Escorts, in-Person Sex Workers Explain How OnlyFans Changed Their Work

  • OnlyFans experienced a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, changing the porn industry.
  • Three in-person escorts told Insider that OnlyFans’ popularity changed their work as well.
  • They said that demand to produce digital content for clients had increased.

When OnlyFans announced — and then reversed — its decision to ban hardcore porn on the platform, the backlash was loud and swift. The five-year-old company known for its adult creators and audience has revolutionized online porn and sex work by allowing individual creators to build a subscriber audience in a central location.

The ripple effects of OnlyFans’ explosion, which largely took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, aren’t limited to online performers. Veteran sex workers who provided in-person escort services long before OnlyFans say the platform has changed their jobs as well.

Three sex workers told Insider the boom led to a huge increase in demand for digital content from their in-person clients. But they said OnlyFans’ unpredictability had made them hesitant to use the platform.

Escorts saw increased demand for digital content during the pandemic

OnlyFans Photo Illustrations

OnlyFans recently announced and then reversed a ban on hardcore porn on its platform.

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The sex workers told Insider that one of OnlyFans’ biggest effects on the in-person sex-work industry was that it increased demand for digital content.

Justine*, an escort in New York, told Insider that many of her escort clients asked her to join OnlyFans during lockdown so that they could support her with monthly subscriptions. But Justine doesn’t use the platform because she doesn’t see the time commitment as worth it, she said, adding that she wanted to avoid the churn of creating constantly. Justine said she’d still exchange digital content with individual clients.

Ella Blaire, an escort in Toronto, said she used OnlyFans but was considering deleting her profile because she’d rather invest her time in her in-person services. She said that while she’d experienced success on the platform because of her large Twitter following, « a large percentage of my fan base on OnlyFans are my in-person clients, so there is that crossover. »

For escorts, that crossover is common — but it must be executed strategically, according to Kehlela*, an escort in New York, who said she separates her OnlyFans from her in-person services for security reasons.

She told Insider that sex workers try to establish that separation so that they can use the platform without breaking its rules against promoting escort services or using coded language to communicate anything that would violate its policies.

Some use dating apps to bring in customers. But because many of these apps prohibit directly advertising OnlyFans profiles, sex workers might direct people to another social-media platform, like Twitter, where they can then send the prospective clients to OnlyFans and book IRL sessions. Kehlela said she was debating opening up her OnlyFans to clients from Seeking (formerly known as SeekingArrangement) by directing them to Instagram, because she, too, had seen dramatic increases in requests for digital content.

« The flow of traffic can go two ways, where people on Instagram and OnlyFans know that they can hire me as an escort, or the people who hire me as an escort can also see my Instagram and OnlyFans, » she said. « It’s just a matter of do I want a guy to have the potential ability to out me — like, ‘You’re a whore’ — and put it out on the internet. »

IRL sex work can streamline content creation for OnlyFans. Kehlela said she once met a regular client and sold content from that session to an OnlyFans user, something her escort clients find « fun and exciting. » The user offered payment for a topless photo in her Uber ride home, which the driver accommodated when she offered a hefty tip, she said. On top of the $2,000 she made for the initial content, she made $100 for the Uber content, and other users approached her for exclusive content that evening, she said.

« It can add up really quick, » she said.

OnlyFans’ volatility has made some sex workers reluctant to use the platform

Despite the increased demand spawned by OnlyFans, the platform’s volatility has deterred some women from investing in it.

None of the three professional escorts interviewed for this story expressed surprise at the platform’s flip-flop on hardcore porn. They said that such unpredictability was par for the course for sex workers but that because of their diverse streams of income they were better prepared financially and more flexible than the sex workers coming up exclusively on OnlyFans.

Blaire said a lot of sex workers saw the potential for a crackdown when Pornhub faced an exodus of credit-card companies last year. « It was shocking and upsetting for a lot of people, but veterans in the industry weren’t surprised, » she said.

Blaire said she’d already been considering deleting her account because she’s unwilling to provide the type of sexually explicit material necessary to make big bucks, even in private communications with clients.

Kehlela has taken a more reluctant step back from the platform. She said that while she liked using it because it offered her the flexibility to work from home when dealing with chronic health issues, the unpredictability had changed her cost-benefit analysis. « I have the privilege to pick and choose, » she said, adding that the risk of her identity being exposed coupled with the volatility of the platform had made her move away from OnlyFans.

Kehlela said OnlyFans had deepened a divide in sex work between people who offer in-person services and those who don’t. « It puts a divide between ‘I only do this’ versus ‘I’m full service,' » she said. « I would say that it’s created a new wave of people that wouldn’t categorize themselves as sex workers. »

All three sex workers said it would take more than OnlyFans to shift that boundary.

*Name has been changed to protect the source’s privacy.

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