After years of building their audiences on OnlyFans, a number of sex workers and adult content creators are now facing the possibility of losing their jobs and access to the fans who have helped them pay their bills.
OnlyFans, a subscription-based website that pays creators for posting videos and photos for fans, announced on Thursday that it would ban “content containing sexually explicit conduct” in October while allowing nudity in accordance with its “acceptable use policy.” The company attributed the changes to a need to ensure “the platform’s long-term sustainability,” according to a statement.
“These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers,” it added.
Some people were perplexed by the move: The UK-based startup, which was founded in 2016, is best known for being a platform for sharing and viewing pornographic content. It has grown rapidly in recent years due to this reputation. According to its website, OnlyFans has paid out $5 billion to more than 1.5 million creators, including Cardi B and Bella Thorne, and has 150 million users.
Adult content creators and sex workers, on the other hand, say they aren’t surprised by the change, which will fundamentally change how they and others use the platform.
Yes, there’s anger and disappointment: “Where would you be if it weren’t for the people who gave you your fame?” Bria Backwoods, a content creator, had this to say about the announcement. “I believe it will die down without us.”
But, as one OnlyFans creator, who goes by the name of Siri Dahl, explained to CNN Business: “There’s been some form of rumor and/or panic about OnlyFans kicking sex workers off the platform on a pretty regular basis for the last year.”
Dahl, who previously worked in the adult film industry, said she joined OnlyFans in late 2019 and that it had become her primary source of income by early 2020. Dahl said she was able to buy her first home with the money she earned on OnlyFans earlier this year.
OnlyFan has a simple, easy-to-use interface, a reasonable revenue share (the site collects 20%), and a buzz factor, despite the fact that there are a slew of other sites and services to which Dahl contributes content. “The simple fact, in my experience, is that no other platform has the level of traffic that OnlyFans has come to have, especially during the pandemic,” Dahl said. “It went absolutely hog wild during the pandemic.”
Dahl said there were specific inflection points in the platform’s history that made creators concerned about the platform’s future for those in her industry. After a New York Times column earlier that month reported on videos of alleged child abuse and nonconsensual acts on the platform, Mastercard, Visa, and Discover blocked customers from using their credit cards to make payments on PornHub. The move brought attention to the tense relationship that exists between payment processors and pornographic websites. Then came word that OnlyFans was seeking $1 billion in funding from investors, but venture capital firms are often wary of associating with adult content artists.
Maya Morena, another creator, said she joined OnlyFans about four years ago and has worked extremely hard to build a fanbase on the platform. She said she was able to transition from full-service sex work, which required her to meet clients in person, to her earnings from OnlyFans.
“During Covid, I just stopped [full-service sex work] completely because it became too dangerous,” Morena said, adding that “this was the best month I’ve had on OnlyFans … and now it is basically ruined.”
Morena said that while she’s frustrated and angry, she’s been through it before, having used services like Backpage.com, a classified ads website that was shut down in 2018, Craigslist, which shut down its personals section the same year, and Tumblr, which banned pornography at the end of the same year.