Document Type



The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate online sex workers’ perceptions of stigma. Due to the increase in OnlyFans creators associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, these creators’ perceptions of stigma were of particular interest. Fifteen participants were interviewed, and themes were developed using thematic analysis. Three themes were identified, corresponding with findings regarding societal, interpersonal, and internalized stigma: ‘Persistent Judgement,’ ‘Strengthened and Severed Ties,’ and ‘Levels of Shame.’ Much of these findings echoed past research, but participants experienced unique manifestations of stigma as well—notably, participants reported navigating strict censorship on social media and often faced the misconception that online sex work in particular was ‘easy money.’ However, every participant had a support system of some kind with whom they could confide in regarding their sex work. Additionally, these participants were not ashamed of their work; they did not look down on other sex workers, and many felt pride in their occupation. Acceptance among friends, some family, and participants themselves could point towards changing attitudes, but U.S. policy is still overwhelmingly against sex work; policy changes will need to accompany these social changes for sex work to be truly destigmatized.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Teresa King, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Joseph Schwab, Committee Member
Dr. Sandra Neargarder, Committee Member