Surfing the Venezuelan crisis in the wave of internet sex

Valery loves his body. In her semi-nude silhouette, her curly hair and the tenderness of her features, she discovered an opportunity to earn a living selling erotic photos and videos on the internet, which made her desist from leaving Venezuela.

Like her, other young Venezuelans have found in the sale of sexual content a way out of the economic crisis that adds the country with the world’s largest oil reserves in seven years of recession and the highest inflation in the world.

“I was crazy to leave, because I was not living well (…). Now I want to stay in Venezuela thanks to OnlyFans,” Valery López, 20, tells AFP about that social network, which was born as a platform for ‘influencers’, but that has resulted in a kind of center for adult and pornographic content.

Launched in 2016 in Great Britain, OnlyFans works with creators who set the cost of a subscription and pay 20% commission.

Valery found there an attractive source of income: “I can afford [la mejora de] my teeth, buying clothes … “, says this young woman who has just had orthodontic treatment.” Who is making 500 or 1,000 dollars a month right now? Nobody”.

His channel has more than 50 subscribers, all foreign. He charges each one $ 10 per month, six times the minimum monthly income in Venezuela, pulverized by hyperinflation and the constant depreciation of the local currency.

This is a point highlighted by Abel Saraiba, psychologist and coordinator of the NGO Cecodap, focused on the rights of children and adolescents.

“In other countries where there is no humanitarian emergency, there has been a rise in consumption” of content from platforms such as OnlyFans, Saraiba points out. “But in our context we can give it an additional dimension (…), to what extent [una persona] Would you adopt this very risky modality if you had other work options? “

– “Gentle face” –

It all started for Valery with a “completely” nude photo on Instagram, with so many interactions that he discovered a business opportunity.

Her boyfriend, an architect with whom she has been in a relationship for three years, helped her open the account at OnlyFans.

“I’ve been in this because I really like it (…) and I like money more, a good combination,” he says.

Many of the fans of this 1.50m tall woman with green eyes and sometimes freckles on her cheeks think she is underage.

“They think I’m a girl, they think I’m lying to them” about age, she laughs. “They like to see me tender and that in OnlyFans I am very perverted (…), with my tender face, that I do not break a plate”.

This is not the case with Valery, but a documentary by the British media BBC found evidence that people under 18 years of age illegally sell content on this network, which had a gigantic boost with the coronavirus pandemic.

OnlyFans has 90 million subscribers and more than one million content creators, the company told AFP. Half of its creators, in April, generated adult material, acknowledged its chief operating officer (COO), Thomas Stokely, to the BuzzFeed site.

“It seems that it is a safer way of generating income than other riskier ones such as prostitution,” Saraiba said. “But you don’t really think that once a piece of content is published (…) you can lose control, that others take over it.”

It has already happened that OnlyFans videos ended up on platforms like YouTube.

The platform claims to have identity verification mechanisms, as well as the rule of investigating “immediately” any allegation of abuse.

– “Search for alternatives” –

Brandon Mena, 20, took a hiatus from his education career because he couldn’t afford the private college he attended more – his income plummeted with the pandemic.

Soft-spoken and shy-eyed, Brandon was a waiter at nightclubs. “But the pandemic hit us and it lasted in the pocket and we had to look for other alternatives,” says this small young man, dressed in a jean and a gray long-sleeved sweater, an outfit very different from that of his sexual photos.

His OnlyFans account has not taken off, but several acquaintances “have managed to form an economic floor” with this tool.

He does want to emigrate: “I don’t see myself here.”

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