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Exploitation, Abuse and Despair: Behind the “easy riches” legend on OnlyFans

Any internet user who searches for news in Portuguese about OnlyFans, a social network that allows the commercialization of adult content, quickly finds dozens of stories from people who claim to have enriched themselves on the platform. “OnlyFans icons highlight the advantages of the platform”, announces a column published last August. “There, until 2021, there were already more than 150 million registered users and 1.5 million creators of content”, continues the text. “But, after all, what is the good side of this phenomenon that is still loaded with stigma and taboos?”.

If, on the one hand, a recent survey revealed that more than 50% of models who sell intimate content on OnlyFans do so without their parents and friends knowing, on the other hand, the effort that part of the Brazilian press makes to cool the so-called “stigma ” about the platform – which, by the way, has yielded no less than 2,30 billions of dollars to the majority shareholder in the last 18 months – it is noteworthy.

Cases such as the former teacher who says she became a millionaire in three years at network, the actress who says she feels “more financially secure”, the former gas station attendant who claims to have made more than half a million dollars and the “ex-miss BumBum” who “conquered financial freedom” on OnlyFans appear day after day in some of the main news portals in the country.

“Pornography of the privileged”

It happens that, for example, As with the rest of the sex industry, it doesn’t take much digging to realize that OnlyFans’ vaunted “successes” are yet another facet of what Canadian essayist Melinda Selmys calls “pornography of the privileged,” in which “ the experience of a small group is presented as the norm, while the violent, coercive and traumatizing realities of the sex industry disappear with the use of the magic wand of ‘choice’”.

Still in – the year in which OnlyFans grew by about 600% amid the pandemic -, the British magazine The Spectator warned of the presence not only of actresses, singers and virtual celebrities among users (they are, of course, the ones who earn the most from the “nudes”), but also of women unemployed people who needed to pay the bills and ended up regretting the exposure. One of the interviewees for the report said that she deleted the account after one of her “clients” published one of her photos without a bra on an open pornography website.

“Each subscriber paid me ten dollars a week. and, minus the OnlyFans commission, I was left with 8 dollars. I needed to get as many subscribers as possible to be able to pay my rent, which means posting new photos all day, every day and agreeing to increasingly explicit requests. In the end, I felt exhausted and degraded, and I canceled my subscription,” the woman told the report.

Everything for sale?

The report did not It should be a surprise: according to information provided by the app itself, the average earning of content creators is 180 dollars (about 2021 reais, less than one minimum wage) per month. The problem is that even this amount conveys a false dimension of the problem, given that 1% of accounts receive a third of all the money collected on the platform, so that most users receive less than 800 reais per month.

On the other hand, even if the business was profitable for a larger portion of users, it is always a case of asking, as the professor proposes from Harvard Michael Sandel, whether it is ethical for certain spheres of human life – such as sex, so tied to one’s own dignity – to be exposed to the logic of the market. “Do we want a society where everything is for sale? Or are there certain moral and civic goods that are not honored by the market and that money cannot buy?”, asks the author.

Last year , it was the turn of the New York Times to wake up to the “other side” of the success of OnlyFans: one of those interviewed by the newspaper is a young woman from 22 years that, fired three times during the height of the crisis and without money to pay for college tuition, turned to OnlyFans, despite the fear of not being able to other jobs in the future.

Finally, in May of this year, another report unraveled the phenomenon of “digital pimps”: men who literally opened “virtual agencies” to “help” women who want to profit on the platform. “OnlyFans is a great opportunity not only for sexy girls, but for men as well. What I am proposing here is electronic pimping” (N/E: the expression used by the interviewee was “e-pimping”), said one of the characters in the

According to an “OnlyFans survivor”, these men often approach models via Twitter offering to “manage” their virtual image in exchange for content. “People are desperate and fall for it out of naivety. This naturally creates a perfect opportunity for blackmail and other types of manipulation. It happens all the time and it’s not talked about enough,” reveals the anonymous source.

Child sexual abuse

Exposure of desperate young women to a degrading market and the consequent exploitation of them by entrepreneurs eager for profit – starting with the creator of the platform, Timothy Stokely – is just the tip of the iceberg of problems that accompany the exponential growth of OnlyFans, a plot that strictly follows the pattern of big tech companies that are grappling with accusations of illegal pornographic material circulating on their platforms. Upon reporting the presence of minors on the network, OnlyFans merely “reinforced being up to date with security measures.”

Meanwhile, groups such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) – one of the oldest organizations in the United States to address the intrinsic relationship between pornography, prostitution, sexual exploitation and human trafficking – new allegations accumulate: an investigator from the US Department of Homeland Security even reported to the NGO that he found between 30 and 50 images of child sexual abuse per day “clearly coming from OnlyFans”.

For NCOSE, OnlyFans is, in short, a great “pyramid scheme” of sexual exploitation, in addition to offering a “safe environment” for practices that, little by little, gain the attention of the press. International. Why Brazil insists on linking the use of the platform to female “empowerment” is a question to be asked by anyone who is seriously concerned about the dignity of the most vulnerable.

In an article for the conservative magazine First Things, Samuel D. James recalls that in Dante’s Inferno, those who profit from the exploitation of the sexuality of others are punished more severely than those who promiscuous. “The contemporary progressive social order is an order of workers”, points out the author. “Naked bodies working day and night, sacrificing their dignity and reputation for the opportunity to pick up the crumbs that fall from the Big Tech table.”

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