Guest written by Rain Andersen (@wearenotfriends_), a marketing and e-commerce coordinator for Lovers. Rain is a retired sex worker, pleasure advocate, and sexual wellness expert. Rain has worked in the adult entertainment industry for eight years and in the adult retail industry for four years.
OnlyFans has just launched a new, on-demand streaming service and it has nothing to do with sex work.
The company issued a statement on Thursday, August 19th, barring content creators from posting sexually explicit material on their platform. Changes to the websites policies are scheduled to go in effect later this year.
OnlyClothed: A New Era of OnlyFans
“Effective 1 October, 2021, OnlyFans will prohibit the posting of any content containing sexually-explicit conduct. In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines,” OnlyFans stated in their August 19th press release. “Creators will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity as long as it is consistent with our Acceptable Use Policy. These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”
OnlyFans cites banking partners as the reason for these changes, but the site’s new OTT (over-the-top) streaming platform tells a different story. OFTV is OnlyFans latest attempt to rebrand their platform; just one of many instances that has created friction between OnlyFans and their NSFW creators. The OFTV app highlights video content from various fitness, cooking, and beauty professionals, who are estimated to make up roughly 20% of the site’s creator accounts. NSFW creators are expressing their frustration over the subscription service platform after being denied access to the benefits and features of OFTV.
OFTV is one of the brands many veiled attempts to make the platform more palatable to the general public. The company’s efforts to distance themselves from the sex work community comes at the expense of the NSFW creators that first popularized the platform. This marketing strategy has a second, more devastating layer that is expected to result in the complete removal of NSFW content from their site. In the Spring of this year, OnlyFans brought in The Raine Group- a merchant bank that would help the site to solicit investors and raise funds. Their goal: an investment valued upwards of $1 billion. Sex workers have theorized that these funds will be used to sell the platform, after taking steps to reduce the presence of online sex work.
This all comes at the anniversary of Bella Thorne’s controversial OnlyFans account, which many site users criticized for gentrifying sex work. Thorne was embroiled in conflict with the OnlyFans community after generating a massive $2m in her first week on the platform. When Thorne failed to produce the NSFW content that was promised to subscribers, the platform became inundated with refund requests.
"Spending limits are in place to protect all OnlyFans users and to allow them to use the platform safely," said an OnlyFans spokeswoman in the weekend following the Thorne controversy. "The newly introduced limits on tips and paid posts is a change that has been in the pipeline for a while, and has not been implemented in response to any one creator or fan."
Many sex workers speculated that the cap charges were a consequence of Bella Thorne’s $2m creator fee. OnlyFans Creator, Erika Heidewald attracted attention in their widely disputed Twitter thread that claimed after so many users requested a full refund for Throne’s PPV (Pay-Per-View) message, the content subscription service was faced with an exorbitant amount of processing fees. With content prices capped, Creators had to shift their customer acquisition strategies to accommodate for the profits they might have normally received before the spending limit was introduced.
OnlyFans is looking for investors, but the company valued at $1 billion is failing to attract attention from venture capitalists. Lockdown mandates rolled out in 2019 pushed many sex workers onto this platform, seeking alternatives to strip clubs and escorting services impacted by the pandemic. Many people credited OnlyFans for creating a safe space for individuals in this line of work, whose options for digital promotion and vetting were otherwise limited. But as the company grew in popularity, sex workers began to be phased out in exchange for influencers and artists. It’s a business tactic that we’ve seen reproduced by social sharing applications like Instagram and Twitter: the company grows in popularity due to the accessibility of their user content before adopting more restrictive policies that appeal to a larger consumer group. What’s so egregious about a company like OnlyFans implementing these policies, is that it disregards the users that it is credited for uplifting. Anyone, regardless of their experience in sex work, can grasp the hypocrisy of OnlyFans latest policy updates and the way that it neglects a core component of their userbase.
Though the company promises these changes will not prevent NSFW content Creators from uploading materials on-site, it’s still unclear about how these uploaded materials will be monitored. Some OnlyFans Creators are hopeful that these updates will be geared towards subscribers, rather then the content creators themselves, but historical evidence suggests otherwise. Many of the NSFW Creators expect policy updates to mirror Instagram’s latest Terms of Service update, which allows celebrities and verified accounts to slide under the radar while non-verified accounts are frozen or removed for suspected (or perceived) misconduct.
Though the stigma of sex work has played a large part in OnlyFans investment challenges, their exclusion of sex workers from their investment decks and site description have done little to inspire confidence in investors. Anyone familiar with the OnlyFans brand knows that sex workers are an integral part of their success. This is why it can appear disingenuous for them to market their platform as anything other than what we, the public, perceive it to be.
