Arts & Entertainment

Explicitly Independent

Gay content creators find new opportunities with digital subscription services.

The early aughts were rife with burgeoning social-media platforms. Gen Xers were introduced to sites like Friendster and MySpace well before the little-known Facebook and Twitter sites came on the scene. As social media grew, so did social-media influencers and content creators, creating a new marketplace for people to sell anything from hand-knit mittens to more explicit content. 

It’s the latter that has become a booming industry and source of income. Sites like OnlyFans are the ultimate gig-work in a growing gig economy. Stars like Denise Richards, Tyler Posey, and Drag queen Shea Coulee have joined the site in order to make a few bucks. For many non-celebrities, money brings independence, and in many cases sites like OnlyFans allow LGBTQ people in particular to make income in a safe space and perhaps even escape a situation that is otherwise harmful. Although their content may be intended to arouse, it’s the work ethic and the competition to stay relevant that can sometimes be…ahem…stiff. 

Erotic-content creators run the gamut of LGBTQ representation, but four gay Houston men are cashing in on their respective assets. Either as a full-time career or a way to make some extra money on the side, they are all hoping that as the public’s perception of sexual content evolves, the stigma that they sometimes encounter will fade away.  

A Saintly Second Act

Ryan St. Michael, 45, whose real name is Ryan Lindsay, has lived in Houston for most of his life at this point. He came to the Bayou City to attend law school, and he eventually started practicing law before marrying and running an art business and gallery with his now ex-husband. 

“My content-creation journey started with my 40th birthday,” St. Michael recalls. “I had a goal to get into the best shape of my life, and I did it. I was so proud of myself, I hired a photographer for a semi-nude photo shoot because I didn’t know how long I’d have these abs. The experience was so unbelievably fun, challenging, and affirming that I was hooked.”  

Not long after his photo shoot, St. Michael launched a sexy Instagram page that gained many followers. Then the pandemic hit, and the Instagram attention and affirmation he continued to receive became hugely important to him. When his marriage ended in divorce (for unrelated reasons), St. Michael realized that he had some decisions to make since his career had been so closely tied to his marriage up to that point.

“There was a divergence in the paths I could choose,” St. Michael explains. “Rather than take the traditional one and reactivate my law license to either practice law or go into nonprofit management, I decided to pursue my passion for content creation. In hindsight, I had no idea what I was doing. I launched my company, Seersucker Stud, LLC, and an associated brand on April 20, 2021—eleven days after the judge signed my divorce decree.” 

His OnlyFans site launched in August of 2021, and his erotic collaborations with other men began in March 2022. Three months later, he began doing professional porn as well, but his primary focus and source of income is derived from his social media content creation. Recently, St. Michael was nominated for several Grabby Awards, which recognize accomplishments in gay adult-oriented content.

“There is a misperception that you enter into this industry because you are desperate, or a traumatized victim of sexual abuse and you are acting out,” he continues. “Maybe this is the case for some—and absolutely zero judgment if it is. However, I came into this career terrifically cognizant of my privileges at age 43 after having been both a successful attorney and small-business owner. I have very significant retirement savings. For me, it’s about the pursuit of my passion and very clearly not about a desperation for money.

“I can certainly see that it’s not for everyone,” St. Michael concludes. “I just think it’s inappropriate for those persons who find that it’s not right for them to then cast judgment on sex workers. I provide people with an opportunity to have the safest form of sex possible—i.e. with themselves.”

Follow Ryan St. Michael on Instagram: @ryansaintmichael

Mask For Mask

Mr_hung3, 31, is also a gay content creator—one who went in a different direction in content creation than St. Michael, who banks on his “Southern gentleman” vibe. Mr_hung3 is known for his hooded-face anonymity, which adds a little bit of intrigue for his avid followers on OnlyFans (and JustForFans, an alternative gay-owned content platform).

I started with my Twitter account in April of 2022. Shortly after, I created my Onlyfans and JustForFans accounts,” he says. “The process started off as a just-for-fun account, but once I realized how much my content was being enjoyed, I decided to pursue creating content on a higher level than just Twitter. Since I created my platforms, I have evolved in my creativity as well as my social life [as I] meet other performers who are in the same business as me.” 

Both Mr_hung3 and St. Michael describe a community of content creators that have helped them develop and grow their content—along with their ability to become more innovative in not only how they produce, but how they market. St. Michael has actually expanded his brand to include User Generated Content advertising, where he produces a video for a company’s product that the company then edits and releases on their channel. 

