Two months into social distancing, Beyoncé namedropped OnlyFans during her feature on "Savage" by Megan Thee Stallion. Now everyone wants in on the experience. But chances if you're reading this, you might have the same question most of the quarantined internet does: What is OnlyFans?
Here's a hint: It has something to do with porn.
Luckily, as the Daily Dot's resident NSFW expert/horny sex worker, I'm not just familiar with the website; I also use it myself. Read on to learn more about OnlyFans, why sex workers use it, how it became so popular during social distancing, and whether you should give the site a try.
What is OnlyFans, and why is it so popular?
OnlyFans (one word, not "Only Fans") is a subscription-based content creation platform that lets users share multimedia posts behind a paywall. The site is primarily used by sex workers and adult content creators, especially independent models. While there are safe-for-work OnlyFans accounts run by influencers and online celebrities, the site is predominantly an adult website. And let's be real: Beyoncé wasn't bragging about selling coconut water.
On OnlyFans, fans subscribe to a performer's page for a monthly fee. This grants them access to the model's page complete with dozens (if not hundreds) of adult photos, videos, text posts, and more. You can also tip models, send them DMs, or buy exclusive content via pay-per-view messages. All of your model subscriptions are shown under a dashboard that quickly lets you scroll through the latest updates.
Sex workers have been using the site since it cropped up in 2016. So why is it blowing up with civilians (or non-sex workers) now? Two words: quarantine horniness.
As the coronavirus pandemic introduced widespread social distancing and a staggering American unemployment rate, OnlyFans attracted pent-up civilians ready to pay for models' content and new sex workers ready to churn out content.
In April, the platform gained a 75% increase in sign-ups with approximately 150,000 new users every 24 hours as of May 1, Motherboard reports. High-profile news stories—including the Indiana mechanic fired for her OnlyFans, viral memes about big earners on OnlyFans, influencer Caroline Calloway's turn to the site, and Queen Bee's verse—helped increase the public's interest in the platform.
But before all that, online sex workers grew OnlyFans into the major name it is today.
Why do sex workers use it?
Since I started doing sex work in summer 2019, I've used a couple of sites to make money. Before OnlyFans, ManyVids was my top revenue source. Now, my OnlyFans is easily my highest paying service, and I'm saying that as a relatively new queer sex worker with a somewhat niche following.
OnlyFans comes with features that make it an ideal platform for cultivating a fanbase and selling work. The site runs off content updates, and candid, amateur-looking selfies are more than welcome. This means you don't have to regularly schedule, shoot, and edit half-hour porn clips or block off a night to sext with clients. Regularly posting photos and short clips is more than enough, and you can schedule new posts via OnlyFans' queue system.
Of course, there's a lot more work that goes into running an OnlyFans than taking a selfie and posting it online. You'll need to market yourself, interact with clients, handle new custom content requests, make time for shoots, edit your photos and videos, and network with fellow sex workers. If you're an established creator or already have a sizable online following, it's a little easier to make the jump into OnlyFans. If you're an offline sex worker considering an OnlyFans, it's much more complicated.
"For people completely new to online sex work, it’s important to consider the safety and stigma risks associated with doing sexual work online. Even if it’s legal work, the stigma can have a serious impact on any vanilla work you do," Lake told me. "There’s no real way to prevent piracy and facial recognition has gotten to the point where it can match just from sections of a face."
Another reason for OnlyFans' popularity is its payout system. Payment comes in the form of weekly, monthly, or manual payouts, which only require a $20 minimum. Additionally, OnlyFans only takes a 20% cut from subscriptions and tips, which is particularly low in the adult industry. In comparison, ManyVids takes a 40% cut of all video sales on the service and only issues direct deposits at a $50 payout.
But the biggest and most important reason OnlyFans is so popular is because it's already an established service. To make money as a sex worker, you need clients. To get clients, you need to market yourself where your clients are hanging out. OnlyFans has gradually built its reputation over the past four years to the point where clients new and old alike trust the site with their time and money.
"OnlyFans had the luck to get big as other feed-organized sites fell—namely Patreon and Tumblr kicking off porn in the past couple years," Lake said. "OnlyFans porn consumers like to have the one-handed browsing experience in the feed, so they're usually following a few different followers to kind of replicate the feed experience they had on Tumblr."
Can I get OnlyFans for free?
Sorry, there's no magic trick that will get you access to a paid OnlyFans subscription for free. However, there are certain opportunities to land free OnlyFans content. This depends on the model in question, what kind of content they host, and your relationship with them as a client.
Some adult models host a free OnlyFans that does not require a subscription. Instead they offer a mixture of free and paid content, such as suggestive public images and nude pay-per-view clips. Alternatively, OnlyFans features a free trial option, and some models may give away free OnlyFans subscriptions or host occasional free trial periods to boost their work. Other than that, you'll have to put money down to access a paid OnlyFans.
How to use OnlyFans
Let's chat OnlyFans etiquette. Before getting started, there are some universal rules that apply to adult creators across the board on OnlyFans.
Like many adult websites, OnlyFans bans many controversial kinks. These include vomit, scat, peeing, fisting, incest roleplays, drug use, diaper fetishism, age play, and hypnosis. OnlyFans does not allow users to plan full-service sex work on the site or take money for full-service work. For my fellow sex workers, it's generally a wise idea not to schedule, link out to, or even accept payments for your off-site sex work on OnlyFans. Clients: If a performer says they cannot discuss outside work on OnlyFans, or if they refuse to shoot content that breaks the rules, then respect that line.
Lake says content restrictions aren't necessarily OnlyFans' doing. The site's payment processor CCBill acts off guidelines handed down by credit card companies. "CCBill has been around for 22 years," Lake told me, "so it's wrong for people to act as if this is some special negative thing OnlyFans does."
Additionally, every adult model has their own rules for their page. Some promise to respond to all of their messages. Others prefer not to DM unless you're tipping. Some creators update every day or more. Others only make a few posts per week. Read each welcome message and check out your given model's pinned post before reaching out, as this may include answers to your frequently asked questions.
Last but not least, the best way to get a model's attention is to buy their content, tip their posts, tip in DMs, tip large, tip small, tip randomly, tip, tip, tip! Tipped messages are bumped up to the top of models' inboxes, which means you're more likely to get a response faster, Lake said.
"It's also considered customary to tip when sending pics of your own genitals," she said. "If you're doing that and not getting a response or a frosty response, it's probably because you forgot to tip."