Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I’d never heard of OnlyFans. Granted, it had only been around for a few years by the time 2020 stormed in—but until businesses closed and lives were flipped upside down, OnlyFans wasn’t a popular platform.
What changed? Before we get into the history behind OnlyFans, let’s talk about what it actually is.
What Is OnlyFans?
OnlyFans is a type of social media platform through which content creators can sell exclusive and original content—articles, images, videos, and more—to consumers, or “fans.”
This content can only be accessed by paying a monthly subscription fee—determined by the content creator—ranging from $4.99 to $49.99 (USD). In addition to this monthly subscription fee, content creators can make even more money by charging tips for specifically curated content and exchanging private messages with loyal fans for a fee.
According to the OnlyFans website:
“OnlyFans is the social platform revolutionizing creator and fan connections. The site is inclusive of artists and content creators from all genres and allows them to monetize their content while developing authentic relationships with their fanbase.”
While OnlyFans welcomes any content creator, the platform is primarily saturated with sexual content—a change largely influenced by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
OnlyFans attracted an industry as equally affected by the pandemic as retail stores and restaurants: sex work. So, sex workers turned to virtual sex work through platforms like OnlyFans.
With over 1.5 million content creators catering to over 150 million consumers, OnlyFans has seen rapid growth since its inception in 2016. While the platform was designed to bolster content creators of all kinds, it’s no secret that OnlyFans’ present reputation is “the paywall of porn.”
Is OnlyFans Illegal?
At the surface level, no. Content creators and consumers must be 18 years or older to use the platform.
However, it’s not difficult to get around this requirement. While a government-issued ID is needed to make an OnlyFans account, both content creators and consumers can easily use a fake ID or the ID of an older person to access the platform.
Because of these loopholes and weak security protocols, it’s not only a possibility that sexually explicit content of underage persons can be found on OnlyFans—it’s already been confirmed.
Law enforcement officials, child counselors, and other advocates for children are alarmed at the exploitation children are experiencing on OnlyFans. These cases include:
- Videos and images of a sexual nature—consensually exchanged by teens in a romantic relationship—being posted without their consent after a break-up. This is commonly referred to as “revenge porn.”
- Missing children being recognized in pornographic content they were forced to produce.
- Underage content creators who are victims of prior sexual abuse, struggling with their mental health, or battling suicidal thoughts.
While OnlyFans assures that its content cannot be captured or shared outside of the platform (fans attempting to take screenshots or screen recordings will end up with a blank image or video, then they’ll be banned from OnlyFans entirely) that doesn’t address the actual problem. Widespread distribution may be halted through these advanced copyright protections, but it doesn’t prevent the illicit material from being shared on the platform in the first place.
So, is OnlyFans illegal? No, not at its core. But it can be—and has been—used to circulate illegal content. And illegal or otherwise, legality does not make something safe.
Is OnlyFans Safe?
No, OnlyFans is not a safe space for children.
Don’t just take our word for it! Simon Bailey, a child protection expert, said this of OnlyFans:
“It is increasingly clear that OnlyFans is being used by children. The company is not doing enough to put in place the safeguards that prevent children exploiting the opportunity to generate money, but also for children to be exploited.”
While OnlyFans did not respond to Bailey directly, they’ve said this in reference to their child protection efforts:
“We constantly review our systems to ensure they are as robust as possible. If we are alerted to any underage individual who has gained or tried to gain illegitimate access to the platform, we will always take immediate steps to investigate or suspend the account.”
The problem with that response? Action on OnlyFans’ part can only be taken if they are alerted. Unless an underage account—or content featuring underage persons—is reported enough times to grab OnlyFans’ attention, nothing will be done.
Last year, a 17-year-old girl sold sexually explicit content on OnlyFans for seven months before being reported to the platform. Even after her account had been shut down, she was able to sign back up a second time using the ID of an older friend. And this is not an isolated incident, either.
OnlyFans has supposedly “cracked down” on their identification verification process. Along with the government-issued ID required previously, they now also require a selfie. While it’s an improvement, it’s still not enough.
Keeping Your Kids Protected
What can you do to keep your kids protected from platforms like OnlyFans?
- Keep the identification of family members tucked away in a safe and secure location. This can help prevent them from being used to verify identity for inappropriate accounts.
- Like identification, keep your credit cards and bank details away from your curious kids. Anyone with a credit card can subscribe to a platform like OnlyFans, so be sure to watch your wallet. You can also contact your financial institutions and request alerts on purchases you did not authorize.
- Have open, honest, and ongoing conversations with your children about sexual abuse, child predators, grooming practices, and other behaviors.
- Utilize parental safety controls on your kids’ devices.
- Take advantage of whitelisting capabilities in your internet browser.
Encourage your kids to seek entertainment beyond the screen!