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OnlyFans flipped its decision to ban porn, but some sex workers feel 'jerked around' and are continuing to look for other platforms

Woman looking stressed and upset against a window.Crystal Cox/BI Photo

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This week has been a whirlwind for Justine Aquarius and her 35,000 fans who pay to see her adult content on OnlyFans. Aquarius feels "jerked around" by the platform, which said it would ban sexually explicit conduct last Thursday, but walked back its decision six days later.

OnlyFans, the subscription-based site known for hosting sex workers, and more recently influencers, said Wednesday that it would "continue to provide a home for all creators."

The announcement wasn't enough to calm Aquarius' anxiety. She has already lost hundreds of subscribers in a "mass exodus" of OnlyFans users, Aquarius told Insider.

"Creators are caught in a tug of war as existing but less well-known sites fight to be the next OnlyFans," she said. "Did OnlyFans really think they could continue to have that revenue without the creators who built it, promoted it, and funneled all their fans from across social platforms to their site?" 

OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely said the decision to ban porn was due to pressure from banks the company works with: JPMorgan Chase, BNY Mellon, and Metro Bank. Stokely told The Financial Times that JPMorgan Chase closed the accounts of sex workers, and BNY Mellon would "flag and reject" every wire connected to OnlyFans.

A representative for OnlyFans told Insider that the company had no further comment on any issues raised by sex workers besides a one-line statement:

"The proposed October 1, 2021 changes are no longer required due to banking partners' assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators." 

Aquarius and three other sex workers told Insider they were continuing to look for alternative platforms besides OnlyFans. 

Lydia Love, a sex worker who has been using OnlyFans since 2017, said she wasn't surprised by OnlyFans' decision reversal because the firm relies on sex workers creating profitable content. But she said the company's initial porn ban announcement prompted her to remove nude photos from OnlyFans and focus on other platforms. 

"I'm sure that they believe that this has made sex workers feel better and want to stay on the site, but if anything I have even less trust in the company now," Love told Insider.

Some sex workers said OnlyFans had been frustrating to work with long before this week's proposed policy changes. Love and Aquarius both said the platform recently announced a change to its referral program that resulted in them losing thousands of dollars in income a month. 

Jasmine, a sex worker and the cofounder of the competing subscription-service Fanhouse, told Insider that OnlyFans does little to protect creators from death threats and harassment. She said Fanhouse takes a smaller commission compared to OnlyFans, which takes 20% of transactions from most creators.

Creator Jane Wilde said the issues sex workers face on tech platforms extend beyond OnlyFans. Insider's Julia Naftulin and Canela López reported Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and TikTok censor sex workers, making it difficult for them to build a social following and profit.

Wilde added anti-sex work groups like Exodus Cry pressured credit card processors to ban adult sites from being able to make money. 

Following a New York Times opinion piece regarding child sex trafficking on Pornhub, Mastercard and Visa withdrew services from PornHub. Sex workers told Vice's Samantha Cole the move prevented verified performers on PornHub from getting paid through two of the largest credit card companies.

A performer who goes by Vaporcult told Insider though OnlyFans allowed sex workers to make money remote during the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform undervalued adult creators — and won't survive without them.

"Sex work is real work, but we are worth so much more than our labor," Vaporcult said. "We are human beings with lives and families."

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