If you’re online, you’ve probably heard of OnlyFans. Maybe you’ve heard Beyoncé sing about starting an OnlyFans in her iconic “Savage [Remix]” verse. Perhaps you know of OnlyFans from Blac Chyna. Blac Chyna went from being one of the highest earners on OnlyFans before leaving the “dead end” platform to set a better example for her kids. Or it could have been Danielle Bregoli, also known as Bhad Bhabie, whose fans counted down the days until she was 18 so that they could see her posts on OnlyFans.
Aside from celebrities, many everyday people have become interested in joining OnlyFans to ease the pressure of loans, housing costs, and daily living expenses. Before a big exam or project due date, many of my college friends have joked about quitting school to post on OnlyFans.
Despite the site emphasizing safety and empowerment for its users, OnlyFans is not the secure and exploitation-free platform it claims to be.
Its platform makes it harder for law enforcement to investigate criminal activity, acts as an “e-pimp” by taking money away from individuals in the commercial sex trade, and can be found in many stories of exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.
OnlyFans is a subscription website primarily used by individuals in the commercial sex trade, where viewers can subscribe to “creators’” pages for exclusive and often pornographic images and videos by request. This changed the pornography industry by supposedly moving the profits from pornographic content from large companies into the hands of the individuals in the sex trade themselves. OnlyFans claims that it is working to be the “safest social media website in the world” with its subscription-based model that requires “strict identity verification checks,” aimed at decreasing the likelihood of its users engaging in human trafficking. In reality, this is false.
Despite OnlyFans’ claims that it is a safer way for individuals to engage in the sex industry, exploitation and criminal activity is present on OnlyFans. As stated by the Anti Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative, “OnlyFans.com facilitates crimes by providing sex predators and traffickers with the technological means to identify and recruit victims and exploit them.”
One way OnlyFans continues exploitation and criminal activity on its site is through the very paywall model that has made OnlyFans stand out. OnlyFans’ subscription system makes law enforcement investigations more difficult, endangering those being exploited on the site. The site states that the subscription method requires legal identification of its users, and that this lack of anonymity makes it easier to report to law enforcement instances of exploitation and trafficking. However, the use of paywalls makes it more difficult for law enforcement to identify trafficking.
On OnlyFans, content is hidden behind paywalls. This means that buyers have to pay to be able to access content from a creator. On sites without paywalls and free-to-access content, human trafficking is already difficult to detect. Law enforcement uses search engines and technology to “scrape” data to identify possible trafficking, which can be a long process. These methods and technologies do not work with content hidden behind a paywall, resulting in law enforcement having to pay for and individually investigate each instance of possible trafficking occurring behind a paywall. Because of police’s limited resources, paywalls make it easier for traffickers to hide their abuse and escape detection.
Data on this issue has only further exposed OnlyFans as a breeding ground for trafficking.
Research has found that OnlyFans contains an extremely high volume of profiles with indicators of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and/or trafficking. These indicators include signs of abuse such as bruising, tattoos indicative of trafficking, poor living conditions, advertisement including terms that are commonly used to indicate CSAM, and signs of coercion such as the “thousand-yard stare” and emotional distress. Additionally, other research studied 97 public Instagram accounts of individuals in the sex industry through OnlyFans, and found that “36%” were classified as “likely third-party controlled”, “11%” had reported “being solicited by suspected traffickers”, “6% disclosed that traffickers had had a hand in creating and marketing their content”, and “11%” reported that they knew of “minors who had accounts on OnlyFans”.
Another issue with OnlyFans is the way that it creates levels of “e-pimping” that goes against its claims that it puts money directly into the hands of individuals engaged in the commercial sex trade. Offline, pimps make their money by “managing” individuals in the sex industry and taking cuts of the money they make. Online, OnlyFans works in a similar way. OnlyFans takes a 20% cut from subscriptions from all creators, no matter their size.
On top of this, many OnlyFans creators are turning to “e-pimps” to turn a profit on the platform. As stated by Jayson Rosero, the creator of Think Expansion, an e-pimping company: “OnlyFans is a true opportunity for not just sexy girls, but also guys as well…[w]hat I’m proposing here is e-pimping." These e-pimps take even more money out of the profits that individuals in the sex industry may make, some agencies taking as much as 30% of the profits from the individuals . While these percentages may not seem like a lot of money when considering the astronomical incomes of top OnlyFans creators, these fees can be crippling for the average individual producing content for OnlyFans. The average individual producing content for OnlyFans earns only $180 per month from the site, while 73% of the earnings from the site are concentrated in the top 10% of creators. Sure, this form of e-pimping might not harm such profitable creators, but the remaining 90% of creators that share 33% of the overall earnings made from OnlyFans are being hurt, going against OnlyFans’ claims of empowerment and profit being put in the hands of individuals creating the content themselves.
Beyond the research and statistics, there are countless reports from formerly exploited individuals along with news articles and court cases that point towards OnlyFans’ danger. A high-profile example is the case of Andrew Tate. Andrew Tate is a controversial kickboxer turned media celebrity and “self-proclaimed misogynist.” In 2023, Tate was charged in Romania with rape and human trafficking. He allegedly lured his seven victims by pretending to be in love with them (which we refer to as the “boyfriend method”) before coercing them through mental and physical violence into creating content for OnlyFans.
Overall, OnlyFans does not provide the safe platform that it claims to and perpetuates exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. As stated by the Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative:
“investigators and veteran law enforcement professionals conclude that it is highly likely OnlyFans.com is facilitating sexual crimes against innocent women, children, and teens, which crimes are being accessed through U.S. financial institutions.”
Although it might seem glamorous and safe to use OnlyFans to make some extra money, the risks associated with the website and the exploitation that it fosters along with the e-pimping that contradicts its empowering model should provide pause to anyone considering joining the site.
Crane, Emily. “Leaked Texts Show Andrew Tate’s Alleged Trafficking Tactics to Exploit Women: Report,” July 27, 2023. https://nypost.com/2023/07/27/leaked-texts-show-andrew-tates-alleged-trafficking-tactics-to-exploit-woman-report/.
“Expert Analysis of Open Source Material Relating to Child Sexual Abuse Material and Sex Trafficking Occurring on OnlyFans.Com.” Anti Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative, April 3, 2022. https://followmoneyfightslavery.org/expert-analysis-ofbropen-source-material-relating-to-child-sexual-abuse-material-and-sex-trafficking-occurring-on-onlyfans-com/.
Mamo, Heran. “Here Are the Lyrics for Megan Thee Stallion’s 'Savage," Feat. Beyonce.” Billboard, May 12, 2020. https://www.billboard.com/music/lyrics/megan-thee-stallion-savage-lyrics-beyonce-9376763/.
Spangler, Todd. “Blac Chyna, After Quitting OnlyFans, Joins ‘Female Empowerment’ Subscription Platform Passes Where Adult Content Is Banned.” Variety, December 1, 2023. https://variety.com/2023/digital/news/blac-chyna-quitting-onlyfans-passes-no-adult-content-1235816601/.