Venezuelan youth look to adult content to survive crisis

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Caracas (AFP)

Like many other young Venezuelans, Valery Lopez has found a way to survive the crippling economic crisis in the South American country: through sexual content online.

Lopez, 20, loves her body and by exposing it online, she has found a way to avoid joining the exodus of five million migrants who the UN says have left the country since 2015.

“I desperately wanted to go… because I wasn’t living well… Now I want to stay in Venezuela thanks to OnlyFans,” Lopez told AFP.

OnlyFans started out as an online platform for celebrities and “influencers”, but has grown into an adult content hub.

Launched in Britain in 2016, OnlyFans is a subscription service that pays 80% commission to its content creators.

For Lopez, it was an interesting potential source of income.

“I can pay for my teeth (and) buy clothes,” she said, referring to dental care.

“Who else is making $ 500 or $ 1,000 a month right now? Nobody. ”

Venezuela has the highest levels of inflation in the world, has been in recession for seven years, and there are regular shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

Lopez’s channel has more than 50 subscribers – mostly foreigners. Everyone pays $ 10 a month: six times the minimum wage in Venezuela, where the currency is constantly depreciating.

This is a point made by psychologist Abel Saraiba, who is also the coordinator of a non-governmental group focused on the rights of children and adolescents.

“In other countries where there is no humanitarian emergency, there has been an increase in consumption” on platforms such as OnlyFans, Sarabia said.

“But in our context, we can give them an extra dimension… How far would someone adopt such a risky (line of work) if they had other work options? ”

– Taken for a child –

For Lopez, it all started with a “totally” nude Instagram pic that sparked so much interest that she realized there was a business opportunity there.

Her three-year-old boyfriend Roberto Gonzalez, an architect, helped her set up her OnlyFans account.

“The truth is, I love her (posing for adult content)… and I love the money more, it’s a good combination,” Lopez said.

Often, however, her fans think she is underage.

“They think I’m a girl, they think I’m lying,” chuckled green-eyed Lopez, who is only 1.5 meters (about five feet) and sometimes paints freckles on her face.

While this is not the case for Lopez, a BBC documentary aired last year claimed minors were illegally selling content on the website, which he said had seen its users increase tenfold during the pandemic.

It has 90 million subscribers and more than a million content creators, OnlyFans told AFP.

In April, the site’s founder, Thomas Stokely, told BuzzFeed that half of its content creators produce adult material.

“It seems like a safer way to generate income than other riskier ways like prostitution,” Saraiba said.

“But yes, they don’t realize that once they’ve posted content… they can lose control, that others can grab it. ”

The BBC, in fact, has pointed out the risks to a person’s “digital footprint” if they use such websites.

Already, OnlyFans videos have been found on platforms such as YouTube.

– Ready to go –

Brandon Mena, 20, had to suspend his studies because he could no longer pay his private university fees.

His nightclub waiter income dried up during the pandemic.

“I worked in restaurants, clubs… but the pandemic hit us hard in the wallet and I had to look for other alternatives,” said Mena softly.

Dressed in jeans and a gray sweater, he looked very different from the content he provides on the OnlyFans website.

Unlike Lopez, however, his OnlyFans account hasn’t taken off.

“Venezuela is going to stay the same, I can’t see myself staying,” Mena said.

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