In this episode, we talk about online sex work, the weird OnlyFans bump in the road where they threatened to ban sex workers and then backed down, and we interview Mistress Ivy, one of the top OnlyFans earners, about online sex work.
Along the way, we talk about everything from NFTs to the unexpected effects of laws that try to “protect” sex workers but only make their lives worse.
Mistress Ivy is a London-based Dominatrix, fetish model, and online performer. You can find her on Twitter and on the Web here.
Franklin: Hello! And welcome to Skeptical Perverts, the podcast where we look at human sexuality through an evidence-based, skeptical lens! I’m one of your hosts and part-time mad scientist, Franklin Veaux.
Joreth: Hi! I’m your co-host and Renaissance cat, Joreth! I’m kinky, solo polyamorous, on the ace spectrum, chicana, feminist, my gender identity is “tomboy”, and my pronouns are she/her but I use masculine titles.
Eunice: And I’m Eunice, your friendly neighbourhood queer, kinky, demisexual, grey-ace cis woman, bringing my East Asian British viewpoint and a penchant for genteel understatement. In this mini-series, we’re talking about sex work! I have a little experience of this, as I also do a bit of pro-domming on the side. Yes, demisexual grey-ace people can be sex workers too!
Franklin: Okay, so in this episode…OnlyFans!
Eunice: Before we start, we should explain what OnlyFans is! Imagine…a video streaming site like TikTok or Youtube, mashed up with Patreon. I don’t actually have personal experience of online sex work cos all mine was in person, so I’m actually really excited to learn more about this topic.
Joreth: Yeah, so individuals put up videos of … whatever – aerobics instructors put up videos of workout routines, bakers put up recipe videos – and some content is for free but a lot of content is available only to paid subscribers. But more than just paying for static videos, subscribers can have some measure of interaction with the providers, like requesting specific content, and the providers create new things based on fan interaction.
Eunice: It’s become particularly well known to the general public for the sexual content on the platform, which is why we’re talking about it here. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know there’s non-sexual content on OnlyFans.
Joreth: Like my housemate! I suggested he use it for his cosplay stuff and he was like “but it’s not nude!” and I was all “not everything on OnlyFans is sex work, y’know”, and no, he did not know!
Franklin: I keep thinking about setting up an OnlyFans for my tiny white cat.
Eunice: You want other people to be catslaves like you, Franklin? I guess they always need more squishy food!
Franklin: The world is a better place with cats in charge. Change My Mind! Anyway, a short while back, OnlyFans banned sexually explicit content, then unbanned it again before the ban went into effect. Good lord, it sucks to be a self-employed sex worker trying to make a living.
So let’s talk about this wibbly-wobbly, sexy-wexy stuff going on. First, the ban: OnlyFans announced in August 2021 that
“In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines. Creators will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity as long as it is consistent with our Acceptable Use Policy.
These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.”
A few weeks later, Tim Stokely, founder and CEO of OnlyFans, told the Financial Times that Bank of New York Mellon, Metro Bank, and JPMorgan Chase were the banking partners that forced the initial decision.
Then before anyone had a chance to react, they announced an un-ban of the ban. So let’s talk about this.
Eunice: Hold up, what do we even mean by ‘sex work’ anyway? How are we defining sex work?
Joreth: That’s a tricky question, isn’t it? No matter what definition we use, some group of people out there is going to be unhappy with it. Very broadly speaking, we could say that sex work is any kind of financial transaction for labor of a sexual nature. But then we have to discuss what “labor of a sexual nature” is, don’t we?
Franklin: SWOP, the Sex Worker Outreach Project, defines sex work as “Sex work is any type of labor where the explicit goal is to produce a sexual or erotic response in the client. Sex work includes prostitution, but it also includes a bunch of other things like erotic dancing, pro-dom/pro-sub work, webcam work, sensual massage, adult film, phone sex, being a sugar baby, etc.” As a side note, my background is in print design and prepress, so I can’t see SWOP without thinking Society of Web Offset Publications. “I need to separate this image to CMYK using a SWOP Coated profile!”
