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OnlyFans is a scourge.

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OnlyFans Is A Scourge.

The intersection of big tech and pornography is an ugly place.

In conservative and family-values circles, the detrimental effects of pornography have been widely discussed. For most digital natives, porn has become the default sex educator, teaching “violent attitudes and behaviours to both adolescents and adults,” writes Michael Flood, a Professor at Queensland University of Technology, whose work focuses on gender, sexuality, and interpersonal violence.

The effects can even be lethal: the horrific rape and murder of toddler Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney forced Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) to introduce a resolution in the Alabama Senate recognizing pornography to be a public health emergency.

In many ways, the cultural taboo around pornography work has acted as a barrier to entry.

Now, a new platform, OnlyFans, which enjoys a sexually ‘woke’ reputation, is encouraging women to sell their bodies online under the guise of “empowerment.” What’s worse? They’re doing it at a time when young women are burdened by financial insecurities.

Girls as young as 18 are being lured into producing pornography by Silicon Valley’s latest pivot—and I am not okay with it.

Google.

Google.

WHEN THE TECHNOCRATS TOOK OVER PORN

When it comes to the internet, porn is king. “Three of the 10 most visited websites in the world are adult sites—Xvideos, Pornhub, and XNXX—and the top two, Google and YouTube, often profit from porn-related web traffic too,” write Daryl Austin and Hal Boyd. The internet, which began as a military technology, was democratized in the 90s—and pornography catapulted that expansion. A 1995 study published in Georgetown Law Review found that five in six images shared on Usenet discussion groups (a pre-social media bulletin board system) were pornographic.

“The technocrats who built the company got rich. Many of the performers who helped enable their success became prostitutes.”

It’s not just the internet—pornography is widely regarded as a driving force behind a range of 20th-century innovations: “[C]amcorders and the Polaroid camera, VCRs, cable TV, premium telephone services, Minitel, computers, and the Internet. Pornographic products have served to stimulate initial interest in these new technologies, despite their higher initial costs,” writes Jonathan Coopersmith. According to BBC, “In the late 1970s, most videotape sales were pornographic.” Pornographic consumption habits drive technological innovation.

The relationship goes both ways: technologies also have an effect on porn.

According to the 1995 study, “computer networks represent an efficient, global distribution mechanism for extreme pornographic images that are not commonly available in adult bookstores,” images representing “pedophilia, bestiality and other deviant sexual behavior.” Coopersmith adds that these technologies eliminate “the distinctions as between producers, distributors and consumers as instant photography, video, and computers have permitted a ‘democratisation’ of pornography.”

At the turn of the millennium, Silicon Valley also radically altered the porn industry itself.

“The primary culprits,” writes the New York Times, “were so-called tube sites: YouTube-like platforms that aggregated stolen pornographic content, disseminated it for free and sucked up revenue from banner and video ads.” Industry professionals, accustomed to making $5,000+ a scene, quickly saw their income drying up. “Since porn studios did not have the capital or political connections to sue their most threatening adversaries out of business (as the record industry did), rates for scene work dropped … Eventually, the studios began selling themselves to the tube sites at fire-sale prices … By 2015, a handful of companies were able to exert monopolistic control over the industry.”

These content aggregators had a completely different relationship to pornography; they didn’t make the content themselves, simply hosted it, and these platforms benefited from Section 230 immunity. MindGeek, which operates Pornhub, has demonstrated a lack of “affinity” for the product or the people who appear in it. Instead, their business models focus on the consumer, learning all about their porn habits through surveillance and data analysis.

“The technocrats who built the company got rich. Many of the performers who helped enable their success became prostitutes,” writes the Times.

Cam girl studio. (Reddit)

Cam girl studio. (Reddit)

BRINGING THE STUDIO TO THE “SAFETY” OF YOUR BEDROOM

The most recent technocratic pivot merges the platform model with the gig economy: OnlyFans. The website, which launched in 2016, lets performers allow followers to subscribe to original content for a monthly fee. It describes itself as “a subscription site that enables content creators to monetise their influence.” (Notably absent from its website and public-facing literature, however, is any mention that the site primarily features porn).

All of the industry features that would deter young women from selling their bodies—seedy motels full of tatted cameramen, the illicit drug trade, and the demand for hardcore, demeaning content—all of that is stripped away from porn-production, as are the moral complications that come with it.

According to OnlyFans’ terms of service, content producers own the rights to their pictures and videos—which, of course, gives the platform broad immunity and foists all responsibility on to producers: “you have full responsibility for such content, including its legality, reliability, accuracy, and appropriateness.”

