Women who joined the internet version of the world’s oldest profession during pandemic lockdowns are starting to feel the permanent effects of that decision, and for many of them, that’s not a good thing.
OnlyFans, the online platform known for being rife with women hocking visuals of their naked body to “fans” who fork over cash for the X-rated content, was founded in 2016 but exploded in popularity during the COVID pandemic.
Today, the London-based content subscription service has more than 170 million registered users and more than 1.5 million content creators, the vast majority of them pornographic.
From March to April of 2020, as the world was locking down and descending into social isolation, new OnlyFans creator accounts skyrocketed 75%. Prior to the pandemic, OnlyFans had only 10 million users. In April, 2020, CEO Thomas Stokely claimed the platform was seeing about 200,000 new users and 7,000 to 8,000 new creators join every day.
The OnlyFans explosion also coincided with the “Sex Work Is Real Work”movement, which sold the idea to young girls they could sell their bodies without facing the ancient stigma surrounding prostitution.
Charmed by viral success stories of OnlyFans women making obscene amounts of money seemingly without the risk of STDs or physical abuse from in-person prostitution, thousands of women and girls joined the platform. In August, 2020, rapper Cardi B and actress and singer Bella Thorne popularized the platform further by joining, with Thorne reportedly raking in more than $1 million within 24 hours.
With so many women flooding the market though, most of them quickly took an ego hit when they failed to rise to the top tier of content creators and struggled to make money, let alone become millionaires.
The top creators on OnlyFans earn an average of $100,000 a month, although some have made more than $2 million in a year. But the average OnlyFans creator has just 21 subscribers and makes about $151 a month, not even enough to pay rent.
The platform is set up to allow people to commission creators for private work, which has led to women performing some of the most degrading acts imaginable on camera that their “fans” request for a fee.
Now though, many women who dropped their négligées online when most of the world was holed up at home say they feel foolish and wish they could take it all back.
One woman on the subreddit “r/TrueOffMyChest” said she’s now in an “amazing relationship” but hasn’t told her boyfriend about the OnlyFans she had for a month.
“It’s something I regret a lot, and to any girls considering onlyfans please stop and think about how it may impact your future!” she wrote.
“I had one and I regret it so much. I don’t have naked pictures with my face on it but I had some lingerie pictures with my face on it so they definitely know what I look like lol, and even the ones without my face, you can see my tattoo. I feel so dumb now, it’s really affecting me,” one user posted on The Student Room, a UK-based social media platform for students.
One woman admitted she is “much happier” now since quitting OnlyFans after seven months but insisted people should not “feel shame” over it.
“The sad thing is I actually do feel dehumanised,” lamented another woman on Twitter. “Begging people to follow my Onlyfans for a poxy £2 is f***ing embarrassing. My page is worth $1million and more. F*** EVERYONE I QUIT.”
But the internet is forever, and unforgiving.
Now, OnlyFans girls have become a stereotype and are often ridiculed on social media.
Twitter accounts like “OnlyFans Girls posting their Ls,” which has nearly 124,000 followers, call out the plights of the women who have found themselves broke and feeling used.
Some have lashed out with the rage of a scorned woman.
“I show my butt hole on here before 10k followers like I said I was waiting for and I’ve gotten one subscriber??? Absolutely ungrateful. Ugly,” tweeted one woman who charges $10 a month for a subscription to her Onlyfans.
Other OnlyFans women have complained about the collateral damage to their lives, such as their pornographic content getting leaked, their identity getting doxxed, and losing friends.
The OnlyFans phenomenon has also precipitated a wave of anecdotal horror stories — male college students finding out about a female classmate’s account and spreading the word on campus, high school boys being taunted by their friends about their mother’s account, and even pervert fathers watching their own daughters’ OnlyFans.
Men have posted their regret online as well, some saying they wish they had never pressed subscribe.
Meanwhile as with all pornography, the women in real life relationships with the men watching OnlyFans suffer, and unlike free internet pornography, everyone’s bank account suffers as well.
One woman posted a TikTok saying that her boyfriend, the father of her newborn, hid an addiction to OnlyFans for years, spending thousands of dollars on “custom content” instead of saving for their family.
“In a more traditional society or a society with higher testosterone levels, people would be like, prostitution exists, it’s bad — you get my daughter involved in prostitution and I’m going to shoot you because why wouldn’t I do that?” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in a recent interview with The Daily Wire intern Daniel Schmidt.
The mirage of OnlyFans being a risk-free version of prostitution has shattered as well.
Last summer, Deputy Joseph Scaramucci of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, who has spent over a decade investigating sex trafficking, said in some cases there are “very obvious signs” of people being under “third party control.”
The platform, which takes a 20% fee for all transactions, also came under fire last year for failing to prevent child pornography from proliferating on the site. In August 2021, more than 100 members of Congress called on the Justice Department to investigate OnlyFans for allowing child sexual abuse material.
Shortly afterwards, the company suddenly announced it would no longer allow sexually explicit content. That move was reversed less than a week later, however, after an outcry from users and creators.
In December, former glamor model and actress Linda Lusardi warned that girls may regret their OnlyFans stints.
“What if your life moves in a different direction? I think sometimes the girls haven’t thought about when they have children, who might well see their mother in a situation she later regrets,” Lusardi said.
“Even if you’re not in a relationship, it could affect you when you meet someone. What if they have friends or family who have ‘tuned into’ you in the past? It feels a bit underhand,” she said.
The former topless model added that, “if I could speak to my 20-year-old self, I’d say: ‘Don’t take your clothes off – become an actress instead.’”