When Sex Work Becomes "Real Work" All Women Suffer

With celebrities like Bella Thorne and Pia Mia joining OnlyFans and songs like “W.A.P.” rising to the top of the charts, society seems to glorify sex work more and more.

By Nicole Lam3 min read
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These days, it seems like every female celebrity is not only flaunting their sexuality but glorifying prostitution. With artists such as Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion rapping, “there’s some whores in this house” or Beyonce singing “On that Demon Time / she might start an OnlyFans,” sex work is becoming more and more normalized. But is that a good thing? 

Sex Work Harms Sex Workers

Despite the glitz, glam, and apparent monetary benefits of nudes- and porn-sharing sites such as OnlyFans, news outlets like Refinery29 and The Spectator warn of its gritty downsides. OnlyFans content creators say they have been stalked and sexually harassed by men who found them through the site. There have been content leaks of the nude photos and videos that their users share. 

For many young women, OnlyFans isn’t liberating or glamorous. It’s a means of survival after being kicked out of their family or when they can’t pay rent. In quarantine with an impending recession, vulnerable young women are turning to OnlyFans out of financial desperation, even if they’re underage. Do the majority of little girls grow up dreaming of selling their bodies to make ends meet? 

OnlyFans creators have been stalked and sexually harassed by men who found them through the site.

Even psychologists will admit that it’s dehumanizing for women to be sexually objectified by men, so sex workers try to justify it by saying that sex work is just a way for them to profit from that objectification. But no matter how much they try to insist that their occupation is “empowering,” sex work is still letting your body be used for money. 

And it’s hard to ignore that, despite arguments to the contrary, the legalization of prostitution leads to an increase in sex trafficking. Neither does it reduce the stigma against sex workers. Rather, decriminalizing sex work increases the demand for it, as people who wouldn’t have considered paying for sex before will do it because it’s legal.  

Sex Work, Including Porn, Encourages Men To Disrespect Women

In a recent New York Times article, several of the top earners on OnlyFans were interviewed. One of them, Danii Harwood, stated that men “pay [her] to be their online girlfriend.” This includes things like asking them about their pets, children, and birthdays in addition to selling nude pictures and pornographic videos. One Medium piece, titled “The Tragedy of OnlyFans,” poses the burning question: Why do so many men seek out female sexual attention online, and even pay for it, instead of dating a woman in the flesh? 

One reason is that OnlyFans works as “personalized pornography,” allowing subscribers to tailor the content to their desires. Subscribers can ask OnlyFans creators, such as Danii Harwood, to create content curated for them, such as dominatrix videos or other sexual fantasies. The problem is, real women and real relationships don’t work this way; the dynamic of OnlyFans doesn’t exist in real life. Women were not created to serve and fulfill a man’s every sexual whim and preference, but that’s the illusion that OnlyFans gives to men. 

OnlyFans makes a clear statement: A woman’s body exists solely to please her sexual partner. 

The dynamic of pornography and platforms like OnlyFans makes a clear statement: A woman’s body exists solely to please her sexual partner. This notion is clear when teenage girls, not just grown women, are expected to perform increasingly degrading and violent sex acts such as anal sex and choking for the satisfaction of their boyfriends. Sex acts are no longer lovingly given out of affection and a desire for intimacy, but something to be ordered off a menu. 

Sex Is Now Just a Commodity

Recently, when I was scrolling in a women’s Facebook group, I saw a post asking the group members how they would respond if they found out their husband or boyfriend was paying another woman for her nudes, via OnlyFans. To my surprise, I read that a lot of the women thought it was empowering, ethical, and not a big deal.

They said things like, “If he’s going to watch porn anyways, I would rather he’s supporting a ‘small business’ like an OnlyFans creator rather than a free porn site.” These were successful, confident, and feminist women who seemed to respect and love themselves and their significant others. So why would they tolerate such disrespect from their own partners? What would make them not just accept, but celebrate, this kind of poor treatment? 

When sex is for sale, so are women. 

In a society that calls sex work a legitimate profession, why should women care if their boyfriend or partner looks at porn or buys another woman’s nudes? Sex is no longer a form of bonding and intimacy but a good and a service. A woman might as well get mad at her husband for going to a restaurant or ordering takeout instead of eating her cooking. Has sex become just another commodity, cut off from love or commitment?

When sex is reduced to just a transaction, then women themselves are being treated as if they’re objects. When sex is for sale, so are women. 

Closing Thoughts

Sex work doesn’t benefit anyone except those who buy it. It places sex workers, who are mostly female, in vulnerable, dangerous positions and fuels a culture of disrespect towards women. 

When sex stops being an act of love and turns into something that can be bought and sold, it’s no wonder that women are the ones who suffer the most. After all, the woman who wishes her “friends with benefits” relationship or casual hookup would turn into a genuine commitment is a cliché for a reason. Commodifying sex hurts those who sell it and damages the moral fabric of our culture. If women really care about being respected by men and by others, then we have to stop selling our bodies and our sexuality.