OnlyFans to ban ‘sexually explicit’ content amid pressure from financial partners

20 Aug 2021

Image: © mehaniq41/Stock.adobe.com

A UK sex worker collective called the news ‘a very painful blow’ and said content creators are ‘scrambling for what to do to sustain income’.

Subscription service OnlyFans, known chiefly for hosting user-created pornographic content, has said it will ban the posting of “sexually explicit conduct” from 1 October.

In a statement, the company said: “In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we most evolve our content guidelines.”

Future Human

Creators on the platform “will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity”. The precise definition of “sexually explicit conduct” has not yet been defined by the company, but it will be “sharing more details in the coming days.”

“These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers,” OnlyFans added.

The platform has more than 130m users, including 2m creators. According to Axios, some 16,000 people earn more than $50,000 annually from working through the platform.

OnlyFans has, however, struggled to find investors due to its reputation as a platform for pornography, despite not explicitly being set up for that purpose.

While it’s not possible to say what percentage of the site’s content will be included in the “sexually explicit” definition, TechCrunch notes that “it’s a serious question whether OnlyFans will be able to survive this transition in any recognisable form”.

In late 2018, blogging platform Tumblr removed all adult content permanently and, despite not being as synonymous with porn as OnlyFans, saw its traffic drop by 30pc within three months.

Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), a UK collective organisation for sex workers of all kinds, said on Twitter that the OnlyFans announcement “has come as a very painful blow, after an already horrendous 18 months”.

“What we know for sure is that sex workers who depend on OnlyFans for income are very stressed right now and scrambling for what to do to sustain income when the ban comes in.

“Many of us saw this ban coming, but it’s still a kick in the teeth. It’s far from the first time that sex workers have been instrumental in building a platform, only to be banned once it becomes more mainstream,” it added.

As SWARM said, the issue of financial platforms limiting adult businesses is not a recent one. Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, spoke to Siliconrepublic.com nine years ago about being rejected by banks and payment processors. The trend shows no signs of changing.

The pressure from payment platforms means that others may struggle to fill the gap left by OnlyFans. Some have pointed out, though, that use of cryptocurrencies may offer a way around financial institutions and their reservations.

JustForFans, which claims to be second to OnlyFans in traffic among user-created porn sites, accepts Bitcoin payments. The platform said on Twitter it “was founded and built by and for sex workers” and is “well-poised to make sure adult content creators are not abandoned”.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com