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Powerlifting women do OnlyFans

Through the past years and months, OnlyFans–piggybacking on preexisting sex-positive social media trends such as #freethenipple and #getontop, and pockets of adult content on other social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok–has mainstreamed sex work in a way the industry before has been wholly unable. No longer is “Girl Next Door” a specific, categorical search term for the type of girl you want to see naked online, it’s the real life self identification of many of the naked girls themselves. It’s actually your neighbor. Powerlifting women in particular have infiltrated the category and site, not only mainstreaming female strength and empowerment via their sport of choice, but destigmatizing female sexual autonomy via sweeping reverence of what and with whom they share their adult photos, videos and bodies. Powerlifting women are using their already popular social media accounts to promote paid content that does anything from toe the line of Insta-appropriateness to hurl itself straight over it, bashing with a head-held-high vengeance through the same barriers blocking women with ownership of their sexuality from conventional acceptance that used to bar women from merited respect in the strength community.

WHAT IS ONLYFANS

For many, OnlyFans is sex work in a gig economy, and more and more women–powerlifting women included–are getting in on the side hustle. As one “Dazed Digital” article stated, “OnlyFans is the Patreon of porn,” and their timing couldn’t be any better considering the shutdown of professional porn studios due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rerouting of the industry as a whole in the wake of highly publicized and scrutinized controversies swirling around major studio production such as the “Girls Do Porn” scandal, the besmirching of Mia Khalifa through her ongoing battle with BangBros, allegations and explicit accounts of on-set sexual assault against Ryan Madison (Porn Fidelity and Teen Fidelity) and the ongoing battle with PornHub to do ANYTHING about keeping content featuring underage and trafficked women off their site.

“The whole studio ecosystem was forced to adapt, either by supporting performers with special at-home content, or by getting on platforms like OnlyFans that sell content directly to consumers, cutting out the production middle men and studio contracts altogether,” wrote Vice Reporter Samantha Cole from her interview with Adult Performer Allie Eve Knox in the article A New Wave of Reckoning is Sweeping the Porn Industry.

OnlyFans.com officially launched in 2016 as a content subscription service startup with 10 creators, and quickly skyrocketed in popularity, currently hosting more than 3 million users including more than 450,000 creators. Creators can upload to free pages, or pages with subscription rates anywhere from $4.99 to $49.99 per month with numerous opportunities to upsell within the subscription through personalized and custom content and streaming. Many creators have both free and paid pages. The only catch: OnlyFans gets 20%. But content creators can upload at their own pace and tailor their channel however they see fit: Cooking, fitness, music, comedy or, as most have come to thrive on this particular platform, content considered “adult” in nature.

Adult content on the site runs the gamut from lingerie photo shoots to topless cooking shows, explicit sex to oiled up strip teases, and of course good old fashioned jerk off videos. Where lines are drawn is completely up to the creator. Both men and women have garnered devoted fan bases on the site. Currently, OnlyFans is only accessible through a web browser. While one may think an OnlyFans app would thrive in a society clinging to the withering end of Tinder culture laid barren by COVID-19, where app-based solicitation is openly discussed (though thinly veiled by humor and a careful reading of the room) and widely accepted as normal, Apple still does not allow apps with “overtly sexual content,” and OnlyFans reputation for just that grew even faster than it’s subscriber pool. Metrics estimate 80% or more of the site’s content to be of an adult nature. 

The site itself seems to be hiding their big, dirty, not-so-secret: the most fast-rising and popular new media platform in the world for adult entertainers, hosting thousands of women earning anywhere from pocket change to lifestyle-supporting salaries (the lifter women I spoke with make anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars per month), makes no mention of nudity, pornography, or sex work anywhere on their website. The complete ignorance of the graphic nature of the site, by the site, is eerily Stepford considering we all know what’s really going on. This equates to Tinder emphatically stating it is an app where young singles flock to seek and establish genuine, lifelong, spiritual friendships. OnlyFans does, however, have a vagueness in their terms and conditions I have to assume comes with a wink and a nudge, leaving seemingly intentional space for creators to truly bare it all, and then some.

Item 10.3 of the User Content section of this document states “You understand and acknowledge that you are responsible for any User Content you submit or contribute, and you have full responsibility for such content, including its legality, reliability, accuracy, and appropriateness.” In other words, the creator decides what’s appropriate as long as it’s not illegal. So fire up the laptops, friends, and support your local OnlyFans girl! But keep in mind, you can’t search the site itself for a username, you must get it from the creator themselves (these are often posted to Instagram bio’s–the most popular platform for cross-promoting OnlyFans pages–or supplied on request). 

