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Playboy South Africa|March 2020
Sign up. Log in. Cash out. Repeat. Why so many people are buying into free porn’s biggest competitors
LINA ABASCAL

When Elsa Jean flounces into the studio in full hair and makeup, one has to wonder why she’s here. Every moment she spends on set, she’s losing money. “I make about $30,000 to $40,000 a month from my OnlyFans account,” says Jean (pictured), whose platinum blonde waves and wide eyes leave no question as to which animated phenomenon inspired her stage name. “I’ve cut my studio work way back because I really don’t need to do it anymore. It takes me 30 minutes to film something. On set, it takes hours.”

Although only 23 years old, Jean is a five-year veteran of the adult business — a porn superstar (1.5 million Instagram followers and counting) and now a proselytizer for OnlyFans, a membership-based social platform that hosts the content of more than 100,000 creators for more than 8 million subscribers (or “fans”). Launched in 2016, Only- Fans, while not exclusively for adult performers, has disrupted the porn industry by making it easier for sex workers to generate income off their content, shifting them away from major studios for casting, production, distribution and payment. Increasingly influential in a time when consumer demand for amateur content is trending up (videos filed in Pornhub’s Amateur category boast the site’s longest average view time: 15 minutes, 25 seconds), subscription sites including OnlyFans, FanCentro and JustFor.Fans are grooming a new generation of self made men and women. And many of them are adult performers working from home.

Those subscription sites are just a few of the third-party platforms whose main services support sex workers striving for economic independence. Why spend time toiling for a suit when you can sell directly to your audience on your own schedule and your own terms? It’s the remote-ification of porn. The potential impact — and what’s likely making some porn-tube giants anxious — is the antiquation of studio-produced adult entertainment. If sex workers can own their content outright while growing their audiences with the promise of on-demand, how can Pornhub, whose library largely comprises studio-based productions, refresh its offerings? Jean offers a vivid example to spell out the benefits of OnlyFans over free streaming: “I don’t do anal unless it’s on my OnlyFans or my Snapchat,” she says. “That’s how I locked in my people.”

Most sites’ subscription models involve a monthly fee for access to exclusive images, videos and chat sessions that are typically but not exclusively pornographic. Workout videos, product reviews presented by models in various states of undress and selfies of women applying makeup are also sold, based on the account. Content creators pay a fee, in the form of a percentage, to use the platform. FanCentro, which operates on Snapchat’s platform but is unaffiliated with the Snap Inc.– owned app, takes 25 percent of subscription fees; in exchange it provides models with their own URLs, as well as a payment collection service — important, given that PayPal, Venmo, Square, Cash App and nearly all other payment processors do not allow transactions for sex work or services.

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