4 Surprising Side Effects Of Starting An OnlyFans
Sex work is work. And, for me, the pros of running an OnlyFans have outweighed the cons.
Almost every time I log into my OnlyFans, I'm greeted with a captcha and a reminder from a robot that I am not a robot. But I am a spiritual being having a human experience -- which is arguably the same thing. This outlook has been my gateway to …
If you had asked me a year ago if I would willingly show my naked body to strangers on the Internet for money, I would have laughed in your face and ghosted you so hard they have made an Unsolved Mysteries episode about it. Me? I could never. And why are you asking me such a personal question? The most skin I had shown online at that point was the occasional cleavage or midriff. And when I did show skin (or even face), it made me so anxious that I would spend the rest of the day debating deleting the post and/or my internet presence entirely.
Years of believing the myths I grew up being told about what I was "supposed to look like" (rail-thin, big ass, big tits) and what purpose I was "supposed to serve" (satisfying the male gaze) convinced me I wasn't inherently worthy of anything without external validation. I used to wholly define my self-worth based on what other people thought of me. By the time I picked up my first issue of Teen Vogue and skimmed the pages filled mostly with impossibly skinny, airbrushed, white women, I had developed severe body dysmorphia and a depleted sense of self that stuck to me like a second skin.
Now, I'm not saying that OnlyFans miraculously cured my self-hatred and bestowed the gift of radical self-acceptance upon me. Rather, radical self-acceptance helped me make informed decisions about starting an OnlyFans. I put in years of work to shed that skin, and I've realized I'm inherently worthy of being, regardless of how others perceive me. It's my duty to take up space where I see fit and fall back where I don't.
Recognizing I Am Both The Audience And The Performer
Before I started an OnlyFans, I learned how to really not care about what other people think or say about me. Strangers, loved ones, relatives who suddenly care a whole lot about what I'm doing with my life -- no one but myself. While I've encountered many cool people in the sex work universe (especially other SWers, and a sub who regularly sent me memes -- shoutout), there are scammers everywhere, and people can feel emboldened to say some pretty vile things from behind a screen. It takes particularly thick skin to withstand the scrutiny and strains that come of sex work. For me, developing this new kind of second skin meant first retraining my brain to not be so unnecessarily self-critical.
My secret? Oh, you know, just the combination of a global pandemic, months of isolation, many mental breakdowns, therapy, several acid trips, the guidance of my loved ones, and the philosophies of The Four Agreements, Marianne Williamson, Gabi Abrao & Alejandra Smits, and Karl Marx to name a few. With the help of that simple little melange, I've located the self-aware sweet spot that allows me to take accountability for my actions without ever having to hold onto the way something makes me feel. That doesn't mean I can always stay there, but at least now I know where to find it when I feel myself drifting.
The most useful tool I've gained is the ability to detach from the idea that I am defined solely by my body. I know the idea might seem scary -- it's a fine line between detachment and dissociation. But it's actually quite liberating, too, and worth the risk of walking the line. I view my body as a vessel that allows my spirit to exist on Earth. The way I see it, why would I spend more time caring about the appearance of the vessel than the experience of it?
I strive to love others while harboring little to no emotional attachment to them, allowing them to live in freedom. So why shouldn't I strive to love myself without harboring emotional attachment to myself?
No matter how much of my body I'm showing or how explicit I am in my work, I'm able to view it all from an outside perspective, like a spectator walking through a museum, appreciating the art. Even when people say weird, shitty things about me or my body, ultimately, I know that it's much more a reflection of them than it is of me. I trust myself to be self-aware enough to know when to take criticism into account, and I know I never have to take anything personally. And that knowledge sets me free.
I've redirected the energy I used to spend caring about what people think about me into caring about the people I love.
Related: Nicolas Cage: 'I Am A Goth'
Choosing The Path Of Least Exploitation
The impeccable and tragic confluence of events over the past year has also radicalized my ideologies about ethical work and consumption under capitalism. (Spoiler: it doesn't exist.)
