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After OnlyFans

OnlyFans is banning sexual content. Will it protect people? And where will content creators go now?

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

On Aug. 18, content subscription service OnlyFans announced it was launching OFTV, a free streaming platform that would offer fitness, cooking, music and more – but without the nudity that had made the site famous. Based on the company’s press release, one would never infer that they had any saucy adult content, and was just another family-friendly platform. 

The next day, they dropped a much bigger bomb: the site would be prohibiting sexually explicit content entirely,  starting Oct. 1. According to their statement, “These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.” These “requests” refer to not only their stated aim of looking for outside investors and a valuation of $1 billion, but also to pressure from payment processors, notably MasterCard. 

The move was not entirely unexpected, given both the history of the site and the trajectory of adult content online in the last few years. While it was the sexy content that propelled OnlyFans to fame, it was not originally designed to be a porn site, exactly. Sex workers were just able to make it very successful, and

Like Patreon, Tumblr and other online communities before them, they were happy to let sexy naked people build their value and then jettison them when it came time to cash in for real. 

Some have tried to argue that the ban is not entirely apocalyptic, that artistic nudity will still be protected under the site’s terms of acceptable use. But as we’ve seen repeatedly on social media and even in Supreme Court decisions, obscenity is a highly subjective standard and censorship is rarely applied predictably or equitably. 

We’d be remiss to not mention the real reason behind the rapid acceleration of this prudery in the last several years. Since the passage of FOSTA-SESTA – a pair of bills purporting to combat human trafficking that have failed spectacularly in that endeavor – financial institutions and social media platforms have been openly antagonistic towards people in sexual industries, including legal enterprises like stripping and pornography. 

To avoid being held liable for “trafficking,” and because of sex-negative stigma, PayPal, Venmo and other financial intermediaries have long discriminated against users whose money comes from adult services, not only denying them service but seizing their assets without recourse. Banks have been known to deny accounts to porn performers or drop them as clients without warning, as a means of avoiding risk and scrutiny.

One OnlyFans subscriber to whom I spoke said his credit card account had been frozen repeatedly solely because of charges made to the site. “Two months in a row my card got locked. And I had to clarify that yes, OnlyFans is OK and no, I am not being coerced.”

Because there is no legal distinction between consensual sex work and trafficking, these companies are erring on the side of de-platforming content creators and leaving them to their own devices. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of anti-porn Evangelical groups like Exodus Cry and NCOSE (formerly known as Morality in Media), credit card companies have already made it harder for independent sexy artists to use a number of sites, like PornHub

These groups, with ties to the Christian Right, claim they are protecting people from exploitation.

However, these policy changes don’t provide any resources for workers to make money any other way, they just make it harder to profit from sex work.

In fact, these moves will ironically be most beneficial to the tube sites that rely on content stolen from these workers. 

What will content creators do, now that OF is banning sexual content? That depends on whom you ask. 

“Move [to] Just for Fans or one of the dozens of sites that launched after the success of OF. People acting like [there] aren’t other options, but the mass exodus away from OF is definitely starting now.” – Daniel Saynt.

“OF was not originally made for nude content. We took over cause sex sells more than videos promoting your personal training routine. I am fine with them going back to [its] original intended purposes. And anyway I deleted my account a while ago. I make more money on SG.”- Abbey Leigh Rose

“We’ve been in a state of collective fear and panic in various degrees since December when they ramped up against porn. Our plans to jump around and gamble on the next platform is a perpetual one and alllll of them are in a state of flux right now. IT ALL SUCKS.” – XOXOLaurenKiley

“I feel like most of us have been just waiting for this to happen. I ended up making my own personal website to sell my videos off and take custom requests through…This route is expensive and research heavy. I had to find a host with non-U.S servers so SESTA-FOSTA doesn’t apply, build the site, pay for the server space and a domain name and then maintain the site myself.” – Alabaster

Many creators were already halfway out the door. OnlyFans had gained a reputation for poor customer service, sketchy ownership, recurring outages, and changing the rules capriciously. Given they take 20 percent from earnings, their payout rate is also lower than many other sites. Sexuality educator Tim Lagman, host of Sex Ed with Tim, assembled a quick list of some alternatives that allow adult content, including their pros and cons. 

In the words of Maggie McMuffin, “Part of being [sex worker] is always keeping an eye out for the next thing and hoping it works.”

Have a question for Dr. Timaree? Send an email to asktimaree@philadelphiaweekly.com.

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  • Timaree Schmit Headshot

    Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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