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How NSFW Content Makers Found a Home on Patreon

Naked bakers, kinky cosplayers, and the outspoken alike have turned to the platform.

Luke Winkie

Luke Winkie

Screengrab from the "Naked Bakers." Photoshop by Lia Kantrowitz

It takes 10 bucks a month on Patreon to watch the "Baker" whip eggs, sift flour, and add her wet ingredients to her dry ingredients in the nude. She begins each show standing on the other side of a stocked kitchen table, face just out of frame, silently undressing in front of the ceramic bowls filled with the day's ingredients. In one part begins her lesson, showing off, say, her chocolate chip cookie recipe (among other things) and taking a moment to remind her audience to always cream their butter when mixing the dough. "It's about aerating the ingredients," she says. "You're creating these little pockets of butter and air. It's fluffy goodness."

The Baker calls her show "Naked Bakers," simply because "Naked Baker" was already taken. It is exhibitionist, occasionally erotic, but not outwardly pornographic. This is not a bawdy parody of a baking show, or even a striptease hidden behind a Food Network veneer. Her episodes are delightfully homemade—candidly broadcasted from her Los Angeles apartment—and they've been successful enough to support a slew of other verticals. The $10 entry fee also gives you access to her private Snapchat, where you can watch the Baker indulge in Naked Gardening, Naked Cleaning, Naked Mixology, and Naked Yoga.

A few months ago, she was a production assistant on a television show somewhere in the Hollywood machine, but when development went on hiatus, she joined Patreon and realized the 350-ish people willing to fork out the cash to watch her bake in the buff was more than enough to subsidize her rent and phone bill. "The line producer that I was working with said, 'Hey I got a new gig, do you wanna come back?' and I said, 'Honestly I wanna try and do this,'" she says.

Naked Bakers has existed in some form or fashion since 2015, when the Baker and a few friends came up with the idea during a night of drinking. Her friends sobered up the next day and quickly backed out of the idea, but the Baker was still entranced and started broadcasting the prototype of her exhibitionist cooking show to her public Snapchat Story. She immediately picked up a following and enjoyed a scant few moments in the limelight before her account was banned. Naked baking, as it turns out, goes against Snapchat's community guidelines.

Dead-set on monetizing her product, the Baker registered new Snapchat profiles as quickly as moderators could shut them down—first through Venmo, who terminated her account after it discovered she was running an occupational trade through the app's civilian infrastructure. Paypal, the oldest and most ubiquitous commerce valet on the internet, shut her down next.

Patreon was a lifesaver. As Motherboard reported last year, there's a long history of commercial services leaving adult content creators out to dry. Visa and Mastercard tack on heavy processing fees on any product related to the sex industry, which is the primary reason why corporations like PayPal and Stripe refuse XXX merchants on their marketplaces. This is a precedent that's trickled into mainstream social media conglomerates like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, which all hold an uncompromising outlaw policy on adult content. But Patreon is different. The site supports mainstream commerce medians like Stripe and PayPal, and it's also one of the very few monetization platforms that welcomes NSFW content. For the Baker, that meant she could generate revenue from her quirky little nude cooking show without having to turn to something surreptitious like Bitcoin.

Though more accepting of this kind of content than other options, there are limits to what you're able to get away with on the platform. As you might expect, Patreon will not host anything that fetishizes children or depicts sexual violence, and NSFW campaigns don't appear in the search results alongside other, more family-friendly projects. Patreon also takes a hardline stance against anything it considers, flatly, porn. "We define adult content on Patreon as something that would have an R-rating. In that sense, nudity and suggestive imagery is allowed as long as it is marked as Adult Content," says a Patreon spokesperson in a statement to VICE, parroting the company's policy from its Community Guidelines. "We broadly define pornography as content that glorifies or celebrates the act for sexual arousal."

Still, Patreon's flexibility is radical when you consider the conservativeness of the other options.

"Patreon says, 'Hey, you do you. We're not going to penalize you for something that doesn't work with our advertisers,'" says the Baker. "There aren't going to be a lot of networks that say, 'Yeah, naked baking, that sounds like a great idea!'"

What's more interesting about Patreon's union with NSFWers is how it puts creative and administrative authority back into the hands of the creators themselves. Kayla Erin is a 20-year old from Australia who opened up her softcore cosplay modeling hobby to Patreon in January. For a nominal fee, you can unlock access to her cheeky adaptations of, say, Pokémon's Misty or Street Fighter's Cammy. She tells me everything she uploads to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram is immediately flagged as inappropriate, even when she tries to stay within their narrow terms of service. "I wish these platforms were more open to tasteful, artistic nudity, but seeing as it is already hard to monitor what is appropriate or not, it probably won't happen," she says.

Erin isn't signed to a modeling agency. She's built her career herself, and as such, sets her own limits and rules. For an industry that has a exploitative reputation, especially toward young women, her liberty is a big deal.

"With Patreon, everything you do is your choice," says Erin. "It is up to you—what you would like to do, how you would like to do it. It is a great platform that benefits both the creators and patrons."

Mariah "Momokun" Mallad, another boudoir cosplay model on Patreon, tells me that answering to her subscribers instead of a boss allows her to conduct streamlined market research with her audience, while also fostering some new friendships. "I have this community," she says. "We talk about everything."

Using Patreon to push the limits of artistic freedom isn't even necessarily unique to the NSFW sector. As the Baker notes, one of the biggest names on Patreon is Philip DeFranco—a veteran YouTuber who uploads a daily news broadcast to his channel. DeFranco was one of the most subscribed to channels on the site, but YouTube's volatile advertising algorithm routinely de-monetizes content that doesn't jive with the site's corporate partners, so he felt more comfortable investing directly in his consumers. "Ad revenue for people who talk about real and controversial topics is plummeting," he says in his Patreon pitch video. "[It's] a very real problem that looks to get worse in the future."

Because of its conservative standards, that problem was something the Baker never had an opportunity to even experience. Instead, she bakes her cookies, cakes, biscuits, and strudels in the nude on Patreon for a paying audience large enough to give her stable employ from the comfort of her own kitchen. It is a place that proves, in the 21st-century anything—literally anything—can be your job.

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