OnlyFans management schemes trace to YouTube’s manosphere | #youtubescams | #lovescams | #datingscams

About 18 months ago, Grace started getting annoyed at the huge influx of messages she was receiving. Grace is an OnlyFans creator using a pseudonym for safety, and the messages were from different senders but all had similar content, almost like a copypasta. They were trying to sell her OnlyFans management services, offering her significant growth of her audience and monthly earnings via management agencies she had never heard of. Grace, who has successfully managed her own OnlyFans output for years now, was receiving three or four of these kinds of messages a day. For a while, all she did was clear her inbox of these messages and move on. 

It was only when Grace spoke to other sex workers that she realized how often OnlyFans creators were receiving these kinds of offers. In a group of other OnlyFans creators in the U.K., other women reported getting large numbers of these messages. “Wow, you’re amazing,” one of the messages shared with Prism said. “My name is Lisa and [I’m] the talent scout for The Swan. Our agency offers a safe and secure management to market and monetize your content. Join us and focus on creating the content your fans love, while we handle all the marketing, promotion and interaction with the fan. Let’s talk today and grow your personal brand to new heights.”

In the last 18 months, a number of OnlyFans management agencies have been set up across several countries. These agencies seek out OnlyFans creators to profit off their content, claiming they can improve the income of individual OnlyFans creators for a percentage of their earnings. Working with security experts, sex workers, and a manosphere academic, Prism has found that this growing trend targets less-experienced sex workers and indoctrinates men into the business of exploiting women in the hopes of making large amounts of money off their work. In the manosphere (a catch-all term for anti-feminist and misogynistic groups and communities), Prism found at least two YouTube creators who have posted instructions on how to set up an OnlyFans agency, recruit creators, and how to keep most of their profits. 

While legitimate OnlyFans management agencies do exist, YouTube tutorials on how to create your own OnlyFans agency have ramped up the number of recruitment messages in OnlyFans creators’ inboxes. These videos, created by men in their 20s and 30s, are free to view on YouTube, and they coach other men into setting up their own OnlyFans agencies, presenting the enterprise as a quick way to make a lot of money. 

Grace and other sex workers she knows were able to track some of the messages they received back to a YouTuber called Sergi Berenguer, whose Spanish-language tutorials instruct his viewers on how to recruit sex workers into their business to make thousands of dollars a month. Cold-messaging women to recruit them with a pre-written message is part of the step-by-step provided. Berenguer also has a Discord server called “Pimp School,” where he shares the best recruitment strategies to convince women to sign their budding agencies’ contracts and where he also tries to sell a course to teach men how to maximize their profits doing this work.

Another such YouTuber, who posts under the name Kyle Plummer, dedicates his whole YouTube channel to showcasing the benefits of owning and growing an OnlyFans management agency. With titles like “BROKE to Making $100,000 Per Month | My Story” and “The STRANGE way I plan to make a MILLION dollars this year…,” Plummer promotes the idea of starting an OnlyFans management agency business, creating a narrative of rags to riches for himself and his management agency. In a video entitled “How To Start An OnlyFans Agency In 2022 (Step By Step),” Plummer instructs his followers to open up a company to protect themselves legally, set up a website to look more legitimate, and hire people to cold-message on freelance work websites like Upwork. Viewers are instructed to recruit content creators on OnlyFans, Instagram, and through dating platforms—sending 100 cold-messages a day to maximize recruitment is advised—create a contract to protect their company’s interests, and take over the creators’ bank accounts for better control of their income. 

“Ultimately, you do have control over the bank accounts,” Plummer says. “When you’re working with these models, you figure out an agreement where you can be in control of the bank [account] because then what happens is you’re able to give her her cut.” Plummer justifies this move as a way to psychologically manipulate sex workers out of their earnings. “Psychologically, if she’s getting, let’s say, $10,000 a month, and she’s like, ‘I’m going to have to give this guy $3,000,’ she’s watching that leave her bank account. But if it happens from your end, and she’s receiving the money, then it doesn’t have that same psychological perspective.” 

However, security experts say that should a sex worker relinquish control over her bank account to an agency, there is potential for coercive control practices against the recruited creators. Tony Hunt, a security expert from Operation Safe Escape, an organization that provides survivors of abuse resources to leave their abusers for free, says there’s potential for abuse if sex workers relinquish power over their earnings to these agencies. “These guys aren’t just learning how to run an agency or run a business,” he said. “They’re learning how to con people … That same method of recruitment is used for human trafficking as well.” 

Hunt also added that dating apps and Instagram are perfect recruitment grounds because these potential creators don’t know much about the content creation space and its regular practices. For Grace, who has worked as an OnlyFans creator for almost four years, these recruitment messages never felt like a reliable way to make more money off her work, especially because she is familiar with common practices in the field of sexual content production. While paid assisting work is a common practice in the field, where one creator aids other creators with the scheduling of posts, these recruitment agencies immediately seemed “dodgy” and “scammy” to her. 

“These agencies are quite effective at targeting inexperienced creators because they purposefully use big words and complicated language to make it sound like they know a lot about marketing when really what they do is stuff that you can do by yourself completely,” Grace said. “They promise guaranteed results, which they can’t do. There’s no guarantee.” 

