At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost my job and couldn't receive unemployment.
I was facing eviction, my bills were all past due, I was living off donations of rice and beans from friends and I started to feel like I had little choice in the matter—I jumped head-first into creating a presence on OnlyFans.com with little more than survival on my mind.
I didn't consider how I'd go about promoting myself. I didn't consider how much or how little I'd charge potential subscribers. I didn't even consider how far I'd be willing to go in terms of content creation, but I jumped in nonetheless, thinking it would help keep me afloat, or that it would easy.
Like every single woman on Earth, I'd felt men cast their gaze on me in demeaning, objectifying, predatory ways. I'd been sexualized without my consent before; I'd heard testimony from drunk dudes about pleasuring themselves to that top I worked in the other night; I've been groped in public. I've had men withhold tips because I wouldn't let them shove money in my bra. I've survived sexual assault. With the decision to create content, I had to revisit each of these experiences, and moments after creating my account, I was hit with near-crippling anxiety. I hated being sexualized by men and being seen as an object or property. Did I really want to put myself out there, specifically with the intent to receive sexual attention?
The answer surprised me—I did. For once, it felt like I had the power to sexualize myself on my own terms, a new reality that felt both freeing and terrifying. Regardless, it has been a learning experience.
I created an Instagram account to promote my OnlyFans page, but that fell short fast. How does one promote that they're engaging in sex work anyway? This raised more questions: If I have no following outside of personal accounts, how do I gain traction? If I link to personal accounts and my family sees them, what will they think? If a future employer stumbles upon my content, will it cost me a job? If someone who already has an opinion about me sees my content, will it change how they see me? Will men who know me think it's a free pass to be lewd around me? Will women who know me form new judgements about who I am?
What I realized at the dizzying end of all of these questions was that if people change their minds about who they think I am, that doesn't actually change who I am. If my family sees my content and confronts me, I can tell them I did what I had to do to survive and hope they understand. My boundaries are still my boundaries and will be observed respectfully—being a sex worker doesn't mean people can sexualize you whenever they want.
Besides, it's not all flowers and rainbows and sex toys. I have off days wherein I feel as though I'm sexualizing myself against my own will. I'll go offline for days in a depressive state, feeling a lack of confidence or shame for forcing myself to look sexy and take photos so I can maintain subscribers and hit quotas. The assumption is far too often made that sex work is easy, when it's anything but—this is a full-time job. Between promoting, which takes hours a day if I wish to remain relevant, creating content (promotional, subscriptional and custom) and responding to messages and comments, sex work is exactly that: work.
But people don't often ask if it's worth the trouble. For what it's worth, in the seven months I've been creating and posting content, I've made roughly $1,300. This has helped pay rent, buy food, buy gas and pay bills, but I still don't have a large enough following despite months of promotion and creation. For now, it's not enough, but it helps me get along. Can I afford to stop doing sex work? No, I can't.
Meanwhile, male consumers believe sex is supposed to be free. At least that's the overwhelming response I receive when answering messages. It seems most men believe I should send them photos and videos gratis, or enter Skype sessions for free. They haggle and seemingly want me to be doing this because I love it or am eager to please them, because I exist only to show them what they want. They forget—or, more likely, willfully ignore—that I am a human being who needs money to eat and survive.
"I can get pussy, tits and ass anywhere for free, why should I pay you?" they've asked; or, "I already blew my load to your promo pic, why would I pay now?"
The world of sex work, at least the small pool into which I've dipped a very nude and lewd toe, is teeming with men who expect freebies from content creators who work too hard for too little. And it's terrifying. Despite the positivity and support that has sprouted up for sex work and sex workers in recent years, I'm not even writing this piece under my real name for fear of the fallout, or the fear of facing assumptions from my community.
People assume sex workers simply entered the field, when this is overwhelmingly not the case. We serve you coffee and sell you gas, we work in your office and pass you on the street every day. We save to buy homes, we're trying to pay our bills. Sex workers are working toward something better for ourselves. The world is a scary enough place for a woman. If you don't think that's valid enough, then I really don't care.
Honey Goodnight is a born and raised Santa Fean, working class heaux and wicked nerd.