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We Asked OnlyFans Creators What They're Thinking About AI-Generated Porn
will ai-generated content put human creators out of business, or will they leverage it to create fantasies for their fans on demand?
Following a viral photo series of realistic, AI-generated “sexy” women, and in the wake of a Twitch deepfake porn scandal — in which the likenesses of real women were cloned without their consent, and manipulated into pornographic images — River Page and Brandon Gorrell spoke to OnlyFans creators Aella and others about the future of artificial intelligence and sex work.
Editor’s note: best to assume all links in this piece are Not Safe for Work (NSFW).
“I might just generate AI nudes of myself,” Aella told us over Zoom.
Aella’s a sex researcher with a popular, thoughtful, and often provocative presence on Twitter. At one point, she was also one of the top OnlyFans creators, making up to $100,000 a month. “I might just say they’re AI nudes, and have it be fun,” she said. “Taking nudes is so boring. I've taken so many nudes, and it's like, you stand in the same place and take another photo. I don’t understand male psychology really. Like I do, but I don’t. Guys want to see the same pair of boobs, but they want to see a different photo of the same pair of boobs over and over again. And it’s just excruciatingly boring to do on your own. But, they like it. I’d love to be able to do it more creatively. ”
On the heels of a major deepfake scandal, the negative discourse surrounding AI-generated porn seems to have reached critical mass. Will synthetic porn meaningfully compete with human OnlyFans creators? Will creators lose control of their own likenesses, as a separate class of parasitic creators train AI on their bodies and use it to sell deepfakes without their consent? Or will AI be a boon to OnlyFans creators, enabling them to create their own synthetic nudes and videos? In this way, they could create more content than ever before. They could also create content in categories they wouldn’t have previously been able to monetize.
HarperTheFox is an OnlyFans creator who, according to her Twitter bio, uses AI trained on her own body to create fantasies for her fans. For example, here she is using AI to give herself fox-like features, here she is skewing more masculine, and here’s an AI-generated cyberpunk-inspired nude she made, where she’s brandishing an AR-style weapon.
Avalon, an Australian OnlyFans creator we talked to over DM, was also bullish on leveraging AI for her OnlyFans. “Real people using AI in their own likeness to create content could be an amazing game changer,” she said, “allowing them to work while hiding injuries, pregnancy, or even old age. Or they can hire employees to create and upload new content on their behalf if they need to take a break.”
For OnlyFans creators, there may be a new opportunity in business models that leverage AI in such a way that the creator can personalize her content by ‘shapeshifting’ on request. Content strategies that identify trending motifs and use AI to generate content that targets those signals in real time could be a huge advantage for ambitious OnlyFans creators. But others pursuing this same business model could cut them out entirely by producing this type of content without them — without a human subject at all.
“I think they’re absolutely going to be able to do that,” Aella said. “I don’t think we’re that far from running a language model and having the perfect girlfriend. We’re already trying to get the perfect girlfriend. [For example], there’s Replika trying to bond, and make people feel warm.”
Avalon had a different take. She’s short on prolific output, long on emotional connection and worldbuilding. “People who only want to look at boobs can find what they’re looking for on Google for free. The people who pay, they want intimacy, a sense of companionship, and entertainment,” she said. “We sell our characters and personalities as much as we sell images of our naked bodies. For better or worse, successful sex work thrives on parasocial relationships. Guys who want to replace OnlyFans creators will need to create realistic characters and find fans who connect with their creation before they’ll make any real money. Most people burn out quickly when the reality of the actual work involved hits them.”
This might be the case for sites like MyFreeCams, Aella said, but not OnlyFans, which — if it weren’t for its robust creator identity verification protocols (more on this below) — would already be vulnerable to completely synthetic creators. “[With] MyFreeCams and other livestreaming websites, men are aware of each other, and can compete with each other. A lot of the incentive to tip comes from doing it in front of other people. It’s like peacocking. The men develop a status in the community, with the girls — 80 percent of your income can come from one or two people. So the girls have a very strong connection with the men. It’s extremely delicate. These girls will be texting with a guy all day.
