The untold lives of mature OnlyFans performers

The untold lives of mature OnlyFans performers
Women aged 65 and older are relaunching their careers on OnlyFans, fulfilling needs otherwise lacking from their lives and fighting back against a society that all but forgets they exist.

In the week Hattie Wiener spends a copious amount of time alone in her Manhattan studio, propped up in bed with a heating pad - a tool many use to help relieve back pain and other aches. On Sundays, however, the 87-year-old transforms, prancing around her apartment in her laciest lingerie, while a friend snaps photos of her to post on OnlyFans.

“You would think that perhaps my oldness would be a turnoff sexually. But it isn't to young men,” she said. “It’s heartening to know that so many young men allow themselves to be admirers of older women's bodies.”

Hattie is one of a number of women who have launched OnlyFans accounts in their later life, fulfilling a plethora of needs that are otherwise lacking in their daily lives. The platform provides mature content creators with a space to demystify their sexuality, demonstrating that old age is not just “Alzheimer's and wheelchairs” and “nursing home and smells,” but that it is also “interesting and adventurous and exciting and beautiful.”

I first came across Hattie on Instagram. She was performing topless with DJ and artist Joni on the opening night of Intima, a new performance art space in Queens. Hattie was nearly naked, wearing purple lipstick and snorkeling goggles. “I went from being a committed virgin to a committed slut,” she said, when we first spoke over the phone in November. “If my bra strap showed in my day I was a slut. It was so tight-ass.”

We arranged to meet in her apartment that Saturday morning, a sunshine-yellow studio in Hell’s Kitchen. Hattie was barefoot, wearing a white sleeveless jumper and cream trousers, her fingernails painted mint and her toenails magenta. She ushered me inside, where two professionally-shot portraits of her were hung up on the wall. “I'm a boner queen,” she told me as we sat on her sofa. “They get hard-ons for me in a minute. If you were a guy, you'd have a hard-on.”

As we spoke, her phone lit up with messages. She read them unphased, sending back thumbs-up emojis in response. “The guys are so nice,” she said. “They’re so appreciative. And they thank me, because they get off on it. You know, when are you gonna see attractive old pussy?” A licensed sexologist, Hattie loves talking about sex (she used the phrase “ass-fuck” three times in our initial ten minute phone call). But at the core of it all, she was lonely. It was a loneliness that consumed her, a loneliness that no amount of anal sex or dick pics could fill.

“I’m a cripple here,” she said. “I wake up in the morning and I say what should I do? And the answer is nothing.” With arthritis and hip replacements, Hattie is constantly hurting (the pain temporarily yields when she is having sex — or when she is performing for her OnlyFans — “The endorphins kick in,” she explains.) “I have such a young spirit and young thoughts,” she said. “My body — as much as I never thought it would happen — it can't keep up.”

I asked her whether posting on OnlyFans makes her feel less lonely. “Oh yeah!” She exclaimed. “I’ll see like ten comments: ‘love this post,’ ‘love that post, ‘you’re so beautiful,’ ‘I’ve been jerking off for years.’” But the dopamine-fuelled euphoria is short-lived. It’s no substitute for someone sitting beside her, holding her hand. “When you close your computer, the emptiness hits you right in the face.”

Hattie Wiener

Aging is an inevitable biological process, but the way in which it is experienced is shaped by our social worlds. Elderly adults are more likely to live alone in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world, a stark contrast from cultures in which caring for one’s elderly relatives is the norm. In China, for example, adult children are legally required to visit their aging parents, while in Singapore, parents can sue their children if they don’t fund their retirement. It comes as no surprise that nearly a quarter of older adults in the U.S. are socially isolated. Many face financial precarity too.

Since 2010, the retirement and disability program in the U.S. has been running a cash-flow deficit. When the trust runs out, social security benefits will be slashed, cutting funds that, for many, already feel unliveable. “If we don't do OnlyFans, we're living from one social security check to the next,” said Michelle Hardenbrook, a 72-year-old OnlyFans creator, who lives in Northern California. “What are you going to do if you have [a health crisis]?” or if “our house caught on fire? Or all the plumbing broke because there was a big freeze?”

“There’s no money,” she said, “no way to fix that.”

Michelle Hardenbrook (@terrytowngal1951)

OnlyFans offers a way of making money for differently abled bodies, without needing to leave the house. Petra Daniels, a 68-year-old former actor, got into webcamming after falling over on her way to work in 1999. She developed frozen shoulder, which turned into arthritis. For a while, she sat around in her apartment, depressed and out of work. Then she saw an ad in the paper looking for a cam girl. “Boom, boom, boom,” she said, “that's how it all started.”

When the pandemic hit, she launched an OnlyFans account. She’d dress up in wigs and stockings and neon crotchless tights, setting up her camera on timer and sprawling herself over her sofa in seductive poses. Sometimes she’d act out characters, at her fans’ requests. “They love the ‘mommy,’” she said. “Today, I have to do a custom video for guy and he wants ‘auntie’.”

Petra notices a vast difference between how she is perceived on and off OnlyFans. “When I go on dating sites, it makes me feel worse about myself than I ever have in my life,” she said. “Guys, don't look at me.” But on OnlyFans, things are different. “I have all these intricate relationships,” she said, “so much desire!” Her fans will shower her in compliment after compliment — “‘you're God's gift,’ and ‘I can't believe you're not married,’ and all of that!” OnlyFans feels like a parallel world — a world in which she is seen, respected and desired.

Petra Daniels (@petradaniels)

In her essay ‘The Double Standard of Aging,’ Susan Sontag explores how a “visceral horror felt at aging female flesh” is entrenched in our visual culture, manifested in caricatures of viragos and witches. “Rules of taste enforce structures of power,” she wrote, “the revulsion against aging in women is the cutting edge of a whole set of oppressive structures (often masked as gallantries) that keep women in their place.” Reclaiming elderly sexuality is an act of defiance, a rebellion against a youth-obsessed culture, fuelled by misogynistic gender norms.

Michelle reckons that it's precisely her age that attracts her fans. The parts of herself that she grew up hating — “stretch marks, hanging boobs, fat butt” — is exactly what her fans adore. OnlyFans has taught her “that it's okay to be my age and be sexual. That it's okay to be my age and be plump. That it's okay to be my age and show my stretch marks and my fat.”

“You don't stop being a sexual human being when you reach a certain age,” Michelle said. “You are born a sexual human being and you continue to be a sexual human being until the day you die” — “Young people need to wrap their head around that.”

I visited Hattie’s apartment four times that winter. One Sunday, she told me that she’d booked a one way ticket to Anguilla. She needed the sun; and a hot pool. Before I left her apartment, she asked me if I could take a painting off her wall and rehang it upside down. Clambering onto her sofa to unhook the frame, I asked her why. She pointed at three orange circles, floating against a wash of dark green. “They either can be falling, or rising,” she said, “depending on how it's hung.”

“Before it was pessimistic. It has to be optimistic,” she smiled.

“There’s a lightness,” she said, “rising up towards the sun. And I love the sun. Up towards the sky and the clouds and the openness of eternity.”

Follow writer Arielle Domb on Twitter and Instagram.

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