OnlyFans: Feminism Paradox on Digital Sexualization of Women

Oktober 20, 2020

Oleh: Muhammad Alif Faturrachman

(Founder Mediatikusastra) 

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There is a paradox in the feminist movement that is quite interesting to discuss. In the modern world where various things have shifted to the digital world, there are some of the 'old practices' that have also board the train into this new digitalized world. One of these 'old practices' is to provide oneself as an object of sexual intercourse to others to get paid in a material form, namely money. From this brief explanation, it seems that you have got a picture of which of the 'old practices' that is going to be discussed in this discussion. In this modern world, the practice of prostitution has undergone a modernization phase and has also invaded the digital world. It was widely known throughout human history, be it on a brothel, back alley, or straight up door to door visits, nevertheless, this practice often ended up with the exploitation and objectification of women. While in the past, the practice of prostitution needed both of the parties to meet in physical contact, however, in this modern world for example; the practice of prostitution; providing sexual services; or the exploitation of women body by men can now be done through a smartphone on their right hand and well you can guess where their left hand went on. Therefore, this is a new challenge for feminists around the world on how they respond to the sexualization of women in the digital world.

Throughout history, women have been the victims of oppression in the patriarchal dominated society. Even though that freedom and equality should be the right of every human being, however, women need to fight for it because they do not get this so called freedom and equality in a society that was once dominated by patriarchal men. In fact, long ago, women was used to be considered as the second-class human in society and often became victims of the patriarchy which often views women  as nothing more than objects to fulfill men's sexual needs. This has encourages women to fight for their rights and opposes the stigma of women sexual objectification by men.

From then on, women continue to strive to fight the stigma where they are always used as objects of sexualization for men through the feminist movement as the main spearhead of their struggle to achieve women's freedom over their own bodies and social equality. Therefore, the feminist movement was born to fight for the freedom of women and to achieve equality between women and women which should be the right of every human being on this earth. From the first wave feminism to third or even the disputed fourth wave feminism, it has become a part of modern society.


However, it seems that there is a change in the meaning of freedom over one's own body that was previously held up by the old feminism in order to remove the shackles of patriarchy which used women's bodies for mere sexual purposes to something that is somewhat contradicting the previous statement resulting in a paradox of logics. Let us take an example from the phenomenon of the OnlyFans site, which is a digital platform where users can sell personal content, be it exclusive photos of themselves or even pornographic content of themselves, such as vulgar photos in underwear or straight up bare naked with a monthly subscription rate. According to Julie Bindel as she wrote on, the top earners on OnlyFans are women whose subscribers are men. These men who subscribed to see ‘exclusive’ contents pay between £5 to £20 a month to view images or videos that are considered too pornographic for Instagram but are legal on the OnlyFans platform. Other than that, these subscribers can also direct message women and pay tips to get personalised videos or photos, depending on their individual sexual tastes.

Then why is this issue is being debated by feminists all around the world? The answer is because some people think that this is the newest form of prostitution and sexual objectification of women in the digital era whereas many women use this site to sell pictures or videos of their own body, which then are purchased by men to satisfy their sexual fantasies. On the other hand, there are also those who think that this kind of practice empowers women to be economically independent and free of physical abuse because they do not sell their bodies like prostitution in general where their body is being exploited, touched, or raped by men but they only show their bodies to men without them exploiting it directly and instead this is a form of freedom over their own bodies and on top of that these women who use OnlyFans to sell their ‘content’ might refuse to be referred as a prostitute and instead chose a more subtle label of ‘sex workers’ to differentiate their practice with one that might also similar but not quite true.

From these two arguments, the paradox of feminism on this issue was born which eventually split feminists into two different camps. Those who think that this is a form of women's freedom over their own bodies where they knowingly and willingly to do something over their own body like selling vulgar photos or videos of themselves without coercion of men is considered to be a form of freedom over their own body and those who think that this digital practice has betrayed the efforts to free women from the shackles of sexual objectification of the patriarchs and return them to be objectified to fulfill men sexual fantasy.

The main problem that lays in this debate between two side located on the purposes of this practice. While somehow it is true that women has the full rights on their own body and even exploiting themselves is also a valid decision as long as it was their consent to do so, this might be a solution to those who needed to accommodate for themselves by selling their images or videos, just like how fashion models promote or display themselves and getting paid although that is did not include nudity or some might do so. Furthermore this practice can also be a way for those who wanted to harness men sexual urges, attractions, or simply fetishes but refuse to service them physically could indeed use this platform regardless of their views on the feminism itself. However, this decision might frankly turn back or simply gone south as it places women back into the position that was opposed by those who came before them and this practice might led to men think that women wanted to be objectified themselves which are truly is not true as no one would want to but misunderstanding might led to it being  realized.

Even though that this is not the first digital sexualization of women since websites like Pornhub did way earlier than OnlyFans and are more straightforward porn rather than pretending that it was not, it is easy to say that both of them clearly aimed to fulfill men fantasy. But with this new contestant on the block? Then, this issue is might be more complicated as it raised a lot of questions about whether OnlyFans is empowering or exploiting women. Is it some kind of new digital porn industry that exploit and objectified women? Is it some kind of industry where women can thrive economically without being physically abused? Is it safe from abuse to say the least? More and more questions left unanswered as the war of arguments between two sides of feminism rage on.





Muhammad Alif Faturrachman kerap disapa dengan panggilan “Alif”, “Alep”, “Toad” adalah seorang pemuisi amatiran serta salah satu Founder dari Mediatikusastra. Ia memiliki passion di bidang desain grafis dan komputer dengan jejak rekam petualangan sebagai lulusan “terbaik” dari SMK Negeri 1 Sungailiat, sebuah gelar yang sengaja ia klaim sepihak agar terdengar prestis. Kini, takdir membawa Alif ke jurusan Sastra Inggris di sebuah universitas negeri di Indonesia, dimana ia harus meninggalkan mimpi menjadi seorang game developer atau seorang desainer grafis dan apalah itu mimpi-mimpi yang pernah ia impikan.

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