LISBON | Instrument of emancipation for actresses from the sex industry or antechamber of prostitution? In just a few years, the OnlyFans social subscription platform has become the technological icon for amateur and uninhibited pornography.
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If the site, launched in the UK in 2016, highlights its cooking or music lessons as much as its adult content, it’s the latter – photos and videos – that make the platform’s success for its 180 million users, users and some 2 million creators, numbers, that exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone on the platform is of legal age,” OnlyFans’ new head, Amrapali Gan, said at Web Summit in Lisbon on Wednesday, insisting strict age and identity checks will be implemented for several months.
“The interesting thing about OnlyFans is the freedom. We control what we do, it’s more independent, not mainstream porn. We do what we like, what we want, what our subscribers want, too,” Kny Vy, a porn actress and former video game streamer who is a member of a sex work union commission dedicated to platforms (Strasse), told AFP.
The new leader of OnlyFans, Amrapali Gan.
OnlyFans takes a 20% commission on tens of bucks subscriptions that “fans” sign up to access or order content from creators. Since its inception, the site has donated more than $10 billion, according to its director.
For Kny Vy, who has invested in professional film equipment and has a sizeable community, these earnings range from €600 to €3,500 per month, but are much lower for the majority of YouTubers.
“The more content you post, the more your followers will stay with your pages. It’s like Instagram,” explains one of them, who defines herself as a “libertine” and also has her own page to spread her content, which is produced as a “hobby” alongside another professional activity. .
In her opinion, OnlyFans offers fans both payment options and actresses “a safer framework” than traditional studios in the porn industry, allowing them “to reject practices they don’t want to do”.
But the development of the platform and competing sites like France’s MYM “encourage the idea that selling photos of your body will help you make ends meet. It inevitably encourages prostitution,” says Sandrine Goldschmidt, representative of the Mouvement du Nid, an abolitionist association.
And even without physical contact, in her opinion, this “advertising of the body” is like “sexual exploitation”.
“Many young victims of prostitution started posting their ads on the OnlyFans website,” said Bérengère Wallaert, general delegate of the association Agir pour la protection des enfants (ACPE), who believes that OnlyFans should improve the way it deals with vulnerable young girls relieved with customers or pimps.
“Nothing happens at OnlyFans that we don’t know about,” Amrapali Gan defended himself during the Web Summit on Wednesday. “Every piece of content (photo, video and private message) is moderated” by both an automated system and “a human,” she added.
OnlyFans tried to ban sexual content last year, a move interpreted as trying to reassure investors ahead of a potential IPO. But the site had finally given in in the face of the creators’ rebellion, saying it had received support from banks and payment providers, who threatened to cut ties.
“We are a private company. We are not taking any steps towards an IPO,” the manager said on Wednesday.