It’s hard to overestimate the extent to which OnlyFans has reversed the general downtrend in adult entertainers.
Before the subscription service hit the market in 2016, so-called tube sites – video platforms that aggregated stolen pornographic content, distributed it for free, and earned revenue from banner and video ads – drove many of the largest studios out of business.
Those that were left went from paying thousands of dollars to the top performers per scene to a few hundred in general.
OnlyFans’ clean, streamlined user interface enabled people over the age of 18 to sell and buy monthly subscriptions to a feed of pictures and videos too racy for Instagram. There power was in the hands of the people who did their own work: a creator with a few thousand monthly subscribers could make more than $ 25,000 a month by posting content while having full ownership of those photos and films retains.
And when these creators built lucrative businesses, they built the company with them.
That’s why an announcement by OnlyFans last Thursday that it would completely ban sexual activity from October caused some panic in the porn industry, said Brian Gross, an industry publicist. He added that there was also a feeling of sadness among his clients that at a moment when respect and empathy for sex workers had risen, a company they helped build was preparing to throw them out of the cold .
Then, within a few days, the company reversed its decision and announced on Wednesday in a tweet: “We have received the necessary assurances to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned policy change of October 1st.”
“Thanks to everyone who made sure their voices were heard,” it said.
The change was due in part to the backlash from the creators who began to leave the platform in numbers.
“You have really successful, hard-working content creators who invest a lot of time and effort and have a consumer on the other end who wants to buy them,” said Mr. Gross. “You watch article after article about how successful it is, and for some reason the outside world doesn’t want it to be recognized.”
Matthew Camp, an actor who posts gay pornographic content several times a week, said in an interview that he saw the company’s proposed ban as a means of paying lip service to credit card companies that are increasingly uncomfortable processing pornographic transactions.
However, on Wednesday the company said it had reached an agreement with its payment processors. A spokeswoman for OnlyFans told the New York Times in an emailed statement: “The proposed changes of October 1, 2021 are no longer required due to assurances from banking partners that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators.”
‘Less is more?’
Dannii Harwood became OnlyFans’ first content creator in 2016. Since then, she has brought her work in front of the camera to run a management company with more than 200 OnlyFans creators as clients.
According to Ms. Harwood, Tim Stokely – the website’s founder – and his partners had “no choice” but to change the rules first. These credit card companies are just too powerful, and while their growing reluctance to process payments for pornography arguably plays into the hands of religious conservatives, there are other valid concerns: porn consumers are among the most controversial transactions. Credit card companies also don’t want to unwittingly process payments for material that later turns up approval questions.
A representative for Mr Stokely did not respond to a request for comment, but in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, Mr Stokely blamed the banks for the change, saying that if the situation changes with them, the new bans will be around sexual content would be abolished.
Ms. Harwood noted that many of OnlyFans’ most successful performers are not those who post sexually explicit content but rather those who have mastered the art of “tickling and tickling”.
She never posted sex on her feed herself.
Instead, she started making more than $ 50,000 a month from subscriptions and special requests that cost extra. Men paid her for daring to open the door naked and drive around in her underwear, for example.
She chatted with fans every day through direct messages, learning about their habits, sexual preferences and insecurities, and becoming what she likes to call an “online friend”.
“Once subscribers see everything, they move on to the next creator. It has proven itself time and again with my girls, ”she said on Friday. “I keep telling them: ‘Less is more’.”
But Ms. Harwood didn’t deny that if the ban had gone as planned, a number of regular porn performers would likely have migrated to other sites.
Alex Tikas, 48, was due to leave OnlyFans following the announcement. As he put it: “If you don’t want us and you don’t want our money, I guarantee that there are places for us to spread our content.” For now, he keeps his OnlyFans, but also accounts with three other websites .
The largest of these sites is Justfor.fans, which, according to its founder Dominic Ford, now has more than 14,000 verified creators, of which 2,000 completed the registration process within hours of the OnlyFans Terms of Service being changed.
In an interview, Mr Ford, a 46-year-old former gay porn producer and actor, said the site was poised to have around $ 20 million in sales this year. He would like to take over the business that OnlyFans wanted to turn down.
But he faces his own hurdles. He is currently working out plans to require documentation and consent forms for all performers.
“It’s a good thing,” he said, to make things more professional. “We’ve had releases for every movie I’ve ever made.”
Even so, he’ll have to hire people to handle a lot of paperwork. It’s going to be expensive.
Austin Wolf, an adult performer who founded Formyfans website, said the problems with payment processors were minimal in his own experience. “It’s an excuse,” he said of OnlyFans’ rationale for the proposed ban on sexually explicit content. “We all reach for what we need to make our decisions appear valid.”
A number of industry players, including Mr Gross, believe cryptocurrency will be an important workaround for payment. However, the majority of the revenue for most online sites comes from automated, recurring subscriptions. And there is no way to do this through most crypto payment systems. “There’s no pulling mechanism,” said Mr. Ford.
Given Wednesday’s announcement, artists may feel no urgency to move to other sites this quickly. As for OnlyFans, the decision may have been made with self-preservation in mind.
“Do you remember what happened to Tumblr?” Said Mr. Gross, referring to his 2018 decision to ban pornography. “It’s completely irrelevant.”
Mike Isaac contributed to the coverage.