Every day, hundreds of men pay Dannii Harwood to materialize their sexual fantasies and boost their self-esteem. Sometimes his clothes come off. Sometimes she disguises herself as a nurse or dominatrix.
If a guy is a regular customer, she probably knows her birthday, the names of her children and her pets – even if you have to call after surgery.
He can pay her to help her reach an orgasm, although she is not a prostitute. He can buy erotic videos of her, although she is not a porn star.
Ms. Harwood is one of the main sources of income on OnlyFans, where subscribers – mostly men; Heterosexuals, homosexuals and unpaid – and social media influencers usually pay between $ 5 and $ 20 a month to display a flow of images that are too luscious for Instagram. With this access, subscribers can also send messages and "tip" photos or videos created on demand, based on their sexual tastes.
Models that join the site often assume that the number of subscribers will increase if they post more often and make the content more explicit. The "more often" part is true. The "more explicit" part is not.
At a time when anyone with a smartphone or a small studio can become his own pornographer and whose content is often free, the most popular site of the adult entertainment industry is dominated by providers who show less d & # 39; Sexual acts and charge increasing fees according to their creativity requests get.
This is the first paradox at the center of the OnlyFans phenomenon.
Jem Wolfie and Matthew Camp, business people
The most popular personality of OnlyFans is Jem Wolfie from Perth, Australia.
She can not help laughing when people call her a "fitness model". As she noted in an interview, "70% of my fans are men." So, most of them are not looking for exercise advice, although she can provide it for a fee (with healthy recipes – she was used to it). Be a leader).
According to OnlyFans, she has 10,000 subscribers who pay $ 10 a month to access a food in which she shows her Kardashianesque proportions, squatting in tight leggings and squeezing her breasts against one another. Another, strategically hiding his nipples. "I am a thick girl," she says in a neutral tone.
It does not go much further than that.
"By and large, OnlyFans is an online dance game," said Matthew Camp, a 34-year-old man-made model who burst into the sector about 10 years ago, writhing on Midtown Manhattan platforms for party promoter Susanne Bartsch.
If the four main quadrants of the gay approval matrix were dad, twink, bear and boy next door, he seemed to sit in the center, not falling clearly into one. categories but appealing to everyone's potential audience.
With a string and a strobe light, he could earn up to $ 1,000 a good night. Porn studios like Lucas Entertainment have started calling.
Mr. Camp was intrigued. "Having sex for money is a call," he said. But $ 1,000 seemed low for something that would stay on the Internet and would call him a porn star for life.
He therefore declined them and instead used a PG-13 feed on Instagram to create a number of followers of over half a million. About a year ago, as the club scene continued to die slowly, he moved to Hudson, New York, and enrolled in OnlyFans.
Weeks often passed without him publishing a single photo or video. He did not show a complete clip with sexual penetration for the first nine months, but he still regularly earned more than $ 10,000 a month.
"Tumblr was filled with the most extreme sexual experiences you can see," he said. "And I think a lot of people have been put off by that. That's not what they are looking for. They want more intimate experiences. They want a boyfriend experience. They want to fantasize about someone with whom they want to make love and not be disgusted with it. "
How the Internet destabilizes pornography
Between the late 1990s and the early 2000s, dreamers of the porn industry, established in the San Fernando Valley in California, have openly described their multi-million dollar multiple futures contracts. This actually happened, at least for a small number of models having signed lucrative long-term contracts with studios such as Vivid and Wicked.
They could make a scene north of $ 5,000 and shoot a few each week, according to Brian Gross, a leading publicist in the industry. This income could be supplemented by five-figure sums making appearances in nightclubs across the country on weekends, he said.
Jenna Jameson – Julia Roberts Pure Porn – even recounted her notoriety in a memoir published by HarperCollins, "How to Love Like a Porn Star: A Tale of Warning", which was a bestseller Grouvy Today. The title has turned out to be strangely prescient. As its publisher, Judith Regan, has pointed out: "Pornography is the way of all media." As it turns out everyone could do it.
Except that pornography is an industry of people already living on the margins of society, the consequences for performers are far more serious.
The main culprits were tube sites: YouTube-like platforms collecting stolen pornographic content, broadcasting it for free and generating banner and video revenues.
