Protocol | Workplace

As OnlyFans abandons sex workers, here’s who is filling the void

Sex workers and porn sites are skeptical of OnlyFans' excuses for banning "sexually explicit conduct" and say that they will not be deterred.

Jasmine, a creator who shared her sex work on OnlyFans

Sex workers and porn provider sites are skeptical that payment-processor demands actually necessitate OnlyFans banning porn.

Photo: Jasmine

In the days after OnlyFans first announced it would ban porn, thousands of sex workers created new accounts at JustFor.fans, applied for identity verification and flooded the porn site's customer service inbox. JustFor.fans, often called the second-choice streaming site for OnlyFans creators, saw its server traffic jump more than three times its average (and stay there) after OnlyFans said it would be prohibiting what it calls "sexually explicit conduct" beginning in October.

Thousands more creators shared on Twitter, Reddit and other online forums that they would be leaving OnlyFans in the coming months. Some communities started offering how-tos for sex workers to transfer their content and subscriber bases to new sites. Some creators — if they could afford it — announced they would be leaving the sex worker business entirely. Five days later, the company reversed course, telling creators it had "suspended" the porn ban because it had "secured the necessary assurances" to continue supporting them.

OnlyFans had said that it will ban "sexually explicit conduct" because the move is necessary to maintain its status with banks and payment providers like Visa and Mastercard, which have strict rules for websites that provide pornography, including age and identity verification requirements, documented consent and a review process for illegal material.

But sex workers and porn provider sites are skeptical that payment-processor demands actually necessitated OnlyFans banning porn. Many have instead suggested that the company chose to abandon porn because it is seeking venture capital investment and the traditional model of growth for tech companies, neither of which are particularly fond of explicit content. Axios reported that OnlyFans was struggling to find VC investors the same day that the company announced it would be banning sexually explicit conduct.

"Everybody just thinks this is a Mastercard or Visa issue, and it's not. Mastercard has several times over said that they are not trying to remove the internet of porn, they are trying to remove the internet of illegal content and nonconsensual content. There are a whole lot of factors about OnlyFans doing what they are doing, and only a small percentage of it has to do with Mastercard," Dominic Ford, the founder of JustFor.fans, told Protocol. "It seems to me that the major stakeholders of OnlyFans have made their money and are happy to get out and sink the ship while they are doing it."

"The proposed October 1, 2021 changes are no longer required due to banking partners' assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators," the company said in a statement to Protocol.

OnlyFans creators have long complained about the company's inability to address illegal content and sex worker reports about consent, harassment and other issues. The new suspension of the ban has not changed the minds of sex workers feeling burned and abandoned; many said they will continue to transition away from OnlyFans and no longer trust the company's assurances on Twitter and Reddit forums. "I do think that those of us who can move sites regardless should since OF have proven time and again that they don't care about the SWs on the platform," one creator wrote.

Sex workers need robust systems of protection wherever they operate; while OnlyFans was a cheaper way to make money than some other sites, it didn't provide that protection. "Being someone that was a creator on that platform for a year and a half now, I very much knew that I only existed as a money-making tool for them. My emails never get replied to, my calls for help with messages were getting ignored. I think that's pretty much an indicator of how they feel about their users," Jasmine, a creator who shared her sex work on OnlyFans through a high-performing account, explained.

"OnlyFans introduced sex work to a lot more people, yes, but they have always done it in such a terrible way. They don't understand or care for the creators on their platform. They didn't moderate their content, they let 18-year-old girls who don't know anything get on and then get their nudes leaked. They do nothing to protect creators," Jasmine said.

Jasmine has already begun to remove her content from the site and wonders if she'll ever return to sex work online. She's building her own platform for creators and content that's safe-for-work, and wants to focus on that for now. "I'm done with OnlyFans, and it seems like they are done with us, too. They want to become a mainstream platform that can get investors and make more money from celebrities."

Even if JustFor.fans attracts most of OnlyFans' current sex-work business, Ford has no plans to ever expand beyond pornography — and sees that as a selling point for sex workers. "We all saw what the numbers were coming out of the OnlyFans pitch deck, right? If we could achieve half of that, then I will be very happy," he said. "I don't know what their play was, but our play is to make money in the adult entertainment space, period. Those eyes are wide enough, I don't need wider eyes. If we can replace OnlyFans, who evidently were pulling in something like $150 million a month, trust me, I'll be fine."

Ford doesn't foresee issues with payment processors as JustFor.fans continues to grow, and spends most of his day working with banks and vendors. His site already offers a content-reporting system like the one required by Mastercard (in addition to its identity verification process), and they are in the process of launching a consent program that allows creators to request, track and save consent from partners who are registered on the platform, as well as those who aren't. (All of JustFor.fans' staff are current or former sex workers). The company is also hiring more staffers for its prepublication review process.

"I have been inundated with payment vendors who want to be another third-party. We have also accepted crypto as a payment option for years," he said. "Knock on wood, we're fairly well placed to take over for OnlyFans, we're getting all of our ducks in the row. We're also working very closely with our banking partners and our credit card partners to make sure that they feel we are in line with Mastercard's new set of rules."

Thousands of people have registered for account verification with Ford's site in the last few days, but Jasmine isn't one of them. JustFor.fans has a reputation as a place mainly for male sex workers, while OnlyFans' content was produced predominantly by women. Jasmine is skeptical of any site that isn't run by women, for women, who have been in or remain in the sex work community. (There are countless, though lesser-known, alternatives to JustFor.fans, like AVN Stars and FanCentro).

"Obviously there are so many alternatives, everyone has made their own little copy," she said. "I don't know, as a woman, as a content creator, as a sex worker, I don't trust any of these platforms because they are all built by men who don't do any of this work."

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