Has OnlyFans placed sexual power back in the hands of women?
OnlyFans.com is the newest kid on the block, claiming to be a safe, risk-free way to sell sex and home-grown porn that empowers women. Users pay to subscribe to authors' feeds on the social media network, which is comparable to Instagram.
In one way, OnlyFans is undeniably superior to traditional kinds of sex work. The platform is designed in such a way that it empowers content creation. In contrast to the prostitution and the porn industry, where pimps and businesspeople receive the majority of the profit, all of the proceeds from their labour go to the women who upload content.
OnlyFans also gives content creators the ability to choose the terms of their work. They can control who may and cannot view their photographs and videos, making it easier to avoid abuse.
However, the site is more than simply a sanitised form of sex work; there is evidence that the women who use it are vulnerable to scams.
A 4 terabyte dump of movies and photographs, largely of women who use the site to swap sexual images, was recently leaked online. The leak appeared to be the result of OnlyFans consumers accessing photographs and videos individually, then sharing them with others and putting them into a massive package for free, rather than a hack.
As a result, women are viewed as submissive, resulting in lower social and political standing. Persistent problems such as the gender pay gap, detrimental gender stereotypes, and unfair family labour division are the outcome of this perceived inferiority. OnlyFans, through its popularity and inception as a social media app, pushes sex labour into the realm of the ordinary.
It fosters the concept of women as 'sexual servants of men,' ready to gratify their sexual desires at the push of a button. This is how the platform silently contributes to the continuance of gender inequality and prevents women from achieving socially important empowerment.
The monetization of the female body, which is fundamental in OnlyFans' notion, has another perilous ramification. It necessitates viewing the woman as an object, a means to a purpose, rather than as a human being. While dehumanisation is unpleasant in and of itself, it also leads to violence against women. Numerous studies, including one conducted by psychologists at the University of Kent, have found a direct correlation between women's objectification and acts of hostility and violence against them. Sex workers are therefore highly vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse.
The male gaze in the sex industry
The way women are represented in mainstream media is almost entirely dependent on the 'male gaze.' According to the Male Gaze Theory, because media is dominated by men, women are overwhelmingly portrayed as objects of desire for men in films, music, and advertisements. This influences how women perceive themselves and shapes their perception of womanhood as dependent on male validation.
Many women, for example, undergo unpleasant and sometimes hazardous operations in order to achieve the "ideal" slender, spotless, and smooth feminine form. This illustrates what economist Amartya Sen refers to as "adaptive preferences." Preferences developed in the context of social injustice frequently fail to reflect what would genuinely make someone better off. Working on OnlyFans is similar in that society encourages women to like the attention they receive from being objectified by men.
Women as a social group get little from OnlyFans. Sex labour on the platform (and in general) is not intended for the enjoyment of women. What they do receive is basically financial compensation, which is not particularly significant with OnlyFans. According to Thomas Hollands' "The Economics of OnlyFans," the top 1% earn a third of the money on the site. Those that succeed and make the most money are frequently persons who are already well-known, such as celebrities and social media influencers.
So, is OnlyFans really giving back the power to women?
While money comes into OnlyFans and young, penniless, and often vulnerable women are enticed to this sanitised version of prostitution, men who subscribe have discovered yet another platform to treat women as little more than their own customised sex toy.
Because of the high danger of infection, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the closure of a number of brothels in nations where prostitution is allowed. OnlyFans may appear to be opposed to this type of sexual exploitation, but it is far from safe for many of the women engaged.
In the end, this is the logical progression of the commercial sex industry. Performers are chewed up and spat out, but the propaganda engine of this multibillion-dollar worldwide industry uses individual 'success stories' to offer a false picture of what truly occurs. And when our culture buys into the fiction of empowerment, that machine is fed, flourishes, and continues to exploit society's most vulnerable members.
We must no longer allow the porn industry to promote itself as a harmless pastime in which anyone may and should participate. That could not be further from the truth. As much as we like to think that OnlyFans is giving back women the power of consent- there will always be deep rotted misogyny, built upon old and misguided beliefs.