Amouranth's abuse allegations broke open a social media conversation about creator exploitation.
Insider spoke with two OnlyFans models and a Twitch streamer about the reality of exploitation.
All three online creators said they've witnessed or experienced behind-the-scenes abuse.
When massively popular Twitch streamer and OnlyFans influencer Amouranth accused her husband of emotional and financial abuse last month, it reignited an intense debate over exploitation in the streaming industry and how fans feel entitled to the personal lives of female creators.
Although Amouranth received outpourings of support from swaths of her audience and other creators, many male fans and influencers such as YouTube commentator Keemstar led a backlash that accused her of scamming viewers by not disclosing she was married. Days after her announcement, Amouranth — whose real name is Kaitlyn Siragusa — announced to her over 5.9 million followers that she was taking a break from streaming.
Although Amouranth's allegations against her husband were one of the most visible cases of abuse accusations in the creator economy, many models and streamers say unseen exploitation is a pervasive issue. Numerous OnlyFans models have spoken out about being manipulated by managers who promised to help them and then ended up taking most of their paychecks or sold their nudes in shady, clandestine dealings. A BuzzFeed report in late 2021 featured OnlyFans creators accusing the social media management company Unruly of exploitative practices, with multiple women suing the company for allegedly posting nude images without their consent.
This kind of backstage abuse of female creators is endemic to the industry, according to things three women who make content for OnlyFans or Twitch told Insider. All of them sympathized with Amouranth's situation and said they've personally experienced or witnessed exploitation.
'Pretty common knowledge': Misogynistic abuse and creator exploitation is as pervasive now as ever
Harassment and misogynistic abuse has been a characteristic of the online creator economy for over a decade. One of the first reckonings against targeted misogyny came in the aftermath of Gamergate, the coordinated campaign of right-wing trolls and overwhelmingly male influencers jointly harassing female game developers and writers. Misogyny and other forms of abuse — like the monthslong doxxing campaign against the trans Twitch streamer Keffals — continues to be a rampant problem across platforms and industries. Even when an influencer like Amouranth says she's being abused, a flood of men often seize it as an opportunity to attack her.
"I saw a lot of responses from folks who have also been controlled, gaslit or spoken to in that way in past or current relationships; myself included," Gemma Bowen, a Twitch gaming streamer with the handle KawaiiFoxita, told Insider of the reaction to Amouranth speaking out. "The treatment she received from her mainly male audience was expected and repulsive."
Amouranth had recently been making around $1.5 million a month in OnlyFans revenues, she told Insider in September. But during her Twitch stream last month alleging that her husband had forced her to stream, threatened to kill her dogs and controlled her finances, she stated that her life was "basically living in a fancy prison."
Bowen has been active in the streaming world since the middle of the 2010s. She said behind-the-scenes exploitation like what Amouranth allegedly experienced is "not a hidden part of the industry at all."
"I've been in the Twitch creator space for 6-7 years now and in this time I have seen countless TwitLonger posts from people who have shared stories of people abusing their power," Bowen said, referring to the website that lets you write tweets longer than 280 characters, and which is commonly used by internet users writing long announcements or confessions.
"It's pretty common knowledge that it happens," Bowen said. "I truly feel for Amouranth and what she has gone through."
The digital modeling industry's fast growth has led to a boom time for manipulative managers
Kiona Lipke, an OnlyFans and Fansly model who goes by Isabella James and the nickname "Spiritual Bimbo" with over 1.3 million Instagram followers, shared similar reflections about the online modeling industry.
James said she once left a management company — the name of which she didn't want to share for legal reasons — that she felt was "exploiting the models." She alleged her ex-partner, who she also did not want to name, would exploit women by controlling their pages and making them uncomfortable.
"The girls had no access to their pages and no idea of what's really going on," James said. "The girls would always tell me how uncomfortable they were. And he would always push for me to shoot although I expressed many times I did not want to." James claimed that her ex-partner would be the only one in contact with the models, take them out to expensive dinners since "they were usually from a small town," and tried to push women to the limits of what they were comfortable with in making content.
The most popular platform for models like James is OnlyFans, which launched in 2016 and rapidly grew in users during the pandemic. The site is easy to use and has a simple subscription service. OnlyFans' sudden jump to ubiquity was a huge gain for rising influencers on the platform, and it has resulted in a sprawl of modeling agencies and eager managers looking to assist creators. But it's also been a boom time for scammers and manipulative managers who just want to get in on the revenue.
In addition to her main profile, James runs a business and mindset coaching service where she teaches other models how to sharpen their OnlyFans accounts and "live more abundantly," according to an Instagram page bio for the program. She said she always wants to "empower women through sex work" and is grateful she got out of the toxic management company.
Nita Marie, another very popular OnlyFans and Fansly model with over a million Instagram followers, told Insider that she's also witnessed or heard about exploitation in the industry. Marie pointed to multiple management companies that she said would promise "the world" to models and then not deliver anything.
Marie said she's seen models being taken advantage of, and stressed that she thinks creators like Amouranth should be able to share their real lives with their fans without fear of reprisal.
All three influencers Insider spoke with expressed sympathy regarding the harassment Amouranth received as a result of being open about her marriage.
"As creators, no matter how truthful we are with our real personas, we are still putting on a show," said James, adding that it was "crazy" Amouranth faced any backlash. "It's ludicrous to think we aren't able to have things in our life private."
James, who regularly receives hundreds of comments on her Instagram posts, said her fans "want to know everything" about her but that she doesn't share some things, like her location.
"Creators have no obligation to share their status because it should never be about that," the Twitch streamer Bowen said. "Our content is entertainment that the user has a choice to consume or not, and if they decide to pay for it then the responsibility has to fall on them. Fans forming parasocial, unhealthy and unrealistic relationships is simply not the fault of the creator."
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