The pandemic has made a lot of us in Gen Z spend more time on our phones. Membership apps like OnlyFans have grown massively because of it. Starting out as a place for users to pay to see the exclusive content of their favourite performers and influencers, it has become an online hub for young people who work in and consume porn. At FYI, we explored how this happened and how it has affected us Gen Z’ers.
With its pay-per-view model, OnlyFans has completely changed the porn industry, where usually performers get paid the same amount regardless of how often their content is watched. Celebrities and influencers, like Cardi B, Bella Thorne and Jordyn Woods, also use the site, but it’s the sexual content that it owes its popularity to most.
The app has allowed a lot of Gen Z’ers to earn thousands of dollars a month without having to deal with an exploitative industry of middlemen taking all their cash. 23-year-old Lauren from Northamptonshire was cashing in £37,000 a month last year, as featured in the BBC Three documentary #Nudes4Sale.
Although OnlyFans has said it requires its users to be over 18, a new BBC investigation has found that there are many underaged people on the app. Many Gen Z’ers use OnlyFans to sell explicit content and while for some it’s a source of extra pocket money, for others it’s the only thing keeping a roof over their head.
A 20-year-old girl told Refinery29 that she started sharing explicit photos on Snapchat when she was 15 and got kicked out of the house by her parents because of it. She then started using OnlyFans as a financial lifeline.
“I’m making an extra £100-£200 a week, which obviously sounds a lot to some people but when you have to start spending that on finding somewhere to sleep and food and transport, you definitely need to get some content out and make some extra money,” she said.
Last Summer, former Disney channel star Bella Thorne joined the social media platform and offered her fans nudes against a fee which turned out to be sexy pictures of her wearing lingerie instead. As a result, OnlyFans had to process thousands of refunds and costs and later announced they were changing their payments from weekly to monthly, causing many sex workers distress about paying their bills.
If you don’t understand why every sex worker hates Bella Thorne’s stinky guts and how she endangered the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of creators, let me explain it for you! First, Bella Thorne made an OF & made $1m in her first day. This isn’t the bad part.
— Erika Heidewald, Proud Autistic Bitch (@erikaheidewald) August 28, 2020
On top of that, the pandemic caused a huge surge in youth unemployment with half of Gen Z’ers saying they or someone in their household lost work or pay since last Spring. With The Financial Times calling OnlyFans the “hottest social media platform in the world”, it’s not surprising that some turned to the app to make ends meet.
The problem, however, is that the app allows under-18s to slip through the cracks and share sexual content when that is against the law. In a statement, the Essex-based owners said: “We use a combination of state-of-the-art technology together with human monitoring and review to prevent children under the age of 18 from sharing content on OnlyFans.
“This is something that we take very seriously. We constantly review our systems to ensure they are as robust as possible.”
BBC’s investigation shows that “robust” might not be the best word to describe their security system, as it revealed underaged people could easily use fake IDs to create an account and sell pornographic content.
OnlyFans gets 20 percent of whatever creators on the app make by selling videos, pictures and messages. In total, users spent about £1.7 billion on it with customers paying anywhere between $5 and $50 per month and it was reported that the app’s revenue grew by 553 percent in the year to November 2020.
With over 1 million content creators and around 120 million users, OnlyFans needs to start taking responsibility and make the necessary changes before it can ever be the empowering open-minded Gen Z trend that it wants to be.