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OnlyFans Explained: Everything to know about the NSFW website

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Founded in 2016, online content subscription service OnlyFans skyrocketed in popularity—both with creators and users—during the COVID-19 lockdowns in the spring and summer of 2020. Now a cultural staple, many OnlyFans creators (sex workers, influencers, and celebrities) have found the platform to be hugely lucrative, but it’s not the golden ticket that some people think it is. 

With its fair share of controversies including leaks and a reversed policy change barring sexually explicit content from the platform, it’s safe to say that OnlyFans has changed the digital landscape and the way we think about monetizing influence. A growing list of celebrities joining the platform, including Cardi B, Iggy Azalea and Bhad Bhabie has also affected stigmas associated with sex work, while also creating new challenges for non-celebrity OnlyFans creators.

Here’s everything you need to know about OnlyFans. 

What is OnlyFans?

OnlyFans is a London-based subscription social media platform where users can sell or pay for original content. Not all of the content on OnlyFans is “adult” or NSFW, but most of it is. Creators post paywalled visual (video or photo) content to their accounts which users can access via a monthly subscription fee that ranges anywhere between $4.99 and $49.99.

During the pandemic, OnlyFans saw a major uptick in users as venues closed and workers needed a new source of income. Instagram cracking down on adult content only increased the influx of users to OnlyFans who were ready to capitalize on content that wasn’t readily available elsewhere. 

Who is on OnlyFans?

Many creators on OnlyFans were professional sex workers prior to getting on the platform. Adult entertainers like porn stars, escorts, and webcam models are some of the professional sex workers who have supplemented their work with OnlyFans content. There are also many creators who had little to no sex work experience prior to creating content on OnlyFans. 

Well-known celebrities have also found a niche on OnlyFans. Musician Cardi B started an OnlyFans account to promote her song “WAP”. She also shares behind-the-scenes content and is one of the platform’s top earners, only surpassed by Iggy Azalea who reportedly made $48 million in her first year. 

Speaking about her OnlyFans content on Emily Ratajowski’s podcast High Low with EmRata, Iggy said, “I’ve made record labels so much money off my body. I’ve made a lot of people so much money off my body, and I got the smallest cut off my own f***ing body, and my own work, and my own ideas.” She continued, “I don’t think that I have to say sorry that I want to commodify my own s***. It’s been commodified, and I wasn’t even the main f***ing benefactor of it.”

Other celebrities who have made accounts on OnlyFans include Tyga, Blac Chyna, Austin Mahone, DJ Khaled and Fat Joe, Bella Thorne, and Tyler Posey. 

However, not everyone is thrilled about the celebrity presence on OnlyFans. Sex workers who came to the platform to supplement their income found themselves being outshone by the recording artists and actors who made their own accounts. Beyond competing financially with celebrities on OnlyFans, sex workers found that the stigma associated with sex work continued to be extended to them while celebrities on OnlyFans were being praised as “entrepreneurs.” 

How much money can you make on OnlyFans?

OnlyFans subscriptions typically range from $4.99 to $49.99 per month. The creator keeps 80% of their subscription, and 20% goes to OnlyFans. Creators can also earn tips on top of the subscription fees and charge for private messages. 

But it’s not easy to make a living off of OnlyFans. Like any other content platform, creators need to be consistent and use their content to incentivize users to pay for more. 

Some creators make six figures on OnlyFans, while others make significantly less. BuzzFeed interviewed several OnlyFans creators and their earnings ran the gamut from $1 million overall to $150 per month. Which is to say, it’s possible to make a great living as an OnlyFans creator, but it takes hard work and is certainly not the case for everyone. (It definitely helps to already have an audience prior to getting on the platform.)

Can OnlyFans content be leaked?

OnlyFans has guardrails in place to prevent the sharing and leaking of exclusive content. For example, if you try to screenshot content on OnlyFans, it will only show a black screen. However, subscribers continue to find ways around these measures. 

In March 2020, between 1.4 and 4 terabytes (up to 2,000 hours of video content) of OnlyFans content was taken from behind the site’s paywall and leaked on the storage site, Mega. The content was leaked by users who had access to the content, rather than a security breach by hackers.

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