The latest bomblet to drop on sex workers in the newly revitalized Holy War on consenting adult sexuality has turned out to be a dud. Last week, OnlyFans, a site known for its sexually explicit content, dramatically announced that it would no longer allow sexually explicit content. Less than a week later, they—just as dramatically—changed their mind.
Talk about a flipflop! OnlyFans has proven itself to be a very fickle pimp.
The response to the first announcement that they were shutting down the porn was intense. Sex workers screamed they couldn’t pay rent. First Amendment defenders worried over the speech-suppressing power of Mastercard. Twitter guffawed that OnlyFans banning porn was like KFC not selling chicken, or as Stephen Colbert chortled, “They know that fans of OnlyFans are only fans of one thing, right?”
Apparently, the screams, jokes and worries were too much to bear (or bare), and OnlyFans put the brakes on the censorship, abruptly and (somewhat) contritely stating, “”Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard… We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change. OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.”
This is a victory for Free Speech and sex workers, even though OnlyFans (OF) doesn’t even apologize for giving its hardworking adult content creators economic and emotional whiplash. Moreover, they say they have “suspended” the planned changes, rather than canceled—or better yet, trampled on—them.
OnlyFans Not Taliban
Talk about biting the hand that strokes you—and then asking for more strokes… while threatening to bite it again, though who knows when? Now creators aren’t sure whether to celebrate with new content or pull out of this on-and-off bad romance that’s starting to remind them of their toxic ex-lover who only proposed marriage after they were caught cheating.
Not that OnlyFans is the Taliban. They won’t amputate your hand if you’re caught stealing. But they will cut off your account if you reveal something they deem too “explicit.”
So, though many sex workers are relieved and happy to relax and stay, at least for now, others are migrating to similar sites, like JustforFans, Frisk, Fansly, AVNStars and PocketStars, nipping at OnlyFans’ designer heels.
Sex Workers of the World Unite!
How did OnlyFans get its fanny spanked by its own fans and creators?
In the beginning, circa 2016, when OF was just a fresh, innocent, U.K.-based start-up, resourceful porn stars, strippersand other sex workers discovered its potential as a platform for selling their “adult” content directly to fans, a safe, reliable, sex-positive haven in a cold, sex-negative (but sex-obsessed) world.
Especially well-suited for erotic performers with differently shaped bodies, disabilities, independent temperaments and special talents who don’t tend to be hired or well-treated by the big adult film companies, as well as for those who like to work from home, OF has been a lifesaver during the Coronapocalypse. When many sex workers didn’t receive Covid Relief—a slap in the face and pocketbook since sex workers are workers too—OF was there to heal the sting.
One measure of OF’s positive effect on erotic entertainment was that it pissed off regular porn producers who couldn’t rely as easily on desperate performers to do unappealing scenes on the cheap.
As more and more sex workers used, promoted and earned decent livings from OF, they made the company a major financial success. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Bella Thorne and Cardi B joined in on the fun and profit, dropped OnlyFans’ name in songs and blew it up into a full-fledged phenomenon, paying out more than $300 million a month to content creators.
With more and more “fans,” it seemed everyone benefited, including the lowest-level sex workers. Though I never joined (having a hunch about the platform’s impending fickleness), I was happy for my friends and the many DrSuzy.Tvguests who made good money, free from directors pressuring them to engage in uncomfortable scenes, creating their content for “only fans” who enjoy it enough to pay for it.
Dominionists in Your Bedroom
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. As Axios reports, “sex sells but it also scares off venture capitalists.” Once the already rich and famous started using the site, that sounded the bell to usher the lower-income sex workers into the digital gas chambers where their hard work would be exterminated like pestilence… only for it to be resuscitated a few days later, with the veiled threat that it would soon be gassed again.
Sadly, sex workers have been sucker-punched like this before, such as when Tumblr banned porn, Patreon suspended adult content creators and Federal authorities shut down Backpage in 2018. In 2020, thanks to hooker-obsessed New York Times hack Nick Kristoff and the pernicious Christian Dominionist group, Exodus Cry (run by sleazy breezy Laila Mickelwait), MasterCard and Visa cut off Pornhub (Paypal already had in 2019), forcing performers to find yet other payment options. Interesting factoid: Facebook has far more cases of “sex trafficking recruitment” and “child sexual abuse material” than Pornhub.
OnlyFans has had its faults; they’ve been too lax with fraudulent accounts, and skimming 20% from hardworking creators is some pricey pimping. However, OF was a lifeline in the quicksand swallowing up sex workers during the (ongong) pandemic. María Riot, an active sex worker and OnlyFans creator, tweeted, “OnlyFans made it possible for many sex workers to pay rent and food during a pandemic where in-person work was and still is a huge risk. It helped me to say no to potential bad clients and turn down porn shoots with exploitative companies because I already had my basic needs covered… Prohibition only pushes sex workers to the margins, to be less safe, more exposed to violence and exploitation. It does not stop trafficking and abuse. It further conceals it and exposes unrecognized workers to further criminalization, erasure, fear and persecution.”
