On the 20th August 2021, the subscription only website OnlyFans accounced that it would ban users from posting sexually explicit photographs and videos on its site from October. The BBC report is here: OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content. On the same day, the BBC news website was reporting an investigation that criticised OnlyFans for its approach to moderating and closing accounts that show illegal content, and which also expressed some concerns about content being posted on the site. That report is here: OnlyFans - how it handles illegal sex videos - BBC investigation.
According to the BBC investigation:
OnlyFans said that the change was being made after pressure from banking partners, again according to the BBC reporting. This in itself represents an interesting development - commercial partners being sufficiently interested to not allow their payment services to be used in the production and communication of sexually explicit material, for which OnlyFans provides a well known platform. In recent times, such threats of commercial pressure have been used by lobbyists wishing to discourage the provision of services to those who support causes that would generally be identified as "conservative" or at least less than "progressive". Its application to the field of sexually explicit content represents a new development.
However, yesterday (25th August) the BBC reported that OnlyFans has announced a supension of its change, in effect allowing the publication of sexually explicit content to continue after 1st October: OnlyFans suspends policy change after backlash.
"So it is short-term good news for sex workers reliant on the platform - and I would like to see this as the start of increased support, celebration and championing of sex-worker rights by OnlyFans," he told BBC News.
At least in part, the "backlash" appears to have come from OnlyFans "creators" (essentially those who produce and post sexually explicit content on the site), one of whom I recall hearing interviewed on the BBC's Today programme a few days ago. If I recall correctly, this lady identified as a "sex worker" who had been using OnlyFans to publish subscription based content during the COVID-19 pandemic, and argued that, if she had to return to live working rather than being able to continue online working, she would feel significantly at risk because of the uncertainty inherent in meeting live clients.
OnlyFans capitulation in the face of publicity and what appears to be potential economic losses if makers of sexually explicit content move to other platforms is disappointing. It would also be interesting to know the extent to which OnlyFans "banking partners" also succumbed to pressure.
But the most stunning aspect of the debacle, for me, is the adoption towards makers of sexually explicit material of the language of "diversity" and "inclusion".
In the first instance: should we be more honest in our use of language, and recognise that what is now referred to in morally neutral language as "sexually explicit content" is in fact what would previously have been termed rather more honestly as "pornography"?
Should we not also be more hesitant in accepting the use of the term "sex worker", and recognise that the larger part of the work covered by that term could be more honestly termed "prostitution"? This is particularly the case as the aura of legitimacy implied in the term "sex worker" does not capture the significant risk of exploitation and harm that exists in such work.
But the most worrying misuse of language is the development according to which the categories of "diversity" and "inclusion" are applied by OnlyFans to their "creators", that is, to the makers of "sexually explicit" / "pornographic" content which is posted on their site. The implications if such a use of these categories became widespread in society are mind boggling - think about work place, or even school and college, equalities policies which might be forced to include the accessing of such content as an equalities strand to be supported and promoted.
It is interesting to put the argument for "increased support, celebration and championing of sex-worker rights" alongside the text of Article 29 (2) of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and ask whether we really do want our society to abandon the idea that the law should be able to act in favour of "morality ... and the general welfare in a democratic society":
In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
UPDATE: CARE have reacted to OnlyFans U-turn: 'Shameful OnlyFans u-turn is corporate greed trumping corporate responsibility'. CARE's comment focusses on the risk that "creators" may be being coerced into making content, and is very usefully read alongside my observations above.
“It’s clear what happened here. OnlyFans realised curbing sexually explicit content would affect its profits. Financial backers who initially raised concerns about content on the site and pressured the company towards a ban have either changed their minds or been replaced by others willing to turn a blind eye to concerns. This is a classic case of corporate greed trumping corporate responsibility. It is a shameful.”