Joreth: Ah, yes, switching between industry acronyms is fun!
Eunice: This is the point at which I need to mention that being a kinky therapist with a partner who owns a motorbike makes the CBT acronym very confusing. Anyway, for this episode we’re specifically looking at the online versions of sex work — webcamming, adult film, that sort of thing, and especially through OnlyFans, which is the website that most people are currently talking about, now that PornHub seems to have died a death? Not that it makes a huge difference — the same company owns most of the video porn websites anyway, right?
Franklin: So enough about trying to define sex work, let’s talk to some people who do it.
Joreth: We talked to a couple of people who have content on OnlyFans, one on Twitter and one in an audio interview. @goldplatedpussy, as she goes on Twitter, responded to my query for sex workers on Twitter. So she has been doing sex work for 4 years now, all online.
Eunice: She says “when I started, I was camming out of a studio. Camming is like live streaming but NSFW. My OF is mainly erotic photos and solo videos. My fanbase is mainly submissive, so I tend to cater to that.”
Joreth: I asked her how she would describe her work pre-pandemic vs. post pandemic. She told us that it was amazing before the pandemic because there was little competition and way less censorship across it and other sites, calling it the best job she ever had in those pre-covid days and she was making great money.
Eunice: Then she goes on to suggest that OnlyFans is now dying, with the hardest part for the creators being the censorship. She says that includes both creative censorship as well as censorship on other platforms that they use for advertising their OnlyFans accounts. And also that the industry has become incredibly over-saturated.
Joreth: Yeah, I’m not surprised that it’s oversaturated, what with so many people needing to find some kind of income from home. She then said that Covid hit and so many people realized that they could be making so much money on OnlyFans and it became almost trendy.
Eunice: We shouldn’t forget as well that the popularity of OnlyFans did make it possible for some people who previously hadn’t been able to do sex work because of accessibility issues like certain disabilities to suddenly be able to make some money doing online sex work from home.
Franklin: COVID has been a huge boon to the gig industry, though that doesn’t necessarily mean a boon to gig workers. Welcome to capitalism, eh? The US linked health insurance to employment, then gave the middle finger to people without conventional jobs. Kind of a problem in, oh, say, a global pandemic… I bet the folks writing articles for Forbes and Business Insider didn’t consider that gig industry jobs could include sex work too! The street really does find its own uses for things.
Joreth: I then asked her what she thought was the most significant obstacle to continuing to work with OnlyFans.
Eunice: Her response was, “The biggest obstacle in continuing to work with OnlyFans is knowing that they don’t have their content creators in mind. I don’t trust them. The sex worker community that I talk with daily all agree that we feel used – used to build up their platform, used for the glamour, and for the money. It’s been a long time coming though I saw the beginning of the end when the Bella Thorne incident happened. In that moment they chose to fuck over all their creators instead of holding her accountable for what she did and remove the problem.”
Franklin: I don’t really understand the Bella Thorne thing, but from what I gather, she joined OnlyFans, quickly made millions of dollars, uploaded a photo she billed as a nude for people to see at $200 a pop, and it turned out not to be a nude at all. Enough people requested refunds that OnlyFans apparently changed their payout policies because of it, and that screwed over a lot of sex workers.
Joreth: When I asked her what her impressions were about what the market is doing and how she feels about OnlyFans now, she said “Personally I hope OnlyFans does flop after this. It will be a lesson for any platform that uses sex workers to start themselves off only to cut them out when they get established.” And that’s something I’ve heard echoed from other people who use the platform.
Franklin: So, in a world where people can get almost unlimited quantities of porn for free, how do people even make money on OnlyFans? Why would someone pay for OnlyFans? A lot of what you pay for with OnlyFans isn’t pictures of naked people or people having sex, it’s the interaction—the ability to communicate with the person you’re patronizing and get a response. Fundamentally, OnlyFans and sites like it are not selling naked pictures, they’re selling interaction.
