More money, more problems
(@bellathorne / Instagram)
Bella Thorne has been wreaking havoc for sex workers over the past few weeks.
Dawning a barely-there pink bikini and jeweled “sex” necklace, Thorne announced on Instagram that she had made an OnlyFans account on August 19, prompting so many to log-on and subscribe that the site actually crashed.
What did our dear Bella post to get OnlyFans to crash, you ask?
Mostly raunchy photos of her in a bikini and eating a hot dog.
And what did Bella request in return for those photos?
Notably, Thorne included her Amazon wishlist on her profile.
(Everything on the wishlist was already purchased for her and items were removed. But according to YouTuber blair walnuts who reviewed Thorne’s OF, the list included an orthopedic dog bed, For Love & Lemons dresses and inflatable Christmas decorations.)
But the real trouble was in the subscription fees.The rapid influx of subscribers, paying either $20 per month, $51 for three months or $102 for six months, helped her to earn $1 million in her first 24 hours on the site, setting an OnlyFans record. Within the first week, she had already doubled that.
Thorne claimed that she created her account for “research” for a movie with Sean Baker, director of The Florida Project. Baker later denied that this statement was true. Thorne also claimed that profits would be divided between her production company and charity, but again, this is also unconfirmed since she never specified how it would be divided or what charities she planned on donating to. Suspicious, anyone?
Many believe her high subscription fee was taking away from regular creators’ earnings. Subscriptions range from free (with specific paid content) up to around $15 (which is considered a hefty price for normal creators).
Thorne quickly received backlash from sex workers who were outraged that a celebrity was infiltrating a site that allowed creators to make their own content safely and be well-compensated for it.
Quarantine has shined a light on the importance of sex workers.
The beginning of quarantine saw a huge influx of OnlyFans registrations — both content creators and viewers, celebrity and not. From February 29 to mid-March, 1.85 million new people signed up for the site, with a 75% increase between March 6 and 17, according to an OnlyFans spokesperson.
Closures and job losses left many people without incomes, turning them to OnlyFans to help make ends meet. The jump to OnlyFans was especially big for strippers, who were unable to work once strip clubs closed.
COVID-19 created a real catch-22 situation for those already creating content on OnlyFans. The economic downturn meant subscribers would be spending less on content. It was OK though, because there were more subscribers than ever to buy said content.
But, now there are also more creators competing for views.
Popular celebrities who charge high rates on the site only make it that much more difficult for creators to earn livable wages.
Simply being on OnlyFans isn’t the end of all the Bella drama.
Last week, screenshots circulated of Thorne promising subscribers $200 nude photos via pay-per-view messages (despite tweeting she wouldn’t be posting nudes). But all subscribers apparently got were suggestive photos in a bikini or lingerie. Subscribers were upset about the lack of skin (rightfully so), and OnlyFans was bombarded by refund requests. Thorne denies these messages and Rolling Stone was unable to independently verify the screenshots.
Having to pay thousands (if not millions) back to subscribers, plus processing fees, obviously put OnlyFans in a tough spot. So obviously, the most logical response was to punish those who caused no harm.
Instead of suspending Thorne’s account (which is still active), it placed ridiculous caps on what creators could charge for content. The maximum for PPV messages is now $50, and the maximum tip someone can send is $100. Previously, there were no limits.
Not to mention, OnlyFans changed its payment schedule for some international creators from seven days to 30 days, meaning creators would be getting paid significantly less often. None of this was communicated to creators prior to the policy change.
Why does it matter? That seems like a reasonable price.
“Let’s say you’re selling a video of you sucking your boyfriend’s dick,” tweeted Erika Heidewald, an OnlyFans creator. “If you sell that for $50, OF keeps 20%, so you get $40. BUT you have to pay taxes on that. Maybe you get $30-32…. What if you used to sell them for $150 or $200, can you survive a paycut like that? Could YOU at YOUR job survive a sudden 85% pay cut and monthly payday?”
Many creators are faced with similar anxieties about how they’re supposed to generate enough income to pay their bills and support their families. These caps are dangerous to those who are already at a disadvantage on the site, especially BIPOC and trans creators.
This policy change did nothing to help the creators who already had a sour taste in their mouths from past actions. In July, the site introduced a Value Added Tax to the UK’s subscription fees, accounts have been getting deleted overnight without warning, and many worry that NSFW content will be banned (like Tumblr did in 2018).
OnlyFans released a statement saying this decision was not because of any one user, but instead to protect users. Wow, what a wild coincidence.
The statement also stated that “transaction limits are set to help prevent overspending,” which has caused outrage on its own.
“Why is it up to you how much customers want to spend on content and why the fuck are you trying to cheapen our work like that,” said Heidewald on Twitter. “It’s extremely insulting.”
What did Bella have to say about this whole mess?
Thorne has since apologized to OnlyFans users, stating she “wanted to bring attention to the site.” In a string of tweets from Saturday, she emphasized her strides to “remove the stigma behind sex work,” referencing the porno Her & Him she directed last year for PornHub. She ended the thread by apologizing, saying “Again in this process I hurt you and for that I’m truly sorry.”
According to her tweets, she has a meeting with OnlyFans to discuss the new restrictions. She asked for people to send any ideas or concerns they had and offered to promote creators.
While Bella Thorne probably didn’t have ill intentions or plans to screw over sex workers when she initially signed up for OnlyFans, it’s clear she didn’t think the situation through beforehand. Or at least she didn’t understand the gravity of what would occur if she did join.
And, it’s not like all this stopped her sister Kaili from joining OnlyFans and stating that sex work isn’t real work, either.
OnlyFans is a modern way for sex workers to safely earn money, and for some it’s the only way they can earn an income. By allowing a celebrity of her caliber to join and charge such high prices, the market becomes diluted for those truly depending on the site.
Sex workers are already at such a disadvantage and looked down upon by society—there’s no need to cause them further hardships.
Support sex workers. Pay for their content. Consume ethically-made porn.
It’s as simple as that.
Rachel Kutcher is a Staff Writer for Rowdy Magazine. She loves the rain, candles, drinking wine, collecting jars and New Girl's Nick Miller. Her passions include destigmatizing sex, empowering women and sustainability.