Essay : The Rise of OnlyFans




If you are at the age of a teenager to adult, you have probably heard of OnlyFans.

In case you didn’t know, OnlyFans is a platform where people may post exclusive content and earn from it. At the same time, subscribers can choose creators they want to check and pay a certain subscription fee that depends on the creator.


Although OnlyFans is famous for its adult entertainment contents, it is strictly not a porn website per-se because there are creators in the platform that post non-sexual contents such as fitness tips, or even a simple vlog. The company itself even describe their platform as a social media


The name of this platform recently gained a big attention from many people especially among YouTubers and Instagram celebrities. However, the platform actually launched way back in 2016 and operated by a London based company called Fenix International Limited (FIL).


Back in 2016, the year it was launched, I looked up on how they started (it is a little tricky to find the history of this platform especially FIL does not even include OnlyFans in their website, so Wikipedia is probably my only source as well as some other news articles) and surprisingly they started more or less just like how they are now and they have also the exact same concept, a social media that allows creator to earn money with subscription model. They still have the same CEO from 2016, and that is Timothy Stokely.

Here’s the website UI of how it looks like back in 2016 :




And this is their website UI as of 2020 (I use dark mode) :





Looks familiar, doesn’t it? At a glance, the website UI doesn't have that much of difference.

There is a very few or no change in their business concept. Users can still log in/sign up from their Twitter, same thing!


It amazes me how they are able to go through all these 4 years being almost unheard of and only recently broken loose and suddenly (almost) everyone heard of it.


I have to put a disclaimer that this essay is going to be short and talk about the shallow depth of information only because I’m not subscribed or have any account of OnlyFans and the other adult site, therefore I have to rely on other people’s screen and therefore I am really sorry about that!


So here’s the question, why now and why OnlyFans is in glory?


It is true that OnlyFans is not a porn site, but it is associated with porn. The other site that offers adult entertainment that I know of is PornHub. Therefore, I will only compare OnlyFans with PornHub.


Question, from the creator point of view, isn’t this nothing new?

I mean, they can make money from any other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, PornHub, or even Tumblr. So, why OnlyFans ?


According to Matthew Camp , an OnlyFans creator, he probably answered my curiosity with his experience that he told to The New York Times. He mentioned that he did try to post in PG-13 sites such as Instagram and gained followers. In case if you did not know how earning money from Instagram works, here is one simple way : you gain followers, company sees you, you work for the company. So you don’t get money from Instagram or from Instagram ads. So soon after that, he got a call from adult production companies offering him gigs that pays well. However, he doesn’t want his video to be sitting on the internet forever and people to brand him as a “porn star” eternally. Therefore, he went to OnlyFans and without doing things porn stars would do (you know what I mean), he can still earn $10,000 per week.


In the same article, he also mentioned why not Tumblr. To directly quote : “Tumblr was filled with the most extreme sexual experiences you could see,” he said. “And I think a lot of people were turned off by that. It’s not what they’re looking for. They want more intimate experiences. They want a boyfriend experience. They want to fantasise about someone that they want to have sex with and not feel disgusted by it.”


Jem Wolfie, a creator in OnlyFans that offers fitness content, mentioned that the reason why she loves OnlyFans is because she can choose when to put on clothes and still earn good money.


Another creator, Monica Huldt, described her experience earning money from instagram compared to OnlyFans. In Instagram, it is difficult for her to get brand deals and in order to maintain her amount of followers, she has to also spend a lot to produce content, such as spending $1000 per month for a professional photoshoot. Also, instagram does not allow racy content in their platform. In OnlyFans, she can take the photos herself and turn up the heat. This gets her subscribers and money with lesser costs. Not to mention, to get an extra deal is also very possible there. In OnlyFans, you can ask creators to make exclusive content according to your liking and pay a certain fee. When you want to read replies from the creator, you also can pay a certain fee to read it.


These me even more curious into thinking what people really want in their adult entertainment needs. Everything I assume about adult entertainment and their audience proved wrong with the rise of OnlyFans.


We are still in the creator area, understanding why the rise of OnlyFans from a creator point of view. One creator called Cross probably explained well why creators prefer OnlyFans rather than the good old porn studio. Studio work pays actors less and they are forced to do scenes in the way and places (or even people) they are not comfortable with.


OK, let’s move on to the subscribers point of view. Although it is difficult to find testimonials from subscribers, I did find some theories and reasons summarised by news site. GQ confirmed my thought that “It’s because the people who work on these apps sell something different. They sell a sexual experience that is hard to find in porn: genuine connection.”


Cross, the previously mentioned creator can use their cheap equipment such as smartphones and “It breaks down the fourth wall and creates the idea that a viewer is more inclusive in the scene”, again repeating the genuine connection aspect.


Another creator called Derek Bolt explains further why OnlyFans work , “Unlike studio work, which is nothing like real sex, fans work is similar to real sex in the mechanics, but completely different in that it’s a performance to a camera rather than a joining between two or more people”


"They sell a sexual experience that is hard to find in porn: genuine connection"

All these fully emphasise what the industry has been lacking, genuine human connection.


Combined with the power of influence, there is no wonder OnlyFans is thriving. Having OnlyFans whether as a creator or subscriber, proves that you are still human and you can still do things your way and connect with other people.



OnlyFans lets creator to decide what they are OK with and it lets other human to decide if they wanted to consume their content.

It is silly that we need to be reminded that we are human although we obviously are.

Mainly because the society and expectations of people makes us vulnerable to show our human side. But OnlyFans gives the power back to humans. Creators can choose to do what they like, be themselves, and speak directly to their fans. Subscribers can chat with the influencer in the way Instagram doesn’t offer. They can see the creator's daily life just like seeing a friend’s post unlike instagram where most of the photos are carefully created in order to attract companies instead of people. Some posts in OnlyFans are just a simple good morning and good night post. Some of them are not as naughty as you’d think but that is what works.





We humans can be fascinated with other people too. There are reasons why celebrities exist. One may wonder why some people can be a huge fan to some other human although probably that celebrity is not as talented. Sometimes, the reason is not talent, but it is personality combined with some physical features and “how they make me feel”.


For years, media companies made it almost impossible to get in touch with celebrities. They are on the TV, radio, talking to some host or other people on the screen, and not us. If you want to get in touch with them, there are obstacles you have to go through, just to talk to another human.





Soon after, there is youtube and other social media companies such as Facebook and Instagram that make them slightly nearer to us, but not close. We can see their “stories”, their speech, their daily life. But fans’ interaction is still minimal. OnlyFans actually made it fairly easy for fans to get in touch with people they admire and this is what we have been lacking. Like it or not, OnlyFans did solve a problem we didn’t realise existed.


This is something for businesses out there to acknowledge and pay attention to, is that let's not forget that we are all human.


Leni Tjahjadi

UX Design, Copywriting, UX Writing, Marketing Visual, and Branding

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