At Lovers, we sell a variety of different pleasure products including literature, games, and personal massagers. While all of our products are geared towards pleasure, it would be dishonest for us to say we are anything other then a sex toy store, because sex toys are ultimately the driver of our business. When OnlyFans describes themselves as a social media platform, it fails to acknowledge the role that sex workers play on-site. Investors may feel misled by OnlyFans, because of their many obscure attempts to eliminate sex workers from their platform. Now, OnlyFans is shifting to more explicit policy changes in an effort to repackage the brand to its investors. The company sent out an email to creators on the platform on Friday, August 20th with more details about these changes.
“Content containing nudity will continue to be allowed as long as it is consistent with the policy. Existing content that does not meet the standards of the new policy will need to be removed before December 1st, 2021. Our intention is for the policy to be implemented in accordance with the above dates, but we may need to change out one or more of the dates as circumstances may require," the email stated.
"Due to the size a rapid growth of the OnlyFans platform, where creators have earned over $5 billion dollars since inception, we must increasingly rely on large banking institutions and payment processers to facilitate payments between fans and creators. The new rules are necessary to comply with the requirements of these financial institutions and are the only way to help ensure long term sustainability.”
I wanted to hear how the NSFW Creators on OnlyFans felt about these new policies, so I reached out to one of the creators on the site. Marcelo Solis is a 25-year-old Creator living in South Florida, who has been using OnlyFans to supplement his full-time job at a luxury clothing store. Marcelo created his OnlyFans account in December 2020 after seeing the success other sex workers had on the online platform. I asked Marcelo to explain how these new policies would influence the type of content that he creates and the fan base that he has established.
MARCELO: “The new policy allows nudity, but Creators won’t be allowed to masturbate or have sex in their content, whether it is real or simulated. You can’t show buttholes, or genitals.”
LOVERS: “It sounds like more of a pay-per-view thirst trap.”
MARCELO: “Yes, exactly. It doesn’t impact me as much as other Creators on the platform. That’s how a lot of people make their money, and I feel really badly about what this will mean for them. I have a full-time job, so OnlyFans doesn't really make up the bulk of my income. It won't be as hard for me to switch platforms.”
LOVERS: "How will this change the type of content that you create? Do you expect it to influence your fanbase?"
MARCELO: "I don't anticipate this to impact my following- I generate my fan base through Twitter and Reddit and those platforms allow me to market myself without restriction. As for the content I create... I love posting nudes, but the past few years have made me want to quit online sex work in general."
LOVERS: "What will you do next?"
MARCELO: "I’ve started to look at local strip clubs, again. In Flordia, there are a lot more male/female clubs, and if I'm being honest, I miss dancing. And I’m hearing amazing things about Just for Fans. Their platform is supposed to be really similar to OnlyFans and it's owned by a sex worker. I'll go where ever the money is, honey."
Creators will have two months to transition their services to alternative platforms before updates to OnlyFan’s Acceptable Use Policy goes into effect. Creators are grappling with how these policies might alter their income and accessibility to clients, and are searching for substitutes to this rapidly suburbanized platform.
The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the development of a new Delta Variant, mean that sex workers will still need to utilize technology as a surrogate to in-person services whether they want to or not. NFT’s (Non-Fungible Tokens) remain a relatively unexplored form of digital currency, but Cryptocurrency (bitcoin) is the favored mode of payment for competing subscription platforms. Many people are saying that Cryptocurrency is the future of online sex work, while others warn that it will further tarnish Cryptocurrency's reputation, which has been described as a hotbed of illicit activity.
Below, we look at some of the competing platforms that have garnered attention after word circulated about OnlyFan's plans to eliminate certain forms of NSFW content.
SpankChain Pop Shots
SpankChain, an adult entertainment website, announced Friday that they plan to launch their new, NSFW NFT platform inspired by the popular basketball trading card platform, NBA Top Shot.
What had initially been marketed as an April Fool's Joke, is now being brought to life, and it couldn't be more perfectly timed. Pop Shots will allow Creators to sell packs of five collector cards, with ranks that reveal the cards content. Each Pop Shot is individually re-sellable, and will give Creators an opportunity to grow their income from the sale of their Pop Shot collector cards. There has been little information regarding how many cards a Creator can have, and what the average value of each card will be, but we have hope that this site will give greater credibility to the use of NFT's on platforms designed for sex workers. SpankChain describes themselves as, "founded to support sex workers and advocate for their financial agency." They plan to share 100% of the proceeds with the models featured in their 1st Edition Spank Pop Pack.
JustFor.Fans is welcoming tons of sex workers onto their platform this week, in response to the changes at OnlyFans.
