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OnlyFans has expanded hugely during COVID-19: in 2020 alone, the number of creators increased by 42% and the number of British contributors using OnlyFans reached a high of 95,000. Many new users might have joined to pay the rent in the face of pandemic-induced adversity, but plenty use it as an empowering side hustle since the platform has become normalised by the likes of celebrities like Bella Thorne and Cardi B. 

Consumption of porn has evolved vastly over the years, with the first examples prevalent in adult magazines which could only be purchased in specialist bookstores. The huge increase in the 1980s can be attributed to the the ubiquity of VCRs which, in turn, led to the notion of the “porn star”. The introduction of the internet made porn even more readily accessible from the 1990s onwards.

This is what straight porn used to look like.

It’s no secret that queer women, lesbians in particular, are hypersexualised by the porn industry: there’s an entire category on PornHub for “lesbian” content, and yet it’s doubtful that many of these women are truly lesbians as opposed to straight women acting to fulfil the sexual fantasies of straight men. The vast majority of content wildly misrepresents the realities of sex between women, fetishising and feigning intimacy with “lesbian sex positions” such as scissoring and tribbing. Queer women understand that scissoring is not a thing – trust me, it isn’t – and yet, society believes it to be because of the way queer sex is represented by mainstream porn sites such as PornHub. That’s why the queer women of OnlyFans are so important, providing accurate representation of queer sex between women and perspectives on feminine pleasure and self-pleasure alike. 

Are these women lesbians? Probably not.

Jasmine, who identifies as gay, tells me: “Lesbian porn is a far cry from accuracy. It seems to mostly cater to straight men or bi-curious women, who want some kind of ‘wet dream’ façade of who queer women are. In my experience, queer sex is about pleasing your partner rather than yourself. It’s hard to believe with fingernails that could cut a vulva open and a distinct lack of connection and intimacy.”

She continues: “I’m on the fence about representation. On the one hand, the interactions between client and creator seem really transparent and genuine, some kind of respect level, or sort of leaving prejudice and sexual care at the door. On the other, I find it really hard to believe that eventually it wouldn’t revert back to fetishisation. I imagine lipstick femmes will be the most preferred, and the scope for discrimination seems to still be quite open, too.”

The nuances of queer content creation on OnlyFans are interesting: many lesbian women use OF as a means of income and empowerment, but consumption of content from straight male subscribers begs the question: is this comfortable for the women behind it? One woman tells me: “I personally find it fine for straight men to purchase and look at my content. That’s what my account is for and I’d rather they paid to access my content than indulge in free porn where the origins are more likely to be exploitative. I’ve always been very open with my audience of subs that I’m a lesbian. It’s everywhere on my page and I’m not ashamed of it, and most people seem to be supportive of that.”

Fingernails are always a giveaway!

In fact, OnlyFans is fostering an underground sense of community between LGBTQ+ people, queer and trans women in particular: “There is a good thing I’ve found with a group of subs on my page where queer women, mainly trans women, who have subscribed to my page and have messaged me to let me know it’s made them feel more accepted as a gay woman. Trying to be as inclusive as possible with content has its perks for my sanity and encouraging queer women not to be embarrassed or ashamed of their attraction to women.”

She continues: “I actually have a lot of queer women who are subscribers on my account, so that helps a lot but that’s not to say it’s all roses. I’ve had a lot of really creepy fantasies sent my way on there and have had to block men who had essentially subbed me to live out their rape correction fantasies written in my DMs.” She shows me an example: “Good morning slut. I don’t care that you’re a lesbian. If I had the chance, I’d fill every hole of yours.”

Being asked for “dick rates”, described to me as “where men pay money, usually $5 or $10, and for that they can send a picture of their genitals. It’s open to any gender, but it’s well known as dick raters for a reason, and then you rate them – either with a wordy prose about what you think about their genitals or just rating out of 10”, is fairly common. Being a lesbian, naturally, does not encompass an attraction to men, and some lesbian OnlyFans creators have felt discomfort at this prospect: “As a lesbian woman, I still feel pressured to make content catered to men because that’s my biggest-paying audience. I originally didn’t even set a boundary on talking sexually with men on there. I would give dick rates which were really uncomfortable, but at the time I wanted to be taken seriously and it was what all the OnlyFans creators I knew were doing. I eventually stopped doing this and set boundaries. No sexting and no dick rates or dick pics sent my way, and content is made with what I enjoy in mind.”

“There are things I’ve hardlined content-wise because it makes me uncomfortable but I know it would make me lots of money if I did it. You kind of have to value your sanity over the cash. I’m lucky that this is only a side hustle so it’s not a loss for me if people think I provide too little on my page compared to others,” one woman tells me. 

What’s clear is that the queer women of OnlyFans are reclaiming their space: rejecting the idea of ‘compulsory heterosexuality’, in which society dictates that women desire men and vice versa, queer content on OnlyFans is both readjusting the boundaries of sex and facilitating a sense of community. Whereas mainstream “lesbian” porn focuses on the male gaze, content created by the queer women of OnlyFans places self-pleasure and accurate representation at its centre. And there’s no scissoring in sight!

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Eleanor Noyce

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