Have you ever heard of OnlyFans? It’s a social media platform – like YouTube or Instagram.
Entry isn’t open to everybody, nonetheless. Solely subscribers (“followers”) can see the images and movies posted by OnlyFans content material creators. Most subscriptions value round US$10 (A$13.50) a month, with suggestions as non-obligatory extras.
Visiting the OnlyFans homepage, you’re invited to “signal as much as assist your favorite creators”. The platform describes itself as a spot the place “creators can monetise their content material and work together with their fanbase”.
So, if you happen to’re new to OnlyFans, it might shock you to study it’s overwhelmingly understood as a web site for grownup content material. The phrase “to start out an OnlyFans” is usually understood to imply somebody is promoting entry to erotic, or sexually specific, images and movies of themselves.
Why is there this disconnect? And why is that this an issue?
Finding out OnlyFans
In a brand new article for journal Porn Research I analysed 100 information articles (from February to December 2020), 100 OnlyFans memes (gathered January 2021), in addition to 100 posts to the official OnlyFans weblog (from mid-2018 to early 2021).
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These sources symbolize completely different views. Information articles replicate mainstream understandings. Web memes – remixed snippets of standard tradition – reveal our shared norms and values. In the meantime, official weblog posts can inform us in regards to the picture Solely Followers is trying to domesticate.
My research drew on the work of social media students Karin van Es and Thomas Poell, who argue, what folks suppose a platform is for issues – they name this the “platform imaginary”. It impacts how folks use it: their expectations and experiences. Importantly, it additionally impacts who thinks the platform is for them.
A ‘movie star porn app’?
My evaluation found very completely different concepts about what OnlyFans is for, or a contested “platform imaginary”.
Information articles have been most definitely to name OnlyFans a “movie star porn app”, an “X-rated subscription platform”, or “grownup leisure web site” for “racy snaps”.
In the same vein, memes about OnlyFans implied the platform was for grownup content material, with jokes about how simple it’s for girls to earn a living by exhibiting off their our bodies.
Different memes embody a person taking a photograph of his behind, with the tagline, “once you learn how a lot cash they make on OnlyFans”. One other is an image of a serious-looking younger man on the cellphone, captioned, “Me calling buyer assist when her OnlyFans is simply photos of her in a bikini”.
The memes have been particularly telling – they didn’t simply joke about OnlyFans being a platform for grownup content material, in addition they slut-shamed the creators by inferring that promoting grownup content material was degrading.
Or a spot for make-up and exercise suggestions?
In contrast, 87% of posts to the OnlyFans weblog don’t point out grownup content material in any respect.
As a substitute, the weblog showcases health instructors, magnificence consultants, photographers, artists, and musicians. One (uncommon) publish to do that claims the platform will assist, and by no means censor, pole dancers.
This ties in with its official (obscure) line that OnlyFans comprises “content material creators from all genres”. This emphasis is deceptive, given OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely created the platform in 2016 to capitalise on the rising demand for customised porn.
OnlyFans has thrived throughout COVID lockdowns. From November 2019 to November 2020, it posted revenues of US$400 million (A$541 million), up 540% over the earlier yr. Though there may be an argument the corporate must “rebrand” to remain worthwhile. As Axios not too long ago reported, whereas sexual content material makes the positioning standard, “it additionally scares off enterprise capitalists”.
Making the most of, then banning, specific content material
In August, OnlyFans introduced it was going to ban sexually specific content material, explaining it should “evolve our content material pointers”,
With a view to make sure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to proceed to host an inclusive group of creators and followers.
There was a right away backlash. Not solely was it ridiculed as nonsensical (a web site for grownup content material that doesn’t permit grownup content material?), intercourse employees, porn performers, and grownup content material creators have been outraged about being banned from a web site that they had helped make well-known and worthwhile.
The corporate reversed the choice only a week later, after resolving a undisclosed challenge with its fee suppliers. However anger and mistrust stays, as now the door is open to OnlyFans banning specific content material sooner or later.
There may be additionally a much bigger challenge right here about sustaining areas the place intercourse employees are secure and capable of do their jobs.
Usually debates round “deplatforming” (eradicating somebody’s entry to a web page) centre round free speech and whether or not folks like Donald Trump must be allowed a Twitter. However deplatforming can also be a severe risk to intercourse employees and porn producers as a part of a “gentrification” of the web.
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There are a number of harms flowing from this.
Banning intercourse from a specific platform means sexually marginalised folks lose someplace secure to work together. As queer research scholar Stephen Molldrem wrote when microblogging web site Tumblr banned porn in 2018:
many queers, kinksters, individuals who have interaction in numerous sorts of sexual commerce, and transfolk who use the platform […] are going to get shafted by the choice (and never in a great way).
It additionally cuts off vital avenues for sexual experimentation, and training. And destroys the livelihoods of these within the grownup trade.
Additional including to the uncertainty is the difficulty of chargebacks – fee suppliers see intercourse and porn as high-risk industries due to the excessive charge folks denying they paid and getting a refund.
What OnlyFans ought to do now
My analysis exhibits the cut up id of OnlyFans. That is one thing it might want to resolve going ahead (each for itself and its creators). However there’s a possibility right here for OnlyFans to declare its assist for intercourse employees and porn performers.
OnlyFans controversy highlights the bind dealing with most gig employees
Overtly stating grownup content material creators are welcome, together with them prominently on the OnlyFans weblog, and proactively working with fee corporations to make sure they’ll revenue from their work would set an instance. As an apart, Fortune notes, going G-rated may assist OnlyFans safe buyers within the quick time period, however may value the enterprise over the long run.
In the meantime, for these in a stigmatised, precarious trade, a spot that cultivates a way of belonging for grownup content material creators is a platform price imagining.
Emily van der Nagel doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.