media personas.
Screen Shot spoke to Ty London XXX, a fairly recent recruit to OnlyFans who has been thriving on the platform. “With OnlyFans you are able to provide your own content, you can do it at your own pace, you can control it,” Ty said, “it also opened a door for me to collaborate with a production studio, which I’m excited to do.”
Ty referred to a certain freedom that OnlyFans encourages by giving a platform to people of all body types, gender expressions and backgrounds, thus shattering some of the conventions perpetuated by the porn industry. “Social media at the moment is becoming a lot more queer, and you see a lot of people [being] very comfortable with their bodies. And I thought, well, why not bring my queer self into it and be fun and keep pushing boundaries within porn.”
The rapid growth of OnlyFans has sent shivers down the spines of porn studios, who are declining in popularity and were already facing a massive loss in revenue since the emergence of websites like Xvideos that offer free streaming of porn. But even such streaming services appear to be threatened by OnlyFans’ unique appeal, and many of them have reached out to OnlyFans performers, asking them to make exclusive content for their websites.
But the platform still poses considerable challenges to performers. Just like on any other social media platforms, it’s hard to keep people engaged—especially when it comes to sexual interest and particularly when a fee is involved. “Just from doing it for the last few months, mental health is something that popped up for me because I’ve had a few dips where I’ve been like—there’s such a demand to post and you’ve got a lot of people to please, money to make, and you need to keep the same amount of fans on your page for the next month and the month after that. It becomes quite stressful at times. You’re like ‘I’ve run out of things to post and people will get bored and I’ll be losing fans’,” said Ty. “Also, there are lots of times when you’re not feeling sexual and force yourself to do it. It’s really difficult. It’s tricky,” he added.
Yet Ty believes there is a way to deal with the stress that comes with the job, partly due to features offered by the platform. “Take a day off, away from the phone. On OnlyFans you can write things, you can do polls. There’s a lot of changes that they’ve been introducing so there are ways of not having to post.”
It makes perfect sense that more and more people turn to OnlyFans as their source of sexual pleasure. Many view it as the next phase in the evolution of influencer culture. From a porn perspective, people aren’t interested in manicured actors performing trite and badly acted scenes. We long for closeness. Intimacy. We want to feel a connection with the objects of our fantasy and admiration. And with influencers morphing into friends and OnlyFans performers offering a peek into their bedrooms—this becomes more of a possibility. Through a screen, that is. And for a monthly fee.