Given that porn studios did not have the capital or political connections necessary to pursue their most menacing opponents (as the record industry did), the rates of work on stage dropped. Fewer scenes have been shot overall. Finally, the studios began to sell themselves at tube production sites at the fire sale price.
It was as if all the music industry had been encompassed by Napster.
In 2015, a handful of companies were able to exercise monopoly control over the sector. MindGeek is the greatest player of all. The jewel of his empire is Pornhub (perhaps the most popular tube site in the world), fueled by the content of many inner production companies of straight (Brazzers.com, Reality Kings) and gay (SeanCody, Men. com).
MindGeek knows everything about porn habits by doing a complete analysis of the data. It showed less affinity for the product or the people that appear there.
The MindGeek website makes no reference to the fact that the vast majority of its customers are consumers of hardcore pornography.
The technocrats who built the company became rich. Most of the artists who contributed to their success became prostitutes, offering their services on sites such as RentMen.com and The Erotic Review, when stage work ceased to be a viable way to make a living.
It is an appropriate but unfortunate parable at the time of economic inequality.
"If you have a known name, it's a lot easier to market your services," said Dirk Caber, a porn star who has filmed nearly 40 scenes for MindGeek's most popular gay site, Men.com, since 2013. Most of his income comes from his job escort, because this stage work pays so little.
"The entire industry has made a 180," said Gross. "In my early days, there were actually websites that would surpass the famous pornstars they were escorted, because it was shocking, for lack of a better word. Now, all talents are considered escorts and those who are not forced to go out and say it. "
Your "girlfriend online"
An alternative to the escort is webcamming. In England, there are even TV channels, such as Playboy and Babestation, on which models talk directly with thousands of customers and earn several hundred dollars a day.
That's what Ms. Harwood did before OnlyFans arrived.
She grew up in Wales, with a mother stocking supermarket shelves and a labor father.
It was a typical working-class household, she said recently, while on vacation in New York and going to the 9/11 memorial and taking many selfies in hotel rooms.
As a little girl, Ms. Harwood was a relentless attention researcher, one who appeared in school plays, who participated in beauty pageants and studied dance. She also had empathy tanks that would serve her well later in life.
She could detect pain in others and find ways to help them feel better. She was also able to identify her limits and find ways to chart new paths. "I was well raised," she said.
She studied dance at Laine Theater Arts, a prestigious theater and dance college near London. Then, "I went to audition after hearing," she said. "Finally, I realized that I was not good enough. And it was quite difficult to accept at first.
Around 2005, Harwood put her head up in the Daily Sport, a second-tier British newspaper, which, she says, "was very popular among laborers and construction workers."
This apparently included the types with which his father worked.
One morning, he went to work and saw the picture of his daughter stuck to his locker.
On his face, his colleagues had drawn his mustache and his glasses. This is how he discovered that she was modeling nudity. That's why he warned her against disavowal.
Ms. Harwood felt terrible. Although she likes to undress for others, she seems less motivated by the desire to transgress than by the desire to please. If she reincarnated as a Disney character, she would be Jessica Rabbit, not Miss Piggy.
But it was not like his father had the money to support her. His warning was a kind of empty threat. So she continued to play, with appearances in Playboy and in British magazines called "laddie".
In 2011, Ms. Harwood worked for a virtual site called GlamGirls and became friends with her owner, Tim Stokely, a serious technocrat who looks like Mark Zuckerberg via Savile Row. Shortly after, Mr. Stokely created a site called Customs4U, which Ms. Harwood said, slightly, it could be her idea and looked like OnlyFans in beta.
The goal was to offer the hot guys the opportunity to become their own directors, by ordering videos specially designed for their favorite models.
He stammered while Instagram – which is free and does not allow complete nudity – took off. Mr. Stokely then had his bulb moment: why not find a way for influencers to directly monetize their content. The platform – OnlyFans – would be similar to Instagram or Twitter, except that fans should pay a monthly subscription to view the content of the influencers and interact with them.
It would therefore be a natural link with existing social media of influence. A free feed on Instagram or Twitter could promote and drive traffic to the OnlyFans subscriber feed.
