OnlyFans’ Botched Porn Ban Cost Creators Real Money

When OnlyFans announced last month that it would ban sexually explicit content starting on October 1, sex workers who use the site to earn income immediately started to adapt. Many made the decision to leave the platform, and advertising their content on other platforms they planned to migrate to after the ban.  

As OnlyFans creators sorted through conflicting reports from the company itself and scrambled to replace the income they needed to pay rent and feed their families, OnlyFans subscribers, assuming the type of content they signed up for would soon be banned, started to bail out—in some cases, by the hundreds. 

Six days after OnlyFans announced the ban, the company backtracked, saying that it would “suspend” the decision. For many, however, the subscribers already left and the damage was done. 

“Models and fans alike had already started moving on to other websites,” Bailey Paige, who uses OnlyFans and lost followers, told me. “A few of my fans have since resubscribed, but not enough.” 

Mari Moon told me that she lost half of her subscribers, but not right away. Right after the ban announcement, she put her OnlyFans on sale, and saw an increase in signups. In the following week, however, more than 120 people unsubscribed.  

“I took an estimated loss of 50 percent of my earnings, on average, from OnlyFans alone in the week after the ban announcement, with only a small boost on other adult platforms,” Moon said.  

“”Basically all the progress that I made over the last year and a half was gone”

The confusion about whether fans could keep purchased content after the ban (which Motherboard asked OnlyFans to clarify; the company still hasn’t replied) contributed to the confusion, and fans dropped off. It was all made more confusing because OnlyFans initially only gave statements to the press announcing the ban, and didn’t alert creators directly, and say what exactly was getting banned, until later. Once the policy change appeared on the website’s terms of service, the change seemed set in stone—and fans who signed up for the porn started leaving. 

“My most supportive subscribers were vocal about the changes and how it affected them, but were willing to make a move to any alternative site options to buy my content. I can’t thank them enough!” Moon said. “The rest seemed to unsubscribe or back out and delete their accounts completely.” 

“I think because they were like ‘welp OF is banning this stuff, so what’s the point in staying around anymore,” Viv, who lost more than a quarter of her subscribers, said. “It was a pretty heavy impact considering I was living paycheck to paycheck.” 

Halcyon Gold, who lost 73 subscribers when the ban was announced, said that they don’t see OnlyFans as a “truly sex worker friendly” option to begin with. The platform has a long list of banned words, phrases, and types of kink-related content that workers have to navigate or risk suspension of their account.

“If I could move my subs from Onlyfans to another platform I would but right now Onlyfans has somewhat of a stranglehold On the industry as a whole so for anyone to do that would be very hard,” she said.

Paige told me they also lost half of her subscribers over the course of that week, amounting to thousands of dollars so far. “Basically all the progress that I made over the last year and a half was gone,” they said. “The loss in subscribers was very painful, actually. It’s impacted both my financial situation and my mental health. I know a lot of folks think anyone with an OnlyFans is able to become a millionaire overnight, but that’s not the case. A lot of us are normal people, making average money.”

OnlyFans isn’t Paige’s only source of income—and many sex workers diversify their income streams in case of unexpected platform shutdowns—but it was a big one, especially during the pandemic, they said.

Several sex workers I spoke to said they thought OnlyFans could have handled the situation better, and would like to see the platform make financial amends. 

“Onlyfans did a stupid thing and this could have been avoided altogether”

“In my opinion, OnlyFans was very fast to jump into an announcement that they weren’t ready for,” BabyGirl, who lost 10 subscribers after the announcement, said. “They obviously did no research as to how much sex work there actually was on their site. I’m not sure what exactly they could do to make it right, probably nothing. Maybe take less of a percentage of what we draw in to make up for the lost wages, since they pretty much caused a lot of us to lose a big chunk of our income. But otherwise, sadly, a lot of people are just shit out of luck.”

In a tweet announcing that the ban would be suspended, OnlyFans addressed sex workers directly for the first time, ever. “At the very least Onlyfans could make more of an effort to recognize and advocate for adult content creators instead of mentioning us once in a tweet, which ironically was the ban announcement tweet,” Moon said.

Since OnlyFans’ carefully-worded statement calling off the Oct. 1 ban said the change was “suspended,” and not canceled or scrapped entirely, sex workers are wary of the platform’s stability in the future. Even if the banks forced OnlyFans to consider banning explicit content, the panic, emotional whiplash, and lost income could have been avoided.

Suki Jade, who lost 60 subscribers after the ban announcement, said that although she plans to stay on the platform, she’s not pleased about it—but because of all the work she’s put into building an audience there, she’d lose money if she left, too. “Onlyfans did a stupid thing and this could have been avoided altogether,” Suki said. “I don’t believe for a second the reasons they gave us for why they did what they did were true, I think they saw how much money THEY lost that weekend alone and immediately decided to reverse the decision.” She thinks OnlyFans should be providing some sort of recourse to those affected, but doesn’t expect that the company will. “They clearly do NOT care about sex workers even though we built their platform where it is now,” she said.

The real cost of this loss in income is hard to put a dollar amount on, but until they can recuperate those lost numbers, the money lost is exponential. Paige said that they will continue to lose money until their subscriber count is back to where it was pre-announcement. For some, that represents months and years of work.

“I think OnlyFans proved just how quickly they’d drop porn from their site to make the credit card companies happy,” Paige said. “In any case, they could have at least used the billions we made them to lobby against the credit card companies and laws that make sex work more dangerous… I do believe that OnlyFans should be doing more to clean up the mess they made, but I know they won’t. They could be promoting sex workers on their social media to help us get our following back. They could offer 100% payouts through the end of the year. They could be doing so much, but they won’t.”

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