Part-time sex worker, full-time student: Juggling OnlyFans while pursuing a degree

By Amina Sergazina, Staff Reporter

Chloe McMullen

Editor’s Note: Some students and recent graduate interviewed here by the Chronicle agreed to tell their stories on the condition of anonymity. The Chronicle has verified their identities but did not use their real names in this article.

Cruel Valentine’s schedule is packed. When they are not striving for a master’s degree in arts management or working two on-campus jobs, Valentine manages an umbrella company that offers products and services that include sex work. They also work webcam and phone sex lines to help pay their mortgage and student loans.

Though not a traditional part-time job, the Chronicle spoke to people who, like Valentine, spend their days working toward their degrees while pursuing sex work as a career or a way to pay the bills. They share the perils and perks of performing at strip clubs, being paid for companionship or sex and selling nude photos and videos on OnlyFans, a subscription-based site.

In 2008, Valentine became a burlesque performer and sold vintage pinup-inspired nude photos. Currently, they dabble in bondage and discipline, submission and dominance, and sadomasochism. But, they prefer financial domination, a form of BDSM where a person has a fetish for being submissive and giving money.

“A lot of times, I’ll have clients who are very interested in being humiliated,” Valentine said. “A big one in financial domination is to be made to feel like a pig.”

Valentine is open about sex work with their husband, friends, family and colleagues.

“I try to be as visible as possible in order to hold space for those who aren’t able to come out because of their living situation or other issues in their lives,” Valentine said. “I hope that by being visible I can help to destigmatize sex work.”

Sex work comes in many forms, such as the role of a sugar baby in a relationship with a sugar daddy or mommy, and often involves an older person giving a younger person money to be their partner. In some instances, it may involve sex or simply keeping them company.

Mary Jones, a freshman music major, is currently seeing her second sugar daddy. Jones said her first one did not keep up with the payments he promised and attempted to scam her.

She found her sugar daddies through a website called Sugar Daddy Meet, one of the numerous popular sites for sugar babies to find those willing to pay for their time. Seeking Arrangement, a similar site that matches sugar babies with sugar mommies and daddies, is currently used by around 3 million U.S. students, according to its website.

Jones had two restaurant jobs before the pandemic that helped her pay bills and loans, but once COVID-19 hit, she was completely out of work.

While she was able to find a grocery store job, it did not pay enough money, which led to Jones looking into sugar daddies.

“You got to [pull] off some persona,” Jones said. “I pulled off ‘I’m a lonely college student girl looking for fun; I just want someone to keep me company.’ [But], even though they’re paying you, don’t let them overpower you at any point.”

Jones’ sugar daddy pays her $150 per date and $300 for sex, she said. But being a sugar baby is not Jones’ only income—she also works at a grocery store and as a hostess at a restaurant.

“I’m tired of people saying, ‘Work for your money, it’s super easy,'” she said. “You’re keeping up a second lifestyle; you’re keeping on this persona … and you’re putting your body out there. … It’s physically exhausting to balance your life along with this lifestyle that he wants you to have.”

Despite the money, some workers do not feel safe with their clients. John Doe graduated from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago in May 2020, but he started having sex for money when he was 17 after being sexually assaulted by his best friend.

“From there, it was this weird decision where I wanted to own my sexuality because I didn’t actually know I was queer until that happened,” Doe said. “I wanted to do something where I was in charge, and [that] felt consensual. So I would start charging these older men to sleep with me. I wish it didn’t go down that way, now that I’m thinking about it, but you can’t change the past.”

Once Doe became a student at SAIC and a resident assistant for his dorm, he found himself in need of money. Doe began working at a gay strip club, but due to the pandemic, the club was shut down.

During the time he worked there, Doe said he was placed in a number of dangerous situations, including being followed home on the train and contracting COVID-19 from another man.

“I wasn’t talking to any customers because I didn’t want to risk it. I would just get on stage and straight to the locker room,” Doe said. “But this guy grabbed my arm, and he tried to kiss me, and when I moved away he licked my eyes. Then I got COVID[-19] the week after.”

Doe now works at a gym and posts content on his OnlyFans account. He said he is not seeing clients because of the pandemic but misses performing at the strip club.

“Sex workers need protection, especially Black trans sex workers,” Doe said. “They are the least protected out of all the sex workers. People should just be aware of that.”

Update: This article has been updated on March 18, 2021, to include Cruel Valentine’s name, rather than a pseudonym.