After being out of work for months, the unemployment checks dwindling during the summer for me and others, a sense of urgency set in. The first couple weeks back at my onsite job, we had a COVID scare and were temporarily shut down. During this time, I started thinking about how I was one of the lowest-paid people on the job, with the fewest benefits, and about how I had to weigh that with the risk of contracting the virus. I was also conflicted with the fact that this was the steadiest form of income I could come by at the time and how lucky I was to have a steady stream of income to begin with. But why was I putting myself through this? I liked the people I worked with, and the work wasn't terrible, but was it worth risking my safety and sanity?
I worked remotely for a couple more months, then decided to go full freelance. I got a few PA gigs here and there, but every time I was on set, the same questions came to mind. I wanted to generate another stream of income, and the idea of OnlyFans had been percolating in my mind for some time. I happen to like and be sufficiently good at many of the skills necessary to make an OnlyFans and figured I could pick up the rest along the way.
I've been subject to unsolicited remarks about my appearance my whole life. I figured I might as well monetize it to invest in my art and redistribute. Hope Reagan is rolling in his grave. #trickledown #girlboss
When I decided I was mentally prepared to pull the trigger, I hit YouTube to listen to other creators' firsthand accounts with the site. They pretty much all echoed a few key sentiments that resonate to this day:
The first, and most important, is to only do what you're comfortable with. People will try to push you out of your comfort zone, and you can go there if you want, but take time to check in with yourself before doing anything drastic. Some creators don't show face, some only show face, some only share feet pics. There is a niche for just about everything. Don't ever feel pressured to do something just because someone is offering you a pretty penny.
This goes hand in hand with tip number two: Set boundaries, both for yourself and others. OnlyFans allows you to restrict or block subs, and you should use this feature as liberally as you see fit. And, again, you decide what you do and how much you show. You can always re-evaluate your boundaries, but don't cross them without consulting with yourself first.
Lastly, know that running a successful OnlyFans is HARD WORK, especially when you're first getting started, and especially if you don't already have a following to work with. Promoting is particularly difficult, and it's crucial to figure out what platform is best for you early on. This will save you a lot of time and energy. And, you didn't hear it from me, but Tinder is typically the way to go (#linkinbio). If this is something you're considering, my advice would be to do your research and be careful. And know that nothing's forever. Don't force it when it's not fun.
Scammers run rampant. Always receive payment before sending goods. And if you think someone is scamming you, they probably are. Consult Reddit for further inquiries -- r/OnlyFansAdvice has been a godsend for me.
Sex work is work. Neither sex nor work is inherently good or bad. The more people do a thing, the more normalized it becomes, and the less stigma is attached to it. And we could all benefit from losing the stigma around sex. (I recommend the book Revolting Prostitutes for more on this)
An Influx Of Male Attention, For Better And For Worse
Since starting an OnlyFans, my Instagram audience has gone from 60% female to 60% male. This influx of male attention would have made me nauseous if it weren't for radical self-acceptance. Sometimes it still does.
I've had to reconcile with the fact that sex work is a sticky business because it's operating under the current structure, which centers the male gaze and is capitalist by default. I dream of figuring out a way to turn my work on its head, subverting the male gaze and changing the ways we view both sex and work and the economy, for that matter. But, under capitalism, no matter how much I'm able to use OnlyFans as an artistic outlet, I'm still selling a product. In the same way that I go on runs and file receipts as a PA for money, I get cute and shake my ass as a sex worker for money. At least I enjoy getting cute and shaking my ass (and for those of you that enjoy filing receipts, you do you).
I don't have all the answers, and I won't ever pretend to. We live in a capitalist, cishet, white supremacist, patriarchal police state, and I'm just trying to navigate it in a way that's as non-exploitative as possible. For now, OnlyFans is a job that makes me more money than it depletes my sense of self. And that's more than can be said of most other jobs I've had.
My ultimate aspirations for the near future include, but are not limited to: buying a desk, living near the ocean (maybe in a van), living off the land, writing, painting, and being still and silent as often as possible. I don't aspire to anything more than a place to call home and people to share it with. And I dream of a day that I don't have to think about making money, and my body is as irrelevant to others as it is to me on most days. Because, at the end of the day, my body is the least interesting thing about me.
Kaitlyn O'Bryon is an NYC-based artist scattered all over the internet. You can find her curating her internet persona on Instagram, curating her portfolio on her website, baring it all on OnlyFans, running her mouth on Twitter, and shitposting her deepest darkest on her meme page.