Queer, sex worker rights defenders ring the onlyfans rocker

The OnlyFans subscription service’s decision to ban sexually explicit content from October 1 – and its abrupt reversal last week – has sparked strong backlash in LGBTQ and sex work communities.

UK-based OnlyFans launched five years ago makes content creators make money from subscribers. It has become a beacon for the sex worker community, especially during the era of physical distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2020, OnlyFans had 85 million registered users and was spending more than $ 2 billion, according to The Guardian.

That is, until August 19, when the company announced a ban on sexually explicit content. CEO Tim Stokely told the Financial Times it was due to financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase & Co. threatening to withdraw their support.

Naked content itself would have been allowed, but there was to be no depiction of intercourse or masturbation.

Stokely denied reports that the new MasterCard policies that require age verification of artists were behind the new policy. These policies are effective October 1. MasterCard and Visa severed ties with PornHub last year in a major victory for anti-porn activists.

The OnlyFans content creators contacted by the Bay Area Reporter did not respond to requests for comment. But San Francisco’s St. James’s Infirmary, which provides social and medical services to sex workers, issued a statement when the ban was first announced, saying the nonprofit “is shutting down. stands alongside the community of sex workers. “

“We understand the concern about the incomes and sustainability of the workers who make a living from the platform,” said Anita O’Shea, director of operations for St. James. “COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, especially sex workers who rely on face-to-face meetings. Platforms like OnlyFans have provided a safe way for sex workers to get by. It is reckless and cruel to suppress this so abruptly.

“Pending further information on this development, we take a position saying that we support sex workers and demand the immediate decriminalization of all forms of sex work,” O’Shea continued. “The stigma against sex work causes isolation, violence and even death. Businesses that profit from the work of sex workers should take a stand to defend the community. Otherwise, content creators and patrons will walk away. of your business or will create our own. “

Then – just as unexpectedly as the initial announcement – OnlyFans reversed on August 25, although the problem almost certainly returned.

Cathy Renna, director of communications for the National LGBTQ Task Force, said the Washington, DC-based nonprofit “supports sex workers” and called “for an end to the criminalization of sex work in states -United”.

“Anything that would endanger those who engage in sex work, we would not support – sex work is work,” Renna said. “So we are happy to see the policy reversed.”

Mary Emily O’Hara, head of rapid responses at GLAAD, said that while it is not the “area of ​​expertise” of the LGBTQ association, censorship is still dangerous for the LGBTQ community.

“When a site censors content in the sense of sexuality, LGBTQ users are disproportionately silenced,” O’Hara said. “These efforts can also push sex work even further underground and make it less safe. As the reports have shown, some people and groups lobbying against OnlyFans are also historically anti-LGBTQ and frequently disseminate misinformation about LGBTQ people and seek to restrict information about sexual health. These are not credible sources for any company making policy changes that affect every LGBTQ worker. “

Some of those groups include Exodus Cry, an evangelical nonprofit, according to Kate D’Adamo, a queer woman partner of Reframe Health and Justice Consulting, a collective of sex worker rights advocates.

“They are the ones who have said very publicly that they are pressuring MasterCard and Visa to stop dealing with the sex industry,” D’Adamo said. “They were the ones who celebrated and took the credit.”

ExodusCry, which advocates for an end to sex work as well as pornography and strip clubs, did not respond to a request for comment.

D’Adamo said OnlyFans caused significant damage to his brand.

“It has eroded a lot of trust and will have long term ramifications for people using their platform,” D’Adamo said.

“I think it was a pretty unfortunate business decision,” D’Adamo continued. “Looking for an investment, [Only Fans] made a really strategic decision. I think the backlash was something they weren’t expecting and they reacted to it. ”

Ricci Joy Levy, a direct ally who is the President and CEO of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, said on behalf of the Washington, DC-based nonprofit sexual freedom advocacy that “OnlyFans has did what it took to reverse its original decision to ban pornography on the placer. “

“They took on Goliath in the form of payment processors and refused to back down,” Levy wrote in an email. “But it’s today. When the pressure increases tomorrow, which site will be on the chopping block? Incidents of child exploitation and sex trafficking are much more common on mainstream social media sites, but only platforms that embrace human sexuality are targeted.

“There can be no confusion about the war on sex here in the United States,” Levy said.

St. James Infirmary did not respond to a request for comment following the cancellation of the policy change.

OnlyFans did not respond to a request for comment.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected] The section will be closed next week due to Labor Day.

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