Last week, content subscription service OnlyFans caused shockwaves with the announcement of a new ban on explicit content. Find out what will and won’t be allowed here, plus the implications caused to independent creators.

What Is OnlyFans?

OnlyFans is a UK-based subscription platform which enables creators to earn money for their content. Independent creators can gain “fans” who have subscribed to their profile, and interact with them via pay-per-view content and messaging. Creators can decide how much to charge for a subscription, as well as set rates for personalised content. A 20% cut of everything a creator earns is taken by the platform, which is how it makes its money.

Full of a variety of content, from musicians to chefs, OnlyFans appeals to a diverse audience. However, the content that really made a name for the service is pornography.

What Exactly Is Being Banned?

Last Thursday, OnlyFans announced it would be moving away from the content that launched the platform into popularity. A shift in focus towards more mainstream content is to take place from the 1st October.

“Sexually-explicit content” is to be axed from the site. Rather than leaving questions around what qualifies as explicit content, an updated version of the Terms of Service policy outlines the specifics.

Do not upload, post, display, or publish Content on OnlyFans that:

  • Shows, promotes, advertises or refers to “sexually explicit conduct”, which means:
  • actual or simulated sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, between persons of any sex;
  • actual or simulated masturbation;
  • any exhibition of the anus or genitals of any person which is extreme or offensive;
  • actual or simulated material depicting bodily fluids commonly secreted during sexual conduct;
  • All existing content that shows, promotes, advertises or refers to “sexually explicit conduct” (which has the meaning given to it in section 5(b) of this Policy) must be removed before December 1, 2021, or by any other date which we communicate to Users.

How Will This Affect Independent Creators?

Currently, the reasoning behind this ban of sexually explicit content is thin on the ground. The most popular speculation relates to pressure being applied by investors and payment processors. However, OnlyFans offered this relatively vague explanation in a statement:

“In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of our platform, and continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines.”

The claim of boosting inclusivity may sound a little hollow, as the platform turns its back on a huge chunk of its creators. Sex workers are already a much derided and somewhat abandoned group of traders in society. OnlyFans has provided a relatively safe space for independent creators to earn a living sharing sexually explicit content.

Figures obtained by Axios show that about 16,000 creators on the platform earn at least $50,000 annually via subscriptions and pay-per-view content. A huge number of creators have found financial solace on the site, making even just a couple of hundred dollars a month to put towards everyday expenditures. Since the pandemic hit, OnlyFans reported a 75% increase in creators from May 2020. This signposts a chunk of society suffering job losses and debt seeking a remedy.

Since the announcement, there has been outcry at the injustice of alienating a group of creators that have been largely responsible for the success of the site. It is feared that this ban will force sex workers into more dangerous situations, such as in-person meetings or using less secure sites.

Creators have been warned any breach of the new policy could result in accounts being suspended or terminated, and access to earnings being revoked. Any pre-existing content which violates the new rules must be removed before 1st December.

OnlyFans has since stated that it is working on a solution to suit both its creators and payment processors, agreeing that sex work is work.

Content containing nudity will still be allowed, although it’s unclear how the distinction between nudity and pornography will be made at this time.