OnlyFans' biggest moneymaker is also keeping it from making money

in August 25th, 2021
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You may have heard that OnlyFans will no longer be allowing sexually explicit content on their platform. As a refresher...

  • The subscription social media site launched as a destination for viewing adult content in 2016 by founder Tim Stokely, who previously built a number of adult entertainment websites.
  • As other digital platforms began cracking down on online sex work, OnlyFans allowed sex workers to thrive, giving them 20% of all transactions. Some report three figure incomes.
  • Two years later, another entrepreneur of the online porn industry bought a 75% stake in OnlyFans — signaling positive support for sex work to continue on the site.
  • But just this month, the company announced their departure from explicit content, upsetting its core users who feel their work is what allowed the company to get this far.

So what changed? Complexities around payment escalated — especially after Mastercard announced a requirement for banks to ensure pornography sellers have clear, unambiguous, and documented consent in place. And payment problems also hurt creators. Many felt violated after customers viewed their content only to turn around and report those transactions as fraudulent — some resulting in thousands of dollars lost.

With such difficulties, OnlyFans started to expand beyond porn and consider themselves a grander media hub. To fund this transition, the company turned to venture capital (VC) with a pitch touting their 500%+ growth in both users and revenue during the pandemic. But this impressive, porn-driven growth wasn’t enough to diffuse other concerns…

  • VCs are wary of putting their money behind adult content. While its growth would normally be highly attractive, the sexual content not only deters investment but may even be outright prohibited for some VC funds.
  • Several investors are uneasy over the possibility of underage users as online sex trafficking schemes are still rampant (though OnlyFans says it has robust documentation around consent and age).
  • And yesterday, OnlyFans halted their fundraising plans altogether. Reports allege they’re holding off until the dust settles from their controversial content ban.

Critics say the company is abandoning their initial audience and should have instead sought out payment processors that support adult content. Already though, an alternative for sex workers has emerged: American rapper Tyga revealed his new platform “Myystar” just days after the OnlyFans announcement. Applications are open to be among the first invited to his new sex-positive social media site.

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