OnlyFans has created a new niche in the porn industry. The model is already being replicated by sites like JustFor.Fans, which is far more explicit about the service it provides: “Empowering Models and Creating Community Through Constant Innovation. The Best XXX Fan Platform.” These platforms lure (“Empower”) producers into servicing their site through the promise of financial freedom and entrepreneurship—you set your own hours, own terms, and profit off your own hustle. (Although OnlyFans will take its cut: 80% of the fees collected for each feed goes to the content producers; 20% goes to the platform—roughly the same arrangement Uber has with its drivers).

And that’s not their only appeal. OnlyFans offer “privacy,” making content producers feel like they have control over who views their pornographic content and how far it circulates. “We are safe and secure,” they assure you. “We’ve all read horror stories about security breaches on the internet and so we wanted to be sure that we offer you the safest and securest [sic] platform possible. Sensitive information like your name and address are stored on separate secure servers and fully encrypted.”

That wasn’t Kirsten Vaughn’s experience: the 24-year-old mechanic lost her job when colleagues discovered her OnlyFans account and began distributing her images in the workplace. Vaughn is not alone; there have been multiple cases of creators having their personal information leaked online by unhappy ‘fans.’ According to The American Conservative, “Massive content leaks and heartbreaking stories about relatives of models being shown what they upload are common. Last week, a British girl called Lenn Holmes tweeted that someone had sent her paywalled photos to her brother. It received over 4,000 likes.”

OnlyFans’ sanitized web presence, however, calms nerves and dramatically reduces the barrier to entry into sexual commodification for young women. You’re not making porn; you’re ‘brand-building.’ And you’re doing it from the safety and security of your own bedroom. All of the industry features that would deter young women from selling their bodies—seedy motels full of tatted cameramen, the illicit drug trade, and the demand for hardcore, demeaning content—all of that is stripped away from porn-production, as are the moral complications that come with it.

In fact—if you don’t want to, you don’t even have to take your clothes off. You can be a “lewd creator”—a cute epithet for softcore content. OnlyFans makes being a pornstar effortless.

Girl in respirator.

Girl in respirator.

“CREATING IN THE TIME” OF COVID-19

It comes as little surprise that the porn industry has pivoted to pandemic-profiteering. Pornhub, which is debased enough to verify child sex trafficking, is rushing to meet a demand spike for videos related to the coronavirus—yes, you read right, coronavirus porn. “While local and national governments are working overtime trying to save lives and teach proper social-distancing measures, porn producers are trivialising—and bizarrely sexualising—a serious matter of life and death,” write Austin and Boyd. Pornhub is also offering free premium content until April 23rd: “when a global human crisis happens, it is up to everyone to work together to help support the community, and that includes us, too … we’ve decided to play our part in encouraging everyone to stay home,” the announcement reads.

This will have cascading effects for generations, as young, vulnerable girls risk reputation and moral harm to survive these economically trying times.

Other industry staples like ‘cam girls’ are similarly profiting from a demand spike: “Business is booming for sexy solo performers as millions of holed-up horndogs look to relieve their outbreak anxiety, XXX workers say,” writes the NY Post. According to VICE, webcam performers can barely keep up with the quarantine demand.

OnlyFans, of course, was hardly one to be left out.

“If you make your money online and set your own schedule then you have one big advantage over many other workers: you can work without being physically present at a workplace,” OnlyFans wrote on their website in mid-March. They go on to describe ways that creating porn under quarantine can enhance their audience experience: “If you’re concerned that your audience will find your surroundings boring, we find that fans respond to authenticity from creators more than anything else. Your fans are here for you, not for fancy shiny backgrounds and effects.”

Rent, student loans, utilities; young women worldwide are struggling with financial insecurity as the world is under lockdown. At least 66 million Americans have had to file for unemployment during the global pandemic—a number that’s only climbing. And it looks like universities and colleges will remain closed through the summer, meaning student workers have lost all the limited income available to them.

Coronavirus makes the allure of flexibility, “privacy,” and financial gain that OnlyFans promises all the more depraved. “The platform has around 17.5 million global users and over 70,000 content creators, who have received over $150 million since its launch,” reports the American Conservative. OnlyFans enjoyed a 75% spike in new users since COVID-19 shelter-at-home orders were put into effect.

This will have cascading effects for generations, as young, vulnerable girls risk reputation and moral harm to survive these economically trying times.

Written By

Ian Miles Cheong is the managing editor of Human Events.

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