"Asian families think you're a hooker if you're on OnlyFans"
OnlyFans is a tech platform that has generated a significant amount of controversy since its inception.
It has garnered judgement and differing opinions, especially from those within the South Asian community who have never been exposed to such a platform.
OnlyFans is best known for its monetisation of explicit and adult-natured content.
However, not everyone agrees that the site is a safe or ethical way to generate income.
DESIblitz looks at how this social tech-based platform has been stigmatised within the South Asian community and why some users are advocating for it.
Where has OnlyFans Come From?
OnlyFans is a content-sharing, subscription-based site where content creators can share anything from fitness regimes and cooking recipes to pornographic content.
The platform has been used primarily by sex workers and creators who produce and sell pornographic and NSFW material for their subscribers.
OnlyFans creators can operate and upload their content behind a paywall meaning their content can only be accessed by subscribers who pay a monthly fee or through one-off payments.
OnlyFans was founded by Essex-based businessman, Tim Stokely in 2016.
It has since become one of the UK’s fastest-growing tech platforms with over 120 million users and subscribers worldwide.
It rose to popularity significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as frequent lockdowns prompted individuals to spend more time and money on the internet.
Whilst OnlyFans has amassed a significant following there have been privacy concerns regarding screenshotting and sharing content from the app which the company has responded to, telling the BBC:
“It goes ‘above and beyond’ what current regulations require by using community reporting and artificial intelligence software to help keep users safe.”
Thus, whilst there are privacy concerns it appears the company has promised to ensure the safety of its creators.
OnlyFans users have even spoken about their views on the privacy concerns of the platform and whether they think safety is an issue.
Speaking to Jaya Rai* from London, she said:
“There’s a misconception that OnlyFans is dangerous but it’s fairly safe.”
As followers subscribe to your content, they have to pay and submit credit details so as the content creator, you’re okay.
“But on the flip side, subscribers are maybe more prone to dangers as there are fake creators who can bombard you with fake services to either speed up their growth or get money and then run.
“But, with most OnlyFans creators, you can easily look up their IG and see if they are legit or not.”
Thus, whilst there are minor privacy concerns, the paywall aspect of the platform appears to appease the safety concerns of some OnlyFans users.
South Asian Stigma Surrounding OnlyFans
Sex is a topic rarely discussed within the South Asian community as the topic is neither talked about openly nor honestly.
There exists a strong stigma surrounding sex work and the commercialisation of it in the South Asian community.
Many South Asians often hold a negative perception regarding platforms like OnlyFans and PornHub, viewing them as morally and ethically wrong.
Speaking to 29-year-old Kiran Patel from Birmingham, she said:
“The South Asian community has always had issues with any type of sex work or people being sexually active in general.
“You think about how many open discussions there are about sex in Asian families – the number is very low.”
She goes on to explain why she thinks there is a stigma in the South Asian community when it comes to platforms like OnlyFans in particular:
“The stigma comes from what people see online or read stories about.”
“But it’s a real way to earn money and a good amount. Just because it’s unconventional, the Asian community looks down upon it.
“Sex sells, but when someone is open and honest about using that to their advantage, suddenly we’re judged.”
Individuals like 33-year-old Simmy Kaur* from London also shared a similar view regarding the stigma within the community, saying:
“Our community can barely talk openly about sex, let alone OnlyFans. A lot of them see it as degrading and disrespectful.
“But, they (mostly men) have such an attitude toward this because Asian women are finally having control over what they do with their bodies.
“A lot of Asian families think you’re a hooker if you’re on OnlyFans, basically.”
She goes on to say:
“They think you’re selling yourself for cheap and don’t realise that sex work or OnlyFans work has developed and isn’t like in the 70s where you have people standing on street corners.”
“Worst of all, most Asian men are the first to sign up to see Asian women OnlyFans but put on this fake facade in real life when they get asked about it.”
In the South Asian community, there is often an emphasis on modesty and privacy which may explain why sharing explicit, sexual content is viewed as shameful and harmful to reputation.
However, as individuals like Kiran and Simmy point out, these notions are also deeply rooted in hypocritical and patriarchal viewpoints which make the stigmatisation around the topic seem wholly unjustified.
