Belle Delphine’s move to porn demonstrates a disturbing trend

Delphine and her bottled bath water

In 2019, Collective Shout — a movement against “sexploitation” — reported on then 19-year-old Instagrammer Belle Delphine selling her bathwater online. Belle’s bathwater sold out in rapid time, prompting significant YouTube commentary and media outlets reporting on the bizarre trade. In response, Instagram shut down her account.

In the lead up, Collective Shout had documented behaviour more disturbing than the selling of bathwater. The movement had condemned the pedophilic aesthetic which is Delphine’s stock-in-trade, arguing any normalization and eroticization of children must be resisted.

The Instagram shutout was a win. But it was no surprise when Delphine migrated to other platforms — Patreon, then OnlyFans — where she could better monetize her content.

The main appeal for her overwhelmingly male audience is her look: that of an anime figure orchestrated to appear much younger than she is by wearing braces and children’s clothing, surrounded by the accoutrements of childhood, including soft toys. They flocked to her in droves, at a time when OnlyFans was on the ascendancy.

In mid-2020, content subscription service OnlyFans grew tenfold as the Covid crisis confined people indoors and forced many women out of jobs.

OnlyFans is a site for creators to sell content to fans, but this material is largely pornographic and those “creators” are disproportionately women.

OnlyFans offers a more personal encounter, with any woman able to create “girl next door” style content. Whereas in the past cam girls would talk to and perform live for e-johns in a studio or their own bedrooms, women on OnlyFans have to curate their entire persona day in day out and chat to any buyers who message them.

A consumer can pay Pornhub $20 for videos of millions of women, or pay one woman $20 for a more personalized experience. Ahead of the trend, Pornhub made its “amateur” category subscription only years ago, with viewers able to buy particular videos from certain profiles and “tip” them. But OnlyFans is now the go-to platform for this content.

For Delphine it was a goldmine. Last summer she went from earning $665,000 a month (of which OnlyFans takes a 20 per cent cut), to netting millions of dollars a month by the end of the year, through branching out into hardcore video pornography.

With the release of two “professional” porn videos, Delphine’s OnlyFans platform has rocketed.

This demonstrates how OnlyFans and wider porn hosting sites and social media now have a reciprocal relationship.

Delphine has become a crossover artist. She not only uses social media to advertise her OnlyFans, but traditional porn sites now host video clips leaked from her OnlyFans, signposting viewers directly to it. In turn her OnlyFans links back to industry porn sites and her social media. That loop exists because it is lucrative for all platforms and parties involved.

At the age of 21, Delphine is now the highest paid “porn actress” on the planet. The specific reasons for her success make for uncomfortable reading.

For Delphine, the year began with being decried across the Twittersphere.

Delphine’s name trended on Twitter in January as she was admonished for the disturbing themes of her latest pornographic film. In the video, Delphine dresses in the clothes of a typically young adolescent girl, a man in a balaclava ties her up, kidnaps and drives her to the woods where she is depicted being forcibly raped against a tree. The video ends as many porn clips do; Delphine’s face is ejaculated on and slapped.

Due to her small stature and mode of dress, Delphine resembles a child. The fact that she is bound and gagged is suggestive of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), thus the widespread condemnation.

Delphine’s first pornographic film, released one month earlier, had similar themes: she has sex with a man dressed as a teddy bear on a bed of children’s toys, the man remains disguised throughout by leaving the teddy bear mascot head on. Delphine again is dressed as a typical prepubescent child. Essentially, it’s a visual representation of sexual intercourse with a child (child rape) in a child’s bedroom, with a man dressed as a children’s toy.

Delphine also references other porn genres, such as hentai, to ensure wider promotion of her videos. (Hentai is illegal in Australia).

Delphine in Hentai-style pose

It is easy to recognize this depiction as a replication of child sexual abuse for a paying adult male audience. Some of Delphine’s OnlyFans content shows her behaving like an infant (thumb sucking, etc.) while using sex toys. She employs a number of app features to make herself look more infant-like and “kiddish,” in a cartoonish way.

But in the videos, the man in the balaclava who is seen forcibly controlling Delphine for sexual arousal, the person holding the camera filming the whole thing, and all who are profiting from the video’s circulation, have entirely escaped criticism.

Delphine doesn’t exist alone: she is supported by a system that treats profiting from catering to pedophilic fantasies as acceptable. She is the product of the sexualization of girls from birth, which rewards young women for adopting pornified roles and behaviours. Delphine’s content, while deserving condemnation, needs to be analyzed within its broader contexts.

Yes Delphine is partaking in and reproducing porn culture, contributing to its pervasiveness, clearly incentivized by huge sums of money. But she is also a product of an already existing sphere of influence — the ubiquitous sex industry and its mainstreaming, including on the social media platforms where she started out.

Delphine knows her audience, specializing in the tropes that have garnered a legion of paying e-johns thus far. The infantalization of adults is the flipside to pedophilia’s adultification of children. Delphine’s anime image is a direct product of a culture where adolescent features are increasingly prolonged into adulthood, combined with vast numbers of men who are willing to pay pricey subscriptions for content that resembles child sexual abuse.

There have been personal costs to pay. Delphine’s family have reportedly disowned her, something she makes rather tragic “jokes” about, presumably in an attempt to exorcise the hurt caused. Undoubtedly, Belle’s astronomical rise has been facilitated by an army of YouTube reviewers, and normalized by various social media personalities’ fascination with her — all of who seem to find her an oddity to mock, and consider her a figure of fun.

The escalating extreme nature of porn — and its cross-promoting and cross-normalizing on  social media — makes safeguarding and monitoring children’s internet use more difficult. Social media and YouTube are becoming direct gateways to porn consumption. YouTube has no age limit for viewership, and despite all the porn-related content you can find there, TikTok has an age restriction of only 13+. And many even younger children have accounts on it, able to watch and sing along to porn-style music videos like WAP.

Porn is no longer an industry of its own, but permeates all levels of society, homes, schools, workplaces. It is now as accessible for “content creators” as it is for consumers.

Because of that mass proliferation, women making self-made porn need to specialize and cultivate a niche in what is now a saturated market. Belle Delphine has done this with her performative sexualized child-likeness. Other women will be pressured to partake in harmful and extreme practices to stand out from the crowd. Given the mega profits it attracts, it is likely we will see Delphine imitators.

Blurring between social media and pornography results in being able to interact with women as though they are your social media peers, but also consume them as sexual products.

What are the social effects? Porn becomes a completely dominant, all-encompassing ideology — promoting sexual servitude as the norm from Instagram to OnlyFans to Pornhub.

Mind Geek (the company that owns Pornhub) executives are currently being made to answer to the Canadian Parliament’s ethics committee for hosting illegal content including non-consensual sharing of images and Child Sexual Abuse Material.

Perhaps this historic examination of the largest pornography dispenser in the world will lead to a flow on look at what is being permitted elsewhere, including on social media and OnlyFans. And perhaps the day is coming when normalizing sexual interest in children for profit will no longer be tolerated.

Jen Izaakson recently completed a PhD thesis on indeterminacy and Freud at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London.  She can be contacted via social media here or email at [email protected].

This article was originally published at Collective Shout and has been published here with permission.

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