Why OnlyFans Is Double-Crossing Sex Workers
OnlyFans—a website popularized as a place for the sharing and monetizing of erotic imagery—will stop allowing “sexually explicit” content as of October 1. “In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Creators will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity as long as it is consistent with our Acceptable Use Policy.”
The company attributed this change to pressure from banks and payment processors. “These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers,” its statement said. Asked to elaborate, a spokesperson for OnlyFans told me “the platform has no further comments at this time.”
Understandably, many sex workers who helped build up OnlyFans and now rely on the site for income are upset—and not mollified by promises that some nudity will still be allowed.
“Please consider telling sex workers that OF will still allow some nudity probably isn’t helpful right now,” tweeted podcaster and sex worker rights activist Phoenix Calida. “Some of the policy is vague, there’s a history of targeting & deplatforming SWs even when their content is within the guidelines. The fears & concerns are justified.”
When Facebook and Instagram “updated their terms to crack down on explicit content. What Happened? A bunch of sws got banned for non sw posts. Everything from gofundmes for pets to bikini pics at the beach. All Bc they were sws,” Calida added.
A lot of folks have been blaming OnlyFans’ pivot away from porn on its desire to be more palatable to venture capitalists. Earlier this year, the company launched a PG version that can be downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores and features things “like cooking tutorials, yoga routines and interviews,” notes TechCrunch. “OnlyFans is profitable, but to continue to grow, it is seeking funding at a valuation of over $1 billion.”
“OnlyFans would be nothing without the sex workers whose labor built it up into a major platform. Now it’s tossing them aside,” complained author Kim Kelly, in a sentiment that could be found across Twitter yesterday.
There’s no doubt that OnlyFans is screwing over the very users who helped make it successful. But how much culpability the company has and how much anger it deserves are up for debate, since OnlyFans may be a victim in this too.
It may be accurate to say some are trying to cash out but I still think they wouldn’t be in this position without the “Onlyfans has sex trafficking” articles. Why cash out when you can make 100x more? Only because they are scared of being completely defunded like PornHub https://t.co/8DZKL78WlP
— Ashley Lake (@AshleyLatke) June 19, 2021
It’s impossible to know how much of this decision relates to marketability and venture capital funding, and how much relates to insurmountable political and financial pressure. But the latter is a very real issue, and not one so easily overcome. It’s plagued platform after platform that provide a digital home for sex workers.
We saw this with Craigslist and Backpage, when they were the biggest purveyors of online sex work ads. Authorities pressured them to accept credit card payments, since these would be trackable and usable by prosecutors to help find and punish people who did use the site for exploitation. When Backpage agreed, it was then accused of profiting off exploitation; some even went so far as to threaten Visa and Mastercard if they wouldn’t stop doing business with Backpage. Faced with political pressure and public accusations that they were facilitating sex trafficking, the credit card companies complied. The case had to go all the way to a federal appeals court, which ruled that the bullying of the credit card companies to drop Backpage had been unconstitutional. As this all played out, Backpage went back to free adult ads and tried alternative payment methods, like cryptocurrency. Both actions—moves brought about by unconstitutional political pressure—have since been used by prosecutors as evidence of criminal activity such as “money laundering.”
Yep. And this is why “blockchain solves this,” isn’t true unless we also fight back against repressive government attacks https://t.co/AfCUmwUCcx
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) August 20, 2021
The debacle highlights the impossible situation that platforms friendly to sex workers find themselves in these days, where almost any move they make short of ditching all adult elements will be used—in public pressure campaigns, civil lawsuits, and criminal prosecutions—to accuse them of serious wrongdoing. Specifically, activists toss around words like “sex trafficking,” “human trafficking,” and “child sex abuse materi
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