Sex work looks different in the pandemic, with some sex workers resorting to trending online subscription platforms, such as, OnlyFans.
Nobathembu Peter is a 28-year-old first-year fashion student and a sex worker who started creating content for her OnlyFans account in April.
Peter is a T10 paraplegic, which means that she is wheelchair-bound. Peter is a sex worker who has advocated for sex positivity and sells sex toys as a side hustle.
Like other sex workers, she had to find a way to make money in the pandemic, and resorted to trending online subscription platforms, such as OnlyFans.
When she was three-years-old, she was hit by a drunk driver. The accident resulted in spinal damage, and she's been in a wheelchair, ever since.
Peter wants to show that disabled people can have and enjoy sex.
“It makes it more realistic when people can see it. I want to show people that their disabilities shouldn't limit them."
Peter started her account shortly after she started selling sex toys at the start of the year. “I thought since I sell sex toys, why not show people how to use it and have them subscribe to have them watch me use it.”
Peter is known to her Twitter followers and OnlyFans subscribers as @RoyaltiOnWheels, and charges $12 (R178) per month subscription fee.
Her content consists of nude images and sex tapes filmed with her partner.
“I earn more than R10 000 per month. I am only a beginner and that’s what I earn right now.”
Peter said there was a market for this line of work in South Africa.
“The porn industry makes millions and I know about many sex workers who are making money digitally,” she said.
“I thought to myself, ‘What’s stopping me from getting my share of those millions?’”
She added: “There’s still a huge taboo surrounding it in South Africa. It’s still criminalised, which makes it more difficult.”
For those who prefer not to use OnlyFans, Peter sells her content on Telegram too, which she prefers as she pockets 100% of the profits. “OnlyFans take 20% of your profits which is a lot. The pandemic has opened so many opportunities for OnlyFans content creators, because now people aren’t relying on meeting people face to face anymore,” she said.
Using a digital platform comes with the risk of your content being leaked, screen recorded or profiles being hacked.
Peter said sex workers using digital platforms require assistance on how they could protect themselves on the internet.
“Revenge porn is a cybercrime. The legislation surrounding how our content gets leaked must be stricter, and we need more awareness on how to deal with this kind of thing.”
Peter said sex workers in South Africa need their rights recognised and legalised.
“We need more rights and need to be respected. We want to have power and control in sex work,” she said.
Peter wants everyone considering sex work to know that it’s not quick money. “It takes a lot of time and it’s draining. Be sure that you’re staying safe and enjoy yourself.”