The Guardian, How to Make It on OnlyFans: the foot porn scene alone is Bafta-worthy

The Guardian, 8th December 2021, Joel Golby

Kinky feet, armpit licking and credit card dramas abound in this funny, charming Channel 4 documentary about the adult streaming site. Plus, Alex Sim-Wise is the fairy godmother of fetish

The problem with Channel 4 documentaries is, done right, they can be so utterly convincing they lead you to consider a fairly drastic lifestyle change. This is how I almost became a paedophile hunter in 2014, for instance. The long week in 2013 when I got on to the dogging forums. So it is fair to say I went into How to Make It on OnlyFans, the new documentary about the boom in British creators making their livelihoods with sex work online, with a healthy amount of trepidation. Who would I be at the end of this hour-long? Or rather: what fruit would I be mashing with my feet for a paying audience?

Do I need to explain what OnlyFans is and what people do on it to you? Do we need to do this dance? Fine, fine: OnlyFans is a content subscription service where you can pay for premium access to certain creators. There might be a golf coach you follow, for instance, who offers putting tips. Perhaps a musical artist you like will give previews of upcoming work. But, realistically, 90% of the platform is sex workers selling nudes. Yes, you could follow the golf coach. Or you could follow the lad who does the piss content you like and takes custom requests. Right, I think we all get the concept now.

A good documentary like this one lives and dies on its casting, and How to Make It … has really nailed it. (Is there a way I could articulate this point without the word “nailed”? Normally I wouldn’t think about this, but … ) It’s got Alex Sim-Wise, the lads’ mag favourite turned OnlyFans supremo, to act not only as the charismatic focal point but also a roving OnlyFans fixer, a fairy godmother-type who specialises in maximising budding sex workers’ online presence. So we meet Emily, a nervous first-timer hoping to build her audience of seven into something that can sustain her and her cats. Alex coaches her in how to take more alluringly angled selfies and how to turn a length of street market faux fur into a lush-looking background drape. We meet Will, a beautiful, soft-spoken builder who is more comfortable getting smashed on a sofa than posting a selfie video. And we meet Zoe, who is contemplating the semi-serious decision about whether to sell foot pics online; Alex helps her get her head round a kink she doesn’t fully understand.

All this is nice and, occasionally, exceptionally funny: I’ve already submitted a scene where Zoe watches foot porn for the first time to Bafta for their consideration. But it’s only with August’s announcement that OnlyFans would restrict sexual content that this documentary gets the required dramatic heft. We watch Will fret about making his page more softcore, Emily worry about her early career being so dramatically derailed, and Alex ponder, guru-like, about the nature of sex and work when credit card operators can open a trapdoor beneath your feet whenever they feel like it. “They’re deciding for everyone what they can and can’t buy,” she explains. “You just feel so powerless. Everyone’s like: ‘Oh, just do another job then.’ I like this job. I’m not hurting anybody or doing anything illegal. This is what I’ve invested my 10,000 hours into and I don’t think I should have to pivot to anything else.”

It’s here the documentary really comes into its own. With that perfectly neutral tone Channel 4 has about sex, it shows OnlyFans creators exactly as they are: going about their lives and working round the parameters of the (since reversed) ban. Emily has fully embraced her OnlyFans alter ego. Zoe has an incredibly straightforward chat with her dad about the uniform length of all her toes. And we see Will overcome his chronic shyness to post a good morning video to all his followers, wishing them a pleasant weekend and telling them briefly about his Saturday night. Soon, his phone is buzzing with messages chirping with thanks. “Happy Sunday,” one reads, “Can I lick your sweaty armpits?” Well, says Will. That got a good response. He seems oddly buoyed. I never thought I’d say this about a horny stranger threatening to lick someone’s underarms, but it might be one of the most charming TV moments of 2021.

How to Make It on OnlyFans starts Thursday 9 December on Channel 4

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