Both men also leverage their connections with other creators via collaborations, creating symbiotic content that they can market and “sell” to subscribers. This is a dramatic departure from only a few years ago, when studios were the primary source of work for creators like St. Michael and Mr_hung3. Erotic-content performers are currently more like Wild West pioneers who have more control over their content, but also more responsibility for its production.

Follow Mrhung_3:

A Reputation of Steele

Wesley Wallace, 43, aka Silver Steele is considered by many to be one of the most recognizable creators out of Houston. He began performing for studios in March of 2018. While there he developed a following that he has been able to transfer over to his OnlyFans and JustForFans accounts. He says there is a notable difference in the income between the two. Studio work pays out once, while content creating can pay out multiple times for years.

With sites like OnlyFans and JustForFans, a video I made three years ago can still generate income for me. Making your own content is also great because you work as both performer and director; you decide who you work with, what kind of activities you want to do, and how you want to release the videos.” he says.

Even with studio work and residuals from content creation, making a living is hard work and does not necessarily pay out the way many think a performer of Silver Steele’s status might think. 

“There is a misconception that guys who do porn must make a ton of money or that studios pay insane amounts of money. Those days are long gone with porn being so accessible on the internet. Can you make a living? Absolutely, but you have to hustle. I enjoy this as a side income in addition to my primary career. The other thing is that people think it’s so glamorous. Doing things like meet and greets, or live performances, etc are a lot of fun, but on a studio set, those shoots can run LONG and there are plenty of times where it’s not the incredible Hollywood experience people think it is.” he says.

Wallace has also been able to leverage his following into something good, even if there are some people who consider the type of work he does wrong. 

“It’s not uncommon to see me rallying for trans rights or in the case of a little virus we got hit with recently called monkeypox, I gave interviews to nearly all the major news outlets about my case in an effort to get people vaccinated and educate them about the situation. I often think to myself, what is the point of having this notoriety and recognition if I don’t do something useful with it?” he says.

Follow Silver Steele on Instagram: @therealsilversteele

A Side Gig With No Shame

Pup Eli, 31, whose real name is Eli Lewis, has worked extensively with various studios and through his own content websites on JustForFans and 4MyFans. Lewis says he prefers those sites over OnlyFans—both for their more cohesive user interface and because he wants to support gay-owned and -operated businesses. Although he no longer creates content full-time, he can appreciate the effort needed to keep a business moving forward.

“I started working in the sex industry as an adult-film model in 2012 and the landscape has drastically changed since then,” Lewis notes. “I won’t go into the history of porn and the transition from studios to self-made content creators, but the evolution is quite clear. 

“Content creation is an amazing, entrepreneurial endeavor. I’m amazed by those who have the stamina to make it their full-time gig because, as someone who started in studio porn and now creates his own content, it’s a lot of work. To oversimplify the process of filming with a studio: you get the call, you agree to the scene(s) and partner(s), show up, get ready, and the director takes over. 

Filming your own content means that you are not only the model, but oftentimes the videographer, director, editor, marketing department, human resources, scheduler—I think you get the point. It may be hard work, but it allows creators to have full creative control and autonomy of their time, energy, and resources,” says Lewis.

The stigma surrounding any work that involves or relates to sex continues to be burdensome. However, these creators disprove the archaic and inaccurate stereotype that this type of work is desperate or shameful. Although some may not understand their work or even agree with it, the fact is that sites like OnlyFans are affording many queer people the ability to have autonomy over their income and their lives—similar to how driving for Uber or selling mittens on Pinterest might. And that autonomy and independence allows many queer creators to live lives that are, in fact, free of desperation or shame.

“The human brain categorizes and labels everything it encounters to better compartmentalize, analyze, and understand,” Lewis says. “While that’s wonderful, and we’ve yet to fully tap the vast potential of our mind, it’s always a good exercise to [avoid judging] a book simply by its cover. 

“Yes, I’m a content creator who gets naked in front of a camera for willing subscribers. Yes, that is sex work. But painting a slut red and calling it a day is lazy and boring, and there’s so much more to me than that,” he emphasizes. “We’re all multifaceted individuals, and if you dismiss someone simply for the most scandalous thing they do, you’re depriving yourself of the opportunity to learn and grow past your own self-imposed limitations.” 

Follow Pup Eli on Instagram: @MusclePupEli

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at
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