Some people walked. Others potted about in the garden, did yoga or baked.
But far more stayed in during lockdown and subscribed to a British-run media platform with a clever idea: what if you could pay to personally get in touch with people you admire from afar?
And what if you weren’t bound by the rules that ‘keep things clean’ on the other social media platforms? What if the people on it could share any type of content, including porn, and lock it behind a paywall?
This is what OnlyFans offered us, bored stupid in lockdown – and its usage exploded.
OF now has around 50 million users and 450,000 content creators catering for their personal whims.
So what is it about this concept that appeals to so many? After all, porn is free!
What can we learn from the phenomena?
Well, the first thing you need to understand about it is this…
Sex expert Tracey Cox has revealed five things women can learn from male obsession with OnlyFans. Stock image
OnlyFans is not all about sex
There are chefs on there, fitness gurus, rappers and musicians. Social media influencers (of course) – in droves – and mainstream celebrities.
Cardi B’s on there, so is the American actress Bella Thorne (who made one million dollars on her first day, even though she made it clear she wouldn’t be posing naked).
Love Island’s Megan Barton-Hanson reportedly earns around £800,000 a month from OF and does post ‘adult’ content. (Though it’s probably worth me pointing out, before you hastily open an account and rip off your clothes, that the average person makes about £120 a month.)
Tracey (pictured) says the app doesn’t just provide adult content and that men like personal experiences
Some actually do pay their monthly subscription fee to access exclusive music content or to get a personally designed dinner party menu from a top chef.
But the thing OnlyFans is best known for is nudes.
But it is a lot about sex
Most of the mostly male audience (women also enjoy buying content, just not as many) pay to see X-rated accounts of the models and influencers they follow on Instagram or porn stars and sex workers who have had their accounts banned for too sexy content.
The fee differs depending on who you follow but it usually costs anywhere between £4 to £40 pounds. For this relatively modest sum, you don’t just get to view ‘exclusive’ posts and videos, you can send personal messages to the person and ‘tip’ to get pictures or videos created just for you.
Sometimes (or often, depending on who you believe), these are sexual.
Porn just got personal
Why bother paying when you can get free porn?
Because OnlyFans offers a totally different experience: it’s much, much more than watching hot girls perform sex acts.
The huge popularity of the platform teaches us a lot about the male psyche, reinforcing what we already know (men like curvy women) but also what we tend to forget. That men like intimacy as much as women do; that they thrive on personal attention.
There are valuable lessons to learn about men from their obsession with OF.
Here’s five of them.
Men don’t just want explicit content
Models presume they’ll get more subscribers on OF if they post more explicit pics. But that’s not the case.
One of the most popular personalities is an Australian ‘fitness model’ called Jem Wolfie. Sporting Kardashian curves, she squats in tight leggings and bounces about (quite literally) in lingerie and bikinis.
She is never nude: there’s not even a nipple on show.
Tracey believes men want ‘the girlfriend experience’ rather than just explicit content. Stock image
What there is in abundance, however, is intimacy.
You see the bed she just slept in, sheets rumpled, in the background of a selfie of her. She’s standing near a very ordinary chest of drawers and wardrobe. It’s not a styled Instagrammable bedroom, it’s HER bedroom. Scruffy and real.
Porn is free, plentiful and caters for every sexual prediction. But it doesn’t offer ‘the girlfriend experience’.
Men really do want ‘the girlfriend experience’
The phrase that gets used most often, when I ask men about OF, is that ‘it feels personal’.
‘I feel like I’m getting a glimpse into what she might really be like, what we’d do if we were together in real life,’ said one.
‘The woman I idolised on Instagram has now become human,’ said another OF subscriber.
He said he gets more of a kick from paying the model to take an impromptu ‘smiley’ selfie of herself walking to the gym than a sexual ‘posed’ photo.
‘What I love that she’s doing it for me. It’s personal. It’s the sort of thing a real girlfriend would do.’
Should you worry if your partner is using OnlyFans?
Contrary to popular perception, most women aren’t threatened knowing their partner masturbates to porn a few times a week. They know it’s anonymous, impersonal sex and that it doesn’t necessarily mean he wants them to look like the women he watches onscreen or do what they do.
