You may have heard of OnlyFans. Maybe you’ve heard of people making tens of thousands of euro a month simply by posting intimate images of themselves on this online platform. Perhaps you’ve heard the stories of Irish people purchasing multiple homes with their OnlyFans earnings and taking in more than €50,000 a month. Or maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it.
For influencer and OnlyFans content creator Lucy Fitzgibbon, 20, social media has always been her sole source of income. Five years ago she started her Instagram account showcasing make-up tutorials and in the intervening years, she has amassed nearly 100,000 followers.
The internet has given her the freedom to live and work anywhere she likes and last year she moved to Barcelona.
"I moved on my own, I'm fairly independent and I do love being in my own company. Before I moved here I was renting on my own for 10 months," says Lucy, from Askeaton, Co Limerick.
The move coincided with her joining OnlyFans "I set up an OnlyFans account in January 2021, I was thinking about it for a while and just decided to do it. I'm very open minded, I don't understand the judgement around it," says Lucy.
The subscription-based app gives the public access to exclusive content from people they follow for a monthly fee. While users could post anything from work-out videos to photos of their feet, many OnlyFans content creators use the app to host nude or intimate images and videos of themselves.
"I was very strict with my boundaries, I started off posting pictures and videos that I was extremely comfortable with," explains Lucy.
While steps are taken to ensure the privacy and safety of users, leaks of images and videos, or the screenshotting or screen recording of their content is never far from her mind.
"My content may be leaked - I'm always of this mindset," says the Limerick woman.
Her family knows that she has an account, but there has been no judgment of her work online.
"I would say I grew up in an open-minded family, my family are very supportive, they haven't disowned me, but growing up in rural Ireland they're not used to this line of work," says Lucy.
OnlyFans has been around since 2016, but it found a much larger audience in 2020, when sex workers and strippers had to move online because of the pandemic. And people who had never done any sex work before, found themselves drawn to the site for extra income too.
Lucy's subscribers pay $19.99 a month to access her content, 20% of which OnlyFans take. Fans can also "tip" content creators, or give additional money for "pay-per-view" images or videos.
While online abuse is rife nowadays, something which Lucy has been vocal about, she says OnlyFans is the safest platform for her at the moment.
"OnlyFans is the safest platform for me. I've had no bad experience with my subscribers, they're really, really nice people and really respectful. You might get a few who will demand things from you and you just stick to your boundaries," says Lucy.
With OnlyFans, the content creator can have full control over the direction of their images and videos that they are charging people to access - this is what makes Lucy respectful of her subscribers.
"People who pay for OnlyFans and pay for porn, I have a lot of respect for people who pay for porn, because you don't have to.
"And let's be real here, who doesn't watch porn? It's been around for so long, it's the most natural act - pleasuring yourself, I don't understand the hush hush," says the Limerick woman.
While she won't be drawn on exactly how much she has earned through the platform, she admits it has given her a "steady income" and allows her to plan for the future too.
"I wanted the funds to start up a brand and that brand is in the works so the money has been great. But you do have to work on OnlyFans [constantly create content] to make a lot of money - it has given me a steady income and pays my rent," says Lucy.
One issue she is explicitly vocal on is moral judgment around sex work.
"I don't see where the judgment is coming from, sex workers and the sex industry - it's one of the oldest industries there is. Sex is so natural and one of the most natural things in the world. OnlyFans does not mean that this subscriber owns this person, they don't own the rights to an image.
"I completely understand why people wouldn't feel comfortable doing it, and the most important thing with anything is you're comfortable," says Lucy.
"But, if there's a woman reading this at the moment, and they look down on sex workers, or think that's it wrong, or if it's a man thinking that, why do think it's wrong? Really in theory and on paper it's not wrong, this stigma and judgment around it needs to be lifted. Ireland is behind in terms of accepting sex work, people are entitled to their opinion, don't put people down," states Lucy.
But when it comes to the issue of the judgement actually impacting her future choices in life, such as work, family or a run in politics - does she feel the same?
"If I wasn't accepted into a job because of this I wouldn't want to work for that company, I don't want to work for a company who wouldn't accept this - I feel very strongly about this point," says the Limerick woman.
"And I don't think I'd ever go for politics, but if I did I would 100% own it, I would use it to make a change," says Lucy.
As for any future children she may have, she would rear them to feel no shame around the body.
"If I have children it'll be a very open-minded household, there is no shame in bodies and sex," says Lucy.
But as a 20-year-old, soon-to-be 21-year-old woman, Lucy's career and life plans involve her building a business and she's using her OnlyFans income to that end.
"My goal is the same goal I have had since I was 15 - it's to have my own brand. I would be so happy and grateful if I had a well-established brand by 25, it would be a brand to empower women and make women feel better about themselves, a feel good brand.