Earning Money on OnlyFans
Sex work is a complex issue not just in the South Asian community but across society in general with opinions on the profession being widely varied.
Whilst some individuals believe in the legitimacy of sex work as a way to earn money and a living, some still approach these jobs as morally wrong and something which should be prohibited.
Speaking about OnlyFans as a way to earn money is Mia Singh* from Coventry who says:
“I think it’s a great way to earn money and also quite easy. We make original content, cater to our audience, and make people happy.
“You can make money doing anything nowadays.”
“Look at when people laughed at gamers or streamers when they said they spend all day online and make money – people called them bums.”
“Yes, right now we’re suffering from society’s judgement but in a few years’ time, this will be accepted just like other streams of earning.”
Thus, whilst there is a common acknowledgement that society views the monetisation of sex work with judgement, there are individuals who believe there is hope in battling against the stigma of sex work.
Birmingham-based Kiran Patel also confessed:
“I think if anyone really wants to commit to it, it can be one of the most rewarding ways to make money.
“You can also do it on the side to make some change and over time, it could become very lucrative if you get enough followers.”
Individuals like Kiran and Mia are passionate in their view that sex work is a legitimate way to make money, it’s just the rest of society that needs to catch up with this notion.
Like Kiran points out, OnlyFans can be a very rewarding way to make money and even a productive side hustle for many individuals.
There are even several stories of individuals who have quit their jobs to pursue OnlyFans as a full-time career since they are making so much money from the platform.
Influencers and even celebrities like Tana Mongeau and Bella Thorne have even advocated publicly for the use of OnlyFans, promoting its ability to empower women and connect with fans.
Does the Platform Exploit or Empower?
Like with many sex work-based platforms there have been concerns over the exploitation of women in using OnlyFans.
Though the platform has been widely celebrated for its effort to maintain the privacy and safety of its creators through a paywall, not everyone is as convinced by its efforts.
Speaking to 40-year-old Sami Gopal* she said:
“I don’t think the paywall does much to protect against exploitation as people always find ways around this and it doesn’t stop creators being harassed on other social media platforms like Instagram.”
However, not everyone shares Sami’s belief that OnlyFans exploits its creators, rather believing it empowers them as they have control over what they post and who can access it.
Speaking to Anisha Paul* who has been using OnlyFans for three years, she said:
“There’s a bad view that OnlyFans exploits women, and it degrades them. People fail to realise that we’re in charge of what we post.
“This isn’t porn where directors or producers are telling us what we have to do.”
“We’re in charge of ourselves and what we want the world to see, and I think that’s what the most empowering thing for women on OnlyFans – we make our own rules!”
The level of control users have over their content on OnlyFans clearly adds to a sense of autonomy and is clearly an incentive when posting on the app.
They’re making decisions about who can access their content, not the tech company.
Users have also found the platform to be empowering through its ability to boost confidence and body positivity.
Speaking to Jaya Rai* she said:
“When I first got onto OF, I wasn’t sure how people would react to me or my body.
“I wouldn’t say I was insecure, but I’m a bigger girl so there’s always that doubt.
“But, in fact, using the platform has given me so much confidence because of how the subscribers celebrate my body and how I look.
“I know life isn’t all about that, but it’s pretty great when people are non-judgmental. Coming from a Desi family, they’re not shy to tell you about your weight.
“But on OnlyFans, it was a breath of fresh air.
“It’s ironic that my own community shuns me but my work community they look so down upon, lifts me higher. So, it’s very empowering for women”.
For individuals like Jaya, the positives outweigh the negatives on OnlyFans as the platform has been a source of empowerment and community.
The community aspect that users are loving of the platform introduces a new way for individuals to connect and find a space where they are appreciated as opposed to being met with shame.
Despite safety concerns and moral judgement within and outside of the community, there’s no doubt that OnlyFans has become a new and modern way for individuals to generate an income.
For many individuals the platform has even been a saving grace, helping them to earn enough money to make a living regardless of the stigmatisation of sex work.
Therefore if Desi women want to be OnlyFans creators, why not?
There is clearly autonomy over their own actions when using the platform and a community that empowers women instead of tearing them down can be found.
Ultimately a person’s choice in a profession is down to their own values, views, and choices and OnlyFans is just another tech platform upon which individuals can capitalise.