The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a shift in the way sexually explicit content is produced and consumed, with OnlyFans emerging as a prominent platform in this conversation. To capture the impact OnlyFans has had on our culture, think about the last time you heard someone say something like:
- “My pay raise is so meager. I may have to resort to creating an OnlyFans to make ends meet.
- “She makes so much money on OnlyFans. Maybe I should start one too.
- “OnlyFans is so empowering for women. You’re not exploited by men like women are in mainstream porn.
While some of these statements may be ironic, they reflect a shift in the way we think about sexually explicit material. OnlyFans and similar platforms have been touted as a symbol of empowerment for content creators, many of whom are women.
With so much attention being paid to these platforms, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of this new trend and understand the psychology involved.
Here are three research-based insights to help take a step back from OnlyFans and its place in modern society.
#1. Female creators on OnlyFans face harsher consequences than male creators
A 2021 study found that society views women who engage in sex work in an extremely negative light. Specifically, the researchers found that a woman’s choice to engage in sex work made her a target of harassment, dehumanization, and prejudice.
The study found that these sentiments were shared by both women and men, but men were more likely than women to dehumanize content creators.
To drive home this point, in 2022, a 20-year-old man went to an OnlyFans creator and broke in to film her while she slept. When he was apprehended, he claimed that she “wanted a man to be obsessed with her and stalk her”.
While we don’t know all the details, the line between fact and fiction is deliberately blurred on platforms like OnlyFans, where perceived intimacy is easily misinterpreted as reality by fans.
#2. Sex work is linked to a higher prevalence of mental health problems
Creating sexually explicit material for income is sex work, and the mental health issues that accompany this type of work are well documented.
A 2022 study published in Sexuality and culture found that sex workers were likely to internalize the stigma associated with sex work and feel more alone as a result. The study participants, mostly women, also had low levels of mental well-being.
Although external stigma may potentially be lower for creators on OnlyFans and other platforms compared to in-person sex workers, loneliness and poor mental wellbeing are not linked to stigma alone external. Given the transactional nature of creating sexually explicit content, it is possible that the stigma associated with the production of such content will seep into the daily lives of creators, isolating them and compounding symptoms of anxiety and depression.
#3. OnlyFans content creators may be under pressure to create sexually explicit content
A 2021 report published by The Avery Centeran NGO that aims to empower victims of commercial sex trafficking, found that 30% of OnlyFans content creators surveyed had received emails and notifications from the platform informing them that their profile would be deleted if they weren’t posting new content.
Six percent of respondents revealed to The Avery Center that they felt they had very little control over what they created and how the material was used, as they had traffickers running their accounts for them. And, more than half of respondents felt the platform was not doing enough to screen creator and follower accounts.
In addition, 34% of creators surveyed said they had experienced negative consequences on their physical or mental health. According to the report, some of the common mental health outcomes included anxiety, depression, shame, fear and low self-esteem.
OnlyFans is a platform that mixes social media with pornography. Although these platforms have become normalized in our society, we still do not fully understand their psychological impact on content creators and society as a whole. Although there is a range of content available on OnlyFans, it is primarily used as a medium for intimate and personalized pornography. It is important to consider all the implications before adopting it as a mainstream vehicle for female empowerment or dismissing it as a destructive outcome of the tumultuous year of 2020.