Lewd poses. Bare breasts. Perky posteriors. As OnlyFans takes off among young content creators in Singapore, HerCampus contributor Eunice Sng sheds the layers on this growing scene and chats with the enterprising folk behind those scandalous shots.
With one hand, Demi Heng plays a lilting tune on the keyboard. But in her other hand, she clutches a vibrator against her groin, moaning softly. ‘Can’t decide if I should practice or masturbate first, such dilemma,’ the video caption reads. The 30-year-old musician with bright fuchsia streaks in her hair started posting on OnlyFans (OF) – a subscription-based platform where users pay to view content – in March this year. It was a way to remedy her income after the pandemic decimated much of the live music scene in Singapore.
“OF is kind of similar to performing,” she said. “I think that being a musician, I like to entertain people. I feel very fulfilled when people enjoy themselves after shows. When I first started, I didn’t expect to have the same kind of satisfaction. You know, when you put out content and people appreciate it.”
Demi added that before becoming an OF creator, she dabbled in different full-time jobs but those prevented her from playing the piano. OF presented an attractive alternative. She now has more time for music, while at the same time earning about $2-3,000 per month.
The freelance keyboardist is not alone in exploring new sources of revenue. Many young Singaporeans – mostly women – have amassed subscribers on OF by posting erotic images of themselves. At first glance, society might dismiss them as objectified dolls pandering to male fantasies.
Yet the world could not be more wrong. Beyond merely porn, these women believe that their work is a form of creative expression – the act of using their bodies as art. It is unfair to automatically equate all nudes with pornographic material.
Yes, we may see plenty of exposed skin. But OF creators’ lives are far from skin-deep. Behind every shot lies young people chasing ambitions, providing for loved ones and empowering themselves with their art.
Springboard to a Better Self
A quick scroll on Gigi’s profile (@belldandy) – will reveal countless images of her in cosplay outfits, a few of them showing her topless (or bottomless) self. The 22-year-old fresh graduate, who works full-time as a photo and video editor on top of OF, aims to earn enough money to move to Thailand.
To achieve this dream of starting a new life overseas, Gigi makes it a point to respond to OF messages from midnight to 6am every day. She synthesises her marketing skills with cosplay photoshoots, a deadly combination which catapulted @Belldandy into the top 0.4% of OF accounts. Earning a five-figure salary per month, the fiercely independent woman is well on track to realising her goal.
She even sidesteps relationships to avoid any distractions. “I wouldn’t want to bother someone else to follow me in order to chase my goals instead of their own goals,” she explained.
Posting regularly has also boosted content creators’ confidence, easing them into wearing what they like without fear of judgement. Ditto (@littleeleaf) was not always the bold fashionista people now know her to be.
The cosplayer’s foray into lewds – NSFW content that stops short of nudity – was a game-changer. “I love my body. I don’t get why people say that I have no self-respect. The whole idea of dressing up for myself makes me feel good,” she said animatedly. From seductive schoolgirl costumes to pastel-coloured crop tops, her flamboyant Instagram page confirms this belief.
Baby pink paint brightens her bedroom walls. Plushies pile atop her bed – a silently affirming coterie of cartoon companions watching over Ditto as she poses for the camera. The 21-year-old speaks with pride that she bought the soft toys herself, and they do not come cheap. These premium collections cost a few hundred dollars, an amount that she would previously consider a luxury.
On top of funding her hobbies, Ditto uses her earnings to put bread on the table. “One of the reasons why I quit Polytechnic was so that I could work and support my parents,” she said. Her family was not in a stable financial situation at the time. With income from OF, things changed for the better – she can now confidently place $400 in her father’s palm whenever he needs it.
A common thread surfaces: OF has propelled these creators to lead the lifestyles they crave, bestowing financial freedom. Far from damaging their self-esteem, being on OF is a source of strength that fills them with purpose. Expressing themselves creatively while generating considerable revenue from a loyal fanbase is a form of agency that few other jobs can offer these spirited young women.
The Dark Side
Of course, OF is not a bed of roses. Despite its ability to empower creators, stigma shrouds the community as sex work is ultimately frowned upon in Singapore and distributing pornography is illegal. Revealing their bodies online unfortunately invites legions of lusty men to view creators in a reductive way. Misconceptions abound, preventing OF performers from truly being accepted in society.
