How celebrities on OnlyFans becoming popular shows how society cherrypicks its love for sex workers

Society’s viewpoint has changed towards those entering the sex industry over the years, but we’re still very selective who we allow in our acceptance.

Written for a job application

By Maria Baker

The sex industry is boundless. There is a multitude of jobs from cam services, porn and soliciting sex on the streets, and so forth, but are celebrities joining OnlyFans, a popular app used by sex workers just another way to shift society’s perception of the sex industry?

Now with the current state of the world, with the pandemic, sex workers more than ever are relying on platforms such as OnlyFans to earn money to survive. At the same time, celebrities’ rising popularity is detrimental, especially for offline sex workers turning online to an already crowded pool. These celebrities are not only snubbing views and money in that aspect from those that need it but are doing harm by giving the public a sanitised version of sex work, influencing those that see them to cherry-pick their support for those in the sex industry.

When I was in high school, a decade ago, there was a trend to react to every lousy grade, every failure in an exam with the cry of hitting rock bottom with: “I’ll become a stripper when I finish school!” It was a common distasteful joke that wafted around the school halls. But in recent years, the terminology alone on how we address sex workers has been altered drastically. The usual derogatory terms have been frowned upon and scrapped as we finally see sex workers as to how they really are: human beings. Thanks to social media, we are witnessing a radical shift from misogynistic views to sex-positive ones.

There is definitely a strong tie between society, the government, and classism, this links back to how harmful celebrities that may see joining OnlyFans as a “quirky, new trend” could influence their viewers perspective on real sex workers.  

There’s countless of appraisals coming from social media primarily for those popular on OnlyFans flaunting their new flashy studio apartments from the heightened amount of money earned through doing work on sites like OnlyFans. Celebrities are seeing what’s all the rage and have been tagging along to boost a fan count. Bella Thorne, for instance, has been known to have made an account. Thorne was reported to have scored $1 million in just 24 hours since creating it. In contrast, there are sex workers who paved the path of popularising the site, to begin with, that are struggling. With that, their popularity or views snubbed by celebrities that have brought in the pre-fame with them on the app. Not only this but as the portrayal from celebrities and pop culture such as movies based on stories of sex workers whether fiction or based on true stories, glamorise the sex industry, only showing what they could pretty up, and ignoring the more daunting sides. They may then, respect the pretty and famous but the parts about struggling poverty, and the long history and ties of sex work and its links with human trafficking simply being turned a blind eye.

Similar to the dark side of porn that is often ignored, the real reason why there is a surge of ethical and feminist porn.

On top of this, platforms within itself aren’t helping a lot either, OnlyFans with its referral payment system has come under attack, leaving a lot of sex workers in fear of money issues. All this led one performer, Aaron Lowe to create a petition against, he mentions on his campaign that the app “show little regard for the many referrers who helped build their business.” 

It seems time and time again the government are struggling to differentiate on helping and worsening the lives of sex workers, this, in turn, encouraging shifts from parts of society’s views and encouraging the idea of criminalising sex workers. 

There is an estimate of 70,000 sex workers in the UK alone, though, in England, Wales and Scotland, sex for money is legal if you look down in the fine print, soliciting it in public or owning brothels is another story.

In Ireland, who had passed a law in 2017 to make it an offence to buy sex, according to, the number of incidents, specifically violent crime against sex workers alone had increased extortionately to 92% since the law was granted. 

Money is coming in tight right now, though the government have been lending out aid like Universal Credit, the relief is small, and the majority aren’t applicable. This is because they have to expose being a sex worker that many can’t or feel unwelcome thanks to the stigma against it. But this doesn’t mean the public isn’t fighting back. There has been a rise in charities and organisations to aid sex workers such as SWARM.

I took to the corners of social media to ask about what everyone thinks, one person, Kasper went on to say: “Personally believe it should be decriminalised and more community efforts should be put into supporting sex workers. There will always be an industry for it, so we should make it safe people who choose to follow that line of work no matter the circumstances.”

While another, Sonny, on Instagram, mentioned: “I have positive views on it, although some sites like PornHub can be toxic and have a lot of issues with them.” He goes on to mention how he’s annoyed with how some people shame sex workers and women specifically with what they do with their bodies.  

All this is a more in-depth discussion entirely and can only go deeper. The overall view on those entering the sex industry has improved at least shown online on social media. Still, it comes down to class and government as well as the intake of how pop culture would like to take the lead in representation that influences views of those who are watching. We have definitely come a long way, but if we are not careful, could just as easily slip back to the old days.

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