OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely says banks were behind the online fundraising platform’s recent ban on sexually explicit content. “The change in policy, we had no choice — the short answer is banks,” Stokely told the Financial Times in an interview published today.
Stokely named three major banks that refused service because of “reputational risk” associated with the UK-based OnlyFans’ sexual material: Bank of New York Mellon, Metro Bank, an JPMorgan Chase. He said BNY Mellon specifically had “flagged and rejected” every wire transaction involving OnlyFans, threatening its ability to pay creators.
Last week, Bloomberg reported more generally that “banking partners and payment providers” had pressured OnlyFans — a platform previously known as a haven for sex workers — into banning the promotion of sexually explicit material starting October 1st. The ban will affect anything that “shows, promotes, advertises, or refers to” real or simulated sex, masturbation, and sex-related bodily fluids. It will still allow nudity, but an email to OnlyFans creators suggested that things like zooming too close to body parts could violate the rules.
Payment processors like MasterCard and Visa are well-known bottlenecks in the digital economy. They’ve recently clamped down on the use of their cards to pay for sexual content, ostensibly to cut off platforms that allow child sexual abuse material and nonconsensual pornography — although the crackdown follows pressure from organizations that broadly oppose sex work and pornography.
Stokely’s comments, however, single out banks as the primary drivers behind the ban. He claims that JPMorgan Chase, for instance, is “particularly aggressive in closing accounts of sex workers” or any business that supports them. Similarly, he said that Metro Bank had closed OnlyFans’ account on short notice in 2019. Stokely told the Financial Times that he was not disclosing the company’s current banking partners.
OnlyFans is the latest of several web companies to purge or limit sexual content in recent years — following platforms like Tumblr, Patreon, and eBay. In addition to payment-related pressures, companies serving sex workers face heightened legal risk after the 2018 passage of FOSTA-SESTA, and Apple and Google’s app stores restrict sexually explicit material. The day of OnlyFans’ sex crackdown, Axios also reported that OnlyFans has struggled to raise money from investors, citing its “porn problem” as a major cause. But sex workers were instrumental in the service’s growth — and despite its use by some film and music celebrities, its future without them is uncertain.