“So if you’re marketing to the very high-end, very intelligent man who needs that deep connection, sure, it’s going to be more difficult to replicate,” Aella said. “But that's a minority of where your money comes from on OnlyFans, where you’re not allowed to see the other men. It's structured such that it encourages you to send mass DMs that look like personalized DMs. Girls even sign up with agencies that have warehouses of people running their accounts, talking in DMs to men. These people DMing the men are not the actual OnlyFans girls. The quality of the exchange is quite low. One time I pretended to be a man and signed up to one of these girls’ OnlyFans in order to see what it was like talking to the people in the warehouse, and it was terrible! Just really bad! So with OnlyFans you’re selecting for guys who don’t need that kind of emotional connection. The guys who do need a big emotional relationship don’t have the incentive to stick around.”
To Aella’s point, the state of mainstream entertainment is a testament to a corporation’s ability to create franchises that thrive on their fans’ parasocial relationships with their characters. K-Pop is an obvious example of top-down, high-budget worldbuilding characterized by a rotating cast of replaceable stars whose personas are meticulously developed and maintained, funded by multi-trillion dollar conglomerates who profit off obsessive fans. It seems too optimistic to assume that adult entertainment will forever be ignored by highly-funded entities who have the resources to pick off any category they want, at will.
Is there any reason OnlyFans creators should be worried that deepfake content of themselves, produced and sold by someone else, could meaningfully claim their own content’s market share? OnlyFans in particular has a system in place that seems pretty good at preventing that. Avalon described it as very strict, automated, and monitored. Even human creators can get mistakenly flagged when their appearance changes.
“If you post on OnlyFans and your makeup or a wig changes your appearance too much, your post will be flagged, prompting you to tag the creator you shared. Since AI artwork can have minor differences in facial features, even within the same character prompts, there’s a good chance an AI account will get flagged often.”
And beyond the OnlyFans verification process, Avalon thinks most websites would be unwilling to work with AI “because of obvious litigation issues. Since AI learning uses photos of real people, you risk having an AI character who looks too similar to an actual person, so the creator will likely need to prove that their creation is not the person it resembles, and is not based on that person, because that can start falling into revenge porn legislation.”
But OnlyFans and other more ‘reputable’ adult entertainment sites aren’t the only places you can find and buy porn, and for Bombshell Barista, an OnlyFans creator from Washington, it’s not the potential competition that bothers her. She just hates the idea of it being done without her consent. On the phone, she described the experience of having her content reposted without her permission as terrifying, saying it made her feel like she’d lost control. She worries deepfakes will make this problem even worse. “When it comes to AI, I have no control over that. That’s a big issue for me.”
Rogan, a gay porn creator who does live action porn as Harlem Hookups, and animated porn as SneakyLinks, told us in a phone call that he thinks AI’s intrusion into the world of porn is inevitable, and that sex workers need to organize to make sure their content is legally protected. He even said he’s looked into getting a 3D model of his face copyrighted in hopes that this would offer him some protection against deepfake plagiarism.
“But would it even matter, to your audience, if the people in your videos weren’t real anymore?” we asked him. “To people of a certain age, it would,” he said. But younger generations, whose porn options have included VR, animation, and gaming for as long as they’ve been old enough to be interested, will have a much easier time normalizing fully synthetic porn.
On our read, most of the internet seems to think AI porn will wipe human-created porn out of existence. When @heartereum tweeted the viral AI-generated photorealistic bikini pics, their caption was “It is SO over.” But a few days later, Arabelle Raphael, an OnlyFans creator with nearly 400k Twitter followers, quote tweeted @heartereum’s tweet: “This is so funny because it’s obvious all these takes are from people who don’t understand sex work, and why consumers consume sex work. The looks are one thing but the intimacy and interaction are a huge thing which AI can’t really do.”
We all do seem to agree that AI will be disruptive. We just aren’t sure how, or how much yet. We suppose the OnlyFans creators, just like the rest of us, will have to wait and see.
-River Page and Brandon Gorrell
All conversations have been edited for structure, flow, length, and brevity.