Grace also suggests that content creators whose first language isn’t English are vulnerable targets to these agencies, as recruitment seems to go across borders. “Sex workers who do OnlyFans in countries that don’t necessarily speak English or have the best access to the internet—these agencies will offer to make an account for them, manage it for them, and send them half the money and then never will, or they’ll send them less than half the money.” Many sex workers working from Global South nations, for example, would not have any knowledge or easy access about their legal rights, nor would they have access to a community of experienced OnlyFans creators to advise them. 

The clash of hustle culture and the manosphere

In Berenguer’s “Pimp School” Discord server, men who are setting up their businesses swap information on best practices to recruit women, how to hire cold-messengers from Upwork, and how to get their agencies’ websites looking professional. In the same Discord server as well as in Berenguer’s Telegram channel called “OF Models for Sale,” men try to sell OnlyFans accounts to each other, listing where the models are from, if they speak fluent English, how many followers they have on social media, the price for the account, how much time the model can dedicate to OF every day, as well as the make of their cell phone. Prism has been unable to independently verify whether and how Berenguer has access to these accounts. 

Manosphere researcher Dr. Tim Squirrell speculates that the men in Berenguer’s Discord server and Telegram channel probably do have control over these OnlyFans accounts and that they’re selling them to each other. The buyer of the account will then grow the numbers and earnings of that account. “There’s a double layer of exploitation,” Squirrell said. “This seems to be on a slightly different scale [from previous schemes] and also much more global; this is very internationalized.” Squirrell guarantees this is absolutely affecting sex workers in the U.S. and North America because of the scale of these operations. 

Squirrell says that although men like Berenguer and Plummer are often not directly connected to Andrew Tate nor do they know him personally, many follow Tate and his brother on social media. Tate is a social media influencer who created a very profitable webcam modeling business similar to what Berenguer and Plummer try to model. Tate also made content on how other men could set up their own webcamming businesses to make huge profits.

Squirrell also notes that Berenguer and Plummer seem to be operating within a new development of the manosphere: the proliferation of hustle culture in an environment that hates women and argues for their continued subjugation. Both of these YouTubers are copying the Tate style of content creation and his business model, which has resulted in Tate’s arrest. In December 2022, Tate and his brother were arrested on human trafficking and rape charges by Romanian police. In June 2023, they were indicted on charges of human trafficking, rape, and forming an organized crime group to sexually exploit women. They deny all charges and are currently under house arrest.

“He has introduced this [hustle] culture to a larger number of people who see this as one of many money-making methods,” Squirrell said. “What I saw when I was researching this is that these people exist in an ecosystem where this is one way of making money, but the other ones that they also like are crypto investing, day trading, dropshipping—basically anything where you can work from a laptop anywhere in the world and where you can ideally make a very large amount of money in a very short period of time, and there aren’t any limits to that.” 

About 15 years ago, the manosphere was more focused on supremacist masculinist influencers like pick-up artists who taught other men how to use their social capital to pick up women for sexual gratification. Today, the manosphere still holds the same general view of women but focuses on money-making enterprises that are usually exploitative. Additionally, Squirrell points out that this kind of copycat manosphere content puts sex workers’ digital safety at risk, as it combines financial interest with a worldview that is rooted in misogyny.

“A lot of these guys consider themselves to be self-made, and they see themselves as hustlers who have worked from the ground up, started in a council flat or wherever, and now they’re making tens of thousands [of] dollars a month,” Squirrell said. “And it’s in the last five years or so that [the manosphere] has become really entwined with hustle culture, the sort of rise-and-grind type of thing. My personal theory is that as economic circumstances have failed to improve for quite a lot of people, there is an increasing feeling like the odds are stacked against you, and, at the same time, it’s become viable to make a lot of money by being a career influencer, [so] the mode in which people are engaging in male supremacy has shifted.”

Though Tate’s content has been deleted and banned by YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, he seems to have inspired other content creators to make similar media. Tate is known for creating and operating Hustler’s University, which followers would subscribe to for a $49.99 monthly fee to learn how to make money fast via enterprises like cryptocurrency, copywriting, and e-commerce. Experts have called Tate’s business model a pyramid scheme. Like Tate, both Berenguer and Plummer rely on pre-recorded videos, Discord servers, and the promise of quick, huge amounts of money to encourage men into digital pimping. 

Part of the problem, Squirrell says, is that social media platforms don’t know how to moderate this kind of content. TikTok and YouTube can ban individual influencers that step over the line, but they aren’t able to moderate reposts as well. “People often repost his content, and he also get the big bump from people being like, ‘Wow, he’s been banned, I guess I’ll go and check him out,’ and the controversy news cycle that swelled around his arrest.”

Meanwhile, inexperienced sex workers and potential low-income content creators on Instagram will continue to be targeted by the likes of Plummer, Berenguer, and their followers. To avoid being exploited, security experts Prism spoke to encourage sex workers to never relinquish control of their OnlyFans accounts and bank accounts to untrusted third parties and to always check in with other sex workers when deciding to sign a contract with an OnlyFans agency. Unfortunately, the turn of the manosphere to misogynistic hustle culture is just the latest development of a technology sector that is built on sexism, racism, exploitation, and imperialist values.

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