Social Media Manager
Trigger Warning: This article mentions suicide, pedophilia, and abuse, please read with caution.
This article is also available in print: Quaker Campus, Volume 19 – Issue 6, dated Oct. 14, 2021, on the Whittier College campus.
On August 19, OnlyFans threatened millions of sex workers’ rent and livelihoods only to reverse their decision days later. By then, Jane Knotts had already gotten dozens of messages from her subscribers saying they did not know if they would be able to keep subscribing to their content since it would no longer be what they signed up for.
Sex work was a saving grace for Jane. When they were homeless, having the OnlyFans account allowed them to survive, and to make the right decisions to get them to where they are now.
“I felt a sense of betrayal.” They told me when I asked how the policy change felt. “I felt a sense of… people not meaning what they said originally. It felt like a giant kick to the face.”
As an abuse survivor, they are used to disappointment, and they are used to making do. Part of the reason why sex work was so accessible was that they did not have to figure out how to get to and from an office; they made their own hours, and they did not have to worry about getting fired from said job. Furthermore, the sex worker community is rather welcoming and kind. People who are neurodivergent, physically disabled, mentally disabled, trauma survivors, gender non-conforming, and queer, all have a place online to feel safe and, make a profit off what society would consider “taboo.”
Jane grew up constantly questioning why the body was something to protect, and not to display — wondering why sex was so wrong, and why was it something everyone was expected to do, yet it is considered taboo to talk about.Why?
Flexible as always, Jane moved their content to Fansly, as they believe OnlyFans is not a platform to be trusted. The policy reversal only proved to Jane that the platform was “seeing what they could get away with.”
“They never gave us anything but automated emails. There was nothing personal about this… Even people who are full-time sex workers, ones who have been doing this for over a decade, they couldn’t get anything but a robot generated email.” They told me in frustration. “I really wish OnlyFans was more vocal about the specifics of the situation. They talked about concerns regarding payment services pulling out, but never really explained more than that. I know they aren’t obligated to, but if they’re expressing concern and acknowledging sex workers, they might as well. It’s a halfway attempt at a remedy for all of this.”
A platform Jane and thousands of others trusted revealed itself to be just another “money-hungry” site with no regard for how the users would be impacted. “It posed more immediate harm than long term,” Jane told me,“I mean this in the way that so many sex workers use Onlyfans as their only income for several reasons. Speaking in regards to [the] long term, we can move elsewhere, which is what we eventually pledged to do. But, for those living from deposit to deposit, it posed an immediate danger to them.”
The fact is, that this is a very personal topic. Creators lost subscribers — which meant the loss of money for both the platform and the creator; and OnlyFans already keeps 20 percent of earnings made by creators.
The policy change was motivated by MasterCard’s policy change in light of Nick Kristof’s Opinion piece “The Children of Pornhub” which accused Pornhub and the Canadian parent company, Mindgeek, of making money off child pornography, revenge pornography, and sex trafficking. Many girls in the article shared their stories of attempted suicide and the constant re-uploading of videos that were intended to stay private. In efforts to combat the crisis, Master Card announced they would be requiring “Documented age and identity verification for all people depicted and those uploading the content, Content review process prior to publication, Complaint resolution process that addresses illegal or nonconsensual content within seven business days, appeals process allowing for any person depicted to request their content be removed.”
When I asked Jane about the verification process, they told me, “I’ve used about 3–4 sites that allow 18+ content after Identifying myself. All of them required a photo of my face near or next to the I.D. Some may require you to write out your username, or today’s date. etc. I do believe it is an effective way to avoid keeping minors off the sites.”
Mindgeek was already under fire by Trafficking Hub founder Laila Mickelwait, an activist who combats child pornography, sex trafficking etc. through her “non-religious, non-partisan, non-centralized global effort” in efforts to hold the site “accountable for enabling and profiting from the sex trafficking and criminal sexual exploitation of countless victims.” Mickelwait was also involved in Exodus Cry, a Christian group that has been described as Anti-sex, and one look at the website will prove just that.
Exodus Cry has videos on their website with titles such as , “Is Prostitution a Choice?” “Should Prostitution be Legal?” and “Is Prostitution a Job?” At the very bottom of the page, under “How to Get Involved”, there’s a link titled “How to Pray.” The group is working to fully eradicate the sex work industry. They “educate” legislators, telling them “prostitution is not a job but rather a form of violence against women and children.”
Exodus Cry emerged in 2007, based in the International House of Prayer (IHOP). Its roots are deep in religion, even though the group has tried to distance itself from that. The group has constantly caught itself in contradictions, with The Daily Beast reporting that the CEO Benjamin Nolot denied any connections to IHOP and stressing they were an independent non-profit. However, in 2018 it was discovered that “Exodus Cry had been listed as a “related tax-exempt organization” on IHOP’s tax filings in their most recent returns, that both groups shared a director, and that Nolot was listed as a ‘prayer leader’ until 2017.”
People with no compassion for sex workers are the ones making these changes. It is easy to get abstract about the sex work industry as we have been conditioned to look down upon people who either get paid for sex or perform a lot of sexual acts. We have been taught to not care about these people because they’re “just whores”, but whores are people too. Sex workers are more than just after dark entertainment — they are complex and emotional human beings just trying to get by, the same as a clerk in a grocery store.
Jane has an in-person job they really enjoy, but it does not pay as much as sex work. In addition, the environment is nothing in comparison to the positive and diverse network of peers in the sex work community. Sex work should be considered as the same as any other job — filling a service that is in demand. Jane, as unique as they are to me, is just another part of the workforce, and unfortunately, just another person living on the brink of poverty.
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus