What Is OnlyFans? How Does It Work & Who’s on It (Explainer)

The power of Beyoncé was underscored last week when she inadvertently caused a spike in OnlyFans traffic. The multi-hyphenate named-dropped the app in the epic remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” track, in which she delivered the provocative lines: “Hips TikTok when I dance/On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans.”

As we’ve previously reported, the term demon time is used to describe an after-hour virtual strip show that can star both professional and amateur exotic dancers. Many adult entertainers have taken to the internet to sell their services during the COVID-19 lockdowns, while others with less experience in the industry have used “demon time” to generate some much-needed income. The issue, though, is that many of these strip shows have been broadcasted on Instagram, which has been cracking down on accounts that post nudity and adult content.

So, where can the adult entertainers turn to during this time of social distancing? Enter OnlyFans.

What is OnlyFans?

Launched in 2016, OnlyFans is a subscription-based social media platform where users can sell and/or purchase original content—typically of the pornographic variety. When utilized as an adult site, users will post NSFW videos and photos to their accounts, which are protected by a paywall. To gain access to the content, an individual must pay a monthly subscription fee that ranges anywhere between $4.99 and $49.99.

Though Bey’s shout-out on the “Savage” remix caused a 15 percent increase in OnlyFans traffic, the site reportedly experienced a surge in activity around the time stay-at-home orders were put in place. Blake Montgomery of The Daily Beast reported the platform had garnered 3.5 million new signups in March; of those signups, 60,000 were new creators.

“People are currently deprived of opportunities to meet new people, date, many of us are deprived of the opportunity of physical touch and other opportunities for physical gratification,” cultural anthropologist Wednesday Martin told RT.com about OnlyFans’ rise amid the health crisis. “People are also deprived of tensional outlets for monogamy like having a happy ending massage, seeing an escort, and other things that may be quasi-acceptable ways to attain variety, novelty, and adventure.”

Who uses OnlyFans?

Experience levels vary from user to user. Some creators are professional sex workers who have been in the industry well before the platform existed. Porn stars, escorts, and webcam models are among those who have expanded their services and supplemented their income through OnlyFans; while other creators had little to no sex work experience prior to the lockdowns.

“I was worried about money, about paying off my mortgage, bills, and stuff. Before lockdown I was looking after animals – pet dogs, mainly. But because it’s an independent business my boss can’t pay me until she gets her grant from the government,” a woman who goes by Miss June told Vice. “… At the minute I’m living off savings. OnlyFans seemed like the easiest option.”

Veteran sex workers have expressed mixed reactions about the influx of newbies, with many cautioning amateurs to consider all consequences of this line of work as well as urging them to shed their preconceived notions.

“Sure, do it, create an OnlyFans, start camming — but that means you have to support sex workers all year round now,” Portland sex worker Valentine told the New York Times. “You can’t just dip in and out of it because you think it’s easy and then trash us in the end … The idea that all sex workers make a lot of money is not true — or that we’re just simply just showing our bodies and we have no integrity and we have no brain behind us. It’s really so much more than that. We’re all people.”

Which celebrities use OnlyFans?

OnlyFans has also been utilized by a growing number of celebrities, many of whom found success in more mainstream markets.

The-Dream recently launched an account to promote his “baby-making album of the year,” SXTP4. But don’t expect to see explicit videos or images of the rapper. He instead created the free page as a way to better connect with his fanbase, while also encouraging them to post “their own sensual choreography to his latest tracks.”

Reality TV stars like Blac Chyna and The Bachelor‘s Chad Johnson have also joined the platform, along with Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood couple Safaree Samuels and Erica Mena.

Safaree’s OnlyFans presence led to some mild drama with fellow rapper Casanova, who also joined the platform in mid-April. Fans had apparently complained to Cas about his initial $50 subscription rate while pointing out that Safaree only charged $20.

“Listen, y’all bum bitches stop DMing me talking about $50 is too expensive for your OnlyFans,” Cas said in an Instagram video. “Go to Safaree’s page then. He charging $10. This rich n***a dick. I’m not playing with this dick. You see this dick? $50!”

Safaree caught wind of Casanova’s comments and explained the reasoning behind his OnlyFans rate.

“Ladies, it’s 2020. We’re going through a hard time,” he said on Instagram. “That’s why my OnlyFans is $20. I care about your pockets. Casanova telling y’all $50? C’mon man.”