When OnlyFans announced it had essentially joined Team Censorship, the company appeared to expect sex workers like Maria Riot to simply pick up their porn and move, like gypsies or the houseless in so many areas of the U.S. Many sex workers worried they’d have to go back to “the streets” or risk their lives working as masseuses like the ones who were mass-murdered by a customer upset by their “temptation.”
It’s a risky world out there these days, and for sex workers it’s even riskier. OnlyFans owner Leonid Radvinsky (who also owns MyFreeCams) and the Sunday Times-dubbed “King of Homemade Porn,” Founder/CEO Tim Stokely, stoking the flames of risk with their flip-floppy business approach just makes it a little riskier.
It’s also painfully ironic to read Radvinsky and Stokely’s public relations hogwash about standing for “inclusion” when they were ready just hours before to throw their most popular content creators under the bus to success on the highway through hell.
Adding insults to injuries (and more jokes for the comedy shows), there was the sexual hair-splitting. Though “explicit” content was deemed forbidden, nudes were still okay (as long as they weren’t too sexy)… or were they? Of course, now those vague new rules have been “suspended,” or are they? Like most big social media, OnlyFans informs you of what is and is not allowed in as ambiguous a way as possible. Added to their flipflopping, they are sure to confuse anguished content creators, driving them to self-censorship, self-harm and worse.
What erotophobic, hypocritical forces pushed OnlyFans into almost slaughtering its own cash cow, only to turn around and moo, “Bessie, I love you! Give us a kiss… please!”?
First, let’s dispense with the laughable but infuriating notion that “cracking down” on “sexually explicit content” helps to reduce the exploitation of minors or other nonconsenting victims of sex trafficking—or any of the other excuses the anti-sex brigades deploy as cover for their control fetish and the Holy War they’re waging for absolute Puritanicalpower, aka “Dominion.”
Remember the SESTA/FOSTA laws of 2018? Backed by the anti-sex brigades, they were supposed to stop sex trafficking. However, hard Government Accountability Office statistics show that SESTA/FOSTA have done nothing to stop sex trafficking, but they do a lot to harm consenting adult sex workers. Of course, that’s part of the plan these anti-sex Holy Warriors, like Kristoff’s beloved Exodus Cry, have in mind. They also have a nasty—and often deliberate—habit of conflating two very different forms of sex work: illegal prostitution and legal adult film production.
“Pornography has been declared separate from prostitution since the People v. Freeman in 1988,” says Sinnamon Love, a Black feminist pornographer, founder of the BIPOC Adult Industry Collective and former guest on DrSuzy.Tv (back in 1999!). “This is a legal industry. The ways in which these anti-porn lobbyists are trying to equate pornography with prostitution and pornography with exploitation is really trying to roll back a federal [ruling].”
Just as the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was never about “winning” a war (it was about serving the “Merchants of Death”), so SESTA/FOSTA laws were never about stopping sex traffickers. They were and are about serving and empowering the anti-sex crusaders (on the Right and the Left) and their bought-and-paid-for politicians, the real prostitutes in this torrid tale.
From porn sites to news to social media, these politically connected, cash-rich, religious, anti-sex groups (many of which are connected to Dominionism) are putting our once “free” Internet into a chokehold. They have been busily pressuring the already “risk-averse” Mastercard company, which now refuses to process sex-related transactions without invasive ID verification and other prohibitive requirements. The ugly capitalist truth is that payment processors are the ultimate judge and jury of what can be sold online, and they can deny service to anyone their bots deem risky, essentially ruining their livelihoods, if not their lives.
The credit card behemoth’s excuse is that customers “charge back” transactions for “adult” goods and services—but they do this mainly because Mastercard lets them charge back sex-related transactions far more easily than any others.
A Sex Worker Victory!
Just when all seemed lost for our heroic sex workers, a miracle happened! Well, the “miracle” of remembering OnlyFans’ fanny; that is, its “bottom” line. Realizing how much moola it stood to lose, not only did OF change its mind on a dime, so did its “banks.” So it seems those dreadful chargebacks are no big deal, unless the bankers want them to be.
That’s Stokeley’s story and he’s sticking to it, at least for now. Metro Bank and Bank of New York Mellon made “it difficult to pay our creators,” though he would not say what bank is now supposedly proving to be more of a player than a prude.
“They were about to have a mass exodus of creators and subscribers and fell back,” observes OnlyFans content creator and DrSuzy.Tv guest King Noire. “They knew sex workers brought them money and they thought they could fuck us over and no one would care. We called bullshit.”
And OnlyFans called “Uncle!”
Yay! #GoBonobos! Chalk one up for the sex workers! At least, for now.