What is OnlyFans? How does it work and who is involved (explanation)

OnlyFans first gained widespread attention after sex workers began using the site during the spring and summer of 2020 COVID lockdowns. The subscription-based platform has since risen to become a world of its own where artists, entertainers, sex workers and other influencers can make their money.

As the pandemic progressed, as platforms like Instagram cracked down on demon times, OnlyFans became the hub for all things adult — and more. A growing list of celebrities, including Cardi B and Bhad Bhabie, used OnlyFans, selling content that wasn’t NSFW but unavailable elsewhere.

In August 2021, OnlyFans announced plans to ban sexually explicit content from the platform. Its founder and CEO, Tim Stokely, initially said the banks were to blame for the ban. But after an immediate backlash from sex workers and others who used the site to make a living, the company rolled back its policy changes, tweeting, « We have received the necessary assurances to support our diverse creator community and have the proposed policy change. » suspended from October 1st. ”

Now that the platform has announced that it will maintain its status quo, here’s everything you need to know about OnlyFans.

What is OnlyFans?

Launched in 2016, OnlyFans is a subscription-based social media platform that allows users to sell and/or buy original content. When used as an adult site, users post NSFW videos and photos to their accounts, which are protected by a paywall. In order to get access to the content, a person has to pay a monthly subscription fee that ranges anywhere from $4.99 to $49.99.

At the height of the pandemic, the platform saw a surge in users as clubs and venues closed and its employees needed a new source of income.

« I realized I needed to diversify my income by creating my own content, » Scarlet Bloom, an adult entertainer, told the LA Times. For her, she saw OnlyFans as a reliable new business model to leverage. « I came to OnlyFans more seriously. »

Who Uses OnlyFans?

Some YouTubers are professional sex workers who got into the industry long before the platform existed. Pornstars, escorts and webcam models are among those who have expanded their services and supplemented their income through OnlyFans, while other creators had little to no sex work experience prior to the lockdowns.

“I was worried about money, paying my mortgage, bills and so on. Before lockdown I was caring for animals – mainly domestic dogs. But since it’s an independent company, my boss can’t pay me until she gets her scholarship from the government, » a woman named Miss June told Vice. « Right now I’m living on savings. OnlyFans seemed like the easiest option.”

Experienced sex workers have had mixed reactions to the influx of newcomers, with many admonishing amateurs to consider all the ramifications of their work and urging them to shed their preconceived notions about it.

« Sure, do it, start OnlyFans, start camming — but that means you now have to support sex workers year-round, » Portland sex worker Valentine told the New York Times. « You can’t just go in and out because you think it’s easy and then end up wrecking us… The idea that all sex workers make a lot of money isn’t true — or that we’re just fair to show our bodies. » and we have no integrity and we have no brain behind us. It really is so much more than that. We are all human.”

Which celebrities use OnlyFans?

While sex workers make up a large portion of OnlyFans’ creator base, many celebrities and influencers use the platform to promote content. Cardi B launched her OnlyFans account to promote her song « WAP » featuring Megan Thee Stallion. While not as active there, Cardi uses the site to connect with fans and announce new music. DJ Khaled and Fat Joe also launched a joint account in early 2021, where the two gave inspirational speeches to their audiences.

The-Dream opened an account to promote its Baby Album of the Year, SXTP4. However, don’t expect to see explicit videos or pictures of the rapper. Instead, he created the free page to better connect with his fan base, while also encouraging them to post « their own sensual choreography to his latest tracks. »

Reality TV stars such as Blac Chyna and The Bachelor’s Chad Johnson also joined the platform, along with Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood couple Safaree Samuels and Erica Mena.

Tyga joined OnlyFans in 2020 and told his followers that he would use the space to share exclusive content like music, photos and videos.

« It’s a new platform where I can speak directly to my fans and give them exclusive music, images, videos and other BTS of my latest releases, » he said in a statement. « You can truly see more into my life than ever before and an intimate glimpse into what I do every day. It’s about to be lit! »

Rapper « Rack City » announced in December 2020 the formation of Too Raww, a lifestyle and OnlyFans management company aimed at helping aspiring models launch their careers.

Check out this post on Instagram

A post by TOO RAWW (@tooraww)

But after OnlyFans announced it would be banning sexually explicit content — a move it reversed — he deleted his account. The rapper is now planning to launch his own subscription-based platform called Myystar.

