We’ve reached Peak Horny. Locked inside with nothing to do but let our minds wander, already bored with making bread and bingeing obscene amounts of Netflix, our fingers happily scroll through Instagram. And that’s when you catch sight of him, the Horny Internet’s very own David: Ansel Elgort in the nude.
Maybe you pause for a second, thanking his parents for the gift of their DNA. Perhaps you’re a chronic oversharer and immediately drop the link in a group chat. Or it’s possible you’re not phased one bit, plump from all the porn you’ve already enjoyed. Whatever the case, in exchange for this gloriously grade-A thirst trap, Elgort asks of you one thing: “OnlyFans LINK IN BIO,” the caption reads, referring to the bare-all fansite where adult entertainers, reality stars, and influencers monetize sexually explicit content. Except, when you go to click it, the link isn’t for Elgort’s private OnlyFans account—it’s for a GoFundMe page raising money for Covid-19 relief efforts in New York City.
This is what the business of philanthropy looks like online now: It rewards charitable giving with sexual content. With selfie culture came the rise of thirst traps, and in thirst traps we have the perfect form of internet currency. Take your pick of bodies and body parts—smooth, curvy, thick and beefy, somewhere in between. One of these nudes can be yours by donating today!
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A Hollywood heartthrob with 10 million Instagram followers, Elgort isn’t the first person to employ this type of fundraising strategy, but he is its most high-profile face to date. In January, as wildfires ravaged the Australian continent, Kaylen Ward, who is a model and sex worker in Los Angeles, thought to apply her distinct assets to raise awareness and money for the people in Australia. “I’m sending nudes to every person who donates at least $10 to any one of these fundraisers for the wildfires in Australia,” she tweeted, along with a teasing butt photo and a list of charities, which ranged from the Australian Red Cross to the World Wildlife Fund. “Every $10 you donate = one nude picture from me to your DM.” From then on, Ward has been christened The Naked Philanthropist across social media. It was estimated that she raised over $1 million dollars for the Australian fires, and she has since fundraised for earthquake relief in Puerto Rico.
Galvanizing people into action isn’t a precise science, but the promise of sexual content has shown itself to be an effective tool in fueling voter registration campaigns. During the UK general election last December, which saw Boris Johnson’s radical conservative movement bulldoze Labor Party strongholds across the country, online sex workers took up the fight. “Never been more sure this is the digital election after seeing multiple people with OnlyFans account offering free subscriptions for people who prove they have voted,” Rachael Krishna wrote on Twitter. “Welcome to the future babeeeyyyy.”
Welcome to the future indeed, where nudes abound and thirst trapping for a good cause is no longer a taboo way of life. “There have always been ways to encourage people to vote,” Krishna told me via direct message, “and they just change with every era.” Politics, like philanthropy, is all about seizing engagement. In 2015 and 2016, two women collectives—Sluts Against Harper and Tramps Against Trump, the latter of which included nudes from men, gender-nonbinary individuals, and trans people in addition to women—focused on raising voter awareness by offering nudes in exchange for photographic proof of a person’s voter registration.
Plus: What it means to “flatten the curve,” and everything else you need to know about the coronavirus.
As the devastation from Covid-19 continues to wreck the livelihoods of people across the globe, philanthropic giving has taken many forms—star authors Shea Serrano and Roxane Gay reinvigorated the idea of peer-to-peer support online—in spite of tech platforms cracking down on the more erotic fundraising methods. “Unfortunately Instagram told me I have to take my post down because it’s nudity,” Elgort announced on the app’s story feature less than an hour after he posted the image. “Sorry if I offended anybody, but we did a good thing.”
It’s likely that we will begin to see more of this brand of fundraising, too. Influencer culture is, among other aspects, a business built on intimacy and trust. Put another way, it’s a business of proximity. Followers want to feel close, and influencers, who are always looking to maximize content in fresh and innovative ways, understand that we want, sometimes even need, to feel that closeness. With bare-all fansites, that now means opening up in ways they haven’t before. Looking to satiate your private sexual appetites in the name of charity, plz donate at link in bio.