For the umpteenth time, there is a colossal difference between sex work and revenge porn. With the surging popularity of OnlyFans accounts, I have arrived at the point where I may smash my phone if I see one more person aligning this consensual work with revenge porn. OnlyFans is a website people pay monthly subscriptions, or one-off ‘Pay Per View’ fees to see someone’s private images and videos. Founded in 2016, the site offers porn, and a platform on which sex workers are thriving. However, it had also provided an excuse for misogyny in the form of tweets like ‘The same girls that were crying when we leaked their nudes at school now have fans only accounts’.

The only link I can find between the two is that now people are benefitting from their own sexuality, rather than being humiliated, shamed and exploited for trusting someone enough to share that sexual intimacy with them. Sadly, aggression and judgement are such predictable reactions to sexual liberation.  

However, the popularity of the site, especially coupled with the impending legislation that is making people pay to the government (or give up their passport details) to view pornography online, brings about interesting questions regarding how the industry is reacting to the huge changes in the availability of free pornography. Seemingly, the subscription site is doing much more for the industry than the government. I would be entirely on-board with charging for pornography, if it meant that sex workers were benefitting from their own work. What is not acceptable, is the government pretending to be socially conscious, by pocketing profits from porn. All this will do is increase people finding porn in far more sordid ways, where participants are not earning a fair wage for their work. What’s more, monitoring people’s consumption of porn would be all well and good, if it meant people were able to detect sexual predators, rapists, paedophiles, more easily, but this just won’t be the case. People accessing concerning porn are not going to be inputting their passport details before they do so, therefore monitoring people is a strange and unnecessary invasion of privacy.

Perhaps sites like OnlyFans are the best way to go, because workers can set their own rates, choose the content that goes out, and monitor who is receiving it. The Pay-Per-View feature enables people to request more niche content, which they cannot receive until a payment has been made – nor can the sender receive the payment until the content has been sent. Many professional sex workers, students, and ordinary people looking for a way to earn, have praised the site for its enabling workers to set their own rates, and the site’s only taking 20% (including merchant and processing fees) of these rates, as opposed to the exploitation that occurs in much mainstream pornography. In February 2019, the site recorded 6 million registered users, claiming to have paid $100 million to its 50,000 content creators. Ms. Harwood, one of the site’s first models, took over $50,000 dollars in November of last year, and talks of the site as being far more intimate pornography than that which used to be slapped all over free sites like Tumblr. She describes herself as an ‘online girlfriend’, using messages to her account as proof of the intimacy men are asking of her, in their requests for personalised content.

 In this way, the site emphasizes the importance of consent in sex work – very, very unlike revenge porn sites. Users choose the content they, themselves, want to circulate, they choose the rates they are willing to be paid, who they are willing to send to, and it is entirely self-regulated. Through private accounts like this, sex workers are earning far from for their own work than backstreet porn that ends up widely circulated on Pornhub, and provides sex workers with a one-off payment of a couple of hundred pounds.

Sex workers do not deserve to be made to feel like second class citizens, whilst the government pocket their earnings. People are always going to want easy access to pornography – sex work is arguably the oldest trade in the world – so surely our priority should be making working conditions safe and fairly paid, instead of imposing further regulations that do more harm than good, thus pushing the industry to drastic measures to cut costs and increase popularity. So perhaps if the government were honestly concerned about the nation’s sexual habits, they’d be better off focusing on regulation that protects sex workers’ rights, ensures pornography does not promote harmful sex, and guarantees all those involved are of age, consenting, and earning a sustainable wage from their work. But, of course, instead of making positive change to help workers from whom they are absolutely also benefitting, the Government decide to put a tax on pleasure, without a second thought to those who are providing that pleasure.