The Cost of Online Sex Work

By Stella Robertson


‘Sex Work’. Ten years ago hearing those words would leave you with thoughts of dingy street corners, perverse men, and women who may have no other option. It was viewed as taboo, and criminal, with sex workers being shunned and left without the protection of the police, as they were swept under the rug of societies shame about these these ‘hookers’. 


Nowadays, with the internet having taken over the world, sex work has become a normalised career path that may lead to great success. Through websites like only fans, online sex workers can create a network of loyal customers who pay on average around £5 to £20 monthly, which has, for some, added up to an immense 30 thousand pounds a month. Even celebrities have caught onto the fact that a lot of money can be made through this line of work, with the likes of rapper Danielle Bregoli (Bhad Bhabie) making $1 million dollars just hours after debuting her Only Fans. 


Image via @bhadbhabie on Instagram.


An instagram influencer from Glasgow, who, 10 months ago, took a leap and quit her full time job to pursue a career in online sex work. She has chosen to stay anonymous, and will go by ‘Jane’. Jane says:

“I am so much happier now that I’ve quit my job and am now doing something where I feel appreciated, rather than working for a company that I felt didn’t care about my health, safety, or wellbeing during the Covid19 pandemic.”

During the Coronavirus pandemic, she had been a key worker at a supermarket.

“Since I live with my mum, it just wasn’t worth putting her at risk, when I knew that I could be making the same amount of money that I would make in a day, with only a few taps of my phone.”

Jane adds:

“It’s honestly hard to imagine going back to a full time job, when I feel so much more free to do what I actually enjoy doing. I have the time to work on and pursue the music career that I’ve been dreaming of. I have more time to relax, see my friends, and really have no pressure to do anything I don’t want to do. I’m my own boss at the age of 21, and I couldn’t be happier. Nothing is more important to me than my time.”


The way Jane talks about her work does make it sound easy. Many people using websites like Only Fans are often under the impression that no work goes into the job at all. Jane continues, with a warning:

“It isn’t the ‘get rich quick!’ scheme that some people have made it out to be, it does take work to build up an audience and rapport with them to start making good money, unless you already have an online presence prior to making sexual content.”


Doing online sex work is much safer than traditional sex work, where people are put at a much higher risk than those who sell their content online. Traditional sex workers are between 60 and 100% more likely to be murdered than a non-sex worker, and there were 180 traditional sex workers murdered in the UK between the years 1990 and 2016. Researchers Melissa Farley and Howard Barkan of the Prostitution Research and Education Organisation, conducted a study on sex work, where they found that 82% of sex workers had been physically assaulted while at work. 

There are risks that come with online sex work as well, since online there is a traceable digital footprint that is essentially impossible to remove. This could greatly affect someone’s chances of entering a different line of work in the future. Jane said:

“People may say that the line of work I’m in now will not allow me to potentially pursue a career in other fields, if an industry wouldn’t allow women to feel empowered and make their own choices with their body, I would have no interest in being a part of that industry. I know that other people interested in online sex work will not be in the same situation as I am though, so it is important to consider.”

There are also more drawbacks that come with doing sex work, as many people are uncomfortable with family members or partners participating in sexual acts for money. Jane said:

“If you aren’t in a safe environment to do online sex work, such as if you have important relationships, other career options, or home life that could be negatively impacted by doing what essentially is pornography, I would not recommend it.”


Although there are less chances of physical harm, there are still staggeringly negative implications that come with strangers on the internet having access to someone’s sexual content. Jane seems to grow sorrowful as she shares:

“I’ve had one negative experience where I told a man, who also lives in Glasgow, that I was not interested in selling content to him any longer after he made a transphobic comment about my friend. He proceeded to send my content to friends of mine. Luckily my friends are supportive of me and it hasn’t affected my relationships with them. However, the police were essentially no help at all when I reported the issue, and the only time I’ve felt shamed for my work was by the police. Issues like this are bound to happen, and I feel strong enough that I don’t let it affect me, but I wouldn’t recommend starting online sex work if you felt that situations like this would cause emotional damage.”

She perks up as she continues, saying:

“This isn’t common though, and I appreciate my clients a lot and enjoy chatting to them and getting to know them. They’re usually super respectful and I appreciate it a lot that they aren’t cooperating into the toxic consumption of free porn on websites like pornhub, where the actors and actresses earn essentially nothing.”


Mia Khalifa is the biggest porn actress in the entire world, being the most searched name on Pornhub. Despite this, she only earned $12,000. She was in the porn industry for a few months before she quit, after receiving abhorrent hatred that affected her personal life tremendously. She received death threats from Isis, and they even sent her photographs of her apartment. Since then, Khalifa has publicly stated:

“I definitely have not come to terms with my past yet.”


Since leaving the porn industry, she has not made a penny from her content which, to this day, is still widely circulating the internet. Other people still post and earn money from videos that she stars in, and would be owed millions if she received the revenue. 


The sex work industry has improved since then, with more people buying content directly from the creator themselves, earning them a fair wage, rather than streaming content for free, where any money earned goes straight into the pockets of the massive pornographic streaming cooperation that has managed to get their undeserving hands on the content. Despite however people feel about the sex work and pornography industry, there will always be one. And where there is demand, there has to be suppliers. Going directly to a creator and paying them for content is the most ethical way to partake in the sex work industry, where the buyer knows that the creator is comfortable and consenting with having their footage streamed.


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