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Illustration by Maya Chastain

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Now that “Pay for your porn” is as popular a rallying cry as “Dump Trump!” or “Love is love,” you might be wondering: Is free erotic content ever OK to use?

Heads-up: This is the fourth piece in Adult Entertainment & You, a limited series about porn and erotica.

We’re going back to the basics to provide you with the tools you need to create a healthy relationship with adult content — if that’s something you’re into.

Intrigued? Read more about why we’re doing this and catch up on pieces you missed here.

No, it’s never OK. It really, truly does matter if you use free erotic content!

Using X-rated content has real-life consequences for the performers, explains body positive pleasure expert Carly S., founder of Dildo or Dildon’t.

It also has implications for anyone involved in creating that piece of content, including the directors, producers, and videographers employed by larger production companies — and therefore, for the adult industry as a whole.

Adult content creation is work.

“Not paying for your porn would be like hiring a painter to paint your house, them coming to your house and painting it, and then you refusing to pay for their work and skills,” says fat activist and sex worker Megan, founder and performer behind That Fat Babe.

That’s right: Not paying someone for the erotic content you use is as absurd as not paying someone for painting your entire house. Or packing up your apartment. Or tiling your bathroom.

“When you don’t pay for your porn and watch it for free, you directly harm the people creating that porn,” she says. “You’re taking money directly out of their pocket.”

“When you don’t pay for your porn, you lower the value of porn,” Megan explains. “And that means that the work of performers, producers, directors, and filmographers alike becomes worth less.”

And if people in the adult industry aren’t getting paid fair wages for their work? They’re going to stop creating it, says Carly S.

“You can’t expect people to wake up every day and go to work creating porn if you’re not going to pay for it,” adds Carly S.

To return to the painter analogy, that would be like expecting someone to bounce from house to house, painting them… for free.

“The only way the performers in the content you enjoy are going to continue to make content is if they’re getting compensated for their work,” says Carly S.

Compensating them for their work = paying for them.

“When you pay for porn, you’re supporting their ability to continue making the content you enjoy,” says Carly S.

Good news: Chances are that person also creates content you can pay for. *Throws coin*

“In order to make money on platforms like OnlyFans, you have to have fans,” explains Carly S.

So, many adult performers post snippets of their content for free on platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and even Instagram in hopes of gaining eyes and therefore (paying!) fans.

Honestly, performers make it as easy as possible to find the place you need to go to pay for their work.

If you already have a performer whose work you like to watch (for free), head to their Twitter or Instagram. Their content hub is often listed in their bio or Linktree.

If not, go ahead and Google their handle or name.

Still can’t find it? You can send them a DM asking where you can pay for their work. (Just know that you may not get a response. Some performers don’t check or respond to messages from fans.)

Subscribe to a platform that’ll showcase many performers!

For queer erotica, check out PinkLabel.TV, CrashPadSeries, and Four Chambers. For women-focused erotica, look into Bellesa. And for kinky erotica, head to the oh-so-cleverly named Kink.com.

Don’t read it wrong: Subscribing is great! But once you get there you can — and should — continue supporting.

Tip them!

“Think about getting access to someone’s OnlyFans or ManyVids like gaining access to a strip club,” explains Carly S.

“When you go to a strip club, you pay an initial fee at the door, and then when you want to show your appreciation, you tip them extra.”

Not sure how much to tip? Tip what you can.

“Any tip shows me that you are invested in my work and give a sh*t about me paying my bills,” she says.

Keep in mind: Tipping someone marks the end of a service. It does *not* mark the start of an interaction.

“You cannot tip and expect anything in return from the performer,” she says.

After all, you’re tipping them because you already saw content that you like.

Pay for custom content

A lot of performers offer custom content, says Carly S., so if there’s something that you’re interested in, you may consider asking a performer to make it for you.

She adds that sending a content creator a photo of yourself and asking for compliments, asking for a specific photo, or requesting someone’s emotional validation also falls into this category.

Send a thank-you message

Most platforms allow you to send messages to your content performers.

“Compliments alone don’t pay the bills,” Megan says. “But personally, receiving polite thank-you messages is something I take pride and joy in.”

“I want to be good at my job, and polite thank-you messages affirms that I am good at my job,” she says.

Yes, you should be subscribing to your favorite performers’ content hubs. But there are ways other ways to support them, too.

1. PayPal or Venmo them directly

Most erotic platforms take a portion of a creator’s monthly rates.

“Let’s assume you pay $8 for a monthly subscription. A performer is only getting a portion of that money,” says Carly S. “On top of that, I’m paying taxes on that money.”

That’s why it can be nice to also send your favorite performers money on Venmo or PayPal.

Important: Do NOT put anything sexual in the comment.

“If you put anything sexy or complimentary in the comment, it can get their account deleted,” explains Carly S.

2. Buy stuff off their Amazon wish lists

…especially during the holidays, says sex educator and performer Rev. Rucifer, founder of Reiki Bondage.

“Many performers set up an Amazon wish list so that fans can buy them something without seeing [their] address or personal info,” she says.

To find that link, check the performer’s website and Linktree.

3. Follow and engage with their social media

“At the end of the day, following me on Instagram doesn’t explicitly pay my rent,” Rucifer says.

“But it does help signal that I’m a professional who’s worth following and learning from.”

4. Signal boosting

“Sharing, retweeting, reposting, and boosting performers’ content on your stories and feed helps them get even more followers,” says Maile Manliguis, sex worker and director of operations of inclusive dating app #Open.

“Every follower won’t turn into a subscriber, but one may.” True!

5. Attend their workshops

Have a question about pegging? Want to learn how to squirt? Want to learn how to choke your partner safely?

Rucifer recommends taking a workshop taught by a sex worker and performer.

“Sex workers are some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry,” she says. “To that workshop they’ll bring knowledge based on years of in-person and online experience.”

It’s a win-win: You’ll gain knowledge, and the sex worker you love will gain green.

6. Buy their Etsy goods

A lot of performers also have Etsy shops where they sell goods associated with their area of expertise, says Manliguis.

“There are a few kink performers I love who sell saddles with customized engravings or leather harnesses,” she adds.

Some sell cutesy bumper stickers, customizable strokers or dildos, or even apparel.

Paying for your erotica is part of being an erotica consumer, just as paying for a painter is part of being the owner of a well-painted home.

But beyond just being the “right” or “ethical” thing to do, it’s also the only way to increase the likelihood that the kind of content you enjoy will continue to be available.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.