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It’s hard to overestimate the massive influence that technological advances and the prominence of social media consumption is having on young people’s relationship with sex. We’ve written about it in the context of Netflix’s Sex Education, and the post #MeToo era.

This week’s 52INSIGHTS explores the evolution of sex culture (and young people’s relationship with it) in a tech context via the growth of ‘ONLYFANS’.


Sex sells. It always has. From the establishment of peep shows in the 1800s to the multi million-dollar Playboy empire and the phenomenon that is the PornHub brand today, sex has long been a commodity with a captivated audience. But young people’s relationship with sex as a product, is evolving. No longer is it the taboo subject saved for locker room conversations or drunken late night chats, people are much more open to paying for products or platforms where sex is at the heart of their offerings.

In this digital age of influencers and vying for likes, it was only time before a platform emerged where people could become sex stars and be paid for it. In April of 2018, a new digital platform called OnlyFans was launched to allow online stars to share the X-rated content that other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook were censoring.

Using traditional social platforms like Instagram, social media users drive their followers to their OnlyFans account - where a subscription ranging anywhere from $5 to $30 a month will give you a whole suite of NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) imagery and videos of your Instagram crush. So, instead of logging into Instagram and seeing #ootd or pictures of mates travelling around the world, you log in to OnlyFans and see people - people that you’ve chosen - having sex.

In a similar way to how Patreon has allowed creatives like musicians and writers to get paid directly by fans for the work they do (and give them exclusive access to content as a reward), OnlyFans cuts out the middle-man between creator and consumer. Because of this, OnlyFans been spoken about the site where porn has become more intimate than ever before. It’s also a creative place for consuming adult content, because regulations (and third parties) are removed. It’s on people’s own terms - creators own and can control all their own material.

“I know some people who are making $8,000 a month through OnlyFans. They are capitalising on fandom that has always existed for celebrities and porn and everything that goes with that. To me, its art with your body - no different to exploring another revenue stream. Aesthetics are a tangible asset now, people are relying on this as their career. It’s so entrepreneurial. But on the other hand, I don’t understand how, in the age of screenshotting and screen recording it’s still taking off so much. I’m in WhatsApp groups where people will share OnlyFans content to people who haven’t subscribed.” Fin, 25.

What started as a platform for adult film stars quickly became a form of income for fitness and lifestyle Instagram stars, unapologetically unashamed of getting their bits out - for the right price.  With more and more people joining the platform each day (and similar platforms like JustForFans), both as consumers and creators of content, the demand for this all access (in every sense) to online stars, shows no sign of slowing down.


“I think everyone has an inner cock destroyer in them. It’s about letting go and being sexually wild. It’s a state of mind. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s OK too, though I think we need to just let it all out!” Rebecca Moore, The Cock Destroyers.

One of the biggest success stories from the world of OnlyFans is a trio of women from the UK, simply known as the Cock Destroyers. They turned the model on its head, taking their brand from the underground OnlyFans platform, into the mainstream media, becoming iconic pop culture figures in the process.

Despite the highly X-rated material they share (if you Google them, make sure it’s not at work), they quickly gathered a cult following for their no f*cks given to their attitude towards sex (their name is inspired by one viral clip in which the women state: "You know what we are? We’re fucking cock destroyers". After this, fans started applying the phrase to all sorts of laugh out loud situations).

One of the most interesting things about their rise to fame via their online currency is that they are heterosexual female porn stars, who became gay icons. The beauty of this bizzare boundary-crossing aspect of sex culture is not lost on their young fans.

One tweeter noted: "how have the gays managed to turn those two cock destroyers that were targeted at horny straight men into gay icons dfkjglfjgdf".

With a massive LGBTQ following, they have spearheaded the definition of sexual liberation in 2019. They are now headlining club shows and their custom merchandise is selling out as soon as it goes on sale.

Conclusion? OnlyFans places sex workers and content creators as the ones in charge which makes the whole experience feel a million times more positive. Young people value this sense of autonomy. As a result, it’s making the consumption of sexual content online feel more intimate - and creative. Because screenshotting is rampant, young people place huge importance on a sense of control when it comes to online content. The significance of choosing to post or share is rising on a daily basis for younger cohorts - they still share (or overshare) but in a more considered way.


Ok. Cock Destroyers? I’m in the FMCG business. What can I really take from this?


OnlyFans reinforces how sex is being democratised at pace among younger, digitally savvy audiences. There is a heightening sense of liberalism and empowerment that is emerging across youth culture (as a result of their access to sex on tap), more people are open to expressing their sexuality - no matter what their sexuality is. Alongside this, their natural adoption of entrepreneurial exploits continues to impress. How could you reward young audiences for self expression in a way that acknowledges or taps into their entrepreneurial aspirations?

Don’t underestimate the power of fandom. Young people are willing to pay for exclusive content when they feel it’s worth it. How could you create ‘exclusive’ online content for your superfans?

Check out some of our previous insights.
The Twitching Hour
Nike Just Did It: Why youth think the new Nike rules

The Youth Lab is the insights and trends division at Thinkhouse, the youth marketing agency. 
For more insights, connect with The Youth Lab at

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