Violet Valentine wears her politics on her sleeve. Or, more literally, her leg — tattooed in bold red ink on her left thigh is a hammer and sickle the size of a cereal bowl. As an adult creator on OnlyFans, this mark of her communist belief is often easily visible for the world to see, though it’s not like she’d hide her politics, anyway. For Valentine, 25, OnlyFans isn’t just a place for her to sell her labor, but an avenue to spread the gospel of communism.
She’s had her tattoo for a year and a half, her OnlyFans for two and an interest in communism for nearly 10. That interest was solidified as an economics student in college in Florida, where she read all the Marxist classics: Das Kapital, The Marx-Engels Reader, and of course, The Communist Manifesto. Valentine identifies primarily as a Marxist-Leninist, though she gets along just fine with anarcho-communists, socialists and other varieties of far-left folks. On Twitter, where she has nearly 30,000 followers, Valentine has built a community of fellow leftists and sex workers. This is where she first learned of OnlyFans, and where she’s managed to find a significant portion of her subscribers. On OnlyFans, she charges $10 a month for daily posts, weekly solo videos and one-on-one interaction in her messages, which is where she focuses much of her time.
With purple hair, numerous other tattoos and a petite yet busty frame, she’s built like an idealized version of the big titty goth girlfriend and holds a spot among the site’s top one percent of creators. But from her perspective, under the economic conditions of communism, OnlyFans wouldn’t exist at all. “The issue with sex work under capitalism is that it’s a co-development of capitalism and the patriarchy, both of which work against communism,” she tells me. “It’s legitimate work — I don’t think anyone could really make the argument that it’s not — but because it relies on the commodification of sex, and because people rely on that as a means of getting their basic needs met, it’s inherently exploitative.”
In an ideal society, she continues, sex work — just like any other work that commodifies labor for surplus value — would be eliminated. Under communism, there would hypothetically be nothing to exchange for sex, as wages wouldn’t exist and all our basic needs would be met. “If we removed the underlying material conditions that would encourage someone to go into sex work under capitaliism, then that would, in effect, eliminate the need for it. But it’s hard to say exactly how we’d get there,” she tells me.
Valentine certainly isn’t the first person to graple with the role of sex work under communism, nor is she the only communist to engage in sex work while doing so. She points to OnlyFans creators Marina Dove and Bibo as two other communists in the field, combining economic theory with thirst traps in their Twitter posts. There’s also stripper and socialist Marla Cruz, aka ProlePreach, who often writes about the labor conditions of the strip club industry and sex work writ large.
But regardless of whether or not sex work would exist under communism, the reality is that it does exist in the present. Thus, the responsibility of the leftist, according to Valentine, is to support the workers and acknowledge their labor as such.
Being trans complicates her relationship with sex work, too. “I feel like there’s a whole additional level of obligation or coercion,” she continues. “There’s so much about our identity as trans people that’s either fetishized or sexualized, and there’s a lot of coercion for trans people to enter into sex work.” She cites the economic experience of being trans (i.e., the costs associated with transitioning and the difficulty some trans people face in finding other work) as one of the material conditions that often push people into the industry. To wit, data from the 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey states that 11 percent of trans women have participated in sex work in some form. For Black trans women, that figure jumps to 40 percent. By contrast, six percent of the total American population has accepted money for sex.
In terms of the exploitation she feels doing sex work through OnlyFans, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, she can tell a customer to fuck off far more readily than she could in her five years working at Starbucks, but on the other, OnlyFans feels like an even bigger leech on her labor than the other major corporations she’s worked for. Not only does OnlyFans require that their creators deal with the pitfalls of being contractors, profiting off them while making them bear the responsibility of taxes, business expenses and often even managing copyright infringement, the site has further proven how little they truly care for their creators in threatening to ban adult content.
Still, the nature of her relationships with her fans makes up for that somewhat, and overall, she enjoys being an OnlyFans creator compared to previous jobs. After all, feeling exploited under capitalism isn’t always the same thing as hating your job, and there are certainly some jobs that are more tolerable than others. “I’d get sexually harassed at Starbucks probably like twice a shift, but now I get it like once a week or twice a week on OnlyFans,” she says. “It’s so different because I’m also having a lot more personal conversations [on Onlyfans]. I really appreciate that aspect of it. Most people there are nice and willing to engage with me as a person rather than thinking of me as an obstacle to them getting what they want.”
All those conversations also present an ample opportunity to talk about communism, too. “My roommate always jokes that if there’s anyone who’s going to radicalize someone, it’s me. And I just can’t go through most conversations without it coming up in some capacity,” she tells me.
In particular, her tattoo and her posts on Twitter often spark a conversation about communism with her customers, allowing her the chance to explain the details of the political philosophy further. Sometimes, people come to her confused or even somewhat angered by her politics. Typically, she’s able to change their minds. That, or they get off arguing with her.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of weird conversations where men really just want me to yell at them and be a huge bitch about it,” she says. “They want me to tell them why they’re wrong. I don’t know what they get out of that. Personally, it gets me all worked up, and I don’t really know what to do with that anger. I’ve definitely done some work where people have wanted me to take a findom angle with it, which I think is funny — like me trying to get wealth back to redistribute.” Valentine often donates a portion of her own earnings to crowdfunding campaigns to help other trans women cover their basic needs or receive surgery, particularly trans women of color.
In a perfect world, perhaps for communists like Valentine, sex work wouldn’t need to exist at all. But for now, doing sex work through OnlyFans is just another way to get by under the forces of capitalism. And in a way, with each subscriber she converts, she’s one step closer to bringing communism to the masses.