Just days after reopening, The Brass Rail gentlemen’s club in Toronto reported more than 550 people were exposed to COVID-19, putting a target on the backs of all strip clubs in the city and surrounding areas. Toronto alone has more than a dozen strip clubs and all were forced to shut down, leaving dancers without an income.
For many this is their main source of income, how they pay their bills and feed their children. Many in the sex work industry had to find new ways to make their money. Enter OnlyFans; the online platform that will change the sex work industry forever.
“Girls don’t get slapped down by pimps”
Sex workers can now make money without all the dangers of working in the club or on the street. They no longer have to pay a fee to do their job as dancers need to obtain a license in order to perform in clubs. According to The City of Toronto, the dancer application costs $417.65. On top of that, dancers must renew their license every year. A cost that runs them $294.11. Instead, they've become their own bosses, they don’t have to hand their money over to someone else and more importantly, they don’t have to face the physical or verbal abuse that comes with sex work.
Aneesa Badshaw, who goes by the name Bad Gyal Shaw on OnlyFans, says, “This is way safer for girls. Girls don’t get slapped down by pimps.” She says women no longer have to put themselves in that situation, “You can hide in your room and do it safely in your bed.”
What is OnlyFans
OnlyFans first hit the internet in 2016. It wasn’t very popular having ups and downs in interest in Canada, but with the onset of the pandemic, its popularity grew. Their site says, “Anyone can earn…whether you’re uploading tutorials, tips, behind the scenes footage, or just endless selfies,” but many content creators use it to send pictures and videos of a sexual nature to others-for a fee.
Individuals can subscribe to a creator’s page for a monthly rate from $4.99 to $49.99 US with OnlyFans taking a 20% commission of creator earnings. Badshaw, a verified Instagrammer with 226 thousand followers says her subscription fee is $18 per month.
On top of that, subscribers can pay an additional fee to receive exclusive or personalized content and leave the creator tips. The more popular someone is on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, the more money they can make on OnlyFans.
“When I promote hard, I can make like $5,000 a month but when I slack, I make around two or three thousand because I lose subscribers,” says Badshaw.
Because of OnlyFans, women don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. If someone asks Bashaw to do something out of her comfort zone, “I just tell them no, or remove them from my page.”
“You can hide in your room and do it safely in your bed”
The earning potential
Badshaw has made around $40,000 since the start of the pandemic but other users are making that or more in month. In an article by The New York Times, one creator, Dannii Harwood, who made $257 a month when she first started in 2016, earned $52,760.49 in November 2018.
Hollywood Unlocked revealed one adult content creator, Lindsay Capuano, makes $200,000 a month on the site.
But this all depends on how much time you invest, the content you post and of course, how many subscribers you have.
Why pay for something you can get for free
Now, we all know the internet is flooded with free porn that anyone and their mom can access, so why are people interested in paying for explicit content. Badshaw says, “It’s a more intimate experience”. The creator is performing specifically for the person paying. They will take requests and use your name-something Pornhub can’t offer, causing a huge drop in interest for online porn.
Google Trends reveals the term 'online porn' was searched more in 2018 compared to OnlyFans, but as the years went on, interest dropped. During 2020, when the pandemic started and adult entertainment clubs closed their doors, online porn searches became almost non-existent and OnlyFans boomed.
“When they’re performing,
it’s just for me and that’s a nice feeling”
The top money makers know a lot of personal details about their clients and will send them special messages on their birthdays or other special occasions. Many users feel like they’re in a relationship with the creator.
With strip clubs closed, many aren’t getting that interaction anymore but despite OnlyFans connections are made through a screen, the feeling of intimacy is legit. One man in Peel, we’ll call him John, says, “They make me feel special. When they’re performing, it’s just for me and that’s a nice feeling”.
Everyone is patiently waiting for COVID-19 to be over, but the sex industry may not be the same once it is. With women working out of the safety of their homes and on their own time, those returning to the clubs may be limited.