• Georgia Buck

How Sex Workers Have Been Impacted By OnlyFans’ Decisions


© Titian, Venus of Urbino.


OnlyFans May Have Reversed Their Porn Ban, But How Have Sex Workers Been Affected?


Earlier this month, content subscription service OnlyFans announced that from October, sexually explicit content would be banned. Barely a week later - following immense amounts of backlash from sex workers (many of whom rely on the site for their income) and their supporters - the company announced that this new rule would be suspended.


However, for many users, the suspension of the ban seems to have come too little too late. Many users have been negatively impacted already, and have been left uncertain about what OnlyFans may decide to do in the future. So how have sex workers been affected by the company’s back-and-forth decisions? And what does their original decision to ban pornographic content say about how our society views and treats sex workers?


Although its purpose isn’t exclusively for porn, ‘OnlyFans’ and ‘nudes’ are pretty much synonymous nowadays. OnlyFans gains a lot of its revenue from sex workers as the service takes 20% of all creators earnings, and it owes a lot of its reputation to sex workers - especially over the course of the pandemic with OnlyFans reporting a 75% increase in new creators when the first lockdown occurred in May last year. It’s not unlikely that a fair amount of these new creators are posting sexual content on the site.


So, naturally, the announcement that the site would be banning sexually explicit content came as a shock to many and was faced with huge amounts of backlash online. The company claimed the decision was being made “to comply with the requests of [their] banking partners and payout partners”, but regardless of their reasoning, the proposed change left creators uncertain about where their futures were heading. Many creators have come to rely on OnlyFans as their main or only source of income. The site allows sex workers to have control over their own work, with them being able to set their own prices for their content and to have full control over what they post. Many sex workers and content creators have spent months growing a substantial OnlyFans audience, so the announcement of the ban meant that a lot of users lost many of their subscribers that they had spent a lot of time gaining. Once subscribers are lost, it is very difficult to gain them back.


With the announcement of the ban, many users migrated to alternative sites such as Fansly, and whilst it’s a positive sign that there are options outside of OnlyFans it also means that these creators will have to build up their subscribers from scratch.


Fansly is openly pro-sex work and experienced many technical difficulties due to the sheer amount of new users joining the site after the OnlyFans announcement. They tweeted that they hoped "the OnlyFans news isn’t true [...] we want to grow because our site is more feature rich, more secure, and has better support not because creators are forced to use it."



It makes sense that people have now chosen to use sites like Fansly who are open about how sex workers make up most of their profit. However, OnlyFans is known almost exclusively for its sexual content, and many feel that a ban on this sort of content leaves those who popularised the site high and dry.



With so many creators joining alternative services, it’s no wonder that OnlyFans quickly reversed their decision and instead announced that the ban would be ‘suspended’ until further notice. For a lot of creators, however, this did not bring about a great deal of comfort. First of all, the declaration that the ban would be ‘suspended’ and not scrapped completely left many creators unsure as to what that meant for the future of sexual content on OnlyFans - would they still be banning it at some point? If so, when? How much time would sex workers have to prepare if the ban were to be announced again in the future?


Secondly, what is stopping other companies from doing the same? Fansly seems to be encouraging of sex workers, but OnlyFans is following in the footsteps of Patreon, a subscription service that banned sexual content in 2017 despite previously being very open about backing sex workers in their projects.


Many creators are therefore understandably distrustful of the (temporary?) decision to not ban sexual content. Not only because it seems OnlyFans may reannounce the ban at any moment, but also because this decision has shown how readily the company was willing to stop supporting sex workers. Them going back on the decision only came after a great amount of backlash, and it is apparent that their reasoning for reversing the decision was based less on a desire to support sex workers and more on the fact that they soon realised that to do so would be to drive away their main source of profit.



Many creators are now facing a difficult decision. Do they return to OnlyFans, a site that was ready to dismiss sex workers at the drop of a hat and could possibly do it again at any time? Or do they move to a different site, where they will have to rebuild their audiences and run the same risk of the site deciding at any time that sexual content will be banned?


Sex workers have built these companies their reputations and a majority of their profits, whilst in return having what they thought to be a safe space for them to have full control over their own work and content. For companies like OnlyFans and Patreon to then turn around and ban sexual content, sex workers are put at risk, especially more vulnerable sex workers who were involved in more dangerous forms of sex work before moving to online content creation. The decision to ban sexual content on OnlyFans, despite being primarily what it is known and used for, has also revealed some truths about how sex workers are viewed and treated by society. If OnlyFans had a reputation for any other form of content, like art or even non-sexual modelling, this wouldn’t even be an argument. However, because it is sex work, it is treated as less professional; if any other demographic of content creators were banned from the app - imagine, for instance, musicians losing their platform, with their careers and livelihoods put at risk, everyone would be outraged.


OnlyFans claim it is because of the banks that they had to make the decision to ban sexual content. This only goes to show how sex work is still not seen by many as ‘real’ work. Sites like OnlyFans have given sex workers more freedom over their own lives when historically they have been a vulnerable demographic. To make the decision to ban sexual content from a site that has provided a safety net for these creators shows that whoever made the decision - whether it be the banks or OnlyFans themselves, cares little for the safety and wellbeing of sex workers.


There is a silver lining though. Despite the reversal on the decision to ban sexual content being untrustworthy, the sudden change in heart didn’t come out of the blue. It came about after immense backlash - not just from sex workers, and not just from their clients, but from thousands of people who believed the ban to be unfair. The future of online sex work is uncertain, but there seem to be plenty of supporters who will be looking out for the wellbeing of content creators who were snubbed by OnlyFans.