Identity

I’m One of the First Indian Gay Porn Stars on OnlyFans. I Don’t Trust the Platform Anymore.

India’s unemployment crisis made some content creators turn towards this subscription service to survive. But its yo-yoing with a porn ban is making them rethink their loyalty to the platform.
August 26, 2021, 11:11am
gay porn star onlyfans india
Charak, with his identity concealed for his protection. Image: Jordan Austin

Every month, over hundreds of men pay Charak to take his clothes off and flex his muscles in the nude. 

Sometimes, he takes it up a notch and collaborates with other gay models for porn videos featuring bathtub romps and threesomes. He often knows his subscribers by name, at times sharing their posts on his Instagram Stories coupled with optimistic captions such as “good luck bro” and “long way ahead.”

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Charak is an OnlyFans creator from the south of India, who earns a living and supports his family from the income he gets from the content subscription platform that’s become popular for selling nudes online. Charak is a pseudonym; we’ve concealed his identity for his protection since making and disseminating sexually explicit content can invite harsh penalties in India.

Nowadays, though, Charak feels betrayed by the platform. 

On August 19, OnlyFans announced it would ban sexually explicit content on their subscriber-based platform. 

The acceptable use policy (AUP) threatened to prohibit content creators from showing “actual or simulated sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, between persons of any sex; actual or simulated masturbation; any exhibition of the anus or genitals of any person which is extreme or offensive; [or] actual or simulated material depicting bodily fluids commonly secreted during sexual conduct,” reportedly because of pressure from credit card companies, payment processors, and potential investors. 

After many sex workers had already begun deleting and migrating content to other sites, OnlyFans did a stunning U-turn and announced on social media Wednesday morning that it would no longer be banning porn. In an email to users, the company said this decision was based on “assurances” from banking partners. No other details were provided, nor were these assurances made public. Though some sex workers have welcomed the backtracking, the yo-yoing caused needless harm to an already marginalised community. 

Like other sex workers on the platform, Charak too feels insecure about the precarity of having to rely on a platform that can ban them one day and walk it back the next. 

“Around five years back, I started as a gym trainer, in part to pay for my mother’s medical expenses,” he told VICE. “But income was dwindling by the day, medical bills kept soaring, and the prospects of gainful employment were also dimming by the day.”

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Then one day, Charak’s clients at the gym prodded him to branch into fitness modelling. It entailed him bronzing his body, flexing his muscles with special emphasis on his abs, and posing for the camera. 

“It surprisingly paid well,” he said. “There wasn’t much work to do. Our pictures were then used as creatives for muscle enhancement supplements, immunity boosters, and protein shakes.” 

The fitness modelling gig then opened new doors for him. 

It took him a little over a week to know that these photographers also worked for A-listers in Bollywood. Some even photographed celebrities for covers of influential lifestyle and fashion magazines with an international reach. 

It bothered Charak: Why would these photographers shoot fitness models when they were getting paid handsomely by fashion magazines and celebrities? His quandary was soon put to rest. 

“On my third day, after the usual photoshoot, one of the photographers asked if I would pose [in the] nude for him. There was a promise of extra cash, too. And that’s when he told me that nudes of muscular men like me had a huge demand on OnlyFans,” he said. 

It took Charak hardly any time to learn the ropes of the new platform. He convinced other fitness models like him who were short on cash to join it, too. 

“We were the first ones in the gay scene to join OnlyFans in India,” he said. “We were so surprised to see that just within a few days, we had over a hundred subscribers.”

The monthly fee to subscribe to Charak’s channel is $10. According to OnlyFans’ payment model, 80 percent of it goes to the creator and the rest, to the platform. 

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“I will never increase the fee because I know most of my subscriber base comes from India,” he said. “Even those in America or Dubai are originally from India, and Indians will never pay progressively more for porn.” 

The first wave of the pandemic, not surprisingly, helped Charak’s income swell by almost five times. When the second COVID wave hit India more aggressively than the first, his earnings went up by almost ten times compared to his pre-pandemic average. 

“Modelling was still going on, but we’d all found a way to combine both. After the clean fitness shoot was over, we would remove our clothes and get into action,” he added. 

For sex workers in India, there is always a looming threat of arrest as the production, advertisement in any form, and distribution of pornography or adult material is a criminal offence. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, its vague language notwithstanding, says as much. For instance, content that can be “justified as being for the public good” can be exempted from the ambit of Section 292, but what is “public good” is highly subjective. 

So, Charak and his friends have devised their own ways to dodge the radar of law enforcement agencies. 

“We haven’t received a police summons or an arrest warrant – so far at least,” he said. “One of the ways we try to avoid any possibility of getting arrested is by not getting involved in monetary transactions with each other. There is no producer or production house involved. We don’t pay each other to feature in videos. We simply make videos in-house, upload them on our respective accounts and tag each other there.” 

Despite the sketchy legality of it all, Charak believes that “if the government wants to get you, it will.” With the slew of controversial arrests of Indian activists and academics over the past few years under dubious interpretations of Indian security laws, his fears perhaps aren’t all that unfounded. 

Despite the U-turn on the porn ban by OnlyFans, the future still looks uncertain for Charak.

“The first email we received from OnlyFans was already quite vague. We knew this ban was not going to work,” he said. “But I personally see this as a wakeup call for adult content creators worldwide about the uncertainty of it all. We are still considering alternatives like JustFor.Fans.”

When Tumblr banned porn two years back, its adult content creators had also weighed their options in finding a concrete alternative. In the case of OnlyFans, Charak believes he and his colleagues still have to find ways to salvage their careers if OnlyFans were to backtrack once again.

“Our fans don’t just discover us randomly,” he explained. “We share our work links on Instagram and Twitter. So, if we start promoting other platforms, I’m sure they’ll migrate there. The hope is that we are more important than the platform. The content must go out. I can’t disappoint my brothers who pay to watch me.”

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