The content subscription service OnlyFans announced on Wednesday that it would reverse its ban on sexually explicit content, which the site first reported as a new policy last week. The site’s stunning reversal came after it received fierce criticism from creators and advocates supporting the rights of sex workers.
The platform made the switch less than one week after announcing it would ban sexual content due to a need to comply with the policies of banking partners. But then, on Wednesday, OnlyFans said in a tweet that it had “secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change.” The company said, “Thanks to everyone for making their voices heard.” This was just one day after OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely told the Financial Times that banks associated with the platform didn’t want to be associated to sex work.
Stokely stated that JPMorgan Chase is very aggressive in closing accounts for sex workers and… any businesses that support sex workers. It’s not clear if the company has reached a deal to allow creators to continue to use the site for sexually explicit content. So, does this change really reflect “banking partners” or a backtrack following a very public repudiation of the company?
OnlyFans, a subscription service that was launched in 2016, was created to allow people over 18 years old to buy and sell sex work. With OnlyFans, creators had the power to make the kind of content they wanted and could name the price on a platform where they wouldn’t necessarily be censored for their work. But as OnlyFans creator Kimberly Kane told The Times back in May, “OnlyFans is not going to last, but it is a hell of a ride. They will take it from us just as they do everything else. It’s just a matter time.”
Kane was correct. BuzzFeed News was told by Skylar Shark, a creator of adult content that “every single dollar that company has made has revolved about porn whether or not they want it to be admitted. It’s funny to see them trying to pick up pieces from the vase they threw at each other. Sex workers have always had to fight for control over how their labor is distributed and produced.”
Crackdowns on sex workers’ rights online followed, as websites like Craigslist and RedBook that hosted classified and message boards became the targets of government censorship back in 2014. Four years later, Congress passed FOSTA-SESTA, a set of controversial bills with the purported goal of curbing human trafficking, which only led to the further censorship of sex work online. . .
So, it seems clear now, though, that OnlyFans is not willing to maintain protections for sex workers and the incomes they’ve built on the platform. Some sex workers aren’t sure if they want to return to the site after OnlyFans recently banned porn. The Verge reports that many creators have already begun to delete content that violates the new policy or moved their subscribers to other platforms as a result. Some creators are furious at the company for suddenly changing its policy, claiming they have lost money and followers since the original policy change. BuzzFeed’s xaddiebabyx said that they were quick to dismiss us when sex workers are what makes OnlyFans the platform it has today. She has also lost “countless” fans: “It made me smile reading their post today. I thought we would all come back to them even though they had only suspended the policy change.”
Sex workers now have to choose whether they want to continue creating content on the site that has made direct profit from it or quit the platform. The question is now about the fit of OnlyFans as a social media platform that allows online influencers to share their content. Is the site able to survive without the people who made it what is?