OnlyFans initially received mainstream attention after sex workers began using the site during the COVID lockdowns of spring and summer 2020. The subscription-based platform has since ballooned into a world of its own, where artists, entertainers, sex workers, and others can monetize their influence.
Over the course of the pandemic, as platforms like Instagram cracked down on demon time, OnlyFans became the center for all things adult—and more. A growing list of celebrities, Cardi B and Bhad Bhabie among them, capitalized on OnlyFans, selling content that, while not NSFW, wasn’t available elsewhere.
In August 2021, OnlyFans announced plans to bar sexually explicit content from the platform. Its founder and CEO, Tim Stokely, at first said that banks were to blame for the ban. But after immediate backlash from sex workers and others who used the site to make a living, the company walked back its policy changes, tweeting, “We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change.”
In the wake of the platform saying it will maintain its status quo, here’s everything you need to know about OnlyFans.
What is OnlyFans?
Launched in 2016, OnlyFans is a subscription-based social media platform where users can sell and/or purchase original content. 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.
At the height of the pandemic, the platform saw a sharp increase in users as clubs and venues closed down and its workers needed a new stream of income.
“I realized I needed to diversify my income by making my own content,” Scarlet Bloom, an adult entertainer, told the LA Times. For her, she saw OnlyFans as a reliable new business model to leverage. “That was when I more seriously got into OnlyFans.”
Who uses OnlyFans?
Some creators are professional sex workers who began 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 had mixed reactions to the influx of newbies, with many cautioning amateurs to consider all consequences of their line of work, as well as urging them to shed their preconceived notions about it.
“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?
While sex workers make up a large portion of OnlyFans’ base of creators, many celebrities and influencers use the platform to promote content. Cardi B started her OnlyFans account to promote her song “WAP,” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. While she’s not as active on it, Cardi uses the page to engage with fans and tease new music. DJ Khaled and Fat Joe also launched a joint account at the beginning of 2021, where the two delivered inspirational speeches to their audience.
The-Dream 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 it to post “their own sensual choreography to his latest tracks.”
Reality TV stars like Blac Chyna and The Bachelor’s Chad Johnson also joined the platform, along with Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood couple Safaree Samuels and Erica Mena.
Tyga in 2020 joined OnlyFans and told his followers that 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!”
The “Rack City” rapper in December 2020 announced the launch of Too Raww, a lifestyle and OnlyFans management company that aims to help aspiring models jumpstart their careers.
But in the wake of OnlyFans’ announcement that it would bar sexually explicit content—a move it walked back—he deleted his account. The rapper is now planning on launching his own subscription-based platform called Myystar.
Stars like Amber Rose, Jordyn Woods, Tyler Posey, Aaron Carter, Austin Mahone, and Chris Brown are also among OnlyFans’ celebrity users, but they’ve each used the platform for different purposes.
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. Last year, the 23-year-old actress created an account 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.
Sex Workers are unable to get pandemic relief because of criminalization and are struggling to get people to spend $5/month on their content, meanwhile a rich celebrity makes $1 million in a day cosplaying as one. Give money to working class sex workers, not celebrity LARPers. https://t.co/Z3yg3cHVQ1
— Fibromarxalgia (@comedyunism) August 26, 2020
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 the same month, claiming her intention was to destigmatize sex work.
I wanted to bring attention to the site, the more people on the site the more likely of a chance to normalize the stigmas, And in trying to do this I hurt you. I have risked my career a few times to remove the stigma behind sex work, porn, and the natural hatred people spew…
— BITCHIMBELLATHORNE (@bellathorne) August 29, 2020
How much can you make on OnlyFans?
OnlyFans has set a minimum subscription price of $4.99 per month and a maximum 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.”
Following the pandemic, OnlyFans was reportedly seeking a valuation of over $1 billion. According to Bloomberg, the thought process behind the platform hoping for such a high evaluation was that it could lead to the site becoming more mainstream and not only known for sexually explicit content.
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 gone 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.”