Eighty percent of the fees collected for each food would go to the supplier. Twenty percent would go to OnlyFans (although, after deducting treatment and treatment costs, Mr Stokely indicates that his consumption is about 12%). This is about the same agreement between Uber and his drivers, except that OnlyFans did not push performers into poverty by dictating the prices they could charge.
At the very beginning of OnlyFans, in 2016, Ms. Harwood was one of 10 models who searched for subscribers. She did not think many would come out early. His earnings for the first month were $ 257.
Then the site added features that allow the models to create personalized content. Ms. Harwood has become inventive.
She presented themed days such as Dare Dannii's mistresses' Mondays and Tuesdays, when men asked her to watch her drive in town in underwear and order pizza at her house, after which she answered naked at the door. . She also talked to the fans every day, learning about their habits, sexual predilections and insecurities.
"You can get porn for free," she said. "Guys do not want to pay for it. They want to have the opportunity to know someone they've seen in a magazine or on social media. I am like their girlfriend online. "
Ms. Harwood took out her phone and showed proof of her theory.
It netted $ 29,420.47 in August, $ 34,303.24 in September, $ 52,693.29 in October and $ 52,760.49 in November.
The porn magicians
Although OnlyFans has brilliantly capitalized on the work of exhibitionist life, it is led by people whose most obvious trait is opacity.
This is the second paradox at the center of its existence.
There is no website for Fenix International Limited, which is the parent company of OnlyFans. There is a journalist, Daniel Blythe, who is helping the men behind him to avoid the interviews.
When I contacted Mr. Blythe for the first time in November to inform him of my intention to write about OnlyFans, he was as affable as possible for a man who had not intend to disclose the names of his clients, let alone submit them to an interview.
When I discovered Mr. Stokely's name and excerpts from his story, with the help of someone on Reddit, Mr. Blythe sent me his warmest congratulations. "Refreshing to know that investigative journalism is not dead," he said.
The best answers he could offer, however, were the written answers to questions from Mr. Stokely, the company's general manager. The answers were extremely vague, but Stokely said he worked at Fenix with his father, Guy Stokely, who, before becoming president, was an investment banker with Barclays, the famous bank. British.
Mr. Stokely also confirmed that one of Fenix's directors is Leo Radvinsky, a graduate of Northwestern University in 2003, who then launched MyFreeCams (one of the largest online discussion sites in the US). sector) and has been implicated in three lawsuits related to phishing attempts and counterfeit patents. . (Mr. Blythe stated that he can not comment on the status of these lawsuits because "they do not concern OnlyFans".)
No apps for that
Mr. Stokely is eager to release OnlyFans from the niche of pornography and make it a platform for all kinds of influencers and audiences.
One of the obstacles is that there is no iPhone application. The platform as it currently exists is likely to go against Apple's restrictions on "sexual or pornographic content". And even if Apple allowed an OnlyFans application, the fees – 30% – would certainly be a problem, Stokely said. He should spend these expenses on the performers.
Technical issues on OnlyFans also threaten its longevity and help explain why synonymous sites, such as JustFor.Fans, have managed to siphon a considerable number of artists and revenue.
Yet Chanel Santini, a 21-year-old artist who has been with OnlyFans for over a year and earns at least $ 8,000 a month in subscription revenue, can not complain.
Not when she experimented with the alternative.
She grew up in Albuquerque with a single mother who was a hairdresser. Ms. Santini declared herself transgender when she was a teenager. That brought her out of the house. She never finished high school.
In 2015, Ms. Santini moved to Las Vegas and worked as a clerk at Hollister, the clothing chain. Even in a city where the cost of living is quite low, it was not enough.
So she started doing pornography, filming scenes worth only $ 400, which led to an escort. She was working for a madam who stole her money and threatened her with violence.
With popular feeds on Instagram and Twitter, Ms. Santini's name has become bigger. OnlyFans has started and she is registered.
A few weeks ago, she burst into tears on the phone while recalling her first pornographic shoot. There, a director had told him that the only way to make a living in porn was to be a prostitute.
"He told me that in the face," she says. "Now, I just want to meet him again, so I can say," Well, here I am. I earn tens of thousands of dollars every month by posting content online. I do not need to escort anymore. I do not have to do that. I guess you were wrong!