OnlyFans: What is it and how does it affect young people?


OnlyFans has recently been talked about in the news, which may leave you wondering what it is and how it affects young people. OnlyFans is a British subscription site, similar to social media platforms such as Instagram, the difference being that users pay to access content, for example you might pay to access a popular yoga influencer’s video. However, during the pandemic the site became popular for selling explicit and pornographic videos. Popular celebrities such as Love Island contestants endorsed OnlyFans on other social media sites normalising the selling of explicit content to their younger followers, who may not consider the potential risks involved.  OnlyFans is failing to prevent underage users from selling and appearing in explicit videos, a BBC investigation has found. We asked one of our WiSE ambassadors to write a blog explaining OnlyFans in more detail.


  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use OnlyFans or engage in any form of online sex work. If you suspect anyone is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999. If a child or young person is currently at risk of significant harm from Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), refer immediately to your local Children’s Services.

What is OnlyFans?

Lily Harvey, YMCA WiSE Ambassador writes: You may have heard the term OnlyFans thrown around on social media or by young people alongside the perhaps more confusing description of “being an accountant”. But what is it, and how are the two related?

In simple terms, OnlyFans is a social media site where creators hide their content behind a pay wall, meaning that fans can pay either a one-off fee or a subscription to access an influencer’s content. So, for example, this means that a fitness guru can create videos of at-home workout routines which their fans must pay to access. They would then promote these workout videos on their other social media platforms, encouraging their following to purchase their content.

Alongside fitness fanatics, the site is used by artists, chefs, and beauty bloggers alike, but it is perhaps the largest group; sex workers it is most well known for. In fact, “having an OnlyFans” has almost become synonymous with doing online sex work.

As you can imagine as people are staying home more, OnlyFans use has risen. This is something that we noticed as YMCA WiSE ambassadors when promotion of OnlyFans content and discussions around the site’s use started creeping into our social media feeds. This widespread promotion on social media means that sex work has been presented to young people perhaps more casually than ever before, making it seem more accessible – whether that’s as a full-time gig, or side-hustle to earn some extra cash. This normalisation of using OnlyFans means that young people may not consider the potential risks involved.

It’s fairly common knowledge online what OnlyFans is, and the basics of what are involved, but it is more unclear how sustainable or safe it really is watching from the outside.

As ambassadors we wanted to produce a neutral resource which would help young people considering starting up an OnlyFans to think about whether online sex work on was suitable for them and help them to identify the risks and weigh up all the options. We created a workbook and some Instagram content centred around how someone’s safety, independence, income, and confidence might change while being a sex worker on OnlyFans, or not.

If you’d like to take a look for yourself, you can see our Instagram post here.

I’m sure you still have one question. What has this all got to do with being an accountant? And the answer is simple, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time on TikTok. Telling someone you’re an accountant has become a cover up for being a sex worker. The hope is that being an accountant is so impossibly boring that whoever is asking about your job will drop it. So, if someone tells you they’re an accountant, maybe they are an OnlyFans sex worker that uses TikTok, and they don’t want to talk about it:

“What do you do?” I’m an accountant
“Where do you work?” At a place where accountants work
“Do you like your job?” Yes, I like my job, and my job is an accountant

  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use OnlyFans or engage in any form of online sex work. If you suspect anyone is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999. If a child or young person is currently at risk of significant harm from CSE, refer immediately to your local Children’s Services.

We hope this resource is helpful in both learning about what OnlyFans is and how to consider some of the pros and cons of using an online platform like OnlyFans.

If you are worried about yourself, a friend, your child or a child or young person with whom you are working, select the tab that matches who you are and you’ll find more information, advice and help on this page:


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