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Jason Whitesel

Mentor Department



INTRODUCTION: Online sex work is becoming an increasingly popular avenue for young women to raise capital. I propose to study the motivations of women-identified undergraduate students who engage in self-produced sex work online, in which they are both privileged and subjugated due to intersecting identities. In particular, this study will examine how college women turned to the online platform, OnlyFans, which evolved from a relatively niche website into a mainstream adult entertainment platform that has allowed many college women to earn an income, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, by posting explicit pictures and videos on the OnlyFans platform to fund their university costs. LITERATURE REVIEW: A review of the existing literature on sex work led me to discover that women college students are an understudied demographic of participants in sex work despite their unique positionality. OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study is to identify interpretative narratives employed by undergraduate women concerning their motivations for producing online sex work. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: The study moves away from the dichotomy of the conflicting paradigms of “empowerment” and “oppression” within sociological and feminist literature on how sex work is conceptualized. METHOD: I propose to conduct this study through Internet and online social research methods, collecting fieldnote data and semistructured interviews of industry participants. PRELIMINARY FINDINGS: Women college students financially profit from sex work; to achieve this end, some women act on agency; other women become victims of an inherently patriarchal system; still others are positioned somewhere in between on the continuum. CONCLUSION AND CONTRIBUTIONS: The results of this study on female college students participating in sex work will add to contemporary feminist literature which seeks to place sex workers on this continuum between agency and exploitation.

Let's Talk About Sex (Work), Baby: Women College Students And Online Sex Work