Now let’s talk protections: OnlyFans provides a watermark to all uploaded content to prevent redistribution and pirating. They also block screenshots and screen recordings on the page. Should a subscriber attempt a screenshot, they’ll be left with a black image in their photo gallery. Creators do have the option to turn both of these features off. All content is copyright protected and, should it appear on other sites without permission of the creator (the watermark is the primary indicator; if you see an OnlyFans watermark on another site it is most likely pirated), Account Specialists will have it removed. Though I couldn’t find the exact language in the Terms, I was told by a creator that if you host a guest in any of content who is not properly cleared through the site, all protections of the re-sharing go out the window. While this could be a measure to aid in any investigations of underage performers and exploitation, it also could leave doors open for reselling or sharing of content without permission of the original creator by the site, so it’s something to keep in mind. 

WHO’S ON IT

Since Beyonce name dropped the site in her addition to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix,” [Hips TikTok when I dance/On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans] a whole lot more than there used to be! The single mainstream reference to the site sent it careening to the trending page on Twitter, and driving a 15% spike in traffic to the site itself. Other pop references such as Blueface’s “OnlyFans” probably didn’t hurt either, even though his highly problematic lyrics degrade and devalue women who both work on the site and *gasp* won’t submit themselves to him sexually or without hesitation. But in reality, anyone with a camera and a laptop can be a professional, income-earning, self-supporting OnlyFans creator.

Jem Wolfie, fitness creator and world’s most subscribed to account

What should come as no surprise to anyone on Instagram–a platform that continues to crack down on nudity and other controversial content–lately is many of our powerlifting sisters are cashing in. Commonly, after one too many eye rolls from their racier photos’ forcible removal from mainstream photo sharing apps, powerlifting women are migrating to OnlyFans for the freedom to post and share whatever they want, and monetize that content. The basic sentiment is, you’re going to be posting the stuff anyway, you may as well make a little money off of it; but the undertones of female empowerment and reclaiming the sexuality that’s been weaponized against women roar unapologetically through the digital ether. The community of OnlyFans workers promoting their own links and enthusiastically reposting the pages of their fellow creators (yes, advertising their competition; particularly in niche and decertified communities such as sex work, women voraciously support other women and advocate for the community as a whole), is refreshingly heartening. The site so seamlessly blurs the line between influencer and sex worker, some don’t even realize the content they’re creating qualifies–the word sex worker carries more stigma than the job itself. But now more than ever it is possible to “dabble” in sex work without fully committing. Powerlifting women are choosing, with agency, to dip their toes into new channels of empowerment, and online subscribers are signing up to watch in droves.

Already a popular-and-rising category of adult performer in porn and now on OnlyFans is that of the female bodybuilder or strength athlete. Muscular physiques, glistening with oil, filmed from low angles and shadowy lighting have always had a place in the fetish world. Muscle-camming, lift-and-carry videos and clickbait watermelon crushings are nothing new to velvet-walled caverns of the internet. But with the cultural explosion of Crossfit and the “strong not skinny” trend, the athletic female body type is now the apex physique as opposed to the prepubescent-looking, borderline-frail, surgically enhanced, “easy-to-toss-around” body types previously sought on traditional tube sites. It’s still highly fetishized, however, which leads to an interesting cross market–a dual-earning potential–between the fetish world and mainstream.

Chyna White, Instagram

Meet Chyna White (@chyna_._white): a California girl, powerlifter, designer and owner of powerlifting apparel brand Riot Gear. She’s a beautiful woman, amply tattooed with long, shiny, thick black hair, and a commanding, curvy body; the kind skinny girls hope they’ll end up with if they put on a few pounds, but realistically and with only one exception, no one’s weight distributes that well. She pours confidence like smoke, the sweet-smelling type that clings to your clothes and perfumes your hair, the kind that stays with you. She’s ferociously supportive of her friends, enviously close with her mother and in a committed relationship with a supportive partner. She’s on OnlyFans.

Twenty-nine-year-old Chyna made her foray into profitable dominance at the age of 19, working as a dominatrix for a few years before taking a break to build her company and business. She recently reclaimed her command in the bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM) industry in late-2019 in the form of financial domination (FinDom) appointments and the birth of her OnlyFans page, where she posts an assortment of “too hot for Instagram” photos and videos depicting anything from lunging through her gym after hours in a thong to meal prepping in the kitchen with her girlfriends in lingerie to more classic adult content. She also does custom and by-request videos for individual subscribers who are willing to shell out the extra cash for it.

