For the few of you who might have never heard of it, OnlyFans is a social media platform where influencers are free to post whatever content they decide to—from suggestive pictures to X-rated videos. In exchange for these, their fans pay them money in order to access their private content. What started out as a small influencer platform has now become one of the most important websites out there, with many using OnlyFans as their main source of revenue. According to Forbes, since the beginning of March 2020, OnlyFans registered more than 3.5 million new accounts.
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.