‘NAN THE WISER” is how the headline begins. “I was banned from modelling by my gran… now I’m defying her on OnlyFans”. The story about a 22-year-old “OnlyFans star” highlights her “enormous fanbase”, describing how she has progressed from having friends take snaps to working with a “great team, including some experienced photographers”.

The pictures featured might suggest these experienced photographers are rather lacking in imagination, as most of them show the woman squatting or sitting while looking over her shoulder at the camera with her mouth slightly agape. In one she’s holding hands with a giant teddy bear.

The same teddy bear and many others also feature prominently in some of the nude images and videos the same woman has shared via the OnlyFans platform, which have subsequently been downloaded and made widely available for free.

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The “hook”, as we say in the trade, for the tabloid’s puff piece is the fact that the woman’s grandmother put the brakes on her modelling career soon after it began. She was just 13 at the time.

Her granddaughter is now an adult and doing nothing illegal, so there’s not much she can do about it any more, is there? Except perhaps ring up The Sun to express concern about how the young woman is spending her cash.

Oh, did I mention that the above story was published by The Sun? It appeared on Sunday, three days after the tabloid defended its position that its drip-feed of stories about the BBC presenter Huw Edwards (below) were in the public interest. “A desperate couple approached us ... the parents were at their wits’ end,” it said. “What do our critics, especially Mr Edwards’ pious media friends, think we should have done? Told the family to shove off?”

The National: Huw Edwards was named by his wife Vicky Flind who, in a statement shared on behalf of her husband

Well, that was one option. Another might have been to send them a link to the December 2022 story from The Sun headed “FAMILY BUSINESS: I bought my mum a house with cash from my sexy side-hustle – now she HELPS me take racy snaps”. After all, surely there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with taking and selling “racy snaps”, right? And it’s clear that some other people’s parents are fine with it.

If the concern was that an adult “child” was misusing the earnings from their career as a content creator – apparently spending them on drugs instead of residential property – why would that be deemed the fault of any of their customers?

Whatever your personal feelings about the Edwards story, The Sun’s hypocrisy is glaring, and its role in normalising online sex work is undeniable. “I went from working in a Subway to owning a house at 19 from OnlyFans – men ogle me anyway so I may as well make cash,” was a headline in April.

“I ditched my job as a social worker and now make 1k a week from my side hustle – it’s changed my life,” was another published on the same day. The Sun’s website has a menu page dedicated “to the latest news, updates, and exclusive profiles of the hottest OnlyFans creators”.

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In my day, when teachers were bemoaning the lack of focus among their pupils, the complaint would be that too many believed they could become a pop star or a footballer, and therefore knuckling down at school was a waste of time. Then along came Instagram and reality shows like Love Island, fuelling a belief that “influencer” was a realistic career goal.

Since 2020, when the pandemic gave an enormous boost to OnlyFans, the term “content creator” has come to cover the sharing of everything from recipes and DIY tips to customised nudes and fetish videos. A BBC investigation into under-18s using OnlyFans referenced a 16-year-old girl who “boasted to her careers adviser about the amount of money she made on the site”.

It should go without saying that in a world awash with free pornography, making life-changing sums of money on OnlyFans is not easy or without psychological cost. While dishonest articles in The Sun trumpet about “empowerment”, the business model of the site centres on manipulation and coercion.

Olivia Attwood (below), who found fame on Love Island and has more than two million followers on Instagram, tried her hand at running an OnlyFans account as part of her ITV series, Getting Filthy Rich, which looks at a range of ways in which people (mostly women) sell sexual content online. She was already regularly posting bikini and lingerie pictures online, albeit for a predominantly female audience, so what difference would there really be if she solicited for subscribers and put those shots behind a paywall?

The National: Olivia Attwood starring in her new colelction with ISAWITFIRST

A huge difference. She quickly became overwhelmed by messages from men requesting nude photos and other intimate insights into her life, including from one persistent time-waster who clearly had no intention of paying up. She was game enough to post a buttock-focused video of herself weightlifting, despite terming it “quite repulsive”, but ultimately declared that “doing explicit doesn’t fit with who I am now”.

She also noted that while those she had interviewed were earning tens of thousands a month, in a few weeks she made little more than $400 – a small sum for someone with her public profile, but perhaps not to some impressionable viewers.

Attwood took a non-judgemental approach despite visible discomfort at some of the things she saw and heard while making the show. There was no room for feminist analysis, of course, because that would be terribly old-fashioned, and no interviews with people whose lives had been seriously damaged by selling sexual content and now regretted being lured into doing it.

Will we be reading more about those kinds of experiences in The Sun any time soon, to balance out the onslaught of pro-OnlyFans propaganda? Don’t bet on it.