Jobless, Selling Nudes Online and Still Struggling

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Savannah Benavidez stopped working at her job as a medical biller in June to deal with her 2-year-old son after his day care shut down. Needing a strategy to pay her payments, she created an account on SolelyFans — a social media platform the place customers promote unique content material to month-to-month subscribers — and began posting photographs of herself nude or in lingerie.

Ms. Benavidez, 23, has made $64,000 since July, sufficient not simply to deal with her personal payments, however to assist household and mates with hire and automobile funds.

“It’s more money than I have ever made in any job,” she mentioned. “I have more money than I know what to do with.”

Lexi Eixenberger hoped for the same windfall when she began an SolelyFans account in November. A restaurant employee in Billings, Mont., Ms. Eixenberger, 22, has been laid off thrice in the course of the pandemic and was so in want of money by October that she needed to drop out of dental hygiene college. After donating plasma and doing odd jobs, she nonetheless didn’t have sufficient to pay her payments, so on the suggestion of some mates, she turned to SolelyFans. She has made solely about $500 thus far.

SolelyFans, based in 2016 and based mostly in Britain, has boomed in reputation in the course of the pandemic. As of December, it had greater than 90 million customers and a couple of million content material creators, up from 120,000 in 2019. The firm declined to remark for this text.

With thousands and thousands of Americans unemployed, some like Ms. Benavidez and Ms. Eixenberger are turning to SolelyFans in an try to offer for themselves and their households. The pandemic has taken a significantly devastating toll on ladies and moms, wiping out components of the economic system the place ladies dominate: retail companies, eating places and health care.

“A lot of people are migrating to OnlyFans out of desperation,” mentioned Angela Jones, an affiliate professor of sociology on the State University of New York at Farmingdale. “These are people who are worried about eating, they’re worried about keeping the lights on, they’re worried about not being evicted.”

But for each individual like Ms. Benavidez, who is ready to use SolelyFans as her main supply of revenue, there are dozens extra, like Ms. Eixenberger, who hope for a windfall and find yourself with little quite a lot of hundred {dollars} and worries that the photographs will hinder their potential to get a job sooner or later.

“It is already an incredibly saturated market,” Ms. Jones mentioned of specific content material on-line. “The idea that people are just going to open up an OnlyFans account and start raking in the dough is really misguided.”

The most profitable content material creators are sometimes fashions, porn stars and celebrities who have already got giant social media followings. They can use their different on-line platforms to drive followers to their SolelyFans accounts, the place they provide unique content material to these keen to pay a month-to-month price — even personalised content material in alternate for ideas. SolelyFans takes a 20 p.c reduce of any pay. Some creators obtain ideas by means of cell fee apps, which aren’t topic to that reduce; Ms. Benavidez earns most of her cash this manner.

But most of the creators who’ve joined the platform out of dire monetary want shouldn’t have giant social media followings or any strategy to drum up constant enterprise.

Elle Morocco of West Palm Beach, Fla., was laid off from her job as an workplace supervisor in July. Her unemployment checks don’t cowl her $1,600 month-to-month hire, utility payments and meals prices, so she joined SolelyFans in November.

But Ms. Morocco, 36, had no social media presence to talk of when she joined the platform, and has needed to acquire subscribers one after the other — by posting photos of herself on Instagram and Twitter, and following up with individuals who like and touch upon her posts, encouraging every one to subscribe to SolelyFans. It’s tougher and time consuming than she anticipated, and fewer financially rewarding.

“It’s a full-time job on top of your full-time job looking for work,” she mentioned. “Fans want to see you posting daily. You’re always churning. You’re always taking pictures to post.”

She has made simply $250 on the platform thus far, regardless of generally spending upward of eight hours a day creating, posting and selling her content material.

Ms. Morocco additionally worries that her presence on the platform will make it harder for her to be employed for conventional jobs sooner or later.

“If you’re looking for a 9 to 5, they might not hire you if they find out you have an OnlyFans,” she mentioned. “They may not want you if they know you’re a sex worker.”

Digital intercourse work can provide the phantasm of security and privateness — content material creators can receives a commission with out having to work together with shoppers in individual. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t dangers.

“Online sex work is a much more appealing alternative to many people than going on the streets or selling direct sexual services,” mentioned Barb Brents, a professor of sociology on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “That said, anybody getting into this kind of work needs to be aware that there are dangers.”

Last April, a mechanic in Indiana misplaced her job at a Honda dealership after administration discovered she had an SolelyFans account. Creators may be the goal of “doxxing” — a type of on-line harassment by which customers publish non-public or delicate details about somebody with out permission. In December, The New York Post revealed an article a few New York City medic who was utilizing SolelyFans to complement her revenue. The medic believed that the article, revealed with out her consent, would harm her repute and get her fired from her job.

Creators can be topic to “capping,” a apply by which customers take unauthorized screenshots or recordings after which share them elsewhere on the web. SolelyFans creators have additionally acquired demise and rape threats on social media.

SolelyFans content material creators can face not simply skilled penalties however private ones, too. Ms. Eixenberger has been conserving her account secret from her father, however is aware of he’ll discover out now that she has gone public. “I don’t want to be shamed or disowned,” she mentioned.

Others say the expertise has been empowering. Melany Hall, a single mom of three, earns $13.30 an hour as a paramedic in northern Ohio, barely sufficient to cowl her payments. She began an SolelyFans account in December.

“I’m a mom of three kids. I never thought anyone would pay to see me naked,” mentioned Ms. Hall, 27. “It’s been a confidence boost.”

She has made about $700 thus far — not sufficient to alter her life, however sufficient to make the vacations particular.

“This is the first year I didn’t have to choose between the electric bill and Christmas presents for my kids,” she mentioned. “This is the first year I’ve been able to do it all by myself.”

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