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Austin-area OnlyFans creators were left reeling after the app banned explicit content and later suspended the ban in the span of a week. (Shutterstock)

Austin-area resident Hannah likes to say she's an accountant in two ways: she's finishing up her master's in accounting, but she often uses the euphemistic term to describe her role as a creator on subscription site OnlyFans as well.


OnlyFans, which mostly gained popularity from explicit user-created content, is a major source of income for many. It's made thousands for Austinites like Laura Lux, who has over 1 million Instagram followers after gaining fame on the site, and is a significant revenue stream for many others including Hannah, who asked her last name not be used to protect her privacy as a creator. But the site left many of its users reeling after it announced it would ban pornographic content from its creators, later suspending the ban less than a week after.

Hannah's content doesn't really fit under the definition of pornography, she says—she mostly posts lingerie photos—but the decision still left a slightly bitter taste in her mouth as she realized other sites may be more accommodating to the needs of their creators. "This just opened my eyes more to more sites that also could be more mindful of sex workers and how policies change," Hannah said.

OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely said the ban, which was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, was made because banks including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of New York Mellon and the UK's Metro Bank were no longer allowing OnlyFans to pay creators.

But this isn't the first time sex workers have been shunned or discarded despite making much of the revenue for big-name companies, said Noor ZK of the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Austin.

"It is important to note that the change has only been 'suspended'—this suggests it is still inevitably coming," ZK said. "Either way it has left sex workers feeling angry, confused, scared, exhausted, and reeling from how disposably we are treated—even by those who owe their financial and cultural success entirely to us."

A ban on the site could be devastating for many, ZK said. While Hannah, who left the site for a few months and has made around $300 in her first month back, doesn't rely on OnlyFans as her primary source of income, many others do. Some have been part of the community for years, cultivating a large following and posting thousands of photos and videos to their profile.

"These policy changes intentionally target sex workers to prevent us from having access to survival, and ultimately to force us out of the industry," ZK said. "For survival sex workers, for whom sex work is our only access to income, this is literally life-threatening."

Austin-area OnlyFans creators say there might be better alternatives to the site for their content. (Shutterstock)


OnlyFans certainly has brand recognition—the London-based site boomed during the pandemic and rose to $2.4 billion in transactions in 2020—but some are seeking other alternatives. Hannah knows many sex workers in her support groups who have already jumped ship. Some already had issues with payment on the site, while others are looking for more supportive ownership. But ZK said that every site comes with its challenges given the nature and stigma of their work.

"These sites lure workers with false promises but ultimately are not equipped to handle their safety, protect their privacy or prevent similar payment processing outcomes," ZK said.

Although the ban has been lifted, ZK said it serves as a reminder that support for sex workers is fleeting and can only be combated with outreach and donations as well as a stronger sense of community within the industry.

"The best thing that can come of this is for us to create stronger networks of solidarity within our industry... and uplift each other," ZK said.

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