Unemployed, they sell naked photos of them and continue to battle

Savannah Benavidez, who became an OnlyFans content creator after losing her job as a medical biller, in Albuquerque, N.M., Dec. 29, 2020. Some Americans struggling with bills and unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic have turned to OnlyFans, a social media platform based in Britain that allows people to sell explicit photos themselves. (Adria Malcolm/The New York Times)

In June, Savannah Benavidez had to quit her job as a billing clerk at a health facility to care for her 2-year-old son after her daycare closed. Needing money to live, she created an OnlyFans account – a social network where users sell original content to monthly subscribers – and began uploading nude or lingerie photos of herself.

Benavidez, 23, has made $ 64,000 since July, enough not just to live on, but to help some friends and family with rent and car payments.

“It’s more money than I’ve ever made at any job,” he said. “I have so much money that I don’t even know how to spend it.”

Lexi Eixenberger was expecting a similar fortune when she opened her OnlyFans account in November. Eixenberger, 22, an employee at a restaurant in Billings, Montana, has been laid off three times during the pandemic and by October she was so starving for money that she had to drop out of her dental assistant studies. After donating plasma and being in various placements, he still wasn’t getting enough to live, so when some friends suggested it, he turned to OnlyFans. So far he has only made $ 500.

“People think taking nude photos of yourself and posting them online is easy, but it’s a lot of work, it’s a full-time job,” said Eixenberger, who says posting her photos sometimes “makes her feel a little dirty.”

The popularity of OnlyFans, founded in 2016 and based in the UK, has boomed during the pandemic. As of last December, it had more than 90 million users and more than 1 million content creators, a considerable increase from 120,000 in 2019. The company declined to comment for this article.

Since there are millions of unemployed Americans, some people like Benavidez and Eixenberger turn to OnlyFans in search of a livelihood for themselves and their families. The pandemic has been especially disastrous for women and mothers, taking out of the game those sectors of the economy in which women dominate: retail businesses, restaurants and healthcare.

“A lot of people are migrating to OnlyFans out of desperation,” said Angela Jones, associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Farmingdale. “They are people who are concerned about what they are going to eat, they are concerned that their electricity will not be cut off, they are concerned that they will not be thrown out of their house.”

But for every person like Benavidez, who is able to use OnlyFans as their main source of income, there are dozens more, like Eixenberger, hoping for a fortune and ending up with just a few hundred dollars and nervousness that photographs will affect their chances of landing a job. work in the future.

“It’s already a very saturated market,” Jones said of explicit content online. “The idea that people are just going to open an OnlyFans account and have money pouring in is really wrong.”

The most successful content creators are often models, porn stars, and celebrities who already have a large following on social media. They can use their online platforms to lead their followers to their OnlyFans account, where they offer exclusive content to those who are willing to pay a monthly fee or even personalized content in exchange for tips. OnlyFans keeps 20 percent of any payment. Some creators receive tips through paid apps, in which case they don’t have to give OnlyFans a percentage; Benavidez earns most of his money this way.

But many of the creators who have joined the platform due to pressing financial issues do not have as many followers on social media or any way to make a steady business out of it.

Elle Morocco of West Palm Beach, Florida was laid off from her job as an office manager in July. His Unemployment Insurance checks fall short of his $ 1,600 monthly rent, utility bills and the cost of food, so he joined OnlyFans in November.

But the 36-year-old Morocco didn’t really have any social media presence when she joined the platform and has had to win over her subscribers one by one, by posting pictures of her on Instagram and Twitter, and following up on the men who Like and comment on their posts, to invite them to subscribe to OnlyFans. It’s more difficult, takes more time than I expected, and isn’t as profitable.

“It’s a full-time job in addition to your full-time job searching job,” he said. “The fans want you to post daily. It’s a bustle. You are always taking pictures to publish them ”.

So far he has only made $ 250 on the platform, even though he sometimes spends up to eight hours a day creating, publishing, and promoting his content.

Morocco is also concerned that her presence on the platform will make it difficult for her to be hired for traditional jobs in the future.

“If you want a clerical position, they might not hire you if they find out you’re at OnlyFans,” he said. “They may not like you if they know you are a sex worker.”

Digital sex work sometimes gives the impression that it is safe and private – content creators are paid without having to interact with clients in person. But that doesn’t mean there are no risks.

“For many people, online sex work is a more attractive alternative to going out on the streets or selling sexual services outright,” explained Barb Brents, professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “That said, anyone who decides to go into this type of business should know that there are risks.”

Last April, a mechanic in Indiana lost her job at a Honda dealership after managers learned she had an account at OnlyFans. Creators can be victims of “doxing”, a kind of online harassment in which users post private or sensitive information about someone without their permission. In December, The New York Post ran an article about a New York City paramedic supplementing her salary with money she earned from OnlyFans. The paramedic believed that the article, which was published without her consent, would damage her reputation and cause her to be fired from her post.

Other people say that the experience has made them feel empowered. Melany Hall, a single mother of three, earns $ 13.30 an hour as a paramedic in northern Ohio, just enough to survive. In December, he opened his OnlyFans account.

“I am mother of three children. I never thought someone would pay to see me naked, ”confessed Hall, 27. “My self-esteem has increased a lot.”

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