Call OnlyFans What It Is—a 'Pimp'

Lawyer Catherine MacKinnon says creators on the site are 'violated,' not empowered
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2021 12:24 PM CDT
OnlyFans' Creators Are 'Violated,' Not Empowered
This photo shows a phone app for OnlyFans, a site where fans pay creators for their photos and videos, on Aug. 19, 2021.   (AP Photo/Tali Arbel, file)

When OnlyFans announced a ban on explicit content, the ACLU warned it was stigmatizing sex work, "making workers less safe." The subscription site's decision to reverse the ban was therefore applauded on many fronts. But not by Catherine MacKinnon. "It is the sex industry that makes women unsafe," the feminist legal scholar writes in a New York Times essay, describing OnlyFans as a "pimp." The site "has been to conventional pornography what stripping has been to prostitution: a gateway activity, sexual display with seeming insulation from skin-on-skin exploitation, temporary employment for those with their financial backs against the wall and few if any alternatives," she writes.

Though the Free Speech Coalition said adult creators had used OnlyFans "to build businesses, profit off of their own work and achieve independence," MacKinnon points to evidence that the site hosted child pornography, failed to properly screen for incest and bestiality, and was lenient with accounts that shared other illegal content. "There is no way to know whether pimps and traffickers are recruiting the unwary or vulnerable or desperate or coercing them offscreen and confiscating or skimming the proceeds, as is typical in the sex industry," she adds. "OnlyFans takes 20% of any pay, its pimp's cut."

Indeed, she takes issue with "the media's increasing insistence on referring to people used in prostitution and pornography as 'sex workers.'" As MacKinnon writes, "'sex work' implies that prostituted people really want to do what they have virtually no choice in doing. That their poverty, homelessness, prior sexual abuse as children, subjection to racism, exclusion from gainful occupations or unequal pay plays no role." She concludes that "as long as the violated lack effective rights and equality based on sex, ethnicity and gender, survivors of abuse through these sites … will be exposed to theft, coercion and all manner of unauthorized expropriation of their sexuality." The full piece is here. (More OnlyFans stories.)

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