OnlyFans has become an increasingly popular source of income for students in need of some extra cash.
Launched in 2016, OnlyFans is a nuanced way of delivering sexual content online, putting the power in the hands of content creators. The platform works by facilitating interactions between users, or fans, who can subscribe to their chosen creators for a monthly fee, which typically ranges from $5 to $20 dollars. Because a staggering amount of college students find themselves in serious financial crises, many Aggies have turned to OnlyFans for extra income. The platform allows people to embrace their own sexuality, fulfill others’ fantasies and connect on a level that goes far beyond pornography.
Even before COVID-19 shutdowns led to her becoming homeless, communication junior Ashlee Hawkins said she found herself in need of money.
“I was pretty desperate for ways to make ends meet, and my friends encouraged me to look into sex work, specifically OnlyFans,” Hawkins said. “I’d done some suggestive work with photographers on campus and enjoyed the experience quite a lot, so I knew I was comfortable and confident being perceived in that way. Since I posted that content publicly already, I thought there’d be no harm in making some money off of it.”
This comfort led Hawkins to create her account in June of 2019. Though she said she is not in any way ashamed, Hawkins said she tends to keep the existence of her account private, unless she has a reason to share.
“Due to the conservative nature of many Texans and the way we were raised, I know that more reactions are likely to be negative,” Hawkins said. “It’s proven beneficial for people to get to know my character and abilities beyond how I pay my bills before we talk about OnlyFans or anything else in that realm. Any positive reactions tend to be ingenuine, laced with intrigue for OnlyFans or from other sex workers.”
Since there is an exclusive nature surrounding OnlyFans, Hawkins said misconceptions about the platform and content creators are common.
“I was not expecting to find the inspiring community of women and queer individuals like myself,” Hawkins said. “People often say they wish they could do it because it’d be such an easy way to make extra money. They’re usually surprised when I tell them it’s much harder and [more] time consuming than my hourly-wage job. It’s truly a business.”
Like Hawkins, horticultural sciences junior Sarah Cavazos said they became a content creator on OnlyFans because they needed supplemental income.
“I work two jobs; I have like six classes; and because of my classes, I don’t have time to work the hours I need to make enough money,” Cavazos said. “I had to resort to other resources. I’ve done similar stuff since before college, and it’s helped me get by, but I think [OnlyFans] is a better platform because it’s an all-in-one type of thing.”
So far, Cavazos said their experience on the platform has been positive, largely due to having good interactions with both creators and subscribers. Cavazos said being online, especially in such a vulnerable way, can be empowering and nerve-wracking at the same time.
“Being online in general can be a lot because I’m being perceived by people I don’t know,” Cavazos said. “It can be scary because you never know who’s on the other side of the computer. With OnlyFans, it’s not really people that I’ll ever meet, so in a way, it’s nice that they enjoy what they see.”
For psychology senior Dana Ramirez, becoming comfortable performing for the camera was a gradual process.
“[At first], I’d get nervous of what people would think or say about me, but once I actually get on camera, I just start gaining more confidence,” Ramirez said. “What I tell myself is they’re paying me, and they already see me, so there’s not really a reason to be afraid. Even if they do say something, I know my worth and value lies outside of what people think about me, so it’s not a big deal.”
The reactions she receives when people learn of her OnlyFans account vary, Ramirez said.
“People are always shocked,” Ramirez said. “They’ll be like, ‘You go girl. Do your own thing.’ If they’re dudes, they’re usually pretty chill and somewhat supportive, if anything. They might even subscribe. I have lost a friend from it, though. She just wasn’t comfortable with me doing it, and we stopped talking and hanging out.”
Ramirez said her perspective is, if she’s going to be objectified and sexualized as a woman in society anyway, she might as well make money from it. To combat the stigma surrounding sex work, Ramirez said education and openness are key.
“Honestly, having open conversations about sexual experiences with friends really helps bring things out on the table without judgment,” Ramirez said. “Making a safe space with your close ones where no one is ridiculed or shamed when discussing sex helps normalize talking about sex, as well as sex work. I also think it’s important to remember someone’s worth is not determined by what they do and what people may project as ‘bad.’”