Savannah Benavidez stopped working as a medical biller in June to take care of her 2-year-old son after his daycare was closed. She needed a way to pay her bills and she created one Account with OnlyFans – a social media platform where users sell original content to monthly subscribers – and post photos of themselves naked or in lingerie.
Ms. Benavidez, 23, has made $ 64,000 since July, enough to not only take care of her own bills but also help family and friends with renting and paying for cars.
“It’s more money than I’ve ever made in a job,” she said. “I have more money than I know how to do.”
Lexi Eixenberger was hoping for a similar stroke of luck when she opened an OnlyFans account in November. A restaurant worker in Billings, Mont., Ms. Eixenberger, 22, was laid off three times during the pandemic and needed so much money by October that she had to drop out of dental school. After donating plasma and doing odd jobs, she still didn’t have enough to pay her bills. At the suggestion of a few friends, she turned to OnlyFans. She’s only made about $ 500 so far.
OnlyFans was founded in 2016 and is based in the UK. Its popularity increased during the pandemic. As of December, it had more than 90 million users and more than a million content creators, up from 120,000 in 2019. The company declined to comment on the article.
With millions of Americans unemployed, some like Ms. Benavidez and Ms. Eixenberger turn to OnlyFans to take care of themselves and their families. The pandemic took one especially devastating consequences for women and mothers wiping out parts of the economy where women dominate: retail stores, restaurants, and healthcare.
“A lot of people migrate to OnlyFans out of desperation,” said Angela Jones, associate professor of sociology at New York State University at Farmingdale. “These are people who are worried about food, worried about keeping the lights on, and worried about not being evicted.”
But for any person like Ms. Benavidez who can use OnlyFans as their primary source of income, there are dozens more, like Ms. Eixenberger, hoping for a stroke of luck and ending up with just over a few hundred dollars and worries that the photos will hamper their ability to get in Future to get a job.
“It’s already a incredibly saturated Market, “said Ms. Jones about explicit online content. “The idea that people just open an OnlyFans account and start raking the dough is really wrong.”
Often times, the most successful content creators are models, porn stars, and celebrities who already have large social media followers. They can use their other online platforms to direct followers to their OnlyFans accounts, where they offer exclusive content for those willing to pay a monthly fee – even personalized content in exchange for tips. OnlyFans cuts pay by 20 percent. Some developers get tips about mobile payment apps that don’t benefit from this cut. Ms. Benavidez earns most of her money this way.
But many of the developers who joined the platform for financial reasons don’t have huge social media followers and no way of doing consistent business.
Elle Morocco, of West Palm Beach, Florida, was fired from her job as office manager in July. Her jobless checks don’t cover her $ 1,600 monthly rent, utility bills, and grocery bills, which is why she joined OnlyFans in November.
But Ms. Morocco, 36, had no significant social media presence when she joined the platform and had to gain subscribers one by one – by posting pictures of herself on Instagram and Twitter, and connecting with people she liked and commented on their posts and encourages everyone to subscribe to OnlyFans. It’s more challenging and time-consuming than expected and less financially rewarding.
“It’s a full-time job in addition to your full-time job looking for work,” she said. “Fans want you to post something every day. You always throw around. You always take photos to post. “
She’s only made $ 250 on the platform to date, although she sometimes spent more than eight hours a day creating, posting, and promoting her content.
Ms. Morocco also fears that her presence on the platform will make it difficult for her to be hired for traditional jobs in the future.
“If you search for 9-5, if they find out you have an OnlyFans, you might not get hired,” she said. “They may not want you if they know you’re a sex worker.”
Digital sex work can give the illusion of security and privacy – content creators can be paid without having to interact with customers in person. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks.
“Online sex work is a much more attractive alternative to many people than taking to the streets or selling direct sexual services,” said Barb Brents, professor of sociology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. “That means anyone who gets into this type of work must be aware that there are dangers.”
In April last year a Mechanic in Indiana lost her job at a Honda dealer after management learned she had an OnlyFans account. Creators can be the target of “doxxing” – a form of online harassment in which users post private or confidential information about someone without permission. In December the New York Post published an article about a New York paramedic that OnlyFans used to supplement her income. The doctor believed that the article published without her consent would damage her reputation and fire her from her job.
Creators can also be subject to “capping,” a practice in which users take unauthorized screenshots or recordings and then share them elsewhere on the Internet. OnlyFans developers have also received threats of murder and rape on social media.
The creators of OnlyFans content can have not only professional but also personal consequences. Ms. Eixenberger kept her account a secret from her father, but knows that he will find out now that she has gone public. “I don’t want to be embarrassed or denied,” she said.
Others say the experience was empowering. Melany Hall, a single mother of three, makes $ 13.30 an hour as a paramedic in northern Ohio, barely enough to pay her bills. She opened an OnlyFans account in December.
“I’m a mother of three. I never thought anyone would pay to see me naked,” said Ms. Hall, 27. “It was a confidence boost.”
She’s made about $ 700 so far – not enough to change her life, but enough to make the holidays special.
“This is the first year I haven’t had to choose between an electricity bill and Christmas presents for my kids,” she said. “This is the first year I’ve been able to do it all on my own.”