Chyna White, Instagram

“The money is in the upselling,” she said. “Guys really want to hear their own name, and there are only so many Kevin’s out there.” A video like that typically isn’t something she could post for mass subscribers, so for an extra fee one can get a tailored experience with personally requested content. Requests range from saying specific things such as their name, or performing specific acts or including certain elements in the videos. Many men just like having something from a performer they know was made especially for them–a sexy sentiment. Chyna’s subscribers and clients are typically on the submissive end of the spectrum. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t surprised to hear she’d started as a dominatrix. Her take-no-shit, “boss bitch” vibe tackles you from her photos and voice. The men who pine for her typically yearn to be pushed around a little, told what to do, submit physically, emotionally, financially to a dominant woman with “big thighs and a big ass.”

For Chyna, as well as most of the female lifters on OnlyFans I spoke to, content creation and the monetization of their own sexuality on their own terms is a source of great empowerment.

“I always hated my body,” she said. Her Instagram page actually started as a weight loss journey documentation. Exploring the many facets of BDSM, the women who perform it and the men who pay for it, however, has helped her feel wildly comfortable in her own porcelain skin. Beautiful. Desired. When she bumps into subscribers in public, which does occasionally happen, they shoulder the embarrassment, she smiles widely. 

The ownership with which she carries herself and discusses the industry and her role as a performer in such a matter-of-fact, love-me-or-fuck-you way is stupefying. It makes you forget what we’re actually talking about. You know, the stuff you have your best friend memorize your password for to clear from your browser history if you die suddenly; the stuff you hold your breath in terror for, praying your elderly Aunt doesn’t swipe too far over through your camera roll; the secret, underground, lurid, exotic, morally ambiguous, sexually bohemian industry you plug your headphones into and pull the covers over in your bedroom at night. To Chyna, it’s proud work, it’s a high-demand service, it’s valid and it’s money.

Shirlee Simon, Instagram

Like Chyna, Shirlee Simon (@shirleesimon) also uses OnlyFans as a lucrative supplement to her income as a small business owner in Youngstown, Ohio. Previously a professional dancer, dance instructor and model in New York City, she now owns a private training gym and works with clients in her Northeast Ohio hometown, as well as embarking on a successful powerlifting journey of her own. A lifter for four years and counting, she’s competed twice and won her weight class at both meets. She has a quieter strength than Chyna’s. A subtler boldness, but just as powerful. Her soft chestnut brown hair tumbles around her shoulders when it’s not pulled into the wispy topknot a la her lifting videos. Slender but muscular, she’s the epitome of strong, in shape, mainstream athletic femininity. Shirlee moves like an athlete, with intention, and she’s poised like a dancer, with grace. Most of her OnlyFans content is in lingerie or fully nude. Her subscribers are typically men in their early 20’s with an appreciation for lifting and an affinity for the strong-looking but still classically feminine aesthetic.

Shirlee Simon, Instagram

“I consider myself part of the fitness and strength genre,” Shirlee said. “My content includes candids and some professional photos,” she said. “Mostly in lingerie or completely nude. I also send more explicit videos of myself and of my fiance and me together.”

Shirlee’s typical subscriber, aside from males 20-25 with an appreciation for lifting, is about as amalgamous as her content. Just as anyone can be a creator on OnlyFans, anyone can subscribe. Shirlee was surprised by how many couples have joint accounts and subscribe to her page. I hesitate to think this is unique to OnlyFans. It’s not uncommon for couples to consume adult content together and, as more girls-next-door explore the adult entertainment industry, more light will fall on these shadowy corners of the industry.

Look at powerlifting: in the not-so-distant past the sport had a reputation of violence, aggression, drug abuse and physical extremism practiced by overweight, middle aged men in confusing overalls. It was dirty, sweaty and bloody. Today, powerlifting is a no holds barred, inclusive organization of a variety of federations, lifters, ages, genders and body types–still a little dirty, sweaty and bloody. It also preemptively followed the same templated path to mainstream that OnlyFans is barreling down as we speak. The entrepreneurial, “get out what you put in,” aspect of managing a page regarding time spent and attention paid on the site also aligns with the powerlifting attitude many women have assumed through their journey’s of empowerment in the strength community. It’s no wonder so many lifting women are comfortable stepping into the now and evermore light-swathed industry of adult entertainment–it’s the niche overlap of digital ecology.

