OnlyFans is an online content-sharing social platform established in 2016. According to its founder, British entrepreneur Tim Stokely, the site was developed to monetize social media content free of advertisers. Creators are given the ability to paywall content by setting monthly subscription rates for premium followers, and in return, OnlyFans receives 20% of their total revenue. Although creators can upload any kind of content such as music and comedy, it is widely considered to be a platform for sex workers.
- 1 Background
- 2 Cultural Effects
- 3 Ethics
- 4 References
Company Info & User Data Projections
OnlyFans is currently a privately-traded company owned by CEO and founder Tim Stokely. It boasts more than 100 million registered users and pays more than $3 billion annually to its creators. Tim Stokely estimates that the site gains 200 thousand new users and 7 to 8 thousand new creators every day. According to online databases of OnlyFans statistics, approximately 1.54% of users are content creators while 98.46% are fans.. The most liked account globally is @omgcosplay with about 3.21 million likes, the most subscribed account with 236.6 thousand fans is @HAMMY_TV and the top-earning profile of about $20 million is @blacchyna. XSRUS, a strategic business consultant and analyst, reports that the average monthly earning from OnlyFans is $180. They observe that the top 1% of accounts share 33% of all monthly revenue while the top 10% of accounts make up 73%.
Users of OnlyFans can interact with the application similar to other social media platforms. The website offers standard content filtering, sharing, moderating, and reporting functionality. New content can be posted as text, images, videos, and/or audio and can be liked, commented on, or the creator can be given monetary tips by their fans. Posts are modeled after the “carousel format”, popularized most notably by Instagram, but focus on highlighting creators instead. Additionally, seasoned creators can customize their business model and the level of fan interaction they have. Monetization opportunities include additional paywalls on content, freemium models, and discounts on bundles. Creators can also message fans individually or collectively without revealing which. This feature in particular can help form stronger connections between subscribers and creators, which in turn helps creators earn more money. OnlyFans encourages its creators to prioritize fostering relationships with fans as “tipping is a key way free OnlyFans accounts earn”.
Besides pornography, a common form of content on OnlyFans, many users utilize the platform for other ventures such as teaching dance moves, gambling, and cooking. As a result of the site's recent increase in users during the pandemic, OnlyFans advertisers to newcomers as predominantly sex work. Creators utilize the app for many reasons and a growing percentage of them use the app for financial support. Many people, including OnlyFans creators, were financially and psychologically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing some creators to use OnlyFans as a primary source of income. Marcela Alonso is a public figure who gained notoriety for using her OnlyFans earnings to pay bills and care for her children. She, like many others, saw an economic opportunity to capitalize on high demand by raising prices, which ultimately raises her income.
Dr. Alex George is another unconventional, popular user on OnlyFans. He's using OnlyFans to start an initiative for mental health support. Dr. George’s OnlyFans account is saturated with advice and engaging content targeted towards followers who are over 18 years old. His approach to paywalls is removing them from his profile completely to make his content accessible for all. Dr. George also opened himself to be a resource to others through the instant messaging feature on the app.
OnlyFans has only gained popularity recently. The market for subscription exclusive content and fan-based platforms has several alternatives. However, none have captured the adult content market as successfully as OnlyFans. Before OnlyFans, Patreon was a popular tool. Patreon is a subscription-based platform that allows content creators to achieve a monthly recurring revenue for their content . The platform was developed in 2013 by YouTube musician Jack Conte in order to address the discrepancy between views and paychecks. Today, Patreon maintains an active platform that has content suitable for children aged 16+, whereas OnlyFans remains 18+. Patreon takes 8% to 12% of the money made by its creators in comparison to OnlyFans’ 20% .
Mainstream Appeal. Many have speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic unwittingly spurred the mobile-app gig-economy due to rising levels of unemployment. Loneliness from social distancing and isolation is another commonly cited reason for OnlyFans’ recent success. Content creators cited various effects of the lockdown on their incomes. While many earned more money, others who made less claimed it was because of their fans facing financial circumstances changing as a result of the pandemic. 