OF is very different than porn in that lots of men WOULD like to have a real life relationship with the woman they subscribe to. Not only that, lots of men build personal relationships with her.
Men really connect with women on OF, often talking to them about their lives, sharing their sexual fantasies and fetishes and getting them to share posts and videos to satisfy them.
It’s not the norm for women to help bring men to orgasm, but it’s also not uncommon.
‘I have absolutely no issue with my husband watching porn,’ one 32-year-old woman told me. ‘It doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But when I found out he had an OnlyFans account and was paying to see a particular woman pose explicit posts – especially for him – I hit the roof.’
She isn’t the only one who said OF would be a deal-breaker. OF poses dangers for the primary relationship that ‘normal’ porn doesn’t. They might only be online, but these are relationships, formed with people men feel a sexual or romantic connection with.
That’s very different than someone tuning into an anonymous person performing on porn.
When you share intimate details about your life and sex life with another person you are sexually attracted to, it stops your real-life relationship from growing and thriving sexually. All sexual energy is directed away from the two of you, towards someone else.
You don’t need to be a sex therapist to know this isn’t going to do your relationship any favours.
The short answer to should you be threatened if you find your partner on there? Yes.
‘You can get porn for free,’ one of OF’s biggest earners Dannii Harwood told The New York Times. ‘Guys don’t want to pay for that. They want the opportunity to get to know somebody they’ve seen in a magazine or on social media. I’m like their online girlfriend’.
Dannii reportedly earns between £20- £35,000 per month from her OnlyFans account.
Men want personal attention far more than they admit
‘The woman I subscribe to knows the name of my kids and when my birthday is – that’s how intimate we are,’ said another single man.
‘Why not go out and find a real-life girlfriend, if that’s what you want?’, I ask him.
‘Because I would never be able to pull someone like that in reality,’ he answers bluntly. ‘If I did, I wouldn’t be on the site.’
He wasn’t the only man who told me their favourite OF girls were models who don’t do nudes or explicit porn.
‘It’s not about them getting their gear off. We chat about their lives, hobbies, partners. In some instances, they are probably closer friends than my actual friends.’
‘I’m not delusional,’ he hastens to add. ‘I know it’s because I’ve subscribed. But I think if you go in with the right frame of mind, it can be a nice way to feel connected, involved and, yes, have a bit of fun.’
Being interesting is just as important as being sexy
How sexy you are is important. But being interesting and ‘fun’ even more so, if you want a huge fan OF base.
Dannii Harwood has theme days like ‘Dare Dannii’ when men bid to watch her drive around town in her underwear and answer the door naked to a pizza delivery man.
‘She’s got balls and a sense of humour,’ one fan enthused about Ms Harwood.
One male friend told me he’s ‘hugely tempted’ to subscribe to a woman his friend supports after having a sneak preview.
‘She’s clearly highly intelligent and articulate,’ he said. ‘She plays the piano in her videos and gave a classical music recommendation. OK, she was uber hot and her promo clips clearly suggested she took her clothes off. But the attraction was having a chance of discourse with someone like her.’
Many men have a ‘thing’ they’re uncomfortable sharing
Of course, there are men who are on OF purely to satisfy sexual urges that aren’t being satisfied in their relationships or by porn.
‘At the end of the day, it’s a lot about men wanting to get a fetish catered for,’ one sex worker with a strong OF fan base told me.
‘There’s a large number of men out there who are very happily married but very unsatisfied sexually because they have a kink they wouldn’t dare admit to their wives.
‘If it’s a strong kink, simply watching porn doesn’t cut it long-term.’
She said most men don’t consider subscribing to a woman on OF as being unfaithful because there’s no in-person contact.
‘But finally being able to tell and watch someone do exactly what they want, in exactly the way they want it, is such a relief and pleasure for them. Believe me, some of the men who subscribe to me are very particular about how they want me to act out their fantasy. These are things you wouldn’t find easily on your average porn site.’
As I said, it’s personal.
Visit traceycox.com for weekly blogs about sex by Tracey and to find her product ranges and books.