Sex education and sexuality professional social media have been abuzz the past couple of days with news about OnlyFans updating their acceptable use policy. The initial news was that OnlyFans was going to ban “users” from posting sexually explicit content. The early language led to debate and conversations that this would not impact “content creators”, but sex workers knew that this wordplay was all-encompassing and would impact them. On August 20, 2021 OnlyFans released their updated acceptable use policy, and even if you aren’t a content creator or subscriber you need to understand what this truly means. The outrage of content creators spread like wildfire and OnlyFans quickly felt the brunt of their decision. On August 25, 2021 OnlyFans announced that they would be suspending the ban on sexually explicit content.
You are probably asking yourself why this matters if you aren’t a creator or a subscriber. Well, it matters for three big reasons: 1. Sex Worker livelihood, 2. A barrier to ethical porn, and 3. The stigmatization of sex work.
Regardless of if you are a sex worker or not, the truth is that all people should be able to make a living and afford to live (please note that I do not believe we are put on this earth to work continuously). This move by OnlyFans further marginalizes a group of people and makes it harder for them to live and survive in this world and economy. This is not isolated to just sex workers. This has been happening in a multitude of industries, especially during this pandemic, in different ways. It just looks different for sex workers because it is outright and a blatant attack on the livelihoods of sex workers.
The rise of OnlyFans gave rise to the most ethical form of porn consumption in my personal opinion. Ethical porn is porn made with respectable, safe, and comfortable working conditions for performers and ensures fair pay for all performers. With OnlyFans, we have received the most ethical porn possible. Working conditions that sex workers got to control, compensation that sex workers got to decide on, and content that sex workers had the choice in making. OnlyFans gave way to the most ethical and autonomous porn of our lifetime.
Though there are a variety of platforms for content creators to sell their content on OnlyFans’ popularity made attracting subscribers much easier. The notoriety of OnlyFans attracted subscribers, so it meant that more people were on the platform. The popularity of OnlyFans plays a big part in attracting subscribers. That popularity is due to a mix of factors: mention of it in Meg thee Stallion & Beyonce’s Savage Remix, a variety of popular celebrities launching channels, and of course the Bella Thorne scandal. The majority of the other platforms content creators could move to do not have this popularity and recognition. They have some clout with existing customers, but they don’t have mainstream notability. This can present a problem because it requires new subscribers to create profiles and move to a platform, that not all of their favorite content creators may be on.
Though OnlyFans’ decision was prompted because of pressure from investors and banks, it is a compounding decision that further builds onto the stigma that exists around sex work. This decision and the pressure is a message that sexual content, sexual pleasure, and sexual exploration are bad and something to be ashamed of. There is nothing bad about people sharing their bodies and offering pleasure, stimulation, and outlets to other people. Credit card processors and banks demanding this is them saying, “This is not okay, you can’t do it.” It is a roundabout way of censoring what people can do, what adults can do.
Though the decision has been suspended, it is still a problem that needs to be addressed and fought against. It is also important to note that OnlyFans announced that they suspended the ban, they did not completely reverse it, which means that at some point in time the ban can be put in place. The suspension is just giving OnlyFans time to come up with a solution to their problem, so they can meet the demands of their investors and bankers could be met, without losing the revenue of their highest earners and content creators.
Though this may not directly affect you, you can and should want to be a part of this fight. The stigmatization of sex work and sexuality, in general, has a larger effect on all of us. If you want to help the first step is to listen to sex workers. The people that know best how to better this industry and solve its problems are the people in it. Follow movements led by sex workers, learn from the information they share, support them when they speak at town halls and other events focused on the legislature. Continue to watch and buy ethical porn, go directly to content creators if you can. Be sure to pay attention to any new platforms your favorite creators may be moving to. Do your due diligence when buying porn from larger porn channels. One of my favorite recommendations for ethical porn is BellesaPlus which has a sliding scale option, starting at $3/month.
I hope that this helped you understand the complexities of this situation and how it plays part in the bigger picture. Moral of the story: sex work is work and you need to be supporting sex workers.
Image by Sarah Epperson (@sarah.epperson)