How COVID-19 Has Spawned the Rise of the App OnlyFans
How Some Teens and Young Adults are Using this App for Survival Money
Caveat: The young university student who connected with us agreed to speak freely about her experience with an app called OnlyFans, and provided us permission to share it with others on the condition that we kept her identity private for reasons that will become obvious. This student comes from what she identified as a “very traditional family”, and did not want her parents to know what she was doing to make it through the financial hardships of university, especially during COVID19. For the purpose of this article, we will use the name Vanessa, which is NOT her real name.
Very recently, we were contacted by a young university student (we will call her Vanessa) who heard us speak at her school 5 years ago. Vanessa stated that she remembered our presentation like it was yesterday, and also remembered that she could connect with the White Hatter Team anytime if she found herself in trouble online and needed help. Turns out, Vanessa’s Instagram’s account had been compromised and de-activated for some unknown reason.
During our discussions, Vanessa disclosed that other accounts she had were also showing some unusual activity including her OnlyFans account (1) For those reading this posting, OnlyFans is a private premium app that allows the owner to privately share texts, pictures, or streaming video with a subscriber at a mutually agreed upon price. Often, the content of this “private” service is hypersexualized or pornography-based, where you “pay to play” with the owner of the account. We actually mentioned this app in an earlier article specific to TikTok and Sugaring (2).
As we began our discussions about the culture surrounding OnlyFans, Vanessa was very willing to share her thoughts and experiences. Vanessa was primarily using her OnlyFans page to garner “survival money” to help with the fiscal challenges surrounding university tuition, books, and living accommodations. Here’s what Vanessa shared with us:
She was unable to find full-time work because of COVID19 and is presently living at home.
Over the past 3-months, Vanessa has made just over $25,000 CDN on her OnlyFans account. Venessa’s specialty hypersexualized dancing to music in a thong bathing suit, similar to what can be seen on TikTok, but even more hypersexualized. It should be noted that Vanessa stated that she has never engaged in any open nude or pornographic behaviour on her OnlyFans page. Although Vanessa has been asked to provide nudes on several occasions, to date she has refused even though it would pay her more money. As an example, another friend of hers in university has made close to $80,000 in less than 6 months, but this friend was selling nudes and performing live solo sex acts on her OnlyFans page.
Vanessa consistently has over 400 subscribers on her page, each of who pay $5.00 a month to have the ability to connect with her. If the subscriber wants special attention, then they will pay what she calls a “tip” to move to the top on the queue, these people are known as a “simp” (3). Depending upon what the subscriber wants Vanessa to do, there will be a further charge, her fee was $60.00. Most of her Only Fan private session last under 3-5 minutes, or the length of a song that she will dance to. Vanessa used the analogy of an adult entertainment bar to describe the Only Fan process - you pay a cover charge to get in, you tip your server for special attention, and then if you want a “private session”, you pay a further premium fee. This reminded us of another teen that we interviewed back in 2018 who was using a “Sub-Reddit” in a similar way to make money (4).
Many of Vanessa’s subscribers come from a public Snapchat account that she uses as a gateway to her Only Fans account.
On average, Vanessa stated that the person who connects with her will be a male around the age of 23yrs.
Vanessa stated that many of her subscribers just want to talk because they are looking for someone to listen and interact with because of loneliness, especially during COVID19 where many are self-isolating at home.
When I asked Vanessa if those who identify as male are also utilizing OnlyFans pages to make money, she stated “yes”. Vanessa stated that most males will use OnlyFans pages to sell live sex acts that they engage in with a partner, which lots of subscribers will pay to watch. The money is then split between the guy and the other girl/guy he is having sex with. I would suspect that many are willing and consensual participants, but I can also see how a human sex trafficker could force those under his control for online sexual exploitation and financial profit using this app.
Vanessa stated that someone new to the OnlyFans app can utilize the services of a “influencer” (someone who has a very large client base) to help promote their page. The catch, you need to pay this influencer a significant percentage of your profits as a “referral fee”. When we stated to Vanessa that this sounded like “digital pimping”, she did not disagree.
When I asked if she had been involved in any less than desirable situations or dangers, she stated “no” because she is very careful in what she does. However, she has heard of other users who have been extorted. In these cases, a client was able to identify the user’s real name, address, and social networks. They then threaten to publicly post screenshots and recordings of what the owner was doing to friends and family if they do not provide free content, or meet them face-to-face. It must be emphasized that anything and everything is done on an OnlyFans page can be covertly recorded without the owner of the page knowing.
In Vanessa’s case, it appears that it was one of her subscribers that was responsible for some of the digital issues she was experiencing.
Don’t get us wrong, there are people, especially those who are musicians and artists, who have awesome OnlyFans pages, but it is clear to us that this site has been co-opted by those who are profiting from hypersexualized and pornographic behaviour. Yes, OnlyFans pages are individually owned and operated, but there is no doubt in our mind that this site is a prime breeding ground for commercialized exploiters – Pimps, to both recruit and traffic the most vulnerable in our society for financial gain.
Apps like OnlyFans are becoming, out of economic necessity, a way to make “survival money” for teens, university students, young adults, and single parents who have no other source of income to help pay for university, rent, or to buy food and clothes for their child. Something we spoke to in our article on Sugaring (4). In other words, sites like OnlyFans are now attracting primarily women, sometimes men, who are economically and emotionally vulnerable. It is because of this fact that an OnlyFans subscriber/customer starts from a clear position of power that they can now exploit for money. Although Vanessa was over the age of 18, in the past several months we have helped several teens under the age of 18 who owned OnlyFans pages. These teens found themselves in dangerous situations because of the disinhibition effect that this app offers, combined with the lure of what they believed to be “easy money” without risk.
Digital Food For Thought
The White Hatter Team