Greek content creator in OnlyFans: ‘I’m selling pixels, not my body’

Two women who produce content for the online subscription service talk about their choice to open an account and the risks involved

Greek content creator in OnlyFans: ‘I’m selling pixels, not my body’

Eva is still on Iceland time. She has been back in Athens for two weeks, but her mind is constantly wandering to the North Atlantic. She had always wanted to do the trip, but had never been able to afford it. Until now. “The greatest luxury is freedom. I wouldn’t change that for anything,” Eva tells Kathimerini.

Before creating one of the most successful OnlyFans profiles in Greece – the internet content subscription platform used primarily by sex workers who produce pornographic content – Eva, now 28, dabbled in advertising. After studying marketing and communications, she worked 12 hours a day for 600-700 euros. “In three years I changed three companies. At one of them they had me uninsured for six months, they paid me under the table. I have a serious chronic health problem and the issue of healthcare was very important for me. But their accountant always brought up some obstacle…”

One night, while scrolling through TikTok, she saw an American woman who said she was making $23,000 a month through OnlyFans. She looked like your average girl next door, just like Eva. “I looked it up. I saw that it’s a site like Instagram, where you upload posts and stories and go live, you’re just more naked, for which you charge an amount.” She had always been confident about her body and sexuality, so one day she turned on the camera. In the first month, she made 3,500 euros. By setting a monthly subscription of $10 (the average subscription is $8) and charging extra for personalized content, she is now making five figures. “At some point I had to start a company to justify my income. I had some difficulty because no one knew it and I was being turned down by accountants.” As the law on sex work in Greece (2734/1999) has not been amended to include online sex work, her company has as its stated objective the production of videos and their promotion on the internet.

Eva does not identify herself as a sex worker. “I’m selling pixels, not my body,” she says, clarifying that she finds nothing wrong with sex work.For Marina, aged 24, the online porn she produces on OnlyFans, but also on other platforms, is different from regular prostitution, but it also falls under the umbrella of sex work. “I work with the eyes, with the camera, with the image, but I don’t have face-to-face [contact]. Some [sex workers] prefer this, others prefer the other, others move from one [type of sex work] to the other. Many say that online is preferable because it has no touching. However, many sex workers cannot function without a physical presence,” she tells me.

Everyday people

I observe her as she sits across from me, a beautiful petite girl, hidden under an oversized coat. She didn’t fit the profile of the sex worker I had in mind, but that’s what OnlyFans did: It brought everyday people into pornography. Marina started working as a cam girl in 2019, when she was looking for a way out of a dead-end situation. “I was working as a waitress, an unpleasant, poorly paid job, with miserable conditions, no fixed hours, no social security, no feeling of respect.” When she accidentally learned about camming – performing sexual activities in front of a webcam for paying clients – she decided to give it a try. “The first time was really nice,” she says with a smile. “During my first live feature I was nervous, but when the camera turned on I let myself go and enjoyed it.”

Marina also launched her OnlyFans profile in 2019. “We all had one,” she says. Since 2020, however, there has been a shift toward content instead of live shows. Users preferred to pay for content they can access whenever they want. In addition, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictive measures, a large percentage of sex work shifted online. However, Facebook and Instagram started censoring sexual content. The only platform to distribute such material was OnlyFans. It became a way out both for those who wanted to consume such content, but also for those who needed an income when other sex work became impossible.

‘The sex work didn’t come along because I was having a hard time at work. It’s something I’ve thought about before. It’s just that the circumstances allowed me to start’

“We should mention that OnlyFans does not only have sex workers, but also many professional performers, from personal trainers, to cooks and DJs,” Despina Chronaki, a research associate in the Journalism Department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and in communications and media at the University of Athens, tells Kathimerini. Chronaki has been studying OnlyFans for the last two years in collaboration with scientists from Italy and Portugal. “It works with the logic of subscription and revolves around building an audience of followers who make an investment in the service offered.” The platform currently has 170 million users, mostly men, and 2 million creators, mostly women. As she says, most people do it as a side job and it’s hardly ideal. “The gig economy is insecure in terms of earnings, stability, [it is] a constant struggle for survival. At the same time, the nature of sex work is not only unstable, but has no guaranteed labor rights, has inequalities on many levels, and is stigmatized. As open as the discussion of sexuality is today, what content creators are telling us is that they’ve only kept close to them people who didn’t judge them.”

