Scrolling through Tinder, Zack comes across a guy he fancies: six foot five, built like a brick shithouse and clearly a big fan of the sunbed. His name is Jake, and to Zack’s surprise the two match. Jake messages first, “I don't talk here much. Message me on Instagram,” he says. A brief back-and-forth follows, in which Jake tries to convince Zack to follow his account. When Zack refuses, Jake unmatches him.
Weeks later, Zack comes across Jake again, except this time Jake is going viral for posing naked with his dad on OnlyFans. Zack wasn’t the only one who recognised him – I spoke to dozens of gay men across Twitter and various forums with similar stories of matching with Jake on dating apps, only to be directed to Instagram, where a link to his OnlyFans sits pride of place in his bio.
Influencers funnelling matches from dating apps to monetisable platforms is nothing new, but in this case, as he revealed in a subsequent interview with The Tab, Jake is straight.
Straight men “doing gay for pay” is as old as porn itself, and OnlyFans is full of straight men with majority-gay subscriber bases. But Jake’s tactics signal the arrival of a new batch of hetero men using apps like Tinder and Grindr to target what they perceive to be a lucrative market.
One such creator is Antony, AKA Jonny Richard, who turned to OnlyFans after losing his job to COVID-19. Antony struggled initially to promote his Onlyfans to straight women, then he made the switch to gay Tinder, and the impact was immediate. “I went from a normal amount of matches with women to an uncountable number a day,” he says. More importantly, the money started coming in. Even now, Antony says the only people paying for his content are guys.
The routine is simple: match as many guys as possible, subtly tell them you’re here to plug your OnlyFans, then hope they sign up. There are some obstacles, however. Most dating apps will ban you for mentioning OnlyFans in bios or sending links in chats, but there are ways around it. David, whose bio reads “I’m not gay but $20 is $20”, tells me: “The best thing to do is get people’s numbers or have them text you, and then bring it up off the app.”
David’s decision to target gay subscribers came naturally – he already had a gay “fanbase” before OnlyFans, having previously worked as a naked cowboy bartender in a gay club. Antony, meanwhile, has had no complaints from his new male subscribers, who he says are “more sex driven” than women. In short, the marketing strategy is working.
Antony identifies as straight both in real life and in his Tinder bio, although he admits he intentionally blurs the lines where he can. “I'm an open guy, and curious, but I do make it seem more so, to an extent,” he says. “If I just outright said I'm straight and not interested, it would be hard. It's not exactly ideal, as I hate not being 100 percent with people, but I’ve got kids to feed.”
More recently, the tactic has made its way to gay dating apps. Several people I spoke to told me a Grindr account directed them to Jake’s Instagram, but Jake denies he was behind the messages. Others are more direct: 24-year-old Tom remembers being contacted by a good-looking man who quickly moved the conversation to Snapchat, where the would-be match revealed that he was straight before dropping the OnlyFans link. Tom ended the chat there (“I ain't paying money to watch someone tickle their trout”), but the account still taps him on Grindr now and then. “It’s smart thinking,” he says. “Exploit the desperate crowd.”
Many of those who have been on the receiving end of it do feel that they’re being exploited. Zack, reflecting on his conversations with Jake, says: “I wasn't 100 percent surprised, but equally it did make me feel really undesirable. Every time I get a match, I'm hoping it's because that person does want to talk to me, so it's always disappointing when people either don't talk back or just instantly un-match you on the first message.”
Even among creators, there’s unease. Sean also creates content on OnlyFans for a predominantly gay audience. For him, something about the tactic doesn’t sit right. “It sounds really sneaky and shady, to be honest,” he says. “I think in some people’s heads it would work in the short-term, but in the long-term you end up with a community that resents you for tricking them, and could even receive hate. I feel like that would be quite dishonest and isn’t the type of reputation I’d want to my name. I’m completely open with my subs about my sexuality, and I don’t think it’s an approach I would recommend unless you were actually gay.”
Antony says he would never branch out to Grindr specifically: “I wouldn't feel comfortable outright lying. If I state that I’m straight like I do on Tinder and OnlyFans, I think there would be complaints on an exclusively gay app.”
For Jake, who went into OnlyFans six months ago, knowing he wanted to appeal to men, it’s not that deep. “The main thing above everything else is looking good, that’s as simple as it is,” he says. “I really don’t mind who my fans are, as long as they’re enjoying the content and supporting me.”
It’s true that the gay majority of Jake’s 6,200+ subscribers seemingly don’t mind that he’s straight, and as more of them have signed up, the more Jake’s content has changed to accommodate what they want. He’s already branched out into anal play, and told me he’s looking to rope in other male creators for future videos.
Does Jake think he's queerbaiting people like Zack? “That’s just embarrassing,” he replies. “Wow, what a monster – should be locked up in jail. How can someone feel exploited and hurt by a match on Tinder asking them to follow them on Instagram?”
In a secluded (NSFW) thread dedicated to Jake’s OnlyFans, gay men are asking themselves that same question. “There will always be some part of us, as cis gay men, that fantasises about and over sexualises straight men,” one of them writes. “OnlyFans is the perfect way for these men to use that part of our vulnerabilities. The saddest part is there will forever be a market for them to exploit.”