Tech

Wait, So OnlyFans Isn't Banning Porn?

At least, not yet.

OnlyFans reverses controversial decision to ban porn from the platform.
SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

In a will-they-won’t-they saga that nobody saw coming, subscription-based content site OnlyFans announced Wednesday that actually, it isn’t banning porn — as least, not yet. After an Aug. 19 statement sharing new content restrictions that would ban “sexually explicit” material, the site faced an onslaught of backlash from sex workers, subscribers, and really anyone else with an active Twitter account. The announcement of these new restrictions came in light of rumors that OnlyFans was struggling to lock down investors. The new policy, which was supposed to take effect Oct. 1, was intended to “comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”

On Aug. 25, the site reversed course, tweeting from its own account that the company had “secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community.” Consequently, OnlyFans has “suspended” the upcoming policy change, though it remains unclear if the suspension will be permanent.

While the reversal came only a few days after the initial announcement, performers are still left to deal with the confusion it caused. “I call for a reduction in fees for all of us who have been affected by this,” OnlyFans performer Ruby, aka Hexx Girl, said on Twitter. “I’ve lost over 150 subscribers overnight but I’m still paying you the full 20% of my earnings? And that’s just last night. Overall I’ve lost about 500 subscribers.”

Ruby added that OnlyFans is her only source of income. “[OnlyFan’s] indecisiveness and poor communication has made models and subscribers scramble and caused chaos. Give us a temporary fee reduction to help us if you are actually sorry,” she tweeted.

Though this backpedaling episode is the most recent example, OnlyFans has never been particularly good at supporting the sex workers on its platform since its launch in the U.K. in 2016.

While you may know it as the pandemic porn site, OnlyFans has never called itself an adult website. According to a representative, OnlyFans is a “social platform” for creators and fan connections. Because they’ve never acknowledged their X-rated content, OnlyFans never developed support or protections for their adult performers, unlike its competitor JustForFans, which has always been by and for sex workers.

When a performer leaves the site, there’s no guarantee that their content leaves with them. (A stipulation in OnlyFans' terms of service agreement states that if you delete your account, but your content is still circulating, OnlyFans is not responsible.) The terms of service also state that OnlyFans is not responsible for pirated content or liable if performers’ identities are leaked, and that the platform can terminate an account “for any reason” with a 30-day notice. Consequently, if your account is terminated, you can lose access to all your content.

Because OnlyFans doesn't have an “explore” feature, performers have to drive their own traffic to the site, outing themselves as sex workers on other social media sites, and potentially putting themselves at risk for doxing or harassment. And, you guessed it, OnlyFans’ terms also restricts how performers can post about their pages on other social media. It’s also worth noting that OnlyFans has never promoted their sex workers on their social channels and bans them and their pages from their newly launched app. Yet the site takes about 20 percent of all performer’s earnings.

The move to ban porn from the site, while surprisingly, isn’t without precedent. Sex workers have historically been harmed by restrictive internet policies, notably FOSTA-SESTA in 2018, (a bill intended to stop human trafficking that resulted in sex workers being kicked off websites like Craigslist, Reddit, and Google.) Tech giants Apple and Google have anti-porn rules in their iOS and Android app stores, and even Patreon cracked down on X-rated content in 2018.

As Input reports, banks and investors are reluctant to get involved with porn-related sites, even if they’re profitable. Per Input, OnlyFans revenue is estimated to reach $2.5 billion in 2022, making $12.5 billion in total sales. In their statement, the site claims that adding anti-porn rules to their ‘Acceptable Use Policy’ will help the “130 million OnlyFans users and over 2 million OnlyFans creators that have earned over $5 billion on our platform.”

For Danielle Blunt, professional Dominatrix and co-founder of Hacking//Hustling a collective that protects sex workers online, financial technologies code sex workers as “high-risk.” Because access to online sites is so easy, investors fear the liability of minors on OnlyFans and the safety of sex workers. (Tumblr notably banned adult content after an incident involving a minor back in 2018.) Yet, Blunt continues, anti-porn policies historically don’t protect kids or sex workers, they just put sex workers at higher risks for violence and exploitation.

“Sex workers have fewer platforms to sell their content on, which leads to companies cornering the market,” Blunt tells Bustle.

According to Axios, over 50% of OnlyFans revenue in March 2021 came from monthly subscriptions, 30% came from private chats, where performers can send costume photos, videos, and voice memos to their subscribers, and the remainder came from tips.

It’s hard to know exactly how many OnlyFans accounts host “sexually explicit conduct,” and further, what the future of a site that became a household name for porn would be without its raunchy content. For now, Blunt encourages porn watchers, OnlyFan users, and anyone who wants to support sex workers to follow their favorite performers on their other social channels, and get involved with harm reduction.

“Part of being a more conscientious porn consumer is advocating for the decriminalization of sex work and the decarceration of incarcerated sex workers,” Blunt says. “Support sex worker community organizing efforts, like SWOP, BAWS, and Red Canary Song.”

This article was originally published on