OnlyFans, Sex and the dWeb


Sex and the decentralised web

Disclaimer


dWeb Guide does not promote or condone the sale and purchase of explicit content, and we abhor exploitation in any form. However, we acknowledge there is both demand for and supply of sexual content, and many people make a living from selling such material. We do support making the sex industry safer and more secure, and this article discusses how this might be possible with the decentralised web.


Introduction


In August 2021, the subscription social network OnlyFans announced that it would be banning sexually explicit content. Within just five days, the company reversed its decision. What happened, and how might crypto, the blockchain and the decentralised web be a solution?


What is OnlyFans?


OnlyFans is a social media site that allows creators to retain, and charge for, their own content. The site is popular with cooks, artists, musicians, trainers, yoga instructors and dog behaviouralists…anyone who is creating content really, and feels they should be paid for it. However, the site has been particularly useful for new and established sex workers because it cuts out the middleman. Creators can engage with the public, provide costed and often more explicit content, and manage it all themselves with only a small payment to the platform out of their subscription profit.


These explicit content creators, OnlyFan’s biggest draw, have helped make it a billion-dollar company. This is partly because most social media platforms are PG rated and their algorithms harshly police content that might be seen as subversive or pornographic. The site has a slick and easy-to-use interface, and a relaxed content policy…and 17 million users purchasing photo and video views and even text and face-to-face conversations with their favourite service providers. In a world of lockdowns and restrictions, this can mean a lot to both the content provider and their clients. OnlyFans are also offering more than porn; users can get that for free online on any number of platforms. What many men and women want is getting to know the people in the pictures and requesting content specific to them; a personalised experience, like having an online girlfriend.


On the company’s competitor sites, such as Pornhub, the content creators make next to nothing for their work (less than $45 per 1000 views). The content is provided to users mostly free, and the sites make money from advertising. While content creators do make a small percentage of the advertising revenue, the prices are set by the platform.



What happened to OnlyFans?


The initial announcement by OnlyFans was a shock and seemed to go against the company’s own business proposition, since explicit content is their bread and butter. It has also, in a post pandemic world, become an important income stream for content creators from all walks of life, but particularly those in the sex industry.


The biggest backlash on the initial decision from OnlyFans came from sex workers and their allies. With the loss of one of the few sites that allow adult content, the industry feared that the news would drive their businesses back underground or onto the streets. OnlyFans had become a site that was empowering to sex workers, and it was being pulled out from underneath them. Worse, the company looked like it had exploited sex workers to build a business then abandoned them when the celebrities and influencers arrived.


Then the pivot. OnlyFans announced that banks had been refusing to work with the platform, but they had been able to make a deal to resume services. The company’s profile has taken a battering but, for now, the site is live.


So why the initial announcement?