The social media platform has also grown in popularity thanks to attention from mainstream media and celebrities. A growing list of famous users who have already flocked to the platform includes Tyga, Cardi B, Bella Thorne, and Jordyn Woods. Megan Thee Stallion's Savage remix featuring Beyonce also lyrically references the social media platform: “Hips TikTok when I dance/On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans (OnlyFans)”.
Controversy & Criticism
In spite of its commercial successes, OnlyFans has encountered controversies and criticisms as well. In August of 2020, Bella Thorne joined OnlyFans and broke the site's records by receiving over $1 million in one day. She also broke her alleged promise for nude photos, resulting in OnlyFans capping tips for private messages and pay-per-view content at $100 and $50 respectively, rather than the previous $200 limit. Like many other celebrities, Bella faced backlash for gentrifying the platform, diverting much-needed attention and resources from sex workers to her. OnlyFans received praise for overturning power imbalances in the sex worker industry, giving creators newfound agency in their careers. However, as noted by XSRUS, OnlyFans favors those who have already established social capital, creating a false illusion of achievable success. This income and class divide between organic top creators and celebrities is another widespread criticism of OnlyFans.
The long-term, ethical implications of normalizing pornographic content creation have unwittingly sparked new life into cultural debates regarding promiscuity. Supporters of OnlyFans argue that it could sexually liberate and empower women in a society that oppresses and victimizes their sexuality. On the other hand, critics of OnlyFans argue that it could lower moral standards and spread content permanently throughout the Internet. The consequences of increased porn use replacing human connection is a widespread debate typically associated with OnlyFans as well. Additional concerns surround the manifestation of mental health issues such as narcissistic personality disorder, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to a study, self-perceived adverse effects of increased usage include a decrease in sexual satisfaction and a need for longer stimulation and increased stimuli .
How OnlyFans Changed the Pornography Industry
Pornography was rampant in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Early Modern Period of Europe. It primarily consisted of images and literature with the intention of providing sexual satisfaction to customers. Later on, porn became dark and sadistic, leading to “120 days after Sodom”, which was a literature piece written by Marquis de Sade with a similar nature to the more current books and film, “50 Shades of Grey”. In addition, Marquis wrote about controversial sex topics, like homosexuality between men, sodomizing women, and whipping servants.
Eventually, around the time of The Industrial Revolution in the United States, the time period of pornographic film emerged with some of the first porn films dating back to the 1880s. Ironically, one of the first things someone recorded on film was naked people doing ordinary tasks. It was not until the 1920s when people began to film porn similar to what people still view today. After the 1920s, during the war porn declined, but became increasingly popular in the 1960s. The 1970s was where the tables turned and porn that was once a very hidden, lowkey topic was “brought into light” for everyday customers. That time period was also very important for the LGBTQ+ community because it further proved that heterosexuality is not the only norm and people can and should love whoever they want to love.
Later, pornography was brought to the Internet, making porn now have a genuine impact on the world in the 1980s and 1990s. In the late 90s and early 2000s, models began signing contracts with studios such as Vivid and Wicked. This is essentially when people realized that anybody could do porn. With the same controversy that OnlyFans experiences, free sites would take the works of these studios, distribute them for free and profit off of the ads. However, these porn studios did not have the money to sue these adversaries, so the rates dropped. Further, MindGeek (owners of Pornhub) monopolized the porn industry. Pornhub differs from OnlyFans in that anyone interested can watch Pornhub, but on OnlyFans there is the opportunity for exclusive content. In the time period when Instagram took off, Stokely’s genius idea of OnlyFans allowed for an essentially social media platform that would benefit content creators and allow influencers to monetize their content directly. As one OnlyFans creator described, she’s like their “online girlfriend” in that creators can directly create content for specific users. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram monitor nudity, unlike OnlyFans. It allows for a personalized experience that was unlike the porn industry had ever seen before. Some creators even see OnlyFans as an entrepreneurial endeavor in that if people already often send nudes, they might as well make money for doing so. It could also be seen as a creative outlet for some.
