What Creating An OnlyFans Account Taught Me About Feminism

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What Creating An OnlyFans Account Taught Me About Feminism
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Several weeks ago, I started an OnlyFans account.

In case you’re unfamiliar, OnlyFans provides a platform for creators to post content and charge users for access. The site collects twenty percent of revenue, and as for the content itself, technically, anything is fair game. If you want to post videos of yourself baking banana bread or playing the banjo, that’s your prerogative. While I cannot confirm what percentage of miscellaneous content OnlyFans contains, I can assure you it’s not the bulk. Or a significant fraction. That’s not what the website is notorious for.

Rather, OnlyFans is a haven for sex work.

The site was founded in 2016, but I only recall learning about it in 2020. The mandated quarantine coupled with the lack of work (and entertainment) opportunities increased its popularity. Although I have a decent social media following and know plenty of women on the site, I didn’t see myself as one of them. Not because of the website’s premise, as I’m a fervent feminist, but due to its stigma. We’ll discuss both of those later, though.

I also had a boyfriend at the time. He said he’d break up with me if I created an account. That wasn’t why I refrained, but his views still weighed on my conscience. Nonetheless, my ex and I split for unrelated reasons, and without my focus centered around his needs, I pondered mine. What are my needs? If I narrowed them down to three, I’d choose love, happiness, and money. After years of introspection, I’ve learned to cultivate the first two on my own; and while there are infinite methods to fulfill the third … I found myself considering OnlyFans.

My resistance’s sole origin was judgment from peers. I’m no stranger to gossip nor disparagement, though. The aftermath seldom stung as viscerally as I imagined it would. Why would creating an OnlyFans account be any different? After a fortnight of deliberation and my friends’ encouragement, I took the plunge.

The other day I read a quote that said, “… some work bestows dignity and other work strips it away.” I’m not sure in which description OnlyFans lies. Personally, I resonate with neither. The answer is subjective, but any woman who feels latter probably shouldn’t be on the site. That’s where agency enters the picture. Sex work isn’t for everyone. However, there’s a distinction between avoidance due to personal discomfort, versus shaming the concept altogether.

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Some folks believe sex work regresses the feminist movement because of its inherent objectification.

You know, because it’s exploitation; women cannot protest for equality while subjugating themselves to patriarchal desires. On some level, I agree — I base my content around what’ll satisfy the male imagination. However, agency and coercion are not a clear-cut binary.

On some level, capitalism exploits us all, requiring every one of us to participate in compulsory acts. What differentiates OnlyFans from any other job? Although I’m honoring men’s fantasies, the conditions are on my terms.

I cannot uproot the patriarchal norms to which we adhere, but feminism grants me autonomy in how I respond. Do you ever wonder why men who love PornHub hate OnlyFans? It’s about who’s profiting. Who’s in control. Folks cannot label themselves feminists while policing how women can and cannot earn a living.

Feminism is about choice, and OnlyFans is mine. If a woman chooses to be a stay-at-home mother, who am I to tell her she ought to get a job? In the same vein, I cannot argue with pious women who feel that sex work violates their moral compass. Religion is a touchy subject. I can prattle about feminism all day, but if a woman claims that God designed us for our husband’s eyes, only, I cannot — and will not — attempt to persuade her otherwise. I respect women who choose modesty. But I believe it’s their duty to respect those of us who don’t.

I am a good feminist because I am a bad woman. When I was young, I admired my grandfather, a retired lawyer whose booming voice could rumble an earthquake. But whenever I visited, he would tell me to speak quieter. Softer. I’d ask him why (which was an act of defiance in itself) and he’d say my volume was unladylike, which I’d grow to perceive as another detriment of my ostensibly-masculine personality.

I’m as domestic as a house plant; laundry piles my floor and eggs are the extent of my cooking abilities; I’m brazen, audacious, and crude. Vexing misogynists gives me wings, and OnlyFans merely adds to my “deviant” womanhood.

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I’m ambivalent towards OnlyFans because I treat it like a job.

It cannot bestow nor strip my dignity because my dignity isn’t contingent on work. Capitalism encourages us to sculpt our identity around how we sustain ourselves, but earning an income is non-negotiable. For years, I’ve flaunted my body on social media and received catcalls from strangers on the street. Now I’m able to monetize it. I suppose I glean some satisfaction in the endeavor, but it doesn’t fulfill my self-worth. If money or male attention fueled my ego, how would I feel about myself when both rescinded, displaced onto a prettier and shinier gal?

OnlyFans hasn’t eradicated me from a misogynistic culture. My feminism cannot dismantle a system beyond my control. My online sexual liberation is a performance; it hasn’t liberated me from patriarchal norms in my personal life. If I were truly liberated, I wouldn’t dread slut-shaming, and I wouldn’t be hyper-aware of how I present myself to men.

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I parade my sexuality on the internet, but in order to appear contrarily to these perceptions, I find myself joking about my prudish-ness within interpersonal environments. I don lingerie and skimpy clothes online, but sweatpants and sweatshirts in public. I used to be indifferent towards casual sex — if I felt the vibe, I followed it — but now, I don’t sleep with anyone with whom I’m not in a committed relationship. It doesn’t matter that I know my internet persona is a performance — my subconscious needs everyone else to know, too.

Nevertheless, OnlyFans hasn’t inhibited my love life how I thought I would.

Men still ask me out as often as they did prior to starting my account. Most find the hustle impressive; their acceptance indicates their feminism. Like my ex-boyfriend, I don’t doubt that OnlyFans has deterred some men from getting to know me. But if my dating pool has decreased, it’s for the better — I don’t want to be with someone who imposes their feminine ideals onto me. I’ve been with men who’ve tried to change me. The relationship wasn’t a pleasant experience for either of us.

My sexuality is a part of me, but it’s not all of me. I’m still reconciling the fact that some may not understand this. Perhaps that’s why the stigma initially concerned me. I’m capitalizing off my body, but I contemplate whether that’ll compartmentalize me; whether, to some individuals, that’s all I’ll ever be. I cannot choose how others see me, but I can choose how I see myself. OnlyFans does not diminish my acumen. My writing abilities are stronger than ever, and I prefer to let my work do the talking. The right folks will listen, and those are the ones who matter.

My confidence is strong, but it’s not impenetrable. I’m still making peace with my womanhood as much as the thirteen-year-old in the school locker room and the fifty-year-old entering menopause. Someday I’ll reflect on this chapter with nostalgia. I’ll laugh about it with my daughter when she navigates her emergence into womanhood, and I’ll guide her with all the patience and grace I possess. I wonder what world we’ll live in then. For now, I’m just trying to figure it all out, too.

I have a feeling that people have the wrong idea about me. But for the first time in my life, I have zero intentions to change that.

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Melissa Kerman is a writer from New York. You can follow her on Instagram, @melissakerman.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.