Culture

OnlyFans banned public sex without telling creators first

Sudden policy changes are protecting the company while blindsiding some users.

Tattoo parlour and sex bookshop In the heart of Soho on the last day before  the second national coronavirus lockdown on 4th November 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The new national lockdown is a huge blow to the economy and for individuals who were already struggling, as Covid-19 restrictions are put in place until 2nd December across England, with all non-essential businesses closed. (photo by Barry Lewis/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Barry Lewis/In Pictures/Getty Images

OnlyFans, the popular amateur pornography platform, has updated its terms of use to forbid content filmed in public locations. The company did not explicitly warn content creators before changing its terms to include the new rule, Vice reports.

The OnlyFans terms of use now mention that sexual content that “was recorded in or is being broadcast from a public place where members of the public are reasonably likely to see the activities being illustrated” is no longer allowed. It’s unclear precisely when or why this rule was added to the platform’s terms. They’re updated relatively frequently, and Vice found that archives of a mid-February version of the terms did not include any mention of public places.

The timing of the policy change is less concerning than OnlyFans’ refusal to communicate these updates with creators before they come into effect. Many, many creators now rely on OnlyFans income to support themselves, which means accidental rule-breaking can swiftly threaten their livelihoods if their accounts get suspended. Moreover, warning users about pending changes would give them time to adjust .

Finding out after the fact — It seems OnlyFans isn’t very committed to letting its most important users — the content creators — about rule changes. Longtime user Aspen Eden didn’t know about the new ban until OnlyFans sent her an email this weekend letting her know all content filmed outdoors had been removed.

When Eden asked for clarification, an OnlyFans support person told her that nudity in public, even when filmed far from populated areas, goes against the platform’s terms of use. And, in fact, any outdoor nudity — even on private land — would need to be backed up by proof of ownership of that land, provided to OnlyFans ahead of time.

Eden films almost all her content outdoors. This policy update rendered her account useless. “None of my content was ever made in a public area with people around or the chance of people walking up,” she told Vice. “I’ve never and would never want to put someone in a situation where they haven’t consented to seeing me nude.”

Capitalism and kink — As OnlyFans continues to grow, it’s being pulled in many different directions. The problem — as with most businesses — is that those actually using the platform end up with the short end of the stick.

Adult content is inherently rule-breaking, at least by general internet standards. Public sex, for example, is a common kink, but it’s a misdemeanor in most U.S. states — you can see how a company might find it difficult to moderate such content. It’s much easier to just ban it outright.

The larger problem is that OnlyFans keeps changing the rules without warning creators... or even bothering to tell them after the fact. These policy changes are intimately linked with money-making. If a payment processor or a bank doesn’t think public nudity is acceptable, for example, out it goes.

These changes have a way of adding up. That’s how we end up with situations like the mass-nuking of unverified videos over at Pornhub. That particular scandal left the site nearly unusable.

This tension is only going to keep worsening as platforms that allow user-generated sexual content continue to grow. The introduction of new internet laws meant to protect the public has a high probability of simply hurting sex workers instead.