Stars like Amber Rose, Jordyn Woods, Tyler Posey, Aaron Carter, Austin Mahone, and Chris Brown are also among the prominent users of OnlyFans, but they have each used the platform for different purposes.

celebrity controversies

Although OnlyFans originally started out as a subscription-based platform for exclusive content, it didn’t take long for it to become synonymous with sex work. As mentioned, many people who have worked in the adult entertainment industry have used the platform to make money amid the coronavirus lockdowns. As well-known figures like recording artists and actors started creating accounts, the sex workers who helped build OnlyFans fell down the site’s rankings.

These challenges were further highlighted by the Bella Thorne controversy. Last year, the 23-year-old actress created an account and reportedly made $2 million in the first two weeks. Many criticized Thorne and other celebrities for using OnlyFans as a hobby, resulting in financial losses for those who rely on the platform for a living. They also criticized the fact that early OnlyFans users were penalized for using a platform known for adult content, while celebrities were subsequently praised as « entrepreneurs » when they decided to join.

Unable to get pandemic aid because of criminalization, sex workers are struggling to get people to spend $5 a month on their content, while a rich celebrity is making $1 million in a day by appearing as one. Give money to working-class sex workers, not prominent LARPers. https://t.co/Z3yg3cHVQ1

— Fibromarxalgia (@comedyunism) August 26, 2020

Thorne has also been criticized for seemingly misleading subscribers, who paid up to $200 for a « nude » photo that turned out to be relatively tame. After this controversy, OnlyFans limited what creators can charge; The platform insisted the change had nothing to do with Thorne.

The actress, who has an estimated net worth of between $5 million and $12 million, issued an apology that same month, claiming her intent was to destigmatize sex work.

I wanted to draw attention to the site, the more people there are on the site, the greater the chance of normalizing the stigmas, and in trying to do that I hurt you. I’ve risked my career a few times to remove the stigma behind sex work, porn and the natural hate people spit out…

— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020

How much can you earn on OnlyFans?

OnlyFans has set a minimum subscription price of $4.99 per month and a maximum price of $49.99 per month. Creators can also charge a minimum of $5 for tips or paid private messages, which can significantly increase earnings for those with a large and loyal subscriber base.

« Your earnings forecast really depends on the quality and quantity of the content uploaded, » writes OnlyFans. « The more you post, the more incentive there is for your fans to subscribe (and stay subscribed) to your profile. »

As mentioned, many online sex workers have pointed out how difficult it can be to monetize OnlyFans. Think of it like any other social media platform like Instagram or YouTube: it’s rare that someone accumulates thousands or millions of subscribers/followers immediately after signing up. You have to produce quality content for weeks, sometimes even months, before your account becomes lucrative.

Monica Huldt, aka « Miss_Swedish_Bella », is considered one of the highest-earning creators on OnlyFans, charging $6.50 for a monthly subscription and higher fees for commissioned work sent via private messages. According to Business Insider, Huldt gained more than 1,100 subscribers and was making more than $100,000 a year from OnlyFans as of March. Though she already had a large Instagram following before joining OnlyFans, she told the publication that she works on the platform seven days a week to earn a six-figure income.

« I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it if they just want to do it two days a week or something, » she said. « It’s not a part-time job for you. You wouldn’t make enough money. »

Post-pandemic, OnlyFans was reportedly aiming for a valuation of over $1 billion. According to Bloomberg, the thought process behind the platform was hoping for a rating high enough that it could lead to the site becoming more mainstream and not just known for sexually explicit content.

Is OnlyFans anonymous?

As with many social media sites, OnlyFans is not free from privacy risks. Of course, there are some concerns about joining the platform for fear it might hurt personal relationships or career opportunities, which is why many creators use a stage name or handle their accounts in the interest of anonymity.

According to OnlyFans’ website, the company will share users’ personal information — such as name, address, bank details, and ID numbers — with third-party companies for « verification purposes, » but insists that this information is not shared with subscribers or other users.

Many creators have also chosen to hide their faces in content posted on OnlyFans. Some choose to just keep their heads out of the frame, while others have opted for a mask.

« I personally feel pretty comfortable with that, » an anonymous OnlyFans user told College Review. « But I’m trying to be really careful not to get caught up in anything because there’s always a fear that something has leaked, and it’s also something you have to accept or prepare for when you start OnlyFans. »

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