OnlyFans is marketed as a “peer-to-peer subscription app,” and became more widely used during the pandemic as many creators joined to supplement or replace lost income—the site reported a “75% uptick in model sign-ups in early April” (López). The platform benefits substantially from the rise in interest: OnlyFans is classed as a “digital patronage” platform, which provides for financial exchange for creative expression, with the platform taking a percentage (Bonifacio and Wohn). In the case of OnlyFans, the percentage is 20%, while other digital patronage platforms—Twitch.tv, YouTube, Patreon, and so forth—offer different terms for their users.
As with other patronage platforms, and web-driven content platforms more broadly, OnlyFans offers the allure of removing visual gatekeepers and eliminating the need for costly production or distribution equipment. However, OnlyFans thrives on the ability for users and sex workers to bring over their audiences from other websites and social media platforms. Yet, the majority of content creators examined in a sample of sex workers on OnlyFans lack the existing, transplatform influence of these celebrities to build a profitable fandom, and thus are likely to find themselves among those Duffy has described as the gendered “unpaid, aspirational laborers” these platforms rely and prey upon.
With increased regulations because of FOSTA/SESTA on other social media sites, sex workers may not have any place to draw in their customers from; they may not have the ability to properly vet their customers; and they may not have the once robust community that online sex work could provide. The pandemic exacerbates the problems brought forth by these anti-sex worker laws; they adversely affect the entire sex work population, but especially those who have the least power, influence, and resources, like sex workers of color, queer sex workers, and survival sex workers.
If you want to help sex workers during this time, the following links are great places to start:
Lysistrata: Online sex worker mutual care collective
Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA: A national network focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
The Black Sex Worker Collective: Addressing the needs of Black sex workers through peer support, legal assistance, housing and other basic needs assessment.
Red Canary Song: A collective of Asian and migrant sex workers based in New York City.
Green Light Project: Based in Seattle
Bay Area Workers Support: Based in the Bay Area.
Project Pink Bloc: Based in the Bloomington, IN area.
Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago [SWOP-Chicago]: Based in the Chicago area.
No Justice, No Pride: Based in DC
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