When Aedan Rayne fell in a car accident in 2014, wrapping her Mini Cooper around a palm tree at 45 miles an hour, she had to face a long road to recovery.
The adult camera model, who started on MyFreeCams 11 years ago, was partially paralyzed in her right arm and developed a neurological disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which left her in agony.
In the years that followed, she began the seemingly endless journey through doctors’ offices and hospitals for treatment in an attempt to return her to some semblance of good health. There have been crushing lows as well as unexpected rallies. But the only constant was the army of penguins.
This is the name Rayne gave to her followers (she is obsessed with penguins), who have rallied behind her to offer her emotional and financial support through her OnlyFans page, where she is now in the top 0.9. % of creators.
“I didn’t even have to ask,” says Rayne. “They just came forward and started supporting me. Honestly, it was more precious to me than the financial side of things. And as she lay in bed recovering, the encouraging messages from the Penguin Army helped her through the extreme pain and struggle of recovery.
But OnlyFans’ announcement last week that it was banning explicit adult content – which the company backtracked on today – has Rayne worried. “It’s more than just a loss of income,” she says. “Losing my fan base – the thought that I might wake up one morning and they are suddenly gone – is a concern.” (A model tweeted that in the last week she had lost 500 subscribers – what she says Grab made up about a third of its total audience on OnlyFans – due to the site’s “indecision and miscommunication”.)
Rayne is currently trying to transfer the Penguin Army to FanCentro, a competing subscription-based adult website, but hopes to move them to Patreon in the long term. “I can’t imagine losing them,” she says of her community. “They have been so good for my struggle for my mental health, and also for my physical health. And I know I do the same for them.
“OnlyFans has all these different relationships that are beyond the $ 10 per month.
For detractors, OnlyFans is seen as another way for people to reach their favorite adult stars. But for those who create content on the platform, it’s much more. It’s a lifeline for those who don’t want or can’t work at another job, and gives them control over when, where and how they work. For some, it’s a much more personally fulfilling alternative than the big adult movie studios, which determine who and for whom you work. But more than that, it’s a place to build a community that supports creators and celebrates their successes – and, in some cases, a place where paying customers have become friends.
“It’s such a sprawling thing,” says renowned adult artist Stoya, who joined OnlyFans because it most faithfully reproduced the sense of community she had found on the alternative porn sites she made a name for herself early in her career. “There are all these different relationships that are over $ 10 a month and especially beyond the ‘Here’s a pic of my dick, tell me it’s beautiful’ that people who haven’t worked in OnlyFans or the sex industry might think so. “
In 2019, Floridien Lena paul joined OnlyFans after admitting that she was not going to be able to pursue her career outside of the adult industry due to chronic health issues. “I was able to forge a much more home-based lifestyle for myself,” without the middlemen and the porn industry’s studio system, she says. “It was pretty amazing.”
Over time, Paul has built up an audience of 20,000-25,000 paying subscribers to his OnlyFans – she’s worried she won’t be accompanying him to the personal website she’s trying to build given the uncertainty. at OnlyFans.
“I don’t really work in the studio system by choice anymore, and OnlyFans and my ‘Internet boyfriends’ as I affectionately call them have kind of freed me from that,” she says. Paul’s internet boyfriends subsidized his ability to get therapy during the lockdown and deconstruct his own southern far-right evangelical education.
“I can’t explain to you how nice this group of a few thousand men was to me,” says Paul. “OnlyFans and those Internet boyfriends stood on the sidelines for me. No partner, no uncle, no brother, no father had actually created security for me like these men on the Internet had. They allowed me to rest for the first time in my life – so that I could go and get treatment, get treatment and see a real significant improvement in my condition.
Creator of OnlyFans Kimmy kalani feels the same. “I have noticed that a lot of fans give me reassurance in difficult times, especially now,” she said. “Knowing that they see me as a human, unlike the rest of society, makes me feel less alone and reminds me that they care. Kalani has built her fandom and sees it as a support group – but fears the OnlyFans drama will have an impact.
She is considering leaving OnlyFans because of the about-face, but isn’t sure if her audience will follow suit. “It scares me a bit more because some of my fans might stay on OnlyFans because they may also have other role models that they follow who stay,” she says.
The sense of community on OnlyFans is also what attracted the trans creator Lucien DeLune to the platform. DeLune launched its OnlyFans – where it now has 16,000 free subscribers and 100 who pay to view its content – as a way to publicly follow its transition. “I wanted to document the changes that were happening when I started hormone replacement and thought maybe someone else would be interested in seeing it as well,” he says. It also had the side benefit of helping pay for his main transaction.
But DeLune’s OnlyFans is even more meaningful to him than that. Of his 100 paying subscribers, around 10 he considers true close friends. “I regularly talk to them about so many things,” he says. “Their lives, their passions, how is the work going.” For DeLune, it’s also different from past jobs in that it allows him to be himself while keeping his best interests at heart. “I really like connecting with people in general and being able to make people happy,” he explains. “I’ve always looked for this in the jobs I’ve had, but it always seemed like an unfortunate compromise. This is not really the case with OnlyFans. Either you offer something or you can find someone else who does, and they get what they’re looking for.
Designers of all stripes must constantly prepare for the rug to be taken away from them, says Lee Hair of Boston University, who has written research on how the bond between creators and Patreon fans is more than simple financial relationships. “This is a problem that is not unique to sex workers,” he says. “There is always the possibility that a platform will collapse at any time.”
The problem isn’t necessarily the stigma of the content, says Hair, but the power imbalances that underlie these platforms. “There is constant insecurity for these creators because they have no interest in the actions of the platform. They don’t have a say.
The answer is to diversify. “While it takes more effort, it pays off in the long run not to be left behind in the cold,” says Hair. But this has its own problems. These relationships between creators and their fans are what sex workers fear most will disappear if they feel pressured to move their followers from OnlyFans – in large part because the site offered more semblance of community than its competitors.
“Only the fans had a unique social media sensation.
“OnlyFans had a unique social media feel,” says Stoya, who uses the platform to hang out with her fans. “In my chat room, I do weekly live broadcasts,” says Stoya. “I’m sitting there in nice lingerie and talking about my week and most of the time it’s like, ‘I took this professional development course’ or ‘I had to research this thing for. my column. ‘”
The relationships she built through these chat rooms have helped her in real life, as have friendships. One of her fans is an academic who helped her prepare an application for a summer residency program that Stoya attended; others are mental health professionals who have referred her to resources that have helped her frame her chronicles from a more trauma-sensitive perspective.
Following in the footsteps of many digital creators, Stoya looks beyond OnlyFans. She created an account on AVN Stars and FanCentro. She is waiting to be approved by LoyalFans and others. But she is worried about the dispersal of creators to the four winds.
Aedan Rayne too. “As an individual, especially a sex worker, all you can do is carefully assess the situation and go to where you are most successful and stable,” she explains, right after OnlyFans overturned last week’s announcement. She noted with interest the use of the word “suspended” in the company’s tweet announcing the change. “This tells me that it is important to continue the process of diversification and to establish itself on reputable platforms to ensure future success,” she said.
She still plans to move the Penguin Army to FanCentro and ultimately Patreon – Fans be damned.