Yet another pyramid scheme that “empowers women”
By Angelina Zervos
Editor in Chief
The pandemic has highlighted several of our society’s shortcomings. From our flawed healthcare system to our flawed education system, to our flawed democracy, to our flawed…you get the point. It seems as though every day for the past year, we’re shown yet another screwed-up way society seems to fail our most vulnerable populations. A common pandemic tale I’ve seen over and over since the initial lockdown a little over a year ago is the story of the “side hustler” and the bizarre ways people have resorted to making money during a hopeless time. From selling hair and various other bodily fluids (breast milk, plasma, you name it) to picking up shady gigs on Craigslist, people are trying new things out of sheer desperation.
One particular “side hustle” that’s gained a lot of attention over the past year is the world of online sex work. Particularly, OnlyFans, a content sharing service that’s become synonymous with the selling and sharing of pay-per-view pornographic photos and images. It’s become a huge cultural entity, especially among Gen Z and Millennials. It continues to gain popularity and credibility as more and more celebrities and online personalities make accounts to share content with their fans. Growing up, you may have joked about dropping out of school to become a stripper; now, you may hear jokes about dropping out of school and starting an Onlyfans account. With the growth of the platform and normalization of creating and consuming porn, there’s a big problem we need to talk about: the glamorization of sex work.
Look, I’m a feminist. I’m all for the decriminalization of sex work and the re-claiming of women’s bodies. But I’m not down with teaching teenage girls that sex work is a fun side hustle or tricking women into believing they can make viable, sustainable incomes by creating OnlyFans accounts. As an active Tumblr user during the early 2010s era of Lolita, Lana Del Rey, and softcore grunge, I’ve definitely seen a steady increase in teenage girls’ fascination with hypersexuality. As more women turn to online sex work to make an income during the pandemic, I’ve seen the glamorization of sex work skyrocket. I became aware of the issue after seeing several TikToks on my “for you page” that featured women showing off their luxurious lifestyles, complete with stacks of money, Louis Vuitton bags, and beautiful Beverly Hills mansions. These videos were usually paired with a message that went along the lines of “if you’re seeing this, this is your sign to make an OnlyFans account.” Other than the fact that these videos were clearly fabricated, what troubled me the most was that the comment sections of these videos were filled with teenage girls expressing how they couldn’t wait to turn 18, so they could begin their careers as online sex workers and “get the bag.”
I’m not writing this to shame any woman who has an OnlyFans account and genuinely enjoys creating content for the site. I’m here to call out predatory OnlyFans users who try and recruit other women (specifically young women and teenagers who don’t know any better) into becoming online sex workers without understanding the risks.
If you’ve ever encountered a TikTok or any other kind of social media post that promotes the creation of an OnlyFans account, you may have noticed that these content creators (usually either a beautiful woman or a hot couple) will encourage users to sign up using a convenient link in their bio. If you’ve spent as much time in the online Anti-MLM community as I have, you may see where this is going.
Basically, what I’m saying is that OnlyFans is a pyramid scheme. OnlyFans has a “referral program,” where creators can receive 5% of the referral’s earnings, which explains why you may have seen an influx of boujee videos shot in L.A. homes encouraging people to put their fears aside and just make an account! Using their unique link, of course. These creators make false promises of success and riches with minimal effort (just like Lularoe, Avon, insert MLM that preys on vulnerable women here) under the guise of female empowerment and essentially tricks people into becoming their downline.
The reality of online sex work is much different from what is shown in these videos. Many people turning to OnlyFans, especially during the pandemic, need that money to survive. People who glamorize OnlyFans make people believe that online sex work is a way to not just make a sustainable income but enough money to live a lavish lifestyle. And if you haven’t been able to make it that far, you just aren’t working hard enough. Not to mention that sex work of any kind has very real social, emotional, and physical effects. Just like any other pyramid scheme, you’re more than likely to fail. The only difference is that you can stop selling leggings, makeup, or supplements and switch your career when you quit an MLM, but for many sex workers, finding work can be extremely difficult. Women who engage in sex work face a plethora of social ramifications. How many more news stories do we need to see about nurses and teachers getting fired from their “real jobs” after discovering that they were using OnlyFans as a side hustle? (The American dream. You go to school for years to get a respectable career only to still not be making enough money, so you turn to sex work.)
I’d like to end this with a final note on what’s come to be known as GirlBoss feminism or Buzzfeed feminism. If you’re a woman, and you think sexual liberation is your route to complete freedom and happiness – all the power to you, seriously. But the personal empowerment of one woman does not equal the liberation of all women. And sex work does more to hurt women than it does to help them.
Basically, don’t trick women into making OnlyFans accounts.
And support your local slut, or whatever.