OPINION: Changing the view on sex work


Bella Watson

The reality of sex work may be difficult to grasp from the outside looking in. Photo courtesy of Pexels

In August of 2020, the pandemic was still at its peak. I was unemployed, attending college at my own cost and living on my own. My partner and I had both applied for government assistance but were given no support. We were on the verge of facing eviction, I was unable to pay for the classes I was attending and the rest of my bills were long past due. That was when I was introduced to a relatively new platform known as OnlyFans.

OnlyFans is a platform like Twitch or Discord, except it isn’t completely livestream. Users could also post photos and videos to the platform, and subscribers could pay a monthly fee to view users’ content. The site quickly became a hub for young women to take control of their own bodies and be paid a fair price for their adult content—something that is hard to come by in the porn industry.

Many women using this new platform became so successful they were able to buy homes or cars solely by producing content. In my mind, using the platform meant creating immediate wealth; it was the easiest money I would ever make. I assumed creating content was snapping a few pictures, posting them to OnlyFans, and then being paid exponential amounts of money.

The reality of sex work quickly became apparent, and it was far from the image I had created in my mind. To produce content means investing your time and money into growing what is a legitimate business. I quickly jumped into the industry with little to no research. I was unsure of fair pricing, what equipment was needed, or how to keep a page growing. I faced severe disappointment when my page didn’t immediately take off and I was not making much money.

“This is not what I was shown on Instagram,” I thought to myself.

I then made a decision that was highly discouraged by many of the people in my life; I showed my face and revealed my identity. I saw no point in hiding behind a fake name on the internet, and why would showing my face matter if I have 10 subscribers? After doing that, my account erupted. I am not sure if it was the curiosity of those I had gone to high school with, or the thrill of strangers knowing I was a real person. Regardless, there was an abrupt increase in the revenue I was receiving from the site.

I was thrilled as my account grew enough to allow me to catch up on the bills I had been struggling with and helped me to stay up to date on tuition payments. But those around me weren’t sharing my excitement. Friends warned me of the risk of advertising myself on social media, and my family worried that this was the first step of a complete downward spiral. Yet nothing else in my life had changed. I was still a full-time student, and once the pandemic slowed down, I immediately went back to work.

Because the image of sex workers is so poor, everyone who cared about me assumed this was a bad omen. They thought creating content was the first step in selling my soul. I was baffled by the lack of support I received and disgusted by how quickly people’s opinions about me changed.

The truth is that I was working as hard as ever. I invested my own money into buying equipment such as a camera, a tripod and an editing software. I was now not only attending school full time and working, I was also coming home at night to create content. This entailed putting on a full-face of makeup, setting up my camera, taking photos of myself, and then editing them before posting them. I was spending roughly 2 to 3 hours a day working on my OnlyFans.

The harder I worked, the larger my page grew, but there were also negatives that came from this. Trolls, or people on the internet leaving hateful comments, started to creep into my account leaving discouraging and insulting comments. As a person who has struggled for the last 6 years with having a healthy relationship with my body, this took a toll on my mental health. I started to associate my worth with the success of my OnlyFans. I pushed myself to a point where the site was no longer a fun way for me to work hard and make money, instead it was creating negative self-thoughts.

I was fooled by the narrative that sex work is easy work, and that selling content was a walk in the park. Doing this was not only difficult due to having to maintain viewers while growing my account, but also mentally draining. After facing these struggles, I reframed my brain’s thought process revolving around sex work. If I was going to continue doing this, I had to make sure I was taking care of myself first.

My page has since dwindled slightly, but I am still increasing my amount of revenue received. I started creating content that I was proud of and turned it into a tool that helped me love my body. I stopped editing my photos completely and took the time to tell myself that my body was beautiful. My happiness showed through my photos, and because of that, the site has become a sort of safe space for me.

I now have a consistent group of subscribers, post on a regular schedule, and I no longer allow myself to criticize any of my content—even if I don’t deem it worthy of posting. Sex work is the furthest thing from easy work, but it has allowed me to make enough money to support myself and then some. Combining this with working, I have been able to get my own car and home while attending school. It’s possible to create an OnlyFans that allows you to live life to the fullest, but you have to take time to figure out if it is sustainable for you and your mental health.