Of simps and "e-pimps": NYT warns OnlyFans subscribers that they're getting hoodwinked

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“Hustling simps has been an art since the beginning of time!” It’s been an art in the oldest profession and other manifestations around it for just as long, too. The New York Times offers an exposé of sorts on a popular new platform for a very old business, informing OnlyFans subscribers that the deep personal connection they crave may be with some rando guy in an office impersonating their favorite adult entertainer:

Think Expansion manages OnlyFans pages on behalf of more than 30 women, and as a full-service agency, Rosero and his employees handle every aspect of running the accounts. They market them on social media; they write all of their daily posts; they even handle direct messaging sales, impersonating the women in conversations with their subscribers in order to sell erotic videos. That afternoon, Rosero was looking to expand his roster. Wearing a snug short-sleeve hoodie, he scrolled through numerous Instagram messages he’d sent to women that day. All of them said essentially the same thing: I know you’d make a lot of money with me; I want to work with you.

Rosero describes his services as “e-pimping,” albeit without the associated abuses of the women in his stable … presumably:

“No business really benefits from growing on Instagram as directly as someone working in the sex industry,” he told me. It’s pretty intuitive: Instagram doesn’t allow full nudity, but provocative photos posted there can drive sales on other platforms that do. He began reaching out to models and creating pages on their behalf. In November 2020, he posted on Instagram recruiting people to work for him managing OnlyFans pages. “OnlyFans is a true opportunity for not just sexy girls, but also guys as well,” he wrote. “What I’m proposing here is ‘e-pimping.’”

Two years later, Rosero has the OnlyFans operation more or less routinized. When he starts managing a new client, he asks for a bank of nude photos and videos. Rosero’s ghostwriters — known in the industry as chatters — will act as the model in private messages with the customers who pay to talk to her. These chatters work in shifts, responding to incoming messages and reaching out to new subscribers, trying to coax them into buying expensive pay-per-view videos. They tell particular subscribers that a video was recorded just for them; in fact, the same clip might be sold to dozens of people. The chatters earn a small percentage on most sales, and the rest is split between the agency and the model. The subscribers presumably think they’re talking directly to the woman in the videos, and it is the job of the chatter to convincingly manifest that illusion. Their clientele — typically horny, lonely men — make it pretty easy. “Our best customers come to us not so much to buy content as they come to us to just feel a connection,” reads a post on Think Expansion’s website. This desire, the post explains, is a pimp’s bread and butter, “e-” or otherwise: “Hustling simps has been an art since the beginning of time!”

As P.T. Barnum reportedly once observed about a different sort of circus, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In this case, though, the suckers don’t just appear every minute, but then apparently get drained every minute. A fool and his money are not just soon parted, but parted a lot sooner than we’ve seen before.

Read it all the way through to get the scope of the deception, but the excerpt above is fairly representative of the process itself. The NYT exposé claims that Think Expansion is only one of a “warren of companies” providing e-pimping services on behalf of women looking to market themselves in the adult entertainment industry. While some women do this for themselves, it turns out to be a full-time job, with one woman claiming that she spends six hours a day texting customers to cultivate her brand. Small wonder, then, that farming out the marketing to a turnkey operation like Think Expansion would look attractive to providers in business terms.

It’s actually not “e-pimping,” though, as much as it is organized catfishing for profit on an industrial scale. That’s one reason that the NYT’s Ezra Marcus argument that this is something of a fraud resonates. “OnlyFans works because people pay for a connection that feels deeper than porn,” Marcus argues, and then notes how cynically the e-pimps exploit the e-johns who buy into that deception. They actively collect information on their predilections and personal lives, the better to fake that “deeper … connection.” They then manipulate that information to suck even more money out of the customers, and identify big spenders for particularly aggressive tactics.

That certainly feels like fraud in a moral sense rather than a legal context, to the extent this world operates in any moral sense. It’s difficult to distinguish that kind of deception from the greater fakery in the sex business in general. The wait staff at Hooters do not actually think your group is way cooler than the “losers” who just left. The stripper who provides you an expensive lap dance is not really interested in you romantically. The phone-sex operator doesn’t actually look anything like the description she provides. As Chris Rock hilariously reminded everyone over twenty years ago, there is NO SEX in the Champagne Room. NONE.

Even the more direct forms of sex work are a fraud of sorts. Porn might seem harmless, but it cheapens and degrades human beings on all sides of the equation, even if they willingly and happily consent to it. Prostitution may out-do the proverbial Champagne Room, but even the transactional sex that takes place is just a substitute for real intimacy and bonding, without considering the abuse that often surrounds it. At the bottom of it all is an endless exploitation of human urges to collect as much cash as possible without actually fulfilling the needs of its customers.

In the film The Wolf of Wall Street, Matthew McConaughey’s brief cameo appearance included this memorable explanation of how Wall Street exploits investors. You can substitute “sex industry” and this would still be a nearly perfect description. The New York Times delivers a must-read exposé on the OnlyFans version of this roller coaster, but come on, man. It’s all a fugazi, a wahzi and a woozi, so why should we expect OnlyFans to be any different?