OnlyFans has significantly impacted the adult industry since its launch in 2016. The platform allows creators to monetize their content, including adult content, through its paid subscriptions and fan tips. OnlyFans has redefined the ability of adult creators to reach their audiences. In a short period, the OnlyFans brand is synonymous with the digital sexual revolution. OnlyFans became a household name during the global Covid-19 pandemic forced lockdowns that separated people worldwide.
Founded by British businessperson Timothy Stokely, the parent company of OnlyFans.com — the London-based Fenix International Limited — turned a small premium social networking platform into a world-famous establishment for adult content creators and sex workers operating on the internet. Since its founding, OnlyFans.com reports that it has paid over $3 billion to creators and established itself as a social media platform with some of the highest engagement rates in the entire vertical. Over two million creators worldwide create and sell content of varying types, given that OnlyFans permits so much more than sex and adult content. OnlyFans communities now cover virtually any subject matter online, including autosports, cooking, make-up tutorials, and vlogging.
A cottage industry has grown rapidly adjacent to OnlyFans.com’s business. Companies have grown OnlyFans “management agencies” that seem to operate in the same tradition of mainstream social media influencer agencies to provide representation and the collaboration for creators, especially those working in adult entertainment verticals. All of this has led to a proliferation of wealth and success for millions of people. Some of the most popular models on OnlyFans report making well over $10,000 per month consistently. Indy100 says the highest-paid creator on OnlyFans is a model and influencer, Blac Chyna made $20 million a month. The New York Post reports that Chyna actually earned $240 million in 2021. There are several reports indicating different values. But it is also accepted that she is the highest-paid OnlyFans model, despite deleting her account in 2023.
OnlyFans has become a heavily-saturated market, with most of the earnings concentrated among a few people. This has led to several other controversies and significant scrutiny from governmental regulators, news media, and more. In August 2021, OnlyFans announced that it would eliminate adult content entirely in an effort to attract investors and compete with mainstream social media.
This was dramatic at the time, resulting in thousands of content creators promising to leave the platform or directly choosing to do so in a mass exodus to other fan sites open to all types of content, including pornography. Luckily, a few days later, OnlyFans.com walked back on this policy and retained adult content. YNOT journalist Michael McGrady pointed out that Stokely, in an interview with Financial Times, said that he originally decided to ban adult content because of the banks. However, after backlash from creators and a quick scramble to find new helpful financial partners, Stokely managed to walk back the adult content ban and move forward quickly. These actions were one of the main reasons why Stokely was eventually replaced as CEO of Fenix International Limited.
Amrapali “Ami” Gan became chief executive officer of OnlyFans in December 2021. Gan took over at a time when the moral panic over pornography on the internet was boiling over from a controversy surrounding MindGeek and its Pornhub.com property. OnlyFans has over 1,000 employees around the world. In an interview with Time, Gan says 80 percent of the firm’s workforce is dedicated to content moderation, support, trust, and safety. Gan also reaffirmed the platform’s commitment to adult content creators during a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in 2022.
Even though Gan has brought forth an ethical outlook for OnlyFans in the coming years, this still hasn’t stopped critics of the company – and the entire adult entertainment industry – from calling for the popular website to be blocked or banned. For example, a far-right anti-pornography group called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) called the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate OnlyFans for reportedly breaking the law. Additionally, the NCOSE has characterized OnlyFans as a “paradise for pimps and predators.” It is important to note that NCOSE is also the same group that managed to get international retail giant Walmart to temporarily ban Cosmopolitan, the iconic women’s interest magazine, from its stores for being too raunchy.
The group has also accused EBSCO, a popular service provider of academic databases to K-12 schools and colleges worldwide, of being an “enabler of sexual exploitation.” NCOSE has often been proven wrong and is known for propagating conspiracy theories. The point is that this group, and others like it, have openly targeted OnlyFans as a collective attack against the whole industry.
OnlyFans.com persists, though. As a show of good faith in the law and civic engagement, OnlyFans participates in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and its TakeItDown program. TakeItDown is a collaboration between NCMEC and other private companies, like Pornhub and Meta Platforms, Inc. (owner of Facebook and Instagram), to provide a SaaS solution to detect and eventually remove any child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from any web platforms. In another report on the status of the adult industry, YNOT journalist McGrady added that platforms like OnlyFans and Pornhub are changing for the better via programs and organizations like NCMEC.
CSAM prevention programs at OnlyFans are among the most effective in the entire adult industry. The company started issuing monthly transparency reports and has expanded its overall footprint in the space of compliance by actively participating in NCMEC’s CyberTipline program each year. In consideration of all of this information, OnlyFans – though controversial like any adult platform – is an institutional fixture in the industry. OnlyFans is synonymous with Covid-19 internet culture and is by far one of the great tech Cinderella stories from the past decade. OnlyFans has impacted the industry so much that competitor fan platforms in the dozens have propped up, placing the existing fan site market in a tizzy of aggressive saturation and centralized marketplace domination.
Read more about legal issues on Adult Site Broker’s official blog:
Section 230, The Supreme Court, And Why Adult Industry Companies Should Pay Attention
Navigating A Potential TikTok Ban In The United States
Understanding Adult Industry Censorship On Social Media Platforms Like Instagram
Understanding The Academic Field Of Porn Studies And Its Impact On Adult Entertainment
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