OnlyFans, a subscription-based website where people pay money to view content, has become well known across the internet since the start of quarantine in March. Creators can choose how much they want to charge for their content and the company takes 20% of the money made. Although there are other kinds of content that OnlyFans creators produce, the most common form is sexual and explicit content and many people have turned to the website in order to make money as a result of the recent rise in unemployment.
But, an issue arises when people take up OnlyFans as a side job in addition to the jobs they already have. This has been controversial because many employers believe that online sex work is unprofessional and could negatively affect their brand if exposed to the public.
In February of 2020, an Indiana mechanic was fired after her employer found out about the OnlyFans content she was creating. Some of her coworkers had been viewing her content and were sexually harassing her in the workplace. Instead of punishing the workers harassing her and educating them, her boss fired her after claiming that it was a distraction for the workers and that he did not want them to sexually harass her anymore.
These kinds of situations beg many questions about the role of sex work in the work place. Will there be a future where it is acceptable to have side jobs in sex work without repercussions from your full-time job? Can sex work overcome the stigmas of sex that have been engrained into society?
The phrase “sex work” is a debated topic in itself. Many people don’t believe that sex work is real work and that such “unconventional” jobs are not valid. In a paper published by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, the question of whether sex work is real work is debated heavily. Some believe that constituting prostitution and similar acts as a job allows for the negative aspects of prostitution to be normalized, while some believe that labeling prostitution as work helps people in the industry because it allows for employment discrimination laws to be set in place.
Sex work being acceptable in the work place and in society is heavily dependent on sex work being considered work. If there comes a day where prostitution is widely legalized and legalislation is put in place to protect sex workers, there will a clearer path for sex workers to legitimize their profession.
Sites like OnlyFans are a step in the right direction for mitigating the negativity of the stigmas ag against sex work. The normalization of sex work, especially through widespread websites, can help society have a different view of sex professions. Although the future of sex work in the workplace and society is uncertain, websites like OnlyFans make it more clear. While the reputations of OnlyFans creators are unsteady, these creators are paving the way for sex work to be more permissible in professional environments.
“Sex and Work”, law article from Yale