A Different Kind of Addiction We May Start to See on the Rise

When I started writing my latest book, the intention was to look at how recovering porn addicts were faring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between the mandatory stay-at-home orders most people in the world faced and pornography sites offering deals to new users, I assumed it would be a difficult time for many addicts, and my research showed it to be true.

I only decided to touch upon “cam site” models because in my research, I saw porn sites reaching out, trying to recruit new models who may have been displaced from their employment because of the pandemic. It makes sense on a couple of levels from a business point of view. First, it’s mostly young, good looking men and women who lost their service jobs and second, this generation doesn’t attach the stigma and shame to pornography that generations who came before them who were not raised on the Internet have attached.

I realized that most young people who are opting to go into porn aren’t doing it for the real companies, or any of these online cam sites. They are going into business for themselves on OnlyFans. If you need a primer about OnlyFans, you can read it here.

If you’re under 30, you know about the power of OnlyFans and you likely know a few people on it. If you’re over 30, you may not have ever heard of it, and don’t realize you know people on it. The numbers are just too major.

When I started researching my book, I looked at OnlyFans web statistics in the US and across the world for February 2020. That month, OnlyFans.com was the 626th most popular site in the world. By April 2020, it was 349. For June 2020, it was 260th most popular site in the world. In the US, it almost cracked the Top 100 most popular sites.

The site went from 26.52 million visits in February 2020 to 131 million in June 2020. That kind of growth during a time of such disruption and unrest is almost unheard of in this world. There are a lot more people looking at OnlyFans than ever before according to SimilarWeb.com, which I’ve used for all my stats tracking. But that brings us to a new wrinkle I’m about to discuss. A lot of that traffic is actually the producers.

As of May 2020, OnlyFans has 24 million registered users and claims to have paid out $725 million to its 450,000 content creators.

Also in May 2020, after my book had already gone to the editing stage and I couldn’t continue writing, CEO Tim Stokely told BuzzFeed News “the site is seeing about 200,000 new users every 24 hours and 7,000 to 8,000 new creators joining every day.”

As I write this in mid-July 2020, let’s say Stokely is telling the truth and that 7,500 people became new creators each day in the last 60 days. That means that OnlyFans has doubled its content-creator base to 900,000. Even if they are only adding 3,000 people per day, and do it through the end of the year, there will be 975,000 content creators on OnlyFans by 2021. That’s a higher population than 7 states in the United States.

A couple weeks back I wrote about a conversation I had with a friend 20 years ago where I openly wondered what would happen to a generation raised on complete unencumbered access to the hardest hardcore of pornography. Well, here in 2020, we know, and the results I see are mostly negative.

I hadn’t recognized this as much when I was writing my book, but in talking to a few people who understand and use OnlyFans, I’ve learned a lot more about how the site operates since writing the book. It’s a fantastic business model for people who could never strip, model nude in front of a real photographer, have no issues sharing their bodies, or are looking for a few bucks and don’t view nudity as a problem. The models make their page as clean or as dirty as they want and post as much or as little as they want. While one subscribes, either for free or a monthly rate, the real money for the models comes when they offer “exclusive” content. There are people who will pay $25 for a photo if they know they’re the only one in the world with it. You sell 8 of those a day and you can see how it would add up. If you have no stigma toward porn and don’t care who sees you naked, you can see how this is a seductive business to get into.

In writing my book, almost every therapist pushed the “you don’t know if you’re going to regret this” angle when it comes to young adults making pornography of themselves. I have reached the conclusion that while I’m sure it will for some, I don’t think that this current generation of 18-to-30 year olds are actually going to regret this. They grew up in a very different world from those of us who are a little older, and a hugely different world than my parents…and a different planet than my now-dead grandparents.

Here’s a case in point. In my grandmother’s day, it was somewhat scandalous to be caught in a two-piece bathing suit. Now, unless you’re over 40, have a bad body, or have body issues, it’s basically expected you’ll be in a bikini. There’s also a good chance your ass will be hanging out. While those from my grandparents’ generation may have worried a picture of them in a bikini would get out, that worry disappeared over the next few generations. Even if they’ve long stopped wearing bikinis, I’m guessing there are very few women under 65 who are worried about any bikini photos that may exist in the world.

Isn’t it plausible that among a growing section of 18-to-30 year olds that there is no shame nor embarrassment in letting themselves be seen nude and/or in sexual scenarios? People say things live on the Internet forever, but if between now and 2040 there are 100 million men and women who get naked on the Internet, is it really that big a deal? I think on our current course, this is where we are headed. Our societal views toward nudity and sex will continue to grow more liberal and less critical. That’s why I don’t think the “you’ll regret this later” argument falters. I’ve got 11 tattoos. I have not spent one minute of one day being regretful for any of them, despite being warned by dozens of people. I don’t anticipate it either. I like my tattoos. I’m proud of them. They tell a lot of my story and if you think they make me dirty or trashy or the wrong kind of person, I stopped caring about the naysayers as part of my recovery.