"Right now OnlyFans is a great source of income, and if you can have a source of income why would you stop it?" states Lucy.
Lucy is on Instagram @lucyfitz
“I’m 22 and I’ve had five-figure savings since I was 20,” says Jasmin.
It was work she enjoyed, she felt safe doing, it paid her rent and it made her college degree course more tolerable.
However, when the pandemic hit and the strip clubs could no longer operate in-person, Jasmin turned to OnlyFans as a source of income. But before she discusses her experience of OnlyFans, she explains how she entered stripping in the first place.
“When I came to college I ended up hating my course by the start of second year for moral reasons, and I said: ‘OK, let’s stay with this course, let’s stay with college,’ instead of changing course. But by the end of second year I was miserable, and I said to myself: ‘let’s find a way to survive within capitalism’ and so I started stripping.
“Of all the jobs I have ever done it is my favourite way to earn money, it’s cut and dry. When I walked into my strip club the first question I asked was: ‘What are the safety measures, where are the cameras?’ The bouncers were fantastic, there is constant surveillance and no touching, if it does happen you snap your fingers and they’re out, and you always have the choice of whether you want to take up a dance or not,” explains Jasmin.
“And meeting other amazing women, because civilians care so little about sex workers, there is so much solidarity amongst the women,” she adds.
Because this was offline work and happened in a physical space in Dublin, Jasmin couldn’t see how her family would find out about her work. She kept going with it and it paid her rent and she saved the rest.
“I learned on the job from other women, I started off with Youtube tutorials and in my first week I made a grand. I was going into work for tops five hours a night. You could come home with €150 or €250 or €350, you could rake in €800 a week — that is more than doable. It’s more than double the minimum wage for half the hours,” says Jasmin.
But then Covid hit which meant her college work placement was cancelled too.
“I was stripping at that point for six months, and I was really happy, I no longer felt I was relying on college for everything.”
She waited until August of 2020 before she opened an OnlyFans account. Stripping allowed her anonymity but taking that online meant much of her privacy would be compromised.
“I knew for an absolute inalienable fact that people would find out if you do online work, you need to market with your face, when you become a sex worker you take on that taboo. I waited until August 2020, just to open an account. I said: ‘This is my choice, this is it, this is going to be an irrevocable decision and I’m ok with that’, because I knew my strip club wasn’t going to open,” explains Jasmin.
There have been dramatic headlines of OnlyFans content creators earning hundreds of thousands of euro and being able to afford two homes in the space of a year, but has it been that lucrative for Jasmin? “You could make $40 in a day, or $150 in a day,” she answers.
The people making hundreds of thousands of euro from selling intimate images and videos are in the top “0.1%” says Jasmin.
Many content creators set their monthly subscription fee at $19.99 and some go higher to $50. At her busiest, Jasmin had 300 monthly subscribers, but OnlyFans took 20% of her earnings, she points out.
Jasmin explains that different images and videos have proved more lucrative than others.
“It’s lucrative depending on what you’re doing. I was doing mainstream solo stuff, explicit stuff — it’s essentially porn, but it feels different to stripping. I also did collaboration with other women and you meet up, film together, and have the craic. Collaborations are great money makers, you can constantly sell them and you constantly have people subscribing,” she adds.
But it is not just the money she can make, it’s the independence that she appreciates too.
“It’s the autonomy of OnlyFans that is appealing, I call the shots on the content.”
However, what it provides in autonomy it takes away in privacy, as her family found out about her online work, when they did not know about her strip club work.
One family member, without judgement or any probing questions, simply asked Jasmin if she was “financially OK” and told her “to never worry about money”.
“And that was it, there was no: ‘Why are you a sex worker?’” says Jasmin.
Family aside, is she concerned about the impact her online work, if it became public, would have on her career choices or housing situation?
“There is of course the stigma, personal safety and landlords. Landlords will look for any reason to deny you accommodation. Plenty of people from college have already requested to follow me and I’ve rejected them, you have to come to grips with the idea of your mother knowing or your father knowing, and the stigma.”
In terms of career prospects, she plans to emigrate to Australia with the money she has saved from OnlyFans, and return to in-person stripping for the remainder of her 20s.
“I’ve saved a five-figure sum since August — I’m happy out with that. I’m emigrating as soon as I can and there is no way I could go to Australia without OnlyFans or have paid my rent, I’m happy with the run I’ve been having with it.
“In my 20s that’s when I want to be hustling and working, so I’ll have something built by the time I’m in my 30s. I’ll have passive income from investment in my 40s and retire by the time I’m 50,” states Jasmin.
“They say sex work is the most effective way for working class women to funnel money from upper-class rich men,” she adds.