OnlyFans: Meet the women sharing explicit images online - but what are the risks?

It is fast becoming one of the most lucrative businesses in the world.

OnlyFans is the online platform where content creators or 'models' share pictures and videos directly with subscribers for a monthly fee.

The site has boomed during the pandemic and there's now over 130 million users. Creators can post a range of content, from workouts to beauty tips. But it's also known for its pornography.

25-year-old Beth Spiby from Manchester says she earns up to £20,000 a month by selling explicit content to thousands of fans. 

What is OnlyFans?

  • OnlyFans is a social media platform where creators can monetise their content and interact directly with their fans.

Who runs OnlyFans?

  • OnlyFans was founded in 2016 by British tech entrepreneur, Tim Stokely who continues at the helm as CEO. 

Top Business Stats: 

  • Over 130 million users and over 1.25 million content creators are on OnlyFans.

  • Up to 500,000 new users are registering daily for the social platform. 

  • There are over 300 content creators who have been paid out over $1 million.

  • OnlyFans has paid out over $3 billion in creator earnings.

Many of the content creators I've spoken to didn't want to appear on camera.

They all have different stories and reasons for starting on OnlyFans. One girl I spoke to worked as an escort, but when the pandemic hit she moved all of her work online and is now making more money than ever.

Another told me she got into it through one of her friends who had been creating content on OnlyFans to support her income as a beauty therapist. 

But despite the different reasons for starting - all of the women I've spoken to have two things in common. They told me that they feel in control and that their job empowers them.

Professor Sarah Kingston and Shelley Stoops from the University of Central Lancashire work with people in the sex industry, including providing support for women working on the streets.  

Both say that because OnlyFans is internet based, there is an illusion of safety, but the risks of selling explicit images can be devastating. 

"People can find out where you live, you can get stalkers," said Shelley.

"People need to be mindful that once you put something out there on the internet, it's there forever."

Ally Mae says she has experienced stalking from subscribers on OnlyFans

22-year-old Ally Mae is one content creator who hasn't always had positive experiences.

She joined OnlyFans three years ago after leaving her supermarket job and says she now earns up to £150,000 every year.

While Ally enjoys the work, she has been subjected to horrific abuse both online and in person. 

In a statement OnlyFans told us:

The popularity boom that OnlyFans has seen during the pandemic doesn't seem to be waning and celebrities using the platform only add to its allure.

Beth and Ally say attitudes to this type of work are changing, but both believe more needs to be done to destigmatise it.

They also stress anyone thinking of joining the site - need to be aware of the long-term risks - these images never go away.