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Young people turn to OnlyFans in a fragile economy

More and more Gen Zers and Millennials have started doing sex work out of financial necessity and a genuine appreciation for the job’s benefits.

By Soren Blomquist Eggerling, Staff Writer

More and more people have turned to OnlyFans during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to supplement their income. (Photo Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

In order to protect them from potential harassment, the women in this article will be referred to by their first names only.

For most people, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many in tenuous financial straits. Some have responded to this by venturing into sex work on OnlyFans, an online platform that has skyrocketed in popularity as the pandemic has deprived people of income and intimacy.

Erika, who moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career after graduating with honors from a four-year university, had recently been delivering food for income. Due to pandemic-related safety concerns, she stopped in the middle of last summer. Still, she has managed to stay afloat financially and believes she has grown as a person, in large part due to her current job on OnlyFans.

“I needed something where I could work on my own schedule, but the pay would be consistent so that I never ran into a situation where I couldn’t feed myself,” Erika ruminated. “I really didn’t have the luxury of having reservations.”

Starting in 2016 by a British entrepreneur with a background in sex-based websites, OnlyFans has become the premier online platform for sex workers, especially during the pandemic. According to OnlyFans Head of Marketing Steve Pym in a New York Magazine Intelligencer article, it saw a 40 percent increase in the number of content creators in March 2020 alone.

Rachel, who primarily works in the cannabis industry, was among those new content creators, joining OnlyFans after she was laid off from a job at a dispensary and the money from her last pay stub and stimulus checks started to deplete.

“I always imagined myself doing OnlyFans in a way where it would be different from everyone else,” Rachel clarified, explaining that she saw the platform as a source of “seed money,” or a way to supplement her primary income.

Rachel also differs from the stereotypical OnlyFans creator in that her content is neither nude nor topless. It is in many ways an extension of her aspirations to become a professional model, a goal she is currently working towards. Recently, Rachel’s OnlyFans has taken a backseat, especially after she got a new office job back in the field of cannabis.

She is not ruling out a return to the platform in the future, but her earnings were inconsistent and not enough to support herself on. More importantly, she finds the time commitment to be daunting.

“The girls that are doing it as a main hustle are spending countless hours on their phone,” she asserted. “It is a full-time job plus more.”

“I don’t believe there is anything wrong with sex work. I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed about,” said Erika.

Andie, an undergraduate studying to become a physician’s assistant, also started an OnlyFans during the pandemic, but unlike Rachel, it has morphed into her primary source of income. After just a couple months, she quit her serving job to focus on creating content for the website, eventually making more than she was at the restaurant. She is succeeding, although her cash flow can be difficult to peg from month to month.

“That’s a big downside, that you never know what’s going to happen,” she explained. “My followers never go down lower than a certain number and I always make around the same range of money, give or take $500 or so.”

Still, Andie is immensely grateful for the freedom her OnlyFans work has given her, both personally and professionally. At the end of the day though, it is still a job for her, one that requires both time and a willingness to display her face and body, even if she is feeling insecure.

“I know a lot of people will make it seem [casual], but for me it’s a long time and takes a lot of work.”

Like Andie, Erika supports herself entirely off of OnlyFans. Through the rave scene and other sources, the two amassed a social media following that proved instrumental in their growth as sex workers on OnlyFans. Both wholeheartedly believe in the concept of sex work, a major factor in their decision to join the platform.

“I don’t believe there is anything wrong with sex work. I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed about,” said Erika.

A self-diagnosed person with autism, Erika views her work as a way to empower and inspire. She does not want to run for office, be a teacher or adopt kids, traditional life paths she noted might be complicated by the stigma surrounding sex work. Crucially, any slight reservations she may have had have been quelled by a consistent paycheck.

Safety concerns surrounding her food delivery job may have pushed Erika towards OnlyFans, but she was quick to clarify that she is passionate about her work now rather than being forced to do it solely out of economic insecurity.

“My values are the most important thing to me in life, and they are more important to me than financial and career success,” she proudly declared, “and my values clearly state that there is nothing wrong with sex work, and that sex workers do not deserve any of the stigma and judgement placed upon them … If [sex work] limits an opportunity for me, then that’s an opportunity I don’t want.”

While they may have disparate aspirations in life, the three women all agree that they have benefitted immensely from their work on OnlyFans and want the stigma surrounding the site and sex work in general to be shattered.

“The time and the ability to live your own life and be yourself — that is the ultimate [empowerment],” Erika asserted. “It’s worth any stigma or judgement that could ever be thrown my way.”

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