Making Porn the Norm: the rise of OnlyFans and its unintentional promotion of sexual health awareness

Is homemade porn making the industry a more acceptable place to find a career? Can those starring in it make a difference to sexual health awareness? Conor Clark investigates

The stigma of admitting you enjoy watching porn has existed for as long as porn has, but starring in it has always been the biggest stigma of them all. But is that changing?

For the increasing number of people using social media to post sexual content they have filmed of themselves and others, websites such as OnlyFans and JustFor.Fans provide a platform to share it and make money without having to leave the house.

OnlyFans allow what they call ‘earners’ (those posting to the site) to post pictures and videos which users can subscribe to for a fee, typically of $5 to $20 (USD) a month. Subscribers are able to give tips in the form of extra cash and even direct message those posting content, often to make personal requests.

DamagedBttm, who like most others on the site remains anonymous beyond his username, has shared almost 200 pornographic pictures and videos through the service. He was originally attracted by the control OnlyFans gives its earners, as he previously did not show his face in posts and wanted to remain as anonymous as possible.

“You get to create exactly what you want and never have to do anything you don’t want to do. You also own everything you produce, and if you ever want it taken down, you can delete it,” he says. “When you work with a studio, they do the production and own the content, so you don’t get the same level of flexibility you get with homemade porn.”

He first started uploading content onto the website in 2018 to pay for university and now, at the age of 22, has made it into the top 1% of all earners on OnlyFans.

“I was planning on deleting my OnlyFans upon graduation, but I came to really enjoy having it and ended up making it my full time job once I graduated,” DamagedBttm states. “I never thought I’d get more than 100 subscribers, so to be in the top of the field is an honor.”

It costs $9.99 (USD) per month to subscribe to DamagedBttm’s content, which ranges from nude photos to videos of him having sex, often with other OnlyFans earners. This is his day job, but not everyone he comes across approves of it.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction, but there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before people accept that homemade porn is a job,” DamagedBttm says. “There’s also just a large population that don’t think of sex work as real work and will try to tell me that my job isn’t real because it doesn’t follow the traditional nine to five framework they associate with work. That’s their own issue, I’m too busy to deal with that energy.”

ConorClark.co.uk conducted an online survey on people’s views on porn websites where users post homemade content. Of the 124 respondents, 80.6% believed that these websites have led to a normalisation and wider acceptance of porn as a career, whereas only 19.4% believed they had not.

OnlyFans currently has over 12 million users just four years after its launch in 2016 and subscription content services like these are becoming increasingly popular, which as such is leading to them having a wider scope of influence.

One of the more generally unspoken aspects of porn is that of sexual health and its impact on those watching it. Many porn movies depict bareback sex and other acts of is seen as risky behavior, without the context of the actor’s sexual health and other potentially relevant information. But with the increased access to medical information and the ability to watch porn because of the internet, how are the two working together in 2020?

Jonathan Durbz, a nurse and former employee of a sexual health clinic in London, believes the porn industry has the power to impact how seriously its viewers take their own sexual health.

“If you see a person on sites which are pretty unprofessional have lots of sex with different people without protection and nil consequences arise you’ll repeat the action,” says Durbz, based on what he has seen from patients. “These people can hold a massive impact on people’s awareness of sexual health. People only see the top layer and don’t realise these people probably have to be tested etc. before they have sex with the performer.”

Yet, the results of the aforementioned survey suggest that this may be a divisive topic. 57.3% of respondents did not believe that the rise of subscription content services had impacted sexual health awareness and 42.7% believed that it did.  

When it comes to sexual health awareness, Lou Cokell, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and avid supporter of regular sexual health screenings, believes regular testing is fundamental for anyone that is sexually active. “Many members of the gay community have regular different sexual partners and it’s important to know your status, particularly because it is so easy for members of the gay community to pass sexually transmitted infections and things like HIV on,” he says.

According to the latest statistics from HIV.gov, a US government website, by the end of 2018 there were approximately 37.9 million people with HIV/AIDS across the world. Public Health England found that from 2012 to January 2020 the number of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK has dropped by 71%.

For Cokell to see a real difference, he believes the actions of those working in the porn industry will speak louder than their words: “I think that not using condoms in porn and the big emphasis on bareback sex doesn’t necessarily promote safe sexual behaviour…and so I think that while porn stars tweeting about people getting tested and that sort of thing, I think that’s positive but the general sexual behaviour is maybe not so positive.”

But, in the age of social media, these new type of porn stars are experiencing a new level of popularity from those who enjoy watching their content.

As of January 2020, DamagedBttm had over 73,000 followers on Twitter after his porn career catapulted his social media presence into the big leagues. But, he believes that with a bigger platform comes great responsibility. DamagedBttm uses his Twitter account to educate his following of mostly gay men and teenagers on topics which aren’t widely publicised in mainstream media. This includes a thread of tips for anal sex, his experiences with conversion therapy and how to get ahead in the porn industry.

“If I have the ability to make the world even slightly better by speaking out and I choose to stay silent, then I’m part of the problem,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve gotten from people that want me to ‘stick to porn’ or that they’re unsubscribing from my profiles because they don’t like what I have to say. Oh fucking well. Speaking out is part of who I am, and I’m not going to stop that just to make more money.”


Making Porn the Norm: the rise of OnlyFans and its unintentional promotion of sexual health awareness by Conor Clark


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