In June, Savannah Benavidez quit working as a medical collector to care for her 2-year-old son after the boy’s daycare closed. Looking for a way to pay her bills, she created an account on OnlyFans – a social networking platform whose users sell original content to monthly subscribers – and started posting pictures of herself naked or in lingerie.
Benavidez, 23, has earned $ 64,000 since July, enough not only to pay his bills, but also to help his family and friends pay rent and a car. “That’s more money than I’ve ever made in any job,” she says. “I have so much money I don’t know what to do with it.”
Lexi Eixenberger expected a similar result when she opened an account with OnlyFans in November.
A restaurant worker in Billings, MT, Eixenberger, 22, was fired three times during the pandemic and in October was so badly in need of the money that she had to drop out of dental school. After donating plasma and making spouts, she still didn’t have enough to pay the bills and, at the suggestion of friends, turned to OnlyFans. So far he has only earned around $ 500 (R $ 2,600).
“People think it’s easy to take nude photos and post online, but it’s hard work; it’s a full-time job,” Eixenberger said, admitting that he sometimes feels “dirty”.
OnlyFans, founded in 2016 and based in Britain, has exploded in popularity during the pandemic. As of December, it had over 90 million users and over 1 million content creators, up from 120,000 in 2019. The company declined to comment for this report.
With millions of Americans out of work, some, like Benavidez and Eixenberger, are turning to the site in an attempt to support themselves. The pandemic has had particularly devastating effects on women and mothers, wiping out parts of the economy where they predominated: commerce, restaurants and daycares.
“A lot of people turn to OnlyFans out of desperation,” says Angela Jones, associate professor of sociology at New York State University in Farmingdale. “These are people who care about how to eat, care about keeping the light on, not to be thrown out.”
But for every person like Benavidez, who manages to use OnlyFans as their main source of income, there are dozens of others, like Eixenberger, who expect a big turnout and end up with a few hundred dollars and fear that the photos do not harm them. a job in the future.
“It’s already an incredibly saturated market,” Jones says of explicit online content. “The idea that people are going to open an OnlyFans account and start making a lot of money is totally wrong.”
The most successful content creators are often models, pornstars, and celebrities who already have large social media audiences. They can use their online platforms to guide subscribers 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 charges a 20% commission on any payment, but some content producers receive tips through mobile apps, which are not subject to fees; Benavidez earns most of his money this way.
However, many of the creators who entered the platform because of great financial need do not have a large social media following and no way to generate consistent business.
Elle Morocco of West Palm Beach, Fla., Was fired from her post as office manager in July. Your unemployment benefit checks do not cover your rent of $ 1,600, your water and electricity bills, and your food. So she joined OnlyFans in November.
Morocco, 36, was not on social media when she joined the platform and had to gain followers one by one – posting photos of her on Instagram and Twitter and following people who liked and commented on her photos, encouraging them to subscribe to OnlyFans. It’s harder and takes more time than she thought and less financially rewarding.
“It’s a full-time job, on top of a full-time job search,” she says. “The fans want you to post every day. You’re always in a rush, you’re always taking pictures to post.”
So far, she has only earned $ 250 (R $ 1,300) on the platform, although she sometimes spends eight hours a day creating, posting and promoting her content. Morocco is also concerned that its presence on the platform will make it more difficult to hire for traditional jobs in the future.
“If you’re looking for a 9 am-5pm job, they can’t hire you if they find out you have an OnlyFans. They might not want you if they know you are a sex worker, ”he says.
“Online sex work is a much more attractive alternative to many people than going out or directly selling sex,” says Barb Brents, professor of sociology at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. “Having said that, anyone who comes into this job should know there are dangers.”
In April, a mechanic in Indiana lost his job at a Honda dealership after management learned she had an account with OnlyFans. Creators can be targeted for “doxxing” – a form of online harassment in which users post private or sensitive information about someone without their permission.
In December, the New York Post ran an article about a New York paramedic who used OnlyFans to supplement his income. She claimed the post, released without her consent, would damage her reputation and cause her to be fired from her job.
Others say the experience has been rewarding. Melany Hall, a single mother of three, earns $ 13.30 an hour as a paramedic in northern Ohio, which barely covers her expenses. It started at OnlyFans in December. “I have three kids. I never thought anyone would pay to see me naked,” Hall, 27, said. “It strengthens my self-esteem.”