Sex workers like me have been pushed out of internet spaces for years – losing OnlyFans is the last straw

·4-min read
‘As sex workers we have no labor protections and our work, even when perfectly legal, is stigmatised’ (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
‘As sex workers we have no labor protections and our work, even when perfectly legal, is stigmatised’ (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

OnlyFans planning on banning all “explicit content” after October of this year, but is going to continue to allow nudity under its “acceptable use” policy. But what exactly is acceptable nudity? Are we to expect yet another Instagram, another Twitter; where celebrities are welcome to post risqué content – and sex workers are banned for the same?

Sex workers have been pushed out of internet spaces for years in an anti-sex work brigade under the guise of “anti-trafficking”. And now? OnlyFans is the next platform we’re about to lose.

FOSTA-SESTA in the US (the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) eliminated major resources designed for advertising and connecting with clients like Craigslist’s personal section, Backpage, and other online hubs. These bills removed a vital element of the internet’s section 230 protections, allowing websites and internet service providers to be held responsible if ads for sex services are being hosted on their platforms.

In recent years, many sex workers have elected to use content hosting sites online like OnlyFans and AVN Stars, establishing and advertising themselves online – only to get suspended on social media sites for existing as a sex worker.

We, as sex workers have no labor protections and our work, even when perfectly legal, is stigmatized at best and dangerous at worst.

Content sites offered some income and a degree of separation from real time work for many women, and to lose them would be devastating to those who rely on the platform for income. It is a high risk job, but truly high reward. If that changes? Your porn consumption habits likely will too.

Andi Land, a veteran sex worker and top earning OnlyFans performer, claims she saw this coming. “There’s been speculation for months that Onlyfans would eventually ban adult content as they’ve been under attack by anti-porn crusaders,” she said. “It’s no secret that they are trying to appeal to investors, many of whom are skittish of the stigma associated with the adult industry. I’m disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

She continued: “FOSTA-SESTA has resulted in many platforms cracking down on anything porn-related. This has made it more difficult to promote my websites as doing so is now classified as a form of solicitation according to platforms like Instagram, regardless of the fact that it is a legal business. Making it harder to exist online is driving many sex workers into less safe and more exploitative environments.”

Many people just suggest other porn sites, but this is an industry and internet wide issue. Traffickinghub lead a successful campaign against PornHub, citing the prevalence of revenge porn and child pornography on the platform while failing to note that Facebook is the source of 90 per cent of all annual child pornography complaints.

As a result, Visa and Mastercard no longer allow their clients to use their cards on Pornhub, alienating an entire revenue stream from content creators who are following the law and are just trying to keep themselves and their families fed.

The Visa and Mastercard vs Consensual Sex Work debacle doesn’t end with Pornhub. These same credit card companies have focused on policing other legal and verified websites for adult entertainers, like IWantClips, and now, OnlyFans.

The policy update primarily targets dommes (female dominants) and BDSM accounts, disallowing content that includes “torture, sadomasochistic abuse, and hardcore bondage”. But who is defining which type of bondage is hardcore – and what constitutes torture and abuse? Should it not be those who consent to said kinks?

Granted, OnlyFans, Visa, and Mastercard are all privately owned companies... but what benefit is there in policing people’s porn habits? How is this anything other than an attempt to morally police people’s predilections – and to further remove safe resources to make money online, forcing sex workers to unsafe avenues to assure their bills and rent are paid?

In my opinion, it’s not just a sex work issue but an internet censorship issue. Who are banks and credit card companies to deem what’s acceptable to purchase with our own money? Who decides which types of porn are okay, and at what point will they decide your interests should be censored as well? This is a concern that affects us all.

Chances are, someone you know – maybe even someone you love – is a sex worker. I’m a college-educated woman with a writing job, and I’m a sex worker. Sex workers are people just like you. We pay our taxes, we have fulfilling lives, we grocery shop at the same stores you do – we just choose to make money by providing the porn you enjoy.

Do we not deserve to be compensated fairly for the labor we perform? Do we not deserve basic human and labor rights? Defend our right to work, and pay for your porn.

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