I'm an accountant: OnlyFans, TikTok, & censorship of online sex work

Curator's Note

Last April, Megan Thee Stallion & Beyonce released the song “Savage (Remix)”. In the 2nd verse, Beyonce sings “Hips TikTok when I dance, on that Demon Time, she might start a OnlyFans”.  The video for this song premiered on April 29th, 2020, and now has over 67 million views on YouTube. Over the past year, OnlyFans(OF) subscription and creator numbers have boomed, giving people an opportunity to make money from the comfort of their own homes. This NSFW platform has also changed the way that we view the sex work industry. OnlyFans has given independence and autonomy back to content creators, making sex work more accessible than ever. The utilization of OF as a business venture has surged during COVID-19. Studies show that the pandemic has significantly affected women specifically, leading many to online sex work as an alternative to unemployment. 

As OF continues to grow in popularity, content creators have gravitated to TikTok to cross-promote their content and increase subscriptions. With 689 million active users worldwide, TikTok has quickly become one of the fastest-growing social media apps of all time. With the help of TikTok, content creators on OF can grow their audience through exposure and increase revenue. Content creators have indulged in the popularity of TikTok, utilizing the sound “I’m an Accountant” to show the struggles of online sex work and the awkward encounters one has when asked “What do you do?”(nobody asks you questions when you say you’re an accountant). This viral sound allowed OF content creators to self-promote while staying relevant and funny.

 The utilization of cross-promotion on TikTok has also created a community of online sex workers. These creators have taken to TikTok to offer tips and tricks for people looking to get started on OF and other online sex work ventures. TikTok users create videos giving daily breakdowns of what it takes to be successful on OF, including best practices and current trends. TikTok has allowed more experienced content creators to open a safe space for those looking to get into online sex work. Whether it be financial/tax guidance or best sites to sell used clothing items, people are learning valuable information to grow their online personas and business.

This all may now come with a cost as TikTok continues its censorship of online sex work. Over the past few months, TikTok has overhauled its platform and community guidelines, making it almost impossible for OF content creators to promote their accounts. These content creators must now get creative with loopholes and side door promotions, including using hashtags like #lonelyfriends #seggswork. Some OF content creators have given up on TikTok, unwilling to play the games of third-party social media landing pages (i.e. Linktree) and creative hashtags. Some are instead directing their followers to their Instagram accounts and promoting their OF there instead.

As sex workers traverse the stigma imposed by society, platforms like TikTok can help break down barriers to entry and increase acceptance. With increased censorship online, it’s hard to say where online sex work will go from here. What is next in terms of cross-promotion for online sex workers? Is it possible to build a community of sex workers online which supports content creators and boosts their success? How will censorship play a role in the continued popularity and acceptance of online sex work?

If Beyonce can reference online sex work & millions listen, when will the stigma of sex work finally be obsolete?

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