Though Safaree and Casanova were some of the first celebrities to join the adult platform, others have hopped on the OnlyFans train throughout 2020. Cardi B announced her account back in August, telling fans she had no intentions of posting nudity, but would rather use the space to answer fans’ questions and address circulating rumors.

Tyga took a similar approach when he joined OnlyFans in September, telling his followers he would use the space to share exclusive content like music, photos, and videos.

“It’s a new platform where I can talk directly to my fans and give them exclusive music, pics, videos and other BTS of my latest releases,” he said in a statement. “They can really see more inside my life than ever before, and an intimate look of what I do every day. It’s ‘bout to be lit!'”

Earlier this month, the “Rack City” rapper announced the launch of Too Raww, a lifestyle and OnlyFans management company that aims to help aspiring models jumpstart their careers.

Stars like Amber Rose, Jordyn Woods, Tyler Posey, Aaron Carter, Austin Mahone, and Chris Brown are also among OnlyFans’ celebrity users; however, they’ve each used the platform for different purposes.

Celebrity Controversies

Though OnlyFans initially launched as a subscription-based platform for exclusive content, it didn’t take long before it became synonymous with sex work. As previously mentioned, many people who worked in the adult entertainment industry took to the platform as a way to make money amid the coronavirus lockdowns. Once well known figures like recording artists and actors began creating accounts, the sex workers who helped establish OnlyFans found themselves falling in the site’s rankings.

These challenges were further highlighted by the Bella Thorne controversy. The 23-year-old actress created an account in August, and reportedly raked in $2 million in the first two weeks. Many slammed Thorne and other celebrities for using OnlyFans as what they perceived to be a hobby, which caused financial losses for those who rely on the platform to make a living. They also took issue with the fact that early OnlyFans users were chastised for using a platform known for adult content, while celebrities were subsequently praised as “entrepreneurs” when they chose to join.

Thorne was also criticized for seemingly misleading subscribers who paid up to $200 for a “naked” photo, which turned out to be relatively tame. Following that controversy, OnlyFans put a limit on what creators can charge; the platform insisted the change had nothing to do with Thorne.

The actress, who has an estimated net worth between $5 million and $12M, issued an apology in late August, claiming her intention was to destigmatize sex work.

How much can you make on OnlyFans?

Onlyfans has set a minimum subscription price of $4.99 per month and a maximum limit of $49.99 per month. Creators can also charge a minimum of $5 for tips or paid private messages, which can significantly boost earnings for those with a large and loyal subscriber base.

“Your earning forecast really depends on the quality and quantity of the content you upload,” OnlyFans writes. “The more you post, the more incentive there is for your fans to subscribe (and remain subscribed) to your profile.”

As previously noted, many online sex workers have emphasized just how difficult it can be to make bank off OnlyFans. Think of it like any other social media platform, like Instagram or YouTube: It’s rare for someone to rack up thousands or millions of subscribers/followers immediately after signing up. One must produce quality content on a consistent basis for weeks, sometimes months before their account becomes lucrative.

Monica Huldt , aka “Miss_Swedish_Bella,” is said to be one of the top-earning creators on OnlyFans, charging $6.50 for a monthly subscription and larger fees for commissioned work sent through private messages. According to Business Insider, Huldt garnered more than 1,100 subscribers and was making more than $100,000 a year on OnlyFans as of March. Though she already had a large Instagram following prior to joining OnlyFans, she told the publication she works on the platform seven days a week to earn a six-figure income.

“I would never advise someone doing it, if they only wanted to do it like two days a week or something,” she said. “It’s not a part-time thing in your mind. You wouldn’t make enough money.”

Is OnlyFans anonymous?

As with many social media sites, OnlyFans isn’t free of privacy risks. There is, of course, some hesitation to join the platform out of fear that it could affect personal relationships or career opportunities, which is why many creators use a stage name or handle on their accounts in the interest of anonymity.

According to OnlyFans’ website, the company will share users’ personal information—such as name, address, banking credentials, and ID numbers—to third-party companies for “verification purposes,” but insists this information will not be shared with subscribers or other users.

Many creators have also opted to conceal their faces in content posted to OnlyFans. Some choose to simply keep the head out of the frame, while others have go for a mask.

“I personally feel pretty safe on it,” an anonymous OnlyFans user told the College Review. “But I do try to be really cautious to not get my face in anything because there is always a fear that something will get leaked and it’s also something you kind of have to accept or prepare yourself for when you start an OnlyFans.”

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