Film: Exploring OnlyFans' blurred power lines


The power dynamics of the pop culture phenomenon OnlyFans, where, for a fee, you can connect with a content creator, are constantly shifting.

The Fascinating World of

A year ago, the pandemic knocked the global economy for six. In a time of COVID-inflicted economic hardship, the OnlyFans content creation platform became a way for people, especially women, to make extra cash. Both would-be content creators and registered users flocked to the subscription-based platform which offers a way to share personalised (often sexual) content with fans.

Student filmmaker AJ Abbasi spoke to Newsworthy about his motivation for making the short documentary The Fascinating World of OnlyFans which investigates the runaway success of the young platform, launched in 2016. The platform is popular with sex workers and allows users to access the photos and videos of their favourite content creators and even engage in one-on-one chats to request private content — for a price.

How successful is the platform? As with many things OnlyFans, details are a little blurry. A spokeswoman for the company stated in late 2020 there were 85 million registered users and more than a million content creators worldwide, and the company had paid out more than $2.7 billion globally to those creators. However, Influencer Marketing Hub puts the number of registered users at a more modest 50 million (up from 30 million in 2020).

As the platform's profile has continued to expand in 2021, it has hosted Instagram influencers, models and celebritiesas well as sex workers, some of whom claim to have made millions from their content. Even music superstars such as Beyonce and Cardi B have name checked OnlyFans in their promotions and songs.

'People enjoy the relationship with the people they are sexually attracted to but can't have. You can still make them dance on your own.'

In his documentary, Abbasi explored how the prevalence of OnlyFans had helped shift attitudes towards sex work to include themes of power and wealth. In his view, the platform has had a role in de-stigmatising sex work. "It's coming to a point where people are okay to talk about it. They are telling their parents about it. It's evolving," he said.

His documentary also looked at the reasons why people sign up for OnlyFans. "People enjoy the relationship with the people they are sexually attracted to but can't have. You can still make them dance on your own," he said.

AJ Abbasi created The Fantastic World of OnlyFans for UNSW's Documentary and Non Fiction Cinemas course ARTS3066.


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