"The adult industry is sadly used to companies cutting their teeth on the adult market and then abandoning them once they reach critical mass," they said in a public statement on Instagram on August 20th.
"JustFor.Fans was founded and built by, and for, sex workers and its staff is 100% comprised of sex workers and people who have been in the porn industry for many, many years. We are a porn site. That will never change and we have no interest in mainstreaming. JustFor.Fans is number two in traffic to OnlyFans and we are well-poised to make sure adult creators are not abandoned. We welcome them all to our website."
JustFor.Fans (JFF) has quietly made a name for themselves, with each subtle manipulation to OnlyFan's NSFW policies. In the past, sex workers have argued that the payout percentage for content creators is 10% higher on OnlyFans, and that the traffic source was larger. But now, sex workers are seeing JFF as a possible alternative to OnlyFans, and one that is designed to keep other types of business professionals from appropriating their industry.
"Sites that are not built from people within the industry don’t understand the complete adult ecosystem," JustFor.Fan's founder and former sex worker, Dominic Ford tells Bustle.
Ford founded an anti-piracy agency in 2010 called The Porn Guardian, designed to protect content created by online sex workers and performers. Using technology created for The Porn Guardian, JFF scans the internet every 15 minutes to identify and preemptively stop pirated content.
AVN Stars is a hybrid platform that brings together live streams, twitter feeds, stories, and PPV content, all in one place. It is the known stopping ground for adult film stars like Angela White and Scarlett Bloom, who both helped during the unveiling of AVN Stars at last years AVN Expo, the largest adult entertainment convention in the world.
For years, AVN has been hosting models from sites like My Free Cams and Chaterbate. Now, AVN is ramping up it's presence in the world of content creation, and NSFW creators are taking note. AVN Stars is said to mirror the functionalities and payout models that are used on OnlyFans, which allows Creators to transition more seamlessly between platforms. Like OnlyFans, AVN Stars takes a 20% commission fee for paid content- one of the lowest percentages in the industry, and a robust explore page that allows for higher rates of organic discovery.
Frisk.Chat is the newest competitor to OnlyFans, founded in 2019 by two sex workers named Sascha and Elle. While there is little information about this up-and-coming platform, sex workers have started to describe Frisk as "the next big thing."
Frisk offers Creators multiple levels of social sharing, a 5% referral return, and a 20% commission fee- all which are considered to be standard features of the OnlyFans platform. But when Frisk produced an Instagram statement this Saturday, on August 21st- they revealed that the site would adopt a streaming service called FriskLive that is sure to attract attention in the digital marketplace.
FriskLive will be available to Creators this October, along with the sites most popular features: public and private wall feeds, PPV content, paid chat, and stories. Team members at Frisk are currently helping sex workers to transition between platforms by encouraging Creators to contact their support team. Think of it like a college advisor for ensuring your fan base will follow you from one platform to the next.
While the future of sex work is still hazy, we are seeing plenty of innovative new platforms that intend to put their own twist on content subscription services. It's our hope that each of these companies will learn from OnlyFans missteps in an effort to create more inclusive and sex positive platforms. With any luck, we might finally create a space for sex workers to exist, thrive, and belong.
UPDATE (8/25/2021): OnlyFans announced on Wednesday, August 25th, that they would be suspending their plans to remove pornographic content from their site after backlash from NSFW creators. An OnlyFans spokesperson made an official comment to CNBC stating that the changes to the platform were no longer necessary "due to banking partners assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of Creators."
Tim Stokely, the sites founder, claims that the decision to limit NSFW content was due to the "unfair" treatment that banking partners placed on platforms like OnlyFans. Stokely calls on JPMorgan, Britain's Metro Bank, and BNY Melon as some of the institutions that were to blame for the policies impacting NSFW Creators. Stokely denied that changes were influenced by the company's search for investors.
Some Creators have made a connection between OnlyFans suggested policy changes and the ones going into effect at Mastercard this October, which will further restrict adult merchants from using their payment processing systems. A Mastercard spokesperson confirmed that they had no contact with the NSFW subscription platform regarding decisions to initiate or lift the pornographic ban.
It's difficult to say how NSFW Creators will respond to this news, and whether this will help to preserve OnlyFans core userbase. Many of their NSFW Creators have already dispersed to competing platforms, voicing discontent over OnlyFans repeated attempts to gentrify their content. Sex workers are left to debate whether the benefits of this platform outweigh the risks, leaving us wondering: is OnlyFans at the tail end of their success?
The Indefensible Cruelty of the OnlyFans Porn Ban: Slate
Bella Thorne, OnlyFans, & the Battle Over Monetizing Content: BBC News
OnlyFans Has Tons of Users, But No Investors: Axios