OnlyFans Bans Sexually Explicit Material, But How?

Well, well, well. Pornographers chase the almighty dollar and the moment it is challenged they do what any businesspeople do, they change direction. Usually that means to some other means of selling, but in this case, it involves self-censorship and for those who have followed the explosion of OnlyFans in the last years, today is a day that has been long in the making.

I’ll let the company’s statement speak for itself:

“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,” the company said. “Creators will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity as long as it is consistent with our Acceptable Use Policy.”

So what actually happened? From what I’m able to gather reading early news articles about this change in philosophy, it comes down to banks and credit card companies not wanting to be in the pornography business. Some financial institutions had already banned the site while others would double and triple-check that you wanted to access the material on the site.

Just how big did OnlyFans get?

I never used this site because it wasn’t around when I was an addict, but as a business model, it was brilliant because it put the power into the creators hands while simultaneously exploiting them for profit. OnlyFans tackled the last genre of pornography: sex work from people you know.

“I don’t know anybody who has an OnlyFans page,” you say. Well, you probably do. Unless you’re over 50 and only know people over 50, I can almost guarantee someone you know has put pornographic material for sale on OnlyFans. The creators of this site, much like many porn sites during the pandemic, saw rates of use that were once probably thought impossible.

According to the company, as quoted on Buzzfeed, there are over 2 million content creators worldwide and well over 100 million users. That’s almost tenfold what it was just prior to the pandemic. The article also stated that the site has paid out over $15 billion in revenue. But if you can’t get that money in and out of the company, there’s a problem.

Where does OnlyFans go from here?

First, it’s important to note that nudity is not banned, but sexual imagery will be after Oct. 1. Anybody else wonder how they’re going to go through 2 million content creators pages looking at every photo and video? The company hasn’t released its criteria for what is acceptable or not yet, but if the average creator has 100 photos or videos, that’s 200 million pieces of content that has to be examined. I’m sure there are computers and AI that can identify certain sex acts, or descriptions of sex acts, but this seems impossible.

Who knows what they determine as acceptable nudity? I wonder if they’ve even figured it out yet. Is taking a shower and washing yourself a sex act? Is posing in sexy lingerie? I’m glad I don’t have to answer these questions.

I’ve always thought as an interface, OnlyFans might be perfect for indy artists and musicians. When people ask me to explain OnlyFans, I tell them that it’s like Facebook meets Etsy but instead of crafty stuff, it’s pornography for sale. There are some who sell non-sexual items on there, but this could potentially open up new revenue streams for artists. Still, if the site is offering nudity and is keeping its name, can it ever shed the stigma

A few immediate reactions to this news

First, with the retooling of pornography monolith PornHub last year after the credit card companies cut-off access, I think today’s actions show that these companies will listen when money is involved. Trafficking? Exploitation? Underage people? None of that mattered until their bottom line was going to be effected. I guess it’s more about the end result than how we got there. For all of those people who fight pornography, here is the obvious solution. It’s not about lecturing about morality or social ills. That’s never stopped anyone from looking. You have to get the suppliers where it hurts: their bank accounts.

Second, this is not going to stop pornography and may not even make a dent in how much is watched across the Internet, but it sends a message to every site out there. Organizations like Chase, Mastercard, Wells Fargo, Visa, etc., don’t want to be in the porn business. Hopefully this starts to extend to other sites. I know many sites are talking about using cryptocurrency, but only the hardcore geeks are going to navigate those waters.

Third, I’m curious what happens to the creators and viewers. Can they go from pornography to tasteful nudity? I doubt many of the customers on there are looking for artsy, museum-like nudes. This turn of events will certainly have a negative effect to all those who make money from OnlyFans.

And finally…

If you’re new to the concept of OnlyFans, or what it did during the pandemic, a couple of articles I’ve written about it are the most searched in the history of this site. If you’d like to check them out you can find them:

Porn Addiction and the Pandemic: Let’s Talk OnlyFans (from April 2020)
Pornography Addiction may No Longer Be Just For the Viewers (from August 2020)
OnlyFans Stats Show Its Here To Stay (from January 2021)

Maybe this will be the last time I have to talk about OnlyFans. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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12 thoughts on “OnlyFans Bans Sexually Explicit Material, But How?

  1. I don’t know what to think. I’m both pleased and shocked. But thanks for the update. This isn’t the kind of news any of the major media outlets would even mention.

    1. I know my niche. You know who should be celebrating? All the business owners who will get their waiters, waitresses, bartenders, etc., back looking for work.

  2. It looks like there are plenty of options for video moderation, including Google’s Video Intelligence API, so the technical side of it is probably manageable.

    Since the demand is clearly there on both the creator and audience side, I’m guessing it won’t take long for alternatives to pop up to meet that demand, both on the creator platform and payment side of things. Who knows, this could be what pushes cryptocurrency more into the mainstream.

    1. That’s a good point Ashley. I know that when Mastercard started rattling Pornhub’s cage, they debated telling them to go screw themselves and start taking only crypto. And I think crypto is finally going to go true mainstream by the end of 2022. It’s just moving too fast.

  3. It’s all so very sad. I had a mother tell me her daughter was doing this. Then one day a grandfather said he saw his granddaughter involved in porn. These are real people. The damage is devastating.

    1. And this is the secondhand damage. I really don’t think that having naked pictures out there is going to be a big deal in 20 or 25 years. If it keeps growing in popularity, they’re gonna start making us take our driver’s license photos naked! I’d be a great politician. Wait…I tried…I wasn’t. Seriously though, it’s not the pictures on the Internet I worry about. It’s the mental health damage and trauma creating those pictures and having them out there caused. I would bet the farm I’ll have a client with this story within five years.

  4. It’s a blow to one method of distributing porn, certainly, but the Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in too. One is the removal of an income stream from a lot of people who are obviously already scraping the bottom of the barrel. It will force them to seek work elsewhere, of course, but that will be the government’s problem if they can’t.

    Another longer term and scarier issue is we have set a clear precedent that a very small number of very big companies can simply cut off the income stream of anyone they choose. They are not accountable to anyone and, as they have have huge reach and interests in all sorts of stuff – Visa is owned mostly by banks – they could decide, for instance, that they won’t provide services to particular charities, political groups, NGOs etc. who are antithetical to their well being.

    I agree that this is one answer to a specific problem, but I think it raises a lot of other questions.

    1. Oh, you’re 100% correct. It’s like when the US Forest Service tried to save some animal at the Grand Canyon 50 years ago. I don’t remember what it was, but they hunted one of their predators to near extinction at the GC. Over the next 10 years, the entire food chain and ecosystem of that part of the GC was thrown off. Do I want Mastercard or Visa to have control over businesses? No… including OnlyFans. That’s the libertarian in me I guess. But, it’s the world we live in, and as Ashley said in the comments, this may be yet another desperate move by traditional finance that will just kick us toward the inevitable adoption of cryptocurrency.

    1. Well, the thoughts that come to mind are “judge not lest ye be judged” and “let he who is without sun cast the first stone”. We can’t address these problems in the world with shaming and judgment. That’s never worked at fixing things.

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