2020 has brought no shortage of changes to daily life, but sex workers are finding Onlyfans changes to its transaction policies to be the worst.
Sex workers made Onlyfans the successful website it is today. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting sex work possibilities, the site has become a life preserver in regards to income. But with the popularity comes consequences; in an already-saturated market, creators are facing some surprising new competitors—celebrities.
Icons like Bella Thorne and Cardi B have joined the platform to give fans a chance to have behind-the-scenes experiences with their favorite celebs. Thorne, in particular, has been the center of controversy amongst Onlyfans’ creators after she joined the platform in August 2020, when she made over $1 million in a week. Promising users explicit content of herself for a $200 pay-per-view (PPV) message (private messages creators can send to subscribers for even more exclusive content with a price) or $20 monthly subscription fee, Thorne failed to explain the extent to which she would show off herself to users.
Screenshots went around on social media showing a subscriber asking Thorne how naked she would be in her posts, to which she replied: “No clothes naked.” However, Thorne never posted that content; her account only featured photos of her in scandalous outfits, which many fans argued was her typical social media content. Outraged that they spent any money and weren’t delivered what they were promised, Onlyfans users started demanding refunds.
Once subscribers of Thorne’s saw that her content was less revealing than she promised, the demands for refunds were an immediate storm of problems for Onlyfans administrators. Their solution: maxing the PPV limit at $50 (previously, it was $200), placing a $100 cap on private messages (down from $200), and limiting users tipping amounts to a maximum of $100 for the first four months they are active (afterwards, it increases to $200, but there was originally no limit). Onlyfans also changed their policy of pending payouts from seven to 21 days for creators, meaning creators only get paid out once a month. Budgeting is already quite the task, but budgeting when you only receive income once a month adds a new layer of stress to the task.
“We always thought because we were a couple on Onlyfans, that would provide us that extra edge, but no one gives a shit if they could see Bella Thorne naked,” says Onlyfans creator Melissa Moyer.
Melissa and husband Jason Moyer started on Onlyfans in 2018 by posting amateur videos they recorded from Melissa’s phone in their studio apartment in the Lower West Side of Chicago, IL. They have since expanded their content to include fertility chats and couples advice. August 19th was a hectic day for the couple, as they welcomed their first child into the world on the very same day Bella Throne joined Onlyfans and would spur policy changes to the platform.
“Within one week we had this rollercoaster, and I mean Raging Bull kind, of emotions with welcoming our baby, finding out our subscribers wouldn’t be able to give as much as they were, and on top of it all we only get our money once a month,” Jason says.
“Onlyfans never liked that sex workers were getting paid on their site.They never wanted it to be a porn site, but if porn makes you money, then why complain?” Justin Conrad, a 25-year-old Minnesotan, says.
Conrad started out as a user that grew into being a creator, finding Onlyfans to be a nice supplemental income to his mechanic job. But with the recent policy changes, Conrad is wondering if the site is worth the work.
“One video takes me about three to four days to plan out, and if it’s not up to my subscribers’ standards, I’ll start losing them instantly,” Conrad says.
For other creators, the idea of leaving isn’t as simple. There are those like Brittnae Morisson, a 19-year-old woman living in Chicago, IL, who rely solely on Onlyfans for their income. Morrisson has thousands of subscribers, so the idea of just picking up and starting over on another site isn’t as feasible.
“I’ve built myself this empire, by myself, and I fought for this empire,” Morisson says. “You ever have your own job try to get you fired? It’s nerve racking.”
Many creators are worried about Onlyfans’ disdain for the NSFW content, thinking it could lead to the site banning the material completely like Tumblr and other platforms have already done.
“I was actually doing this kind of thing on Tumblr, but then they decided back in 2018 that any content not safe for working conditions wouldn’t make it on the site at all,” Jason says. “So now we’re planning on Onlyfans making the same move. We’ve already created new accounts on different streaming sites to just have some safety net.”
Whether Onlyfans will make the move to only SFW content is still uncertain, but the situation remains that Onlyfans has tried to distance itself from adult content creators—the same adult content creators that gave the company its household name.
“I just think it’s funny that I can’t put my ass on display because it makes me immoral, but people who eat a meal for a family of five or bully teenagers on TikTok, that’s just entertainment,” Morrison says.