OnlyFans teaser
OnlyFans teaser

What Will Be the Legacy of OnlyFans, the Web’s Populist Platform for Porn Consumption?

Since its launch in the middle of 2016, OnlyFans has billed itself as a way for users to monetize their social media followings by offering exclusive content at a monthly rate, whether they are “a blogger, YouTuber, fitness trainer, life coach, celebrity, model, whatever.” Almost two years later, the site is probably best known for its “whatever” users: amateur and professional porn performers looking to rake in extra cash be offering exclusive access to their physical assets.

That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as pornography has a history of shaping technology and culture. In fact, much of online and digital technology today is a result of a demand for pornography, including payment through instant credit card verification, instant messaging and pop-up ads. And we all know the value of disappearing Snapchat photos.

So what impact might the increasing use of OnlyFans by everyone from the professional porn performer to the gym rat next door have in the coming years?

The first and most obvious place to look is the traditional studio porn industry. Major studio performers like Ricky Roman, Tegan Zayne, and Michael Lucas have all started their own stream of OnlyFans content in addition to the output of their mainstream porn careers.

OnlyFans Michael Lucas
Michael Lucas (right)

Lucas says that when he first heard about Only Fans he was worried it would harm the traditional industry but was curious. After following a few performers, he opened his own account and started posting amateur content. With over 700 followers at $9.95 a head, he rakes in about $6,000 per month after OnlyFans takes its 20% cut — a nice opportunity, especially for amateurs, in an industry that doesn’t always operate under compensation systems considered fair.

“I am not as avid a poster as some others,” Lucas tells Hornet, “but I must say, it is addictive.”

Former on-camera model and current Raging Stallion director Steve Cruz would probably applaud Lucas for posting at a low-volume. “Working models risk overexposure at a faster rate, while fans don’t really have a guarantee of the quality of content,” he says.

Neither Cruz nor Lucas, however, see OnlyFans as the future of gay porn. “Amateur videos have been all over the Internet for over 10 years now,” says Lucas. “Guys are charging now, that’s all.”

Lucas says there are some men who will subscribe to a studio like his own for high-quality porn — with the perfect lighting, filmed from different angles, with clear action and various perspectives — while others prefer amateur-style porn. Both will find a way to exist for now.

Lucas’s perspective tracks other recent developments in media and entertainment technology as well. YouTube was going to lead to the end of television, and Netflix was going to turn the entertainment industry over to Silicon Valley. Neither proved to be entirely true, as both YouTube and Netflix have become revenue-generating businesses that have certainly impacted but not eradicated cable television and the film industry.

Might OnlyFans impact the traditional studio porn industry similarly to the ways in which YouTube and Netflix have impacted media and entertainment? Psychologist and clinical sexologist Dr. Chris Donaghue believes so.

“Standard pornography is a mirror of what status quo culture says is hot, and what bodies are worthy of being eroticized,” he says. “For the most part, that means bodies that are white, taller, gym-bodied and big-dicked.”

Furthermore, Donaghue says traditional pornography that is sold to us by major corporate studios often reduces sexual encounters to functional, utilitarian, orgasm-focused events. “There’s a real lack of intimacy, and when you see that over and over again you are wiring your brain to accept that — and every other thing we see over and over in studio porn — as normal or even ideal.” All of this contributes to a culture that already has a lot of issues with sex and intimacy, he says.

Donaghue sees OnlyFans as an opportunity to offer erotic media experiences that work to counter these negative effects of studio porn.

OnlyFans 2

By giving anyone the opportunity to present themselves erotically, viewers are given permission to be aroused by something other than what they have just always assumed turns them on, and to see people that look like themselves doing sex work. “When traditional porn is all you have, you’re not choosing and accommodating it, you’re being formed only by what is available,” Donaghue says. “If diverse people build audiences on OnlyFans, it could be a powerful way for the porn industry to be able to start to accommodate and feature diversity in its productions.”

And since porn often serves as education in our culture due to so much secrecy and shame around sex, anytime new doors can be opened to us, it’s an opportunity for learning. “As we start to see other options, we see how plastic our sexuality is and we can grow into fuller and more authentic versions of ourselves,” Donaghue says.

Chances are good you’ve heard of OnlyFans not because you pay the equivalent of a Netflix subscription per month to access .01% of the platform’s content, but because you’re unable to avoid screen-ripped OnlyFans videos of some guy named Griffin Barrows freely flowing in the endless, raging digital stream of porn content that is Tumblr.

And many guys have been posting explicit photos and videos of themselves for free on Tumblr for years now.

Tyler, a college student, recently told me that he started posting nudes of himself last year in an effort for greater self-acceptance and to experience his body being desired. “I had always felt desired for my personality. People want me around socially,” he says. “But coming by desire for my body was more sporadic.”

One day after Tyler hooked up with a friend, the two guys were lounging around naked. Tyler’s partner snapped a photo of him naked and really liked what he saw. The internet agreed. Some of Tyler’s photos and videos have been reblogged 5,000 — even 10,000 — times.

Donaghue identifies this as another motivator for people using sites like Tumblr and OnlyFans: “Not only do we have shame around our bodies not looking the way society tells us they are supposed to, we have general shame around the parts of our body that we have been told are private and to keep covered up all the time.” Donaghue says that in our culture we’ve decided being naked is one of the most liberating things one can do, “So why should porn performers be the only ones to have that opportunity?”

Whether it’s OnlyFans, Tumblr or Snapchat, pornography’s impact on culture and technology could be aligning with other cultural and sociological transformations of the day: the amplification of queer voices and people of color, the recognition of non-binary genders and nontraditional beauty standards, and the increasing visibility of trans people.

Perhaps this time our consumption of porn can usher in something more transformative for human identity than real-time verification for credit card transactions.

Tim Lewis is a writer interested in sexuality, spirituality, class and culture as found in everyday life. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

(Visited 1,189 times, 2 visits today)