Blaming the banks, the founder of OnlyFans sought in recent days to ban the sexually explicit material that has made that site an Internet powerhouse. But on Wednesday he did a flip-flop, declaring that he has found more amiable banks and the porn can proceed. 

After building a site on the basis of steaming-while-streaming material, founder and CEO Tim Stokely announced on Aug. 19 that explicit sex, later defined to include for example “actual or simulated material depicting bodily fluids commonly secreted during sexual conduct,” would be banned effective Oct. 1. 

After getting a great deal of kickback from his content creators and others, Stokely first sought to blame the flip on Wall Street bankers, then capitulated. He now says that there will be no such ban after all.

But such a circle never restores the world to the way it was before the circle began. The circling has its own consequences. 

How OnlyFans Got Started

OnlyFans, a site based in London, is a subscription service that allows for direct contact between content providers, quite often sex workers, and their “fans.” It also allows for both funding on a monthly basis and one-time tips, directly from fan to provider, beyond the paid subscription. 

Tim Stokely originally borrowed the money for funding the site from his father Guy Stokely, a retired ex-Barclays investment banker, ( £10,000) who told him that this loan “is going to be the last.” 

OnlyFans was intended from the start as a pipeline for NSFW content.  During the course of the pandemic, sex workers migrated there, some with great success. 

Allie Rae On Track to make $200,000 on OnlyFans: Why Company is Suddenly Banning Sexually Explicit Content
Allie Rae has been making a ton of money on OnlyFans. She’s hoping the graphic content can stay. Photo Credit: Instagram

Those sex workers built the site into an empire. Tim Stokely was referred to, by The Sunday Times (London) in July 2020 as “the king of homemade porn.” 

Twitter exploded with derisive commentary: “OnlyFans banning porn is like Twitter banning people from having terrible opinions,” ran a fairly typical example. 

What OnlyFans Is Saying Now

The company is now saying that it has “secured assurances” (presumably from banks) that they will be able to support “our diverse creator community.” 

In a tweet it thanked those who had provided the sometimes vociferous feedback “for making your voices heard,” and assured creators and subscribers alike that it has “suspended the planned October 1 policy change.” 

OnlyFans is, after all – the tweet concludes – “about inclusion.” And not about, say, persuading venture capital investors to purchase an equity stake.

Yet even a full circle has consequences, if only dizziness. The responses to that tweet illustrate the distrust that OnlyFans has earned. A creator calling herself “content baby” offers a translation: “we need money still so please do ignore the last update and get your genitals out so we can get that bag….” 

Why All the Flip-Flopping?

It is not far-fetched to believe that OnlyFans did have some trouble with banks. After all, roughly $300 million in payouts runs through the site each month, and banks are part of that processing. 

Since the OnlyFans business model requires careful monitoring on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, one can further understand that some banks would think twice about the wire transfers involved. The Financial Times says that BNY Mellon, JP Morgan Chase, and Metro Bank have each declined to comment.

It surely could have put in more effort than it did to find willing partners among banks before trying to retreat from the whole field.

OnlyFans could make use of an active Compliance office. This spring, a BBC investigation found that OnlyFans had failed to “prevent underage users from selling and appearing in explicit videos.” That certainly didn’t help with skittish banks.