Immediately after turning 18, rapper Bhad Bhabie earned $1 million in six hours on OnlyFans — a site knows for its explicit content. 

She entered the public eye when she was 13 after appearing on the American reality TV show Dr. Phil. The dramatised show sees Dr. Phil ‘counsel’ (and I use that word loosely) families in conflict. In Bhad Bhabie’s episode (real name Danielle Bregoli), her mother accused her of bad behaviour, including stealing a car.

If we take a closer look, this teenager’s trajectory has been on a troubled course for some time.

Crossing a line?

Before Bregoli even turned 18 she was receiving comments such as: ‘waiting for the OnlyFans to drop’ and ‘who’s ready for the OnlyFans?’.

On her 18th birthday Instagram post the comments escalated to: ‘the day has finally come’ and ‘go ahead and drop the OnlyFans link’.

To me, these people are crossing a very dangerous line. This line is between people who access consensual content from adults and those who desire this content from underage girls and simply wait until they turn 18 to avoid breaking the law. 

To be clear, viewing Danielle Bregoli’s OnlyFans content is perfectly legal. Only … ‘any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age)’ would make this act a criminal act.

This isn’t a conversation about the legality of viewing the content. It is about where, as a society, we draw the distinction between what is legal and what is moral.

Sex work is for adults. Asking or pressuring anyone under the age of 18 for explicit content, with the caveat that they must be 18 at the time it is produced, is predatory at best.

‘Almost’ 18 

This sexualisation of minors doesn’t just happen from behind a screen. A study by the anti-harassment group Hollaback! and Cornell University reveals that 82 per cent of women globally will experience street harassment by the time they turn 18, and over 50 per cent report being groped.

Girls are being robbed of their teenage years by the increasing sexualisation of their bodies. The issue with the comments that 17-year-old Danielle Bregoli was receiving is that they are a glimpse into a much wider problem. 

Of course, adults are within their right to do with their body whatever they see fit. But the issue here is when teenage girls are treated as ‘women-in-the-making’, instead of being seen for what they are: adolescent children. This approach enables predatory individuals to continue sexualising barely-adult girls — often at the expenses of recipients who don’t feel comfortable with this kind of attention.

Danielle: Another victim of exploitation?

Bregoli grew up in the public eye. Long before turning 18, people were hankering after explicit content from her. Collectively, they were desperate enough to spend $1 million. It’s scary that so many people were looking at a teenage girl, lurking on her social media, awaiting the lawful moment they could legally access her adult content. 

Given her very public and rocky childhood, it is all the more concerning how this undue attention has affected her psychologically. She recently came forward about the treatment she received at Turn About Ranch, where she was sent following the Dr. Phil show. This is described as a programme of therapy and education for troubled teens to help them turn their life around. However, Bregoli’s account is far from positive. She said she was kidnapped during the night and taken to the ranch where she was not allowed to sleep or shower for the first few days — amongst its other questionable practices. This draws parallels to an interview Paris Hilton gave in which she described similar experiences at a different facility. 

Legally, 18 may make you an adult but that is not an invitation to pester 17-year-olds for sexual content the second they become of age. Nothing condones sexually harassing anyone, whether online or in person. If adults choose to create explicit content, then that is their choice. But young, barely adult teenagers should not be pressured into doing this.

The sex industry is already rife with exploitation of adults, and more worryingly, children. It is imperative that the difference between an adult and a child does not degrade into a sliding scale. This is a hardline that must be drawn for the sake of safeguarding the most vulnerable in our society: the under-18s.

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