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“Only Fans” Documentary Opens A Conversation Around Sex Work

That title could use some work, I’ll contemplate while my Hulu buffers. Netflix is really better for slow internet because I can start a show and then pause it and let it buffer while I make a snack, then proceed to enjoy the entertainment. With Hulu, I have to pause after each commercial break and that’s a lot of snacking…so I added cardio to my routine to justify all the snacking that comes with this job.

Without regular cardio I may just sink into this couch and never come back out. My partner is a great cook and responsible grocery shopper, so I don’t really have a huge reason to move much. He’s very supportive of this new career path, but I don’t know if that support extends to feeding me as I morph into Gilbert Grape’s mother. Ironically, I was not sitting but rather standing and cleaning when we first put on the new ABC Documentary “Only Fans, $elling $exy”.

(I am totally self-fiving over that introduction transition, by the way. And here I thought I wouldn’t know how to start.)

I thought it would be background noise while my partner cooked dinner and I folded and put away the laundry, I have to say that my expectations for this were similar to what I’d have for watching an episode of 20/20, which are mediocre at best. (After much buffering) we open on a man going in to an airbnb, with costumes ready and a photographer at hand – he is ready to make some content for Only Fans.

I should have known that the documentary was going to be on the right side of history when they used Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body” for the opening credits. Megan makes my heart sing, everything about her music makes me feel like a bad ass, and she is my favorite celebrity to follow on Instagram. Last summer I wrote about her and Cardi B and how “WAP” was an incredible anthem (#bigchickenergy did not start trending though, can we still make that happen?) In the same way that WAP brought the conversation about female sexuality in rap music to the surface, this documentary is encouraging the conversation around sex work.

Sex work has always been one of those things that’s talked about in hushed tones (especially where I grew up, shout out to Tennessee). It was something that you were either for or against, and if you were for it, that’s because you’re dirty. In Tennessee there is no distinction drawn between any of the different types of sex work, it is just all something we do not discuss. It ain’t polite.

The first dialogue change that I want to address is the snide commentary that surrounds sex work. Disclaimer: I’m guilty of this. I was guilty of it last night during the beginning of the documentary. When the creators are talking about how much money they’ve made, both me and my partner looked at each other over the food he was cooking that was purchased with food stamps, and waggled our eyebrows. I believe the phrase “if that’s all it takes…” was used a time or two. The implication is obvious, we assumed that we could just take a few pictures and make millions.

When Wynter Mosley appeared she reached through the screen and slapped me straight, that woman has more work ethic than I have ever seen. She treats her body as her business, and stands strong defending that it is her right, as a woman, to do so. Wynter has her own set of procedures and boundaries that are so clear to her, and all I see when I look at her is a business woman. She reminds the viewer that sex work is work, which my partner and I were cavalierly throwing off when we made jokes saying “that’s all it takes?” She works harder than I ever have, she doesn’t make decisions on impulse, and she is proud of her success. Basically, Wynter has become my new role model.

Another creator, Kirsten Vaughn, brings up the dialogue that we have around women who promote their own sexuality. She’s fired from her job as a mechanic because she’s considered a “distraction” – when it’s the men at her job that are going out of their way to mention her side hustle while they’re all at work. Can you imagine if you had a job at the front desk of a hotel, sold vintage clothes on Etsy on the side, and your male coworkers kept coming up to you at work and saying snide things like “I saw you were selling some shoes on your website. I was thinking about last night when my wife and I were having dinner.” It would be just as weird, creepy, and inappropriate as what happened to Kirsten.

Tyson seems to be the foil in the film, carrying all of the old and tired narratives that I didn’t really want to hear in such an enlightened film. He wears out “this isn’t my real job” but it’s the one “I’m straight, by the way” that really had me shuddering. He needs to chill, his body is great and his choices are valid.

Silvia Saige and Griffin Barrows introduce the conversation around sex worker’s rights that I don’t think we, as a country, have been focusing on as much as we should. For some reason we have dehumanized sex workers and don’t see them as people that can be hurt or abused, which as we know statistically makes them more likely to face hurt and abuse. Silvia remembers working for studios or other producers and frequently being pushed into doing things that she didn’t want to do. I used to be the office manager of a music venue and towards the end of my time at that job I was balancing the books and being a bartender (and not a good one, a bartender is a skilled position and I have never studied it. I digress…) The point is, we all get pushed into things that we don’t want to do at work, and we all dream of striking out on our own and making our own way, supporting ourselves and not having to answer to anyone else. Only Fans presents this unique opportunity to creators of all types; it presents liberation and freedom.

I’m seriously considering setting up an Only Fans for this blog, I think it would be fun to host watch parties that anyone could join in on (if you subscribe for $5/month!). Technically, Only Fans is not just for sex work and sex workers, I can create any type of content and it is up to the viewer if they would like to subscribe and see more. What I’m not sure of, however, is if that would be a positive or harmful thing. Is it normalizing sex work by doing other work alongside it in a platform, proclaiming that sex work and writing are both valid career choices (honestly, still not sure if writing will ever pay off) or would I be watering down a space that does not belong to me?

This dilemma is well addressed when the documentary takes a turn to discuss Bella Thorne. Apparently you just cannot discuss Only Fans without discussing Bella Thorne (neither of which were a household name on my lips before last night), and that fact is considered part of the problem with her using the platform. One side claims that Bella intentionally posed as a sex worker in order to create sensationalism for herself, and in doing so she invalidated the workers like Wynter who have been hustling in order to quite literally achieve the American Dream. On the other hand, she drew more eyes to the site and that can only benefit all the creators, right? The film does a really good job of presenting both sides of this argument, leaving the viewer to decide where they land themselves.

At the end of the day, this documentary does not tell you how to feel about sex work, it just insists that we start talking about it. To quote my favorite guy in the film, Dr. Donaghue, “everyone has a right to make a living in any way that makes sense to them. But we as a society only allow people to use certain types of capital.”

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