OnlyFans policy fiasco illustrates complications of online sex work
The 21st century has seen almost all aspects of life migrate to the Internet, a technological change that has spawned incredibly large websites that are visited by millions of people daily. Statista.com has compiled a list of the 20 most visited websites in June 2021, with each site included having well north of 1 billion visits each month. Google, YouTube, and Facebook predictably occupy the top three locations, but only three porn sites are tucked away in a handful of places under these tech goliaths.
Pornographic content has proliferated online over the past 25 years, with sites offering an incredibly large catalog of easily accessible content. Many websites that run porn have been referred to as tube sites, with reloaded third-party content.
However, a more recent addition to the virtual landscape has simplified the distribution process and allowed creators to fully reap the rewards of their labor. Launched in 2016, OnlyFans was designed as a monthly subscription platform where creators could directly download a variety of content behind a paywall.
Tim Stokely, CEO of the company, had founded several adult content sites before OnlyFans and decided to launch its most famous platform after seeing social media apps crack down on sexual content. OnlyFans quickly became a haven for independently produced porn content by embracing the atmosphere of a social media platform where creators could monetize their media.
The online pornography revolution has been fantastic for consumers, but it has been extremely transformative for those who produce it. Adult sites generate income through embedded advertisements, allowing the site to generate a significant stream of income without disturbing visitors too much. The growth in popularity of tube sites has led to a slump in the profitability of large professional pornographic production companies, which have started to shut down or cut artists’ salaries.
OnlyFans came to fruition at a time when the existing network of online adult content was not particularly profitable for sex workers and offered a solution through its subscription model. The platform not only offered financial stability, but security for many, especially transgender sex workers who are disproportionately more likely to experience discriminatory workplace violence.
Stacey Monroe is an OnlyFans trans designer who spoke specifically about the benefits of OnlyFans, explaining how, “[a] many of us have found it safe not to have to see clients in person, one, because of COVID-19, and two, because of the violence against trans people… ”Monroe’s concerns speak to the both from the general dangers of the industry and the unique struggles of trans sex workers, and the launch of OnlyFans has offered a safer environment for all who work in the industry.
Unsurprisingly, once-excluded adult creators have started flocking to OnlyFans in droves. Established personalities within the adult entertainment industry and those looking for a new way to make money have seen the clear benefits of a secure and profitable platform and have made OnlyFans a ubiquitous brand. Although its roots are firmly rooted in the world of sex work, a little trip to OnlyFans Official Twitter tells the story of a website keen to be seen as something other than a porn bastion. Many tweets feature athletes, singers or lifestyle influencers who have chosen to carve out a place for themselves on the platform.
The company is ready to do more than just advertise; on August 19, it announced that it would ban “sexually explicit behavior” on its site from October 1. The ad instantly turned the careers of tens of thousands of people who previously relied on the site for their income, but it was not a surprising pivot for many who have felt the hostility of online businesses before.
A therapist who goes by the nickname Jet Setting Jasmine is one of the many sex workers who view the decision as part of a long arc of discrimination. “There is a power dynamic that we don’t often talk about. It’s almost like OnlyFans has created some amazing things and we partnered up and made them great. But the reality is, we can’t create the same structure when they pull the rug out from under us, ”she remarked. Creators can take advantage of OnlyFans but have not been able to diversify their sources of income in such a way that they can withstand sudden changes that put their careers at risk.
OnlyFans has created a self-sustaining content ecosystem, but it relies entirely on credit card companies to fund its creators and preserve the incentive to stay on the platform. Stokely detailed the great pressure the credit card companies have indirectly placed on him due to their reluctance to handle transactions involving porn. In addition to concerns about the optics of managing these burdens, many credit card companies have found that payments for porn are among the most frequently contested transactions of their customer bases.
In addition to the logistical burden of interacting with adult sites, many companies are concerned about the prevalence of child pornography on large platforms. The discomfort about the presence of illegal content is valid, because OnlyFans mainly suppressed on channels that regularly download illegal content. Many companies have continually based their argument on a lack of accountability for those who upload illegal activities, but it is also important to keep in mind the cultural stigmas surrounding the adult industry, even when it is safe and legal. .
People who wield influence in business and are morally opposed to sex work can often derail the industry by refusing to interact with it, a trend that has historically driven the industry underground and made conditions. more difficult and dangerous work. On paper, banking and credit card companies exercise the same rights as social media networks that ban adult content, but the decisions of financial institutions are more consistent because there is currently no easy way. to move away from their services like the creators did. moved between platforms.
Stokely has been eager to put the blame entirely on the financial institutions that process the transactions, but the creators weren’t so quick to come to terms with the idea that OnlyFans is simply caught in the middle of a financial struggle. Mastercard is one of the biggest companies that OnlyFans payments rely on, yet its regulations already comply with OnlyFans policies. The company said partners “must certify that the adult content seller has effective controls in place to monitor, block and, if necessary, remove any illegal content.”
There is some ambiguity as to how strictly Mastercard wants its partners to be, but overall OnlyFans penalizes and bans users who download illegal content. In light of the failure of small tweaks to adjust the platform to the demands of external forces, questions have been raised as to the sincerity of OnlyFans’ dedication to its identity. Jasmine Rice, a creator on OnlyFans, took to Twitter and expressed skepticism about the basic premise of the platform, stating: “It’s pretty clear that onlyfans is no longer a platform for sex workers, and I would no longer trust any sex work platform that is unfounded. by sex workers. “
Tim Stokely made his money from content produced by sex workers but is detached from the immediate difficulties of the industry. The ban represents a reluctance to negotiate on behalf of the community that made the platform so successful, and Jasmine Rice and the thousands of people who share her sentiment have made it known that they deserve greater empathy from of the company they work with.
The outpouring of surprise and criticism of the controversy has not been lost; on August 25, the company announced that it would not implement the October 1 ban. The company offered a few solemn words in his statement, claiming that he has “obtained the assurances necessary to support our diverse community of creators.” For now, the many creators who have voiced their opposition to the move can breathe a sigh of relief, as their activism has been rewarded and their collective push has shown that companies are ready to listen to their views.
OnlyFans creator, Mary Moody, is one such activist who has used her large audience to raise awareness about the barriers faced by sex workers. After the ban was suspended, Moody was interviewed on the BBC and expressed his appreciation that “enough sex workers are finally making their voice heard. [and] we make enough noise and we finally get noticed and people realize that this is a human rights issue and… this is wrong.
The entrenched opposition to sex workers ensuring stable livelihoods will likely never fade, and it is possible that financial institutions will continue to push OnlyFans to implement a ban later on. The creators of OnlyFans can never really relish the certainty of their work, but many are used to adversity. Anshuman Iddamsetty spoke with WIRED on their reaction to the ban, and their words embody the resilience it takes to work in the industry. “Like anything else, you have to stay innovative to keep up with the times. Sex workers will find a way. We still do.