Now, before you think I’ve turned to the pro-porn dark side, I haven’t. I’m not pro or anti-porn when it comes to telling you what to do with your life. I’m pro-education. People who are viewing pornography need to know the potential side effects and fact it could lead to addiction. I’ve been arguing this since I started this crusade.

I have a new worry though, on the porn-producing side. There are many reasons beyond just money that people use their body to make money. If we are looking at a world that has millions of people producing their own porn through OnlyFans and what I’m sure will be 101 knock-off sites, could we possibly be seeing a world where people get addicted to MAKING porn?

It’s a fine line between making porn and consuming it. There aren’t really much beyond anecdotal stories of people who have made porn out there, and usually it’s either a big studio porn star talking about how empowering it is or a former big studio porn star talking about how dreadful the whole experience was. We just don’t have any studies of longterm effects of making pornography and what that has on a large group of people.

I’m not saying that people will become addicted to making porn, but beyond the murky “you may regret this” argument that doesn’t work, is there a “we have no idea what this will do to your mental health” component that should be talked about now, before this gets out of hand? If we’d talked about how to educate about porn back in 1996, we certainly wouldn’t see the addict numbers we see today. I will always wonder if I had been taught the potential ills of pornography, how would my life have been different. Do we now need to teach 15-17 year olds, especially girls, that they should think long and hard about getting into making their own porn when they become legal adults because we just don’t know what’s going to happen?

I often cite statistics and talk about a society in 2040 or 2050 where nearly half the popular has an issue with pornography, which could theoretically happen looking at shifting statistics. What does our world look like where not only 45% of the population is addicted to looking at pornography, what happens when 15% of the population is addicted to making it?

These are questions we need to ask now and the answers have to be part of strategies we build to address the issue now, not when my yet-to-be-born grandchildren are debating the finer points of how to post pictures of their ass online.

6 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Addiction We May Start to See on the Rise

  1. I really have no idea, since this is very much not my generation, but I wonder how much of the popularity of becoming an OnlyFans creator is rooted in the whole social media famous thing and how much is rooted in pornography. Are there a lot of models who would say that they’re not involved in the porn industry because they don’t have sex on camera? Are they taking off their clothes for subscribers because it feels kind of like being an Instagram influencer, but just getting paid for something different?

    1. These are great questions. There must certainly be some pathological trends with the people who not only make this choice, but end up not regretting it. The sooner we know what those are, the sooner we may know what kind of a problem, if it indeed becomes one, we’ll be dealing with. Some on OnlyFans are doing PG modeling. Some are doing hardcore pornography. The majority is somewhere in between.

  2. One of your best posts, by the way. My concern is what “making porn” does to a person’s self-image and spiritual well-being. Is it that different from being a prostitute? I don’t have any data to back my theory up but I expect that prostitutes do suffer emotionally/psychologically from selling their bodies for money. It’s also hard for me to imagine finding out one’s fiancé has photos available on the internet that are explicit and/or downright disturbing. You maybe correct, though. Perhaps morals have changed so much that none of them care anymore. Sad.

    1. It’s something worthy of discussion that really wasn’t even on my radar prior to this pandemic. People who want to go back to the way things are or who are waiting for the new normal are both wrong. We are in the new normal now.

  3. I wonder if that isn’t already the case. I mean, is every girl/boy on there voluntarily?
    I know about the site, I know more or less what’s on there but I have no idea how far that goes or what the guidelines are. If there are any. I would presume that it is illegal for minors to sign up.

    1. I highly doubt in any group of 500,000+ people you’re going to find that everybody wants to be there. Are some being trafficked? Perhaps, but there are a series of security measures users have to go through and some hoops they need to navigate before they make money. If you’re trafficking someone, there are probably much easier ways to make money than OnlyFans….but that’s just a guess. I need to learn more about trafficking.

      Yes, one has to be 18 to join, have a photo ID and have a bank account. I think there are a few other verification steps.

      I think OnlyFans will move outside the porn realm eventually. As a platform, it makes sense for indie musicians and artists looking to sell their work. It could work as a fundraising tool with a couple of tweaks as well. It’s like Patreon or GoFundMe meets Instagram. Models can be as conservative, proper and classy or as trashy, nasty and dirty as they want. The business model tries to put all the power in the models’ hands, which I think makes it more attractive and safer than a lot of the ways sex workers make money.

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