As Marina says, she doesn’t always share what she does for a living with others because “I think I might be in danger, even physical.” However, Marina says she makes a good living by working on the platform. How good? “The more you give to OnlyFans and the live features, the more they give you back. The more you work, the better the income will be. Revenue can be high, but with a lot of work. You don’t just switch on the camera and money starts pouring in,” she says. At the beginning, she used to spend many hours a day creating content, but now she works for six hours, two or three times a week. The money she makes is more than enough and she also has time for her studies at university (she did not want to disclose where).

“Let me clarify, however, that the sex work didn’t come along because I was having a hard time at work. It’s something I’ve thought about before. It’s just that the circumstances allowed me to start.”

The boundaries

“Sex workers don’t sell their bodies, but specific sexual services,” explains Christos Sagredos, president of the Sex Workers’ Empowerment Network in Athens, which fights to destigmatize and recognize sex work as a legal form of employment. “If it’s not a conscious choice, it’s not sex work. If there is no consent, it is exploitation, trafficking.” Sagredos says sex workers have chosen this job as their source of income. “However, just as we expect to hear from a doctor that he is doing it to contribute to society, we expect a sex worker to recount a tragic story that led her there. We don’t want to hear from anyone that they are doing it for the money.”

According to Lisa Tsalikis, a professor in the Department of Communications and Media at the University of Athens who has been studying the pornography industry for years, more and more sex workers around the world speak of a conscious decision with which they often finance their studies. “‘We are not downtrodden,’ they say. ‘It’s something we like, it’s something we’re good at. We’re no less moral people, we’re claiming the right to our sexuality, we’re claiming visibility,’” she says, adding that the goal of this movement is to destigmatize sex work, which in the minds of most people is intertwined with human trafficking. In this context, many claim that OnlyFans, in which creators themselves switch on the camera, press upload and expose themselves to the point they desire, has a liberating and empowering element.

From a feminist perspective, pornography has always been divisive. “I am absolutely in favor of the right of every person to make money as they want, as long as it does not violate the rights of others,” Lena Foutsitzi, founder of the feminist platform Womanlandia, tells Kathimerini. “The anxiety of outsiders concerning this issue is not about the safety of the women active on OnlyFans or elsewhere. [Their safety] is not even discussed because there is a tacit acceptance that they were asking for it. Women are expected to be attractive and sexy, shown half-naked and exposed in advertisements, but they are not allowed to define their nudity. Those who use the system of their own free will and not as anonymous bodies are treated with enormous cruelty,” she adds.

Marina talks about the “democratization of pornography.” “We present ourselves as we wish and not as someone else in a studio wants. It has a lot of creative joy and empowerment.” However, as Sagredos notes, it is not that OnlyFans has completely eliminated the middleman. “The platforms themselves may end up being the middlemen, since they keep a percentage [of the profits] as it is done offline.” In fact, Eva says, the platform keeps 20% of a creator’s revenue, while the state keeps another 22%. “Again the money is good, but it’s not easy. You pay for it with your mental health. You run into strange situations that need special handling.” Eva got scared twice: when fans spotted her in her real life, knowing everything about her; the second time she had to call the police.

Marina, too, has faced stalkers, “but not something unmanageable.” The biggest problem she faced was when one of her videos leaked. “It is possible that in 10 years I will have chosen another job and these [videos] will emerge and it will all catch up with me. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I do. It’s the way society treats us,” she explains.

Eva is philosophical about it. “I laugh at what people say. But how long will I live anyway? After [I die], no one will even remember me. I am the one who can make a good life for myself, not the person who will judge me. When I realized I’d be working 9-5 every day and in the blink of an eye I’d be retired, I freaked out. And now I’m laughing,” she says. “In your most productive years, you spend half the day in the office and two hours in traffic. And you wake up at 65. This is a reality that does not suit me. For others it may suit them and they might want to spend their time on Earth this way. Of course, I am not urging anyone to engage in sex work. There are a thousand ways to have dignity. When I was working for 600 euros, 12 hours [a day] I had less dignity than now when so many people see me naked.”

The girls say they are enjoying their freedom. “My standard of living has changed, but I wouldn’t do it just for that,” says Eva, who is also pursuing a master’s degree alongside her OnlyFans work. “I wake up and say, I want to make 10 videos today or none and no one will tell me anything. I’m not that interested in material things, although I’ve bought things for the house – the first was an air conditioner – and I’ve helped my folks, but there’s nothing like freedom. I remember one Monday being in the office and thinking how nice it would be to be able to go for a run. Now on Mondays I go for a run.”

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