OnlyFans is firmly in the American zeitgeist, and many only know about it from eye-opening headlines about how much money can be made, or professionals ditching, or losing, their day job after providing content to "fans."
As OnlyFans grows in popularity, the platform, and the money that creators are able to make on it, have served as a point of contention, with proponents arguing it is a way for women to monetize online content, while others argue the sexually explicit platform is degrading or taboo.
OnlyFans customers pay for access to "exclusive" content they won’t find on other social media platforms. It has drawn attention as it's frequently sexual in nature, and features everything from nude images and pornographic videos to scantily clad women cooking and doing Yoga.
There is a common motivating factor for many of the content creators: money. The paywall-protected content is available to subscribers for a fee that varies by content creator, with some offering NFSW (Not Safe For Work) videos and photos for $4.99 a month, with others charging up to the maximum of $50. Creators can also have a free account and then charge for individual pieces of content.
"OnlyFans is a subscription platform for over 18s that empowers creators to own their full potential, monetize their content, and develop connections with their fans," an OnlyFans spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
The risqué platform, which gained popularity when many Americans were trapped inside their homes during the COVID pandemic, has generated a ton of free advertising by constantly being mentioned in the headlines of mainstream news organizations.
Two teachers from the same high school in Missouri were placed on leave after their bosses found out the educators were operating OnlyFans accounts. Both said paying off student loan debt was one of their top reasons for selling racy content. One of them claimed in an interview with Fox News Digital to have made nearly $1 million.
Last year, Arizona teacher Samantha Peer resigned "under pressure" after students stumbled across her OnlyFans account, prompting outrage from parents.
"I created content at the beginning of the summer in order to earn extra money on the side to help pay for our basic necessities that our salaries were no longer meeting," Peer said at the time.
Kristin MacDonald, a former special needs teaching assistant in Canada, was fired from her job in June after refusing to take down her OnlyFans account after it was discovered by school administrators. MacDonald went by "Ava James" on OnlyFans.
But it’s not only professionals from underpaid industries who have turned to OnlyFans for extra cash. Celebrities including Carmen Electra, Donna D’Errico, Bella Thorne, Iggy Azalea and reality TV stars have also embraced the platform.
"I have become my own creative director, my own stylist, my own visionary. You're one-on-one with the fans, so they can do requests, and I love it," Electra told Fox News Digital last year.
Bhad Bhabie, who rose to fame after a 2016 appearance on "Dr. Phil," recently posted on her Instagram Stories what she said was a monthly breakdown of OnlyFans earnings. Her post suggested she earned over $38 million in less than a year.
UFC star Paige VanZant said she made more money in 24 hours on OnlyFans than she did during the entire span of her fighting career. After spending six years in the MMA industry, the 29-year-old launched her OnlyFans account in 2020. VanZant, who referred to herself as the "queen of OnlyFans," now charges fans $9.99 per month to view her photos.
"OnlyFans has definitely been my largest source of income," VanZant told Barstool Sports. "I think I made more money in 24 hours on OnlyFans than I had in my entire fighting career combined."
OnlyFans bills itself as "the 18 + subscription platform empowering creators to own their full potential, monetize their content, and develop authentic connections with their fans," according to its website. The company says it’s "committed to building the safest social media platform in the world" and "an inclusive platform, home to a diverse range of content creators."
The site was founded in 2016 by Tim Stokely, who had previously been the operator of live-cam sex sites. Stokely actually announced plans to ban sexually explicit content from the platform in 2021, blaming banks, but reversed the decision after a few days following widespread backlash. "We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community," OnlyFans tweeted when announcing the about-face.
Washington Post technology reporter Drew Harwell recently published a lengthy feature on Bryce Adams, an OnlyFans content creator who has been so successful she purchased a $2.5 million home-office-studio complex in Florida with profits made from subscribers.
"People don’t understand the scale of the opportunity. I mean, really: You can make your own world," Adams told the paper as Harwell dove into the platform’s financials.
"In the American creator economy, no platform is quite as direct or effective as OnlyFans. Since launching in 2016, the subscription site known primarily for its explicit videos has become one of the most methodical, cash-rich and least known layers of the online-influencer industry, touching every social platform and, for some creators, unlocking a once-unimaginable level of wealth," Harwell wrote.
"More than three million creators now post around the world on OnlyFans, which has 230 million subscribing ‘fans’ — a global audience two-thirds the size of the United States itself," he added, citing a company filing.
The Post reported "payouts to creators soared last year to $5.5 billion" which is "more than every online influencer in the United States earned from advertisers that year."
"If OnlyFans’s creator earnings were taken as a whole, the company would rank around No. 90 on Forbes’s list of the biggest private companies in America by revenue, ahead of Twitter (now called X), Neiman Marcus Group, New Balance, Hard Rock International and Hallmark Cards," Harwell wrote.
The Post also reported that OnlyFans sends 1099 forms to the IRS and all U.S. creators who earn more than $600 a year. OnlyFans also has strict procedures in place to ensure all creators are at least 18 years old.
The platform also features the ability for fans to private message content creators, and "sexting" is sometimes available for a fee. Sometimes creators ask for tips, such as Bhad Bhabie who posted on Aug. 28, "FLASH NIPPLE SALE tip $20 and I’ll show u my nips y’all got an hour."
Not all people who open their wallet for OnlyFans are men looking for companionship.
Actress Tori Spelling recently admitted that she joined OnlyFans under a fake name and spent $400 in two days on her friend Denise Richards’ account. Richards, the ex-wife of Charlie Sheen, has said she joined the platform last summer to support her daughter Sami Sheen, 18, after she started making content on the site. The commitment piqued the interest of Spelling.
Spelling recently told podcast host Jeff Lewis, "I was just kind of fascinated by the whole OnlyFans thing and — I’m not going to lie — I was like, ‘Let me check it out. What does it entail?'"
She explained that she went on OnlyFans "and of course, it shows something like unless you subscribe you can’t get it. So, of course, I subscribed under a fake name."
She continued, "It’s riveting because they’re like, ‘Hey we might show you this in the shower.’ And I just wanted to see, it’s my friend and I’m like, ‘Hey, how far is she going?'"
Fox News’ Kendall Tietz, Adam Sabes, Tracy Wright, Brie Stimson and Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.
For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media.