CW: This article discusses topics of sexual harassment, stalking and rape, which could be distressing to some readers.
Patrycja M. Pietras
Image source: unsplash.com
So... What exactly is OnlyFans, and how does it work? Since its launch in 2016, a platform called OnlyFans has gained tiny popularity among some young creators and influencers. However, the subscription-based social media app outbursted after they allowed sharing of paid content for adults. Professional sex workers and even celebrities considered it an ideal space for them to move their businesses. Still, it wasn't only them - many women who never thought about making money this way jumped in for that trend when the pandemic hit in 2020. Since then, the platform has been chiefly known for paid content for adults. Let's have a closer look at the general history of sex workers.
We've all heard that being in the profession of giving sexual services can be called 'the world's oldest profession', but I would risk calling out not only women but men as well. According to ''The History and Economics of Male Sex Work'' published by Cambridge University in 2017:
''Male sex work as an occupation is old as its female counterpart. [...] Then and now, the primary buyers and sellers of male sexual services have been men.''
So why there is still a stigma mainly surrounding women in the sex industry?
I bet most of us have heard at least once a negative connotation about someone selling such services or posting nudity on social platforms. Without knowing the person, society is the first to judge. But why?
If there were no buyers, there would be no sellers. So if the need is still out there and the audience is still expanding, with growing sub-audiences demanding various fetishes covered in the service and being able to pay the extra money, why making working in the industry such a taboo?
In such a sexualised world, professions like that should be normalised, sex education and medical treatment delivered to everyone despite the age, nationality, race or gender. While sexual workers can be put out there and be known for being in the industry, the buyers prefer to stay anonymous. Perhaps people feel excited or even ashamed when they're buying a subscription or paying someone directly to fulfil their sexual fantasies in secret.
As secretive as it can be, the possible danger of such a profession should be talked about out loud. It's essential to mention that, according to swp.urbanjustice.org, sex workers:
''have a 45% to 75% chance of experiencing sexual violence on the job.''
The same website states that in the mind of society, sex workers cannot be sexually assaulted since it's their job to provide sexual services. Unfortunately, the dangerous mindset and lack of legal regulations in various countries can lead to horrible crimes and an overall feeling of no responsibility for actions and words. While talking about the physical damage that can occur while providing such services, it's not always safe for women, even when working online. Many cases show how easy it is to stalk, hack and sell someone's personal information. Sexual harassment, assault, and even rape are severe and, unfortunately, still common and not talked about enough in the industry. Also, the stigmatisation put upon women who want to change their occupation and leave the sex industry of any kind is still lingering around for the rest of their lives.
A great example of this could be Mia Khalifa, who doesn't want to be known only for her episodes in the porn industry. Still, her previous career has followed her to this day and made it difficult to live normally and express her views and religion. The industry itself needs more regulations as the exploitation of her persona was active and still making money on her till 2020 despite many official statements that the videos will be removed from the Internet. It's just one case among many others.
To answer the question of whether OnlyFans has placed the sexual power back into the women's hands, we would have to ask them directly. The ones who actively provide content and those who don't want to continue pursuing this career.
As it definitely gave more freedom to express one's sexuality and semi-steady income, it's still a matter of cultural change, removal of the stigma, and normalisation of it as a profession - because it should be nothing more than an occupation.
As we moved through Pride Month, let's raise voices that scream about sexual liberation and expression. Because we all have the right to love who we want, be whoever we want to be, and be with anyone we feel connected to. And as a society, we still have a lot of work to do to show understanding and change toxic connotations around the expression of one's sexuality.
If you need any help, please use the sexual violence hotlines and ask for help.
Rape Crisis Hotlines
Rape Crisis 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) - Helpline 020 8683 3300 / Counselling 020 8683 3311
Victim Support 0845 30 30 900