Jessica Lewis, Instagram

Jessica Lewis (@jessica.llewis) is 25 years old but her baby face would tell you differently. She’s blonde but sometimes red and other times purple. Her hair is long but she’ll complain it’s too short, and she has an elusive, Eastern European type of beauty that exudes innocence, but not one you necessarily believe. She works as a diet technician at a local hospital to gain experience to become a dietitian, she’s powerlifted for four years and competed six times, and has run an OnlyFans page as her primary source of income for three months. Sex work is also brand new to Jessica. Her account was birthed to host dressed up boudoir photos with nowhere to go, since Instagram still refuses to #freethenipple. Her content features a variety of stages of undress, costumes, artistic makeup and frame composition. OnlyFans was the logical place to host these, and make a little money.

Jessica Lewis, Instagram

“My content began with just shots from my boudoir shoots,” she explained. “Then I noticed my fans preferred my personal ‘selfies.’ Lingerie at first, then nipples, and now all of my content is fairly explicit. Mostly just photos, but I include videos as well; these could be twerking videos, stop teases, showers, anything.” Requests range from twerking videos to peeling off her own sweaty gym clothes on camera for her adoring subscribers. She, like many other powerlifting women who perform on OnlyFans, doesn’t get requests for strength feats–no crushing watermelons or lift-and-carries or arm wrestling. Most subscribers just want to see fit women doing everyday things, especially if one can consider explicit nudity and sex acts “everyday” (we should all be so lucky).

The prospect of a low risk, low barrier to entry side job with self-assigned boundaries, protected and self-owned content and easy exit should creators decide the industry isn’t for them is an incredible incentive to dip your toe in OnlyFans; not to mention, of course, the money. One woman made about $600 in her first month and more than $2,000 the next. Another proudly cashed in $632 in a month based on very part-time dedication. Another receives offers for $1,000 to engage in sex offline and laughs at the pittance compared to how much she brings in contact-free from her account. Time, consistency, regularity and engagement are all important factors in the exponential earning potential of OnlyFans creators.

THE EVOLUTION

When I walked into the research and interviews for this article I imagined I’d hear stories of women being asked to conquer all sorts of wild feats of strength comparable to stories I’d heard in my bodybuilding days from women who “muscle cammed.” I expected stories from women who were asked to describe in whispered, ASMR-style detail how they could physically dominate in some of the crudest ways imaginable; women who were asked to do nude flexing shows; asked to squat over webcams; made search for objects around their homes to lift; humiliation to completion; or hoist unassuming male companions to piggyback and squat across the frame for pay-by-the-minute online audiences. But I didn’t.

Powerlifting women on OnlyFans, as it turns out, are just like powerlifting women in analog : they’re women–beautiful, strong, nonconforming, empowered, and refreshingly regular. Powerlifting women aren’t fetish-muscled–some are, but it’s not definitive. One of the most empowering aspects of the sport in general and this fledgling, new, all-inclusive, on-our-own-terms adult entertainment industry championed by OnlyFans creators, is that there is no aesthetic box that binds. We range the gamut from the Chyna White’s to the Shirlee Simon’s to the Jessica Lewis’s and every personality, body type and set of personal boundaries in between. Women are no longer defined by their foray into sex work just like they’re not traitors of their gender for entering strength sports with muscle and capability not traditionally assigned their biology. Powerlifting women on OnlyFans dictate their identities, be it as a powerlifter, a sex worker or otherwise. They have jobs, hobbies, authority, respect, problems and support systems just like any other. They just look better naked, and get paid for it.

AN ASIDE

Men consume adult material in private, then by the light of day trash the women who gratify them behind closed doors. Women make moral judgments of other women based on dated and misogynistic societal stereotypes of sex workers, as opposed to choosing ally-ship and solidarity with women regardless of their chosen profession, shredding the delicate fabric of their relationship with their own sexuality, perpetuating cycles of misunderstanding and ostracizing. The mistreatment of sex workers in public opinion and pop culture opens the door for rampant abuse, illegal activity and death of workers who are in the industry both by choice and/or force. Further, the stigmatizing of sex work both in and outside the strength community is a root cause of sex and human trafficking. Sex workers are marginalized and therefore vulnerable populations. Numerous studies by organizations including Amnesty International and the World Health Organization have found that decriminalization of sex work is the most effective measure to reduced trafficking. 

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