Terms of Service
The OnlyFans Terms of Service Policy details that users signing up for their platform must be 18 years of age and go through an age verification process, as well as agreeing that there are no laws barring the individual from accessing the platform. Once users are active they agree to this statement: "You will keep your account/login details confidential and secure, including your user details, passwords and any other piece of information that forms part of our security procedures, and you will not disclose these to anyone else. You will contact email@example.com promptly if you believe someone has used or is using your account without your permission or if your account has been subject to any other breach of security. You also agree to ensure that you log out of your account at the end of each session, and to be particularly careful when accessing your account from a public or shared computer so that others are not able to access, view or record your password or other personal information." 
OnlyFans collects a substantial amount of data from account holders, including names, social security numbers, drivers license numbers, information about personal property and purchases, biometric information obtained through a third-party authentication service, internet browsing and search history, professional work information, and "audio, electronic, visual, thermal, olfactory, or similar information," which refers to any of the content created and shared on the site. Creators expressed concerns regarding their sensitive information and premium content being leaked on other platforms by subscribers, meaning their content was shared without providing adequate payment to the creator and became freely accessible on the internet.  OnlyFans has not had their servers hacked, but rather, subscribers compile content from their personal subscriptions on the site and share it through other platforms, exposing a serious breach in OnlyFans' privacy measures. This consequence also results in unfair treatment towards the creators themselves who work hard for the money they hope to receive from the platform.
According to OnlyFans using social media and posting online "comes with its own risks" that should be taken into consideration. OnlyFans acknowledges that all content is at risk of content leaks and data breaches. OnlyFans has been using data encryption to protect sensitive personal information such as financial information. Two-factor authentication is another step that OnlyFans recommends its users take . To combat the distribution of exclusive content, creators are encouraged to use OnlyFans' watermark tool. If all else fails, OnlyFans offers their copyright team to resolve issues.
OnlyFans' user agreement states that users cannot repost content viewed or purchased on the platform, however, this has not prevented data scrapers from illegally acquiring data. Data scraping is the process of extracting data from one computer program to another.
When content is leaked, there is no incentive to purchase the same content, which can ultimately have serious financial ramifications for creators who use OnlyFans as their primary source of income. One user said "It's very disappointing that some people refuse to recognize our work as something valuable." 
Stolen content has been seen on free porn websites such as Pornhub, YouPorn, XVideos, and xHamster, where it was found as easily as searching the keyword "OnlyFans". Pornhub has removed certain keywords, but said they cannot remove OnlyFans as a keyword since OnlyFans creators can upload subscription content to expand their audience. Additionally, Reddit threads and Discord servers have been found with folders of stolen content and the sale of scraping softwares. Both companies claim to have removed these accounts.
While applications such as Facebook and LinkedIn have strong technical and legal actions in place to make it difficult to scrape, OnlyFans does not have any specific measures similar to these other platforms. Fortunately, they have an anti-piracy team that issues DMCA takedowns for its creators, with a 75% success rate this year. A DMCA violation is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA takedown notices rely on a strike system before restricting internet access. While this is beneficial to users, this requires knowledge of the leaked content, which can be difficult to find given the large scope of the internet.
A documentary called #Nudes4Sale reported that a third of Twitter profiles that advertised their nudes, typically sold through OnlyFans, were minors.  Minors can join OnlyFans using a fake ID. In response to this potential breach of OnlyFans policy, which prohibits minors from creating accounts, OnlyFans added a verification process that requires new account holders to verify a picture of themselves with the ID they used to join the site . In addition to requiring a photo with the ID, a secondary form of ID is preferred. Secondary forms of ID accepting include Facebook or Instagram profiles, passports, or permanent residence cards. Aside from this safeguard, OnlyFans relies on user reports to identify and disable the creator accounts of minors. .
One influencer Gabi DeMartino, age 25, was removed from the website after posting a video of herself naked as a child. She shared a home video of herself saying she didn't want to put her underwear on and later claims that she shared the video not as sexual content, but because she views her account very casually. OnlyFans removed her as a user for distribution of child pornography.