Au pair and event promotion manager, Kiara*, 23, from Johannesburg is one of the many South Africans who have been left without an income during the lockdown period. To make up for this loss of income, she has turned to the OnlyFans app to produce paid-for adult entertainment content for her subscribers.
The app that has been growing in popularity since its launch in 2016, is a subscription content service. The content creators on the app earn money from users who subscribe to their content, known as their “fans”. The monthly subscription amount varies per person but ranges between $5USD and $20USD. Thereafter the creators can earn extra money, known as “tips”, by providing custom content to their subscribers upon request.
Whilst the genre of content on the app varies from music, to fitness, to art, the New York Times notes on February 9, 2019 how the app has “changed sex work forever”. This is in reference to the majority of adult entertainment content that the app features. The app currently has 20-million registered users.
As told to Emma O’Connor
I am an au pair and manage quite a few event promotion teams. However, since the lockdown I have been left without an income. The child that I au pair no longer goes to school or horse riding and all the events that I run promotion teams for have been cancelled.
I first heard about OnlyFans through one of the girls that I know who has been posting content on the app for quite a while. This has been her main source of income since she started her account.
In short, OnlyFans is a social media app where content creators can receive pay for the content that they publish to their page or privately to their subscribers. Your subscribers pay a monthly fee to be able to view your content, and you can also earn extra money through what we call “tips”. All of this money is earned in dollars.
I have been trying to save money to go over to teach in Vietnam but with lockdown and being unable to earn an income during this time, trying to save this money will take a lot longer than I would like it to. This is the reason why I considered getting an account on the app.
However, this was not an easy decision for me to make because I was hesitant about creating an account. This was related to what people would think about me or say about me behind my back due to the explicit nature of the app. Eventually I figured, no one else is going to pay for my travels or anything in life, so I shouldn’t be bothered by what everyone else has to say on the matter.
I am currently in my third week of using the app and have 70 subscribers. I decided to use the alias of Kiara to post content onto my site. Although many people know I have an account and often subscribe to my account knowing who I am, I just felt more comfortable with using an alias over my real name.
The type of content that I post on my front page is what I think you would classify as soft-core [pornography] which entails partial naked pictures or pictures wearing lingerie [suggestive or erotic but not explicit pornography]. I decided to start with posting this type of content as it often encourages my subscribers to request custom content that I can make tips from. This content is of a more explicit nature and is based on what my subscribers ask for. I have set limits for myself but usually whatever is requested within those limits is the content I am putting out.
It is the fastest and most efficient way to make money, in my opinion. Once you have gone through the application process and are approved by the site, you can choose what form of payment works best for you. I get paid through Swift (a type of international transfer). My subscription fee is US$6 per month.
There are a few cons that I have come across as well, most of which happen outside of the app. I have had some of my subscribers find me on social media and try to take my business life [in OnlyFans] into my personal life which I do not like.
There has also been a lot of discrimination that I have faced in relation to my business. I have had a couple messages from both anonymous people and those I know with some strong opinions about me being an OnlyFans girl. I have also had a couple of people throw the terms “slut” and “whore” around when they found out what I have been doing to make an income.
When this discrimination first started happening it really took a toll on me. I didn’t eat for a couple of days and was very fatigued and drawn back. Luckily I have a lot of supportive people in my life that made me feel better about the situation. If something now comes up that sounds remotely disrespectful then I delete it straight away.
The biggest misconception is that when people think of a sex worker they think we are selling our bodies physically. That is not necessarily the case with using this app. We are selling consensual pictures of our bodies, not our physical bodies as traditional sex workers do. All bodies and what an individual is willing to do differ, which is what differentiates our content from each other. There is a common narrative at the moment, however, that if an individual shows off their body, they are ‘asking’ to be sexually harassed. Selling pictures of your body is not ‘asking’ to be sexually harassed just as much as wearing a short skirt is not ‘asking’ to be raped.
At the end of the day, the only opinion that should matter is yours. It is your body, controlled by your own rules.
This is not necessarily something that I see myself doing long-term.I will earn money until my last subscriber unsubscribes then I will close my account and move on. Realistically, I gave myself a year to be on this app, so we will see how it goes.
*Not her real name
FEATURED IMAGE: OnlyFans is a subscription content service that allows users to earn money through the creation of various forms of content. Photo: OnlyFans
- New York Times, How OnlyFans Changed Sex Work Forever, February 9, 2019.
- Wits Vuvuzela, As Told To: Tough times for independent media in South Africa, May 2020.
- Wits Vuvuzela, As told to: ‘I feel like this pandemic cheated me’ – matric learner, May 2020.