Why OnlyFans Has Exploded In Popularity For Fans & Content Creators Alike, According To A Sex Therapist

Photo: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock
woman in lingerie taking a selfie in bed

Erotic material has been found to exist in some of the earliest recorded human experiences.

This is no surprise. Humans are sexual beings, and sexuality is as much a form of recreation, connection, creative expression, and play as it's necessary for procreation.

Often referred to as the "oldest profession in the world," sex work predates most modern forms of employment. Despite the moral outcry, religious objection, and, in many places, illegal nature of the work, it persists.

Why? Because there's a demand.

RELATED: What Creating An OnlyFans Account Taught Me About Feminism

Sex work comes in many forms and evolves over time and social circumstances.

Over the centuries, sex work has taken many forms. Artists have drawn, painted, sculpted, chiseled, written, and sung about the human form and sexuality throughout human history.

With the invention of photography and videography, visual erotica began to circulate even more readily. When the internet became popular in the 1990s, the world saw a boom in sexual imagery like never before.

Enter OnlyFans, the 21st century's sex work craze. 

In 2016, the subscription-based social media platform OnlyFans entered the scene, making selling nude photos and videos accessible to virtually anyone.

With a percentage of the revenue charged to creators, OnlyFans has paid out more than $600 million to creators since it debuted.

While it's certainly considered home to erotic and sexually charged content, the creators on OnlyFans offer a wide array of membership benefits.

Chefs, authors, educators, fitness experts, social media influencers, musicians, and many others provide a diverse set of non-sexual experiences for subscribers on the site, as well.

With over 85 million fans subscribed and over one million creators, the popularity of OnlyFans has grown tremendously since the onset of the pandemic.

Here are 6 reasons OnlyFans exploded in popularity for creators and fans alike during Covid. 

1. Pure financial survival.

The staggering numbers of jobs lost during the pandemic required many people to get creative, in an effort to keep themselves and their families afloat.

A scarcity of new employment opportunities coupled with stay-at-home orders left many people scrambling. Even the oldest profession in the world took a hit!

While some exotic dancing venues innovated to stay in business as drive-through restaurants, thousands of in-person sex workers were left without steady employment.

Taking matters into their own hands, creators found a new stream of income as creators on OnlyFans, that helped them fill in the financial gaps.

2. Less opportunity for sex in real life.

Safety measures during the pandemic left many people without the means for safe sex. Many single people abstained from sexual encounters to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Overfamiliarity, the merging work and home life, an absence of social activities, and, in some cases, an uptick of parenting duties, left spates of cohabitating couples navigating one or two quelled libidos.

OnlyFans opens a door to sexual intimacy that can take the sting out of sexless singledom and spark a new fire for couples.

3. Lack of social interactions.

Maintaining social distance for many people meant losing a sense of community and access to everyday activities for others.

Humans, in varying degrees, are social creatures. Living in a social vacuum left millions of people with a degree of loneliness never before experienced.

OnlyFans creates a sense of community and connection for subscribers, granting access to the creators’ most intimate worlds.

Some creators even create personalized content and get to know their most loyal and contributing fans.

RELATED: Stop Shaming People With An OnlyFans Account — There's Bigger Economic Problems To Worry About

4. Creators have autonomy and can ethically produce their own content.

A series of articles released late in 2020 revealed that some major platforms in the adult content arena were found to have published illegal content.

As those sites faced much scrutiny, creators and consumers found themselves looking for content and a website that promoted ethical, legal, and non-exploitative erotica.

OnlyFans puts the power of production into the hands of creators, who get to decide what they are willing to do and with whom.

This feature allows creators to block subscribers that become abusive, entitled, or disrespectful.

Creators are required to be over the age of 18 and must show a government-issued ID to start an account, minimizing the risk of exploitation.

5. There's more intimacy than traditional porn.

It’s not just about sex, either. Other adult content sites focus on extremely explicit content, curating a focus on nudity, genitals, and sexual acts of varying degrees.

However, on OnlyFans, creators often provide non-sexual videos of themselves going about their everyday lives. Many do not include nudity of any kind and, in fact, have structured their whole creator persona around the art of the tease.

Subscribers who may not be interested in more explicit content or who want a break from hardcore platforms can find content of all kinds on OnlyFans.

6. Diversity, diversity, diversity!

While adult content sites do offer something for everyone, the overall complaint by many is that there is less diversity of body types and performers across the board and more fetishized content.

The content on OnlyFans normalizes many different kinds of "sexy" and reflects a robust level of empowered diversity among creators.

Slut-shaming still exists — even for empowered OnlyFans creators.

Despite a focus on empowerment and the growing wave of sex-positive discourse in public forums, many OnlyFans creators have received hordes of slut-shaming feedback and negative consequences in their lives outside the website.

Double standards around sex work have been a long-documented problem when it comes to public perception. Those who perform sex work in person or digitally are more often women and are frequently devalued or shamed, publicly and privately.

However, those that consume adult content or sex work services, more often men, do not generally suffer the same public condemnation.

A meta-analysis of 52 studies published in 2019 found that women who were perceived to be more sexual were evaluated less favorably than women perceived as less sexual.

Whereas men who were perceived to be more sexual were evaluated in a more favorable light than male peers who were believed to be less sexual.

In other words, sexual double standards perpetuate an unnecessary and damaging over-coupling of personal worth and sexuality that's damaging to everyone, regardless of gender.

The future of sex work.

As the world edges closer and closer to a post-pandemic chapter, it is hard to say what will happen in terms of creator trends and subscriber engagement on the popular platform.

Sex work isn’t going away. As time has shown, there will always be a desire for sex on demand.

So, why bother trying to fight it? Instead, let’s evolve.

People who remain fervently against adult content can exercise their free will to abstain and stay in line with their own values.

Those who wish to create and consume it can do so without shame and with much-needed safety measures put in place to reduce sex trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation.

RELATED: Why A “Nice” Girl Like Me Became A Sex Worker

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a licensed psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, PACT Therapist, and the founder of Modern Intimacy in Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. Follow her on Instagram: @drkatebalestrieri.