Earlier this week, the social media platform OnlyFans announced it would be banning sexually explicit content, effective October 1. The declaration triggered an exodus of creators to alternative platforms, and on Wednesday OnlyFans announced it was “suspending” its plan… but the company’s choice of words has advocates worrying the reversal won’t last very long.
On the latest episode of the NOW What podcast, culture editor Radheyan Simonpillai and I talk to Jenna Hynes, a program development coordinator at Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project, and Gwen Adora, an adult content creator and influencer, about what lies ahead for creators who rely on OnlyFans for much-needed income, how long this reversal might hold, and who’s really behind the targeting of platforms that specialize in sexually explicit content.
“That word ‘suspension’ is such an important distinction to make,” says Hines. “They’re backpedaling right now because they’ve lost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in the last week.”
Hynes is convinced OnlyFans’ reversal is just a temporary measure. “I think they’re biding their time before taking it away again, and removing the rug out from under our feet for porn creators [and] sexual content creators.”
Another pressing question is exactly why OnlyFans is taking this stance now, after building its business on this sort of material. Early speculation was that the UK-based company was pressured by banks and payment processors to abandon adult content, though that appears not to have been the whole story. (The Verge published an excellent explainer on the whole affair today.)
Adora thinks the banks and payment processors might well have been involved, but what’s more important is why those businesses were involved.
OnlyFans has been courting investors, Adora explains, “and certain venture-capitalist firms won’t be involved with anything that’s associated with pornography, because of [pressure from] anti-porn activists. It’s a bunch of different things that are all working together to eradicate sex work, and OnlyFans is just the next big platform that’s in the [sights] of the anti-porn movement.”
A favourite strategy of anti-pornography crusaders is moving to starve adult sites of their revenue streams, using the argument that adult sites like PornHub and OnlyFans might host non-consensual material – or videos of children in sexual situations.
As Rad points out in the podcast, Facebook is a far more likely destination for such material, but no one’s targeting them; it’s much easier – and far more socially acceptable – to target adult sites and the people who make their living from them.
“It’s frightening to me how little corporations care – how little anybody cares – about the sex work community, except for sex workers,” Hynes says. “It’s never surprising, but it’s always really, really shocking that people don’t seem to understand that. You’re not protecting children from harm, you’re harming people that don’t deserve it. It’s frustrating, and I’m pretty angry a lot of the time.”
“It’s the anti-porn people who are pushing those banks and credit-card processors,” Adora says. “But it’s also OnlyFans’ decision, as we see, [because] five days after them telling us they no longer want us on their site, they’re going back on their word and saying, ‘No, actually it’s okay, we’re going to keep you.’ So realistically, they played a part in this discussion as well.”
Hear the entire conversation in the latest episode of the NOW What podcast, which also features television writer/producer and podcast host Jocelyn Geddie discussing the mixed audience response to the second season of Ted Lasso, and why that might be a little premature. Available on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or streamable right here:
NOW What is NOW’s weekly news and culture podcast. New episodes are released every Friday.