Rebecca Thompson speaks to three women who use online sex work to create opportunities for themselves their health conditions might not always allow for.
OnlyFans is a content-sharing platform creators can use to offer videos, photos and even direct messages at a price. This is why it’s become especially popular in the adult entertainment industry with around 50 million users and 450,000 creators. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with depression and anxiety accounting for the majority of workdays lost, people are turning to online sex work as an income.
Astrid, a 20-year-old Musical Theatre student from Kent, started her OnlyFans account in January 2021, in a rash decision to boost her self-esteem. So far, she has earned over £4000.
However, she suffers from various health conditions such as: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), Fibromyalgia, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), MCAT and Autism.
These disabilities cause fatigue, so Astrid would not be able to get a ‘normal student’ job in addition to her physically demanding university course.
With a smile on her face, she described her self-esteem since starting OnlyFans, “I do feel a lot more confident in myself, I wear more revealing outfits, I’m more flamboyant – I always used to wear black because I thought that it would hide me.
“It just helps me make me feel more confident, which my fiancé loves. He’s said his love for me feels so much stronger now that I am less self-conscious.”
On the reputation of online sex work, she said, “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, you must have really low self-esteem to sell your body that way’. And I always say, “if you are working a normal job, you are selling your body anyway, you’re selling your time.
“Women owning their sexuality is a positive thing in a misogynistic world. So, to have people of all shapes and sizes doing OnlyFans, it just feels amazing to be a part of that community. I just wish more people could embrace that side of it.”
“I’m growing more from it than my bank account is.”
Rachel, 23, from Wigan, is an ex-porn star and no longer runs her OnlyFans. She started by taking boudoir photos then grew by collaborating with other creators online through platforms like Twitter.
She stopped after the detrimental effect it had on her mental health, which she has always struggled with.
Rachel spoke of her surprise at the amount of people she met in the industry who struggle with mental health, “It doesn’t look like it from the outside, they all look very confident and very happy- but I would say 90% of the people that I met struggled with depression, anxiety and body image.
“When you put yourself out there and that’s all you’re thinking about, anxiety does come with it. And especially when you’re doing collabs and there’s a comparison between you and someone else.”
Another difficult part of the job was the amount of time the job took out of her day-to-day life and the energy it took out of her “to do things like shoots, creating my own content, organising social media. My child was 1 and a half when I was doing it full time, and I rarely saw him. I was either travelling or stuck upstairs making content and someone else was looking after him.”
Something common among those who are self-employed is to have a separate phone for work. Rachel talked about how that became ‘her’ number, rather than for the personality of Rachel herself. “There would be times where I was talking to guys, and it would always “naturally pop up”. It came to a point where quite a lot of time I would say “do you just want me to give you ‘her’ number? Because it doesn’t seem to me like you want to talk to me.”
Shannon is just 18 years old, from Bradford and has Dissociative identity disorder (DID). She set up her OnlyFans account a couple of months ago but already has a handful of subscribers to see her tease and kink content.
Shannon was diagnosed with DID at the age of 9, which is considered early as the average diagnosis is aged 30.
She described the reasons she was put forward to be diagnosed, “I’d go from being really placid and friendly, to being really shut off and closed down, and then angry and mean. So, they’d initially got me sent in for bipolar and the doctors were like, ‘no, that’s not quite right’. So, they tested me for DID and turned out I had that.”
Thankfully, now that Shannon has gotten used to it, and has good friends and support, it does not impact her life much, “It’s just a lot of the time I have to get consent from the other headmates for things that I do – piercings, tattoos, obviously OnlyFans. We have to get consent from the other headmates because it’s also their body.”
Although Shannon is able to work, they said they would like to keep it going to fall back on if she needs to.
She did however talk how young she is to have started it, and about making sure she doesn’t regret it in future, “If I regret it, there’s a button that says “delete”. At the end of the day, yes, everything has memories but it’s not there forever. I temporarily deleted my OnlyFans, because you used to be able to get people done if they screenshotted pictures however, OnlyFans have changed that, so unless you’ve watermarked your work, you can’t.
“I had to delete all my posts, watermark them and repost them. I got a lot of complaints from people who subscribed but I was doing it for my own safety. But it’s just as easy as press the delete button if you regret it.”
Although issues are popping up of photos being leaked, so far it seems that OnlyFans is providing a service not only to its users, but producing incomes for its creators.