“People think we’re sex-hungry fuckbunnies who live to do nothing but be sexualised,” said Ophelia. She and her partner, Franklin (@defiledsouls), run an OF account together. Ophelia emphasised: “We’re not toys. We’re people who like making content.”
The spunky duo creates custom content for their fans, including feet pictures, genital ratings and sexting sessions – all tagged with a price. But they do not consider themselves prostitutes or porn stars. Ophelia explained that prostitutes have sex for a living, sometimes in uncomfortable environments. On the other hand, the couple creates OF content during their free time. They have control over their work, earn what they deserve and hope to be respected as such.
Bella (@m4tina), 19, said that she is not even a promiscuous person although she loves what she does on OF. “It’s just how I appear to be, to make people subscribe or tip more.”
The dissonance between their real selves and online alter ego can also be challenging to manage, particularly for Lana (@lustchjc), also 19. The aspiring university student confided that men whom she met could not differentiate the two.
“When it comes to OF, I’m just acting slutty. But when I stop acting, it’s me,” she stressed. This clash in personas has affected her romantic life. Recently, on a night out, her date asked if she was wearing a bra. Lana adjusted her clothes as she felt uncomfortable under his gaze. Seeing this, he commented: “Why are you so self-conscious? You’re on OF anyway.” This was frustrating because it made her realise that most men only viewed her through her online identity.
Furthermore, rationalising their work on OF is a constant struggle. Hate comments about them on other social media platforms are common. Gracie Hartie (@graciehartie) is especially sensitive about demeaning remarks on her body.
“Why do you have problems with me showing my body? My body that I was born with?” The influencer-turned-OF creator ranted about haters. She has natural curves which attract unwanted sexual attention, so she started OnlyFans as a way of owning her narrative rather than letting strangers get away with taking her pictures without permission.
“There is so much controversy over a woman’s body and how it should be portrayed. I don’t get it! A woman’s body doesn’t dictate her behaviour.”
Overtime, though, these remarks start to lose their effect. Demi said that she learned to block out negativity because at the end of the day, most haters are not her subscribers and do not pay her bills.
Yet, invasion of privacy remains a thorny issue. Since OF allows users to see the time creators were last online, some of Demi’s fans have tried to figure out her daily schedule. This intrusiveness troubles Gracie too – she stays at home as much as possible because she feels intimidated when people stalk her outdoors.
These circumstances are not the most ideal, but they have not stopped the young women from shutting off a prized avenue of self-expression.
Beyond risqué content, though, interactions with fans can be pleasant – at times even heart-warming. It is this personal touch where creators can chat to their fans one-on-one that appeals to many OF users.
Demi beamed as she said that she helped a subscriber enter a relationship with his colleague. The office worker was shy and did not know how to take the first step, so he approached Demi for advice. Over the chat function, she told him to be himself and not worship the girl because it would just make things awkward. Eventually, Demi’s guidance paid off – the pair is now together.
“It’s really sweet. It’s these small acts of service, like being able to make people happy at the end of the day, that give me a sense of fulfilment and desire to carry on.”
Indeed, not every conversation is about sex. Gracie treasures the connections she shares with fans. Subscribers treat her like an internet girlfriend and discuss anything under the sun – politics, the Night Owl Cinematics saga and her skincare routine. She said: “What people really crave is the connection. If they just want nudes, they can search for it for free elsewhere.”
She prefers this dynamic as compared to Instagram, which she believes adopts a more top-down approach. There is less organic feedback there, making her seem more distant – something she wants to avoid.
OF performers are human after all, not just uploaders of raunchy content to quench the ever-growing prurient demands of subscribers.
Where does all of this lead? Most creators acknowledge that the future of OF is uncertain. They simply hope to enjoy the journey while it lasts. Lana conveyed that she intends to leave OF eventually to become a sex therapist, so she is saving up for her psychology degree. “I want to be like Jean Milburn, the mum in Sex Education,” she laughed. “Jean inspires me – influencing people, teaching about men’s health, women’s health and normalising sex positivity. It’s really my thing.”
For now, the creators will carry on – experimenting with colourful costumes, snapping pictures and chatting with fans. Ditto reflected that she is proud to be an OF creator despite the stigma surrounding it. Her motto? “Do what you like, get what you like, wear what you like – as long as you’re happy.”