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When living in the age of the internet in which porn websites are more popular than Netflix, it’s easy to ignore what happens behind the scenes of sexually explicit content.
Platforms such as OnlyFans encourage performers to empower themselves, as they are in charge of the content and are free from the risk of coercion into scenes they never gave consent to.
Many don’t know what goes on behind the camera. During the COVID-19 era, in which more and more of our lives take place in a virtual format, pornography is more commonplace than ever before.
“That’s not how it works. you get paid for the day, and that’s it. You don’t get any royalties; you don’t get anything afterward.”-Mia Khalifa, internet personality
“Hot Girls Wanted,” a documentary co-produced by Rashida Jones, discusses the porn industry and the unfortunate reality of a business that largely preys on naive young women. John Anthony, an actor who had worked in the industry for five years at the time of the production, explained the predatory nature of the business.
“There is an influx of girls trying to do porn,” Anthony said. “And a lot of them know it’s a trap, but the money is there in their face, right now, cash. (The) shelf life of a girl really depends on how she markets herself. Worst case scenario? One to three months. Best case scenario, if she doesn’t catch onto the game, a year tops.”
This continuous revolving door of young actresses lends itself well to other forms of exploitation, including lack of proper compensation as well as situations in which women are coerced into performing sexual activities they were not prepared for, nor did they consent to.
The “Hot Girls Wanted” documentary depicts actress Rachel Bernard explaining a situation in which she showed up to a “blowjob scene.”
“I was like, ‘For sure,’” Bernard said. “$300 for a blowjob scene. That’s nothing. I go there and he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a forced blowjob.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ I was scared; I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I could tell him no. Or the fact that we already recorded 15 minutes of it, if I could just f*cking leave. Like … then what? Then I understand that that’s how rape victims feel.”
Mia Khalifa, an internet personality known for speaking out about her time in the porn industry, explained in an interview that of the 11 pornographic films she starred in, she only made $12,000. She explains that there is a great misconception that she has been graciously compensated for her videos.
“That’s not how it works,” she said. “You get paid for the day and that’s it. You don’t get any royalties; you don’t get anything afterward.”
With the flaws of the industry coming to the surface, many talents have turned to alternative mediums. OnlyFans, a content subscription service in which content creators can earn money from the users who subscribe to their content, is one such popular platform.
The benefits of websites like OnlyFans, and other platforms that allow actors to control the content they put out, mitigate some of the harmful aspects of the porn industry.
“Then I understand that that’s how rape victims feel.”-Rachel Bernard, actress
There is a reduction of financial exploitation, as the companies that produce the content in traditional porn are cut out of the equation. Content creators make their own price and thus set their own value for the work they do.
Additionally, it aids in reducing the stigma around sex work; average people have access to a medium in which they can create sexual content. This has led to a large influx of people engaging with the website. In early April, OnlyFans reported a 75% increase in “model sign-ups.”
It’s worth noting that this was when quarantine started, providing an income source for thousands of displaced workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it may be easy to condemn individuals who decide to engage in camgirl platforms such as OnlyFans, try to make sure you aren’t being hypocritical. If you consume porn, for example, can you really say your issue is with the fact that women are being sexually explicit? Or rather, does the issue stem from your own discomfort around women taking their sexuality into their own hands and deciding for themselves the value in the work they are doing?
While consuming pornographic material of any kind in excess can have negative repercussions, porn is here to stay. The demand for sexually explicit material is now ingrained into our sexualized culture, and the supply is only increasing with time.
For that reason, it’s crucial that sex workers are provided with platforms that do not exploit them and that leave aspects of the production in their hands.
Cat Blouch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BlouchCat.