How Using OnlyFans Affects People’s Sex Lives and Relationships
February 2, 2023 by Emily Mendelson
OnlyFans is a digital patronage platform with over two million independent sex workers and a user base of 170 million registered accounts. Given the speed at which OnlyFans use gained popularity over the pandemic (one week saw a 22% increase in streaming hours alone!), researchers from California State University Chico were interested in how OnlyFans might be affecting individual’s sexual learning and sex lives. The results may very well surprise you!
In light of the common narrative we hear in the popular media about how porn use of any kind is harmful, you might be tempted to think that OnlyFans use would be linked to negative effects. However, this study found precisely the opposite: OnlyFans use was perceived as overwhelmingly beneficial for sexual and gender identity formation, sexual relationship practices, and sexual learning. You can read the full study here, but in this post, I will detail some of the key findings.
The researchers utilized a mixed-methods approach to ask how OnlyFans users perceived the effects of the platform on their sexual lives and sexual learning. There were a total of 425 participants in this study, who were age 37 on average and mostly identified as heterosexual (80.9%).
In the quantitative portion of the study, age predicted the extent to which participants learned something new about sex. Specifically, the younger someone was, the more they said they learned about sex.
In the qualitative portion of the study, researchers extracted themes from participants’ open-ended responses to the question “What new things have you learned from using OnlyFans in terms of sexual practices, relationships, communication, yourself, your personal preferences, or sexual health?” Here are the main themes that emerged:
Users Say OnlyFans Improves Sexual Knowledge
Participants described learning about sex in the context of sexual health, pleasure, satisfaction, and enjoyment. For example, participants reported learning about how to “last longer” during sex, how to get aroused, and how to use a condom. Additionally, participants reported that the platform played a role in expanding their sexual interests and experiences, such as learning new things they might like to try as well as how to explore their interests.
Users Say OnlyFans Improves Relationships
Not only did OnlyFans users say that the platform improves one’s own sexual knowledge, but these benefits were also seen as benefiting one’s relationships. Participants reported improved communication with a partner, improved understanding of boundaries, and increased intimacy with partners. While the majority of responses pointed to improved relationships and intimacy, it is important to note that for a small minority of folks, OnlyFans use described negatively, most notably in terms of increased secret keeping from one’s partner.
Users Say OnlyFans Improves Self-Image
In addition to sexual and relational improvements, OnlyFans users report that the platform also created space for individuals to improve themselves. For example, participants reported increases in sexual self-confidence, body image, and self-acceptance. Additionally, individuals found that engaging with OnlyFans increased their comfort in expressing themselves, such as expanding their sexual and gender identity through learning about attraction and queerness on the site.
Users Say OnlyFans Assists in Acquiring Sexual Skills
Through watching creators on OnlyFans, individuals report that they acquired new skills to use in the bedroom. For example, participants learned about new sexual positions, different ways to reach orgasm, different sex toys that can be used, and different oral sex and masturbation techniques.
The other themes the researchers derived from the data suggest that many users feel a sense of community within OnlyFans, and may believe that using OnlyFans should be normalized to promote healthy sex lives. Although a few users reported negative experiences on the site, participants rated the overall effect of OnlyFans on their sexual lives more positively than negatively.
In sum, this research suggests that digital patronage platforms like OnlyFans may actually have the potential to improve or enhance relationships, sexual interactions, sexual communication and satisfaction, and personal growth.
To learn more about this research, you can read the full study here.
What do you think? Have you ever had an OnlyFans subscription? What did you learn from your experience? Weigh in with your comments below.
Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >