For years, now, OnlyFans has been an adult media subscription platform giving sex workers a safe, reliable revenue stream.
It has been used by Teen Mom stars, by 90 Day Fiance stars, and most infamously, by Bella Thorne.
Now, the site has announced an alarming pivot that will abruptly ban a vast swathe of the site’s content.
Horrified and upset social media users are wading through reports and misinformation to find out whom to blame. Did Bella Thorne ruin the site?
To quote a popular and too-often relevant meme: we are all looking for the guy who did this.
On Thursday, August 19, Bloomberg and other outlets reported that OnlyFans was banning a lot of what people consider to be “porn” from what most would call a porn-based site.
Sex workers and content creators had been noting red flags in this direction for some time.
Despite some confusing press coverage, OnlyFans creators will still be able to upload photos and videos, even including a degree of nudity and sexual content.
Other things, ranging from illegal material (already banned) to some more outlandish kinks to fairly commonplace kink staples, will be banned.
There is a lot of uncertainty among non-celebrity OnlyFans creators, many of whom have invested money in camera, lighting, and equipment because this is their primary source of income.
So what exactly is leaving the site? Initially, we just heard that “sexually explicit” material will soon be forbidden.
Certain types of bondage and fully consensual “rough” sex scenes are out, according to initial reports.
OnlyFans already requires that anyone appearing in any content be an adult with a verified identity.
They are now policing the type of sex that consenting adults have, and effectively making all of the site’s remaining creators walk on eggshells.
Some, most of whom are either opposed to sex work or whose default stance is to disparage women, say that sex workers impacted should get “real jobs.”
But OnlyFans creators already have a real job. Whether it’s stripping, cam work, porn, or full service, sex work is real work.
OnlyFans is not the first site to try to banish a huge portion of its content.
The infamous Tumblr Purge of 2018 all but killed the blogging platform, and was devastating to artists and sex workers alike.
Before that, Backpage and Craigslist both had to suspend features that had been a godsend to sex workers.
Much of this has stemmed from FOSTA/SESTA, an ostensibly well-intentioned but ultimately reprehensible piece of legislation passed several years ago.
Under the guise of fighting “sex trafficking,” the legislation made plenty of (consensual) sex workers unable to operate online because web services risked penalties if caught hosting them.
The results of this go much deeper than an inconvenience to sex workers or their clients.
On sites like Backpage, full service sex workers were once able to safely screen potential clients before meeting face-to-face.
Now, unable to do so, they are back to meeting clients in person without vetting them. The potential dangers are obvious and potentially deadly.
Every Senator who voted for the bill, including ones that you or I might happen to like, has blood on their hands.
OnlyFans is only the latest casualty in what appears to be a war against having fun on the internet.
We have to remember that this is a direct attack on people’s livelihoods, not just an inconvenience to people who want to look at naked people.
Who is to blame, exactly?
After the disgusting news about OnlyFans’ policy shift broke on Thursday, Bella Thorne’s name was soon trending.
Why? Because when Bella famously joined the site to tremendous financial success, she effectively “broke” several features.
She was also accused at that time of interfering in the work of actual sex workers who, unlike Bella, were not famous millionaires and actually need the money.
The joke on Twitter was that Bella’s participation in the site last year began a domino effect that led to this.
While her cavalier use of the site to post largely SFW content led to her being accused of “scamming” customers, this was not actually her doing.
In fact, Bella doesn’t really post the kind of content that’s being banned. The actual causes of this are much more sinister.
So … what is the truth?
OnlyFans’ official explanation that the change is to “comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”
With that in mind, this twist on a familiar meme was spawned:
This meme migh tbe a joke, but it’s spot-on in many ways.
MasterCard is implementing new rules and requirements for any adult media sites.
If the sites fail to meet the card company’s extreme demands, then customers can no longer use those cards to pay.
So why exactly is MasterCard transforming into Frollo and setting fire to anything that dares to make people horny?
It’s not just MasterCard. Paypal is known for being hostile to sex workers. And it’s expected that Visa and other cards will soon have similar rules.
There is a complex chain of factors leading to this, but a huge part of it is … Christian dominionism. We’re not kidding.
This Twitter thread actually lays things out with specific sourced detail if you want an exact rundown of cause and effect.
The “short” version, we say a little too late at nearly 900 words into reporting on this, is that there are malicious groups waging a “culture war” in our society.
They go after the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights, and more … but sex work makes an easier target.
Face it: raging loudly about gay people existing isn’t as popular of a position as it was a couple of decades ago.
The trans community is on the receiving end of a lot of bigotry but, in the United States, mainstream transphobia meets an increasingly partisan divide.
What issue could unite conservatives with gullible liberal politicians and their constituents? Fear-mongering about “sex trafficking.”
Sex trafficking is a real thing. There are people in this world who are forced into horrors that most of us cannot imagine.
But that should never be conflated with sex work. “Consensual sex worker” is redundant.
By the same token, someone who is voluntarily a paid construction worker or farmer should not be conflated with a slave.
What happens is that people with Christian dominionist agendas — who want to make their religion’s laws part of our legal code — raise the alarm.
They talk about sex trafficking and exploitation, both real and imagined, on sites like Pornhub, OnlyFans, Backpage, and more.
No politician wants to be seen as “pro-sex-trafficking,” with the possible exception of Matt Gaetz, so the worst kind of bipartisan coalition is formed.
Legislation targeting sex trafficking almost invariably makes life harder and more dangerous for actual sex workers.
Part of this is because of restrictions on online content.
It’s also more challenging because full service sex work is illegal in most of the United States.
And by the way? Not all of them can get other jobs.
This is especially true for trans and disabled sex workers and for single parents.
A job done from home with a flexible schedule that can make you real, consistent money? For many, that’s their dream job.
This goes deeper than a toxic bipartisan war against sex workers, however.
Anti-sex worker hate groups, often crusading under thin veneer of “women’s rights” or the always ominous “family-oriented” banner, lobby payment processors directly.
They convince major banks and cards and other financial services to not do business with any sites that hot sex workers.
At worst, Bella Thorne may have shown OnlyFans that they can still make money from painfully tame, non-sexual material.
That is why, for months, this has been building, starting with OnlyFans playing ads for chefs and other SFW entertainers.
They built their massive media empire on the backs of sex workers. Now, the site is discarding a lot of them. It is shameful.