A lot of things change in the face of a global pandemic, domestic political upheaval and increased extreme weather events. And some things don't. First is that sex sells. And second is that folks stuck at home are craving more external intimacy than ever. Need another? With millions out of work over the past year, everyone's looking for new ways to make some money. And with OnlyFans: Selling Sexy — available now on Hulu — ABC News takes a look inside the online ecosystem that's managed to fill all of those wants and needs in all new ways.
It's a strong PG-13-level documentary. It's definitely not for kids, but it's also done with the level of poise and sophistication that you'd expect from ABC News. Yes, it's about the adult online industry and how it's evolved in the past year in all new ways, but it's also about the business and the culture of letting paying customers have a peek inside. (Whether that peek is a real peek behind the curtain into everyday life? That depends on the creator.
OnlyFans: Selling Sexy is a documentary by ABC News that's available on Hulu in the United States. It's about an hour long. And while it's a documentary by a reputable broadcast news company, it most definitely isn't appropriate for children, thanks to strong language and the sexual nature of the doc.View Deal
For those completely unaware of the service, OnlyFans is a website that's been around since 2016 that allows creators to put out content not unlike what you might see on the likes of Instagram or Facebook. And those creators can charge for the content in all sorts of ways. There's a basic subscription service, where you pay monthly just for access to the posts. Then there's the pay-per-view content, which allows for additional content with an additional fee. There's also tipping, whereby subscribers can throw in a few extra bucks just to say thanks. OnlyFans takes 20 percent, and the creators get the rest. Think Patreon, perhaps, but with a decidedly greater focus on adult content.
The doc notes that OnlyFans has more than 100 million registered users, more than 1 million content creators — and has paid out more than $2 billion to those creators.
And it's a really interesting ecosystem. It's opened up a new world of adult content for people who want to pay for adult content — and less-produced adult content at that. It's helped to destigmatize sex work. It's helped to provide a new source of income for all kinds of people. It's given adult stars and celebrities in other genres new ways to create content that's important to their fans — and make money doing it.
"I think it's brave to have one," comedian Nikki Glaser says of OnlyFans pages in the doc. She's a consumer of porn but also comes at it from the standpoint of an entertainer. She's not on OnlyFans, but other comedians are. "I gotta say, I think it's honestly, like, brave."
We see creators show how they create content. We see the more fun side of things. (Threesome, anyone?) We see the business side of things. We see the convergence of the two with a breast augmentation.
And as always is the case with sex and the internet, there's plenty of controversy to be had, too. There's the arrival of actress Bella Thorne, who many creators saw as taking advantage of the ecosystem by leading fans on. (Rapper Cardi B, whose $4.99-a-month page was more transparently created without any sort of nudity — implied or otherwise — in mind wasn't met with the same sort of criticism.) And there's the idea that OnlyFans' largest creator base — those creating adult content — are being downplayed publicly while the company continues to reap the benefits.
"Let's be honest," says OnlyFans creator Wynter Mosely. "I haven't seen one promo tweet from OnlyFans that acknowledges a stripper, a porn star, a cam girl."
Like any other online community that allows comments — especially from anonymous users — it can get ugly. Says 30-year-old creator Tyson Dayley, who doesn't do anything beyond implied nude: "I've had people send me these direct messages, telling me they hate me — the stuff where I'm, like, "You don't even know me."
"When you post anything of yourself on the internet, you're opening yourself up to criticism," author and sex educator Shan Boodram says in the doc. "If people are paying for that content, they feel even more entitled to be critical."
"I got fired for having an OnlyFans," says 25-year-old Kirsten Vaughn, who worked at a car mechanic until she didn't. (The documentary notes that her former employer denies the OnlyFans content was the reason why, only that she "was terminated for 'violation of policy/procedure'." Vaughn notes that she's made more than $75,000 on OnlyFans.
It perplexes me why sex is taboo," the comedian Glaser says at the end of the doc. "It's why everyone does everything."
She's not wrong. And OnlyFans: Selling Sexy is a good hourlong look at a new big part of online culture.
Who's in OnlyFans: Selling Sexy?
The hourlong documentary OnlyFans: Selling Sexy bounces between six OnlyFans creators, journalists, comedians and others in the sex and relationship industry.
Here's a list of who you'll see featured in the documentary on Hulu:
- Tyson Dayley (OF creator)
- Kirsten Vaughn (OF creator)
- Wynter Mosely (OF creator)
- Silvia Saige (OF creator)
- Griffin Barrows (OF creator)
- Nikky Glaser (comedian)
- Donnell Rawlings (comedian, OF creator)
- Shemita Mosely (Wynter's mother)
- Jason Parham (senior writer, Wired magazine)
- EJ Dickson (culture reporter, Rolling Stone magazine)
- Shan Boodram (author, sex educator)
- Lucas Shaw (entertainment writer, Bloomberg News)
- Dr. Chris Donaghue (sex and relationship therapist)
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