Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington student OnlyFans creators talk ethical porn, supporting sex workers

A rising number of students — in Bloomington and around the world — are turning to sex work to help pay for school, and some say it can be liberating as well as healing if done in a safe way— a way in which people are in control of their bodies and their work.

In December 2020, New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof wrote a lengthy report on the children of PornHub and the horrors behind the site’s videos. The article highlighted many issues prevalent in most large porn companies, including videos being posted of unconsenting, underage women.  On top of that, sex workers are more likely to be victims of sexual and physical violence, as well as acts of racism than their non sex worker counterparts. 

Because of these issues, sex workers, a rising number of whom are students helping pay for school, are moving their work to smaller platforms where they have more control over their work and bodies. One of these sites is OnlyFans, which, according to Google Trends, had an economic growth rate in the past year of between 304% and 334%.

OnlyFans is a subscription-based adult film website where creators upload videos and receive direct profit from their viewers. Subscriptions to an OnlyFans account usually ranges between $5 and $25 per month, depending on how often the creator uploads content. In addition, some viewers may pay creators for requested videos that are sent only to the viewer. 

For IU senior Adrianne Embry, who goes by @denise.j on OnlyFans, online sex work is not only a way to make money during college, but also a way for her to regain control over her body.

“I find it so liberating that I get to decide who sees my body and how they see it,” Embry said. “As someone who was sexually abused, it’s about getting that control back.”

Embry started as an online sex worker with her girlfriend back in 2015 on Reddit. She said she began receiving problematic and racist comments from clientele, including being called racist and aggressive slurs, while her white girlfriend was called a “princess” and “queen.” Embry believes this is largely due to how porn sites present their videos, including titles of the videos, the types of videos presented on the home page and the way women are treated in these videos. She said she has had a different experience on OnlyFans.

“The degradation of Black women on porn sites is so normalized,” Embry said. “These men lust after us, then make us feel worthless. With OnlyFans, I’m more in control of who sees my content, so I don’t get that as much now.”

Ivy Tech Community College junior Greta King is also an OnlyFans creator. After being flagged on Instagram for posting boudoir photos, she was encouraged by friends to create an OnlyFans, where she could actually profit off her content. 

“Most of my content was for artistic expression,” King said. “Once I realized I could monetize it, especially in college, I figured I should go for it.”

King said even though many Onlyfans creators rely on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter to promote their accounts, they aren’t friendly platforms for sex workers. Instagram has rules against sexual content and sexual solicitation, but King said sexual solicitation is more heavily monitored by the site. 

“Instagram doesn’t care about nudity, what they do care about is women making money off of their bodies by selling photos, videos or sexual services. To them, it’s not OK,” King said.

King said that the porn industry and sex work have become much more accepted by the general public in recent years, especially in younger generations. As the public becomes more accepting of this type of work, how to consume porn more ethically has been more widely discussed.

“Now that it’s the most acceptable and accessible it's ever been, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where is it coming from?’”  King said. “With OnlyFans, creators go through an extensive process to set up their account, so it is really difficult for underage and non-consenting people to slip through the cracks.”

While some arguments have been made that women are exploiting their bodies rather than empowering themselves on websites like OnlyFans, King and Embry disagree.

“Exploitation implies that we aren’t in control,” King said. “It sounds like fear mongering. When women make money off of their bodies it angers a lot of men because it’s taught to them that they should profit off of women’s bodies.”

Embry takes issue with people who spread negative rhetoric about sex workers.

“I hate when people say it’s exploitative,” Embry said. “There are kinks that need to be worked out, but if you think it’s so degrading then why are you making it worse by writing or saying nasty things about us? Who does that help?”

Aside from thinking about where you get your porn and who is being affected by it, Embry has a few suggestions about how to support sex workers, whether you know them personally or not.

“If you know a sex worker, subscribe to their account and promote it even if you don’t watch the content,” Embry said. “And when you hear someone saying bad things about sex workers, call them out. It’s those ideas that put us in danger of being targets of violence and hate.”

King also believes that the conversations surrounding sex work are integral to protecting sex workers and that education can help push conversations in the right direction.

“Anyone can benefit from educating themselves, being an ally, and understanding how much of a backbone sex work is for society,” King said. “Even if it is so underprotected.”

Editor's note: Adrianne Embry contributes poetry to the IDS Black Voices section.

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