Joreth: Yeah, this is sort of … porn meets social media, in a sense. And people are willing to pay for that social experience.
The internet is the “great equalizer” and this is the era of the entrepreneur hustler. Individual people are finding a lot of freedom and power in choosing their own niches and building their own fan bases. So along come the capitalists with all the resources that the sex workers are using who build up their own financial institutions and megacorps on the backs of these laborers and content providers, only to pull the rug out from under them when they get big enough to go mainstream. And it’s the sex workers who end up falling.
Franklin: It seems that large banks and payment providers are of two minds about this: they want a slice of that revenue, but they don’t want their names associated with eww, dirty sex. They’re willing to take the money as long as it’s at arm’s length, but don’t want to get too close to the dirty dirty sex stuff.
Does anyone else find it weird that in the US, a handful of banks and two credit card companies have almost unlimited power to shut down entire legal industries?
Eunice: Welcome to capitalism?
Franklin: I guess? And it’s not just payment providers. Instagram recently started banning accounts of OnlyFans performers: Effective in December 2020, under the Sexual Solicitations section of its parent company Facebook’s Community Standards, Instagram’s rules state that users cannot offer or ask for pornographic materials “including, but not limited to, sharing of links to external pornographic websites.” A Facebook spokesperson explains: “We want Instagram to be a safe environment for everyone, and have strict rules against nudity, sexual activity, and sexual solicitation. Under these rules, we don’t allow people to share links to porn websites on Instagram. While OnlyFans isn’t a porn website, we know it can be used in that way, so we take action on accounts that share OnlyFans links when paired with other sexually suggestive content.”
It’s a moral panic. People and businesses are terrified of being accused of promoting porn or “human trafficking,” which in many ways is today’s version of the Satanic panic of the 1980s.
Eunice: So many people use the terms “sex work” and “human trafficking” interchangably, like they’re identical, when they’re really two entirely different topics.
The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.
No one wants to be trafficked, whether it’s for forced sex or, more commonly, for manual farm labour or domestic service, but there are many people who chose to do sex work because it suits them, they enjoy it, the money is better than many other jobs — and, for that matter, the working conditions — or there’s just no other available jobs that will allow them to survive or otherwise do what they love. You know that quote about doing what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life? That applies to sex just as much as it applies to coding or cooking or interior design. Some sex workers really love what they do, and some think of it on about the same level of tedium as, say, working admin in an office or as a server, but better paid. That doesn’t apply to every sex worker, of course, but then that doesn’t apply to every worker in any job or industry.
Franklin: One study on sex trafficking I’ve seen defined the word “trafficking” to mean any crossing of state or national boundaries for sex work. If a woman voluntarily travels for sex work, they count that as “trafficking”—according to the definition used in the study, she trafficked herself.
Joreth: There’s also a hierarchy of sex work and “what counts” as sex work, isn’t there? We tend to rank different forms of sex work as more or less “acceptable” and also more or less “real sex work”. That allows some of these categories to get dismissed entirely so that they can basically pull a No True Scotsman fallacy or a tautology – trafficking = sex work and only these forms of sex work “count”, therefore it’s all trafficking, Q.E.D. And, naturally, none of these people bother to get actual sex worker’s opinions on the subject, because if they listened to actual sex workers, they’d have to revise their positions.
Franklin: That is an incredibly important point. All too often, people want to speak for people they have never spoken to.
Joreth: We’ll get more into “what counts” in an upcoming episode.
Eunice: We also talked to Mistress Ivy, and she brought up a lot of the same experiences. Mistress Ivy is a London-based Dominatrix, fetish model, and online performer. So Mistress Ivy, what’s been your experience with OnlyFans and with online sex work in general?
Mistress Ivy: So I guess with OnlyFans it was something I was doing a little bit before lockdown, but then with lockdown it became my only source of income, so it’s something I became a lot more focused on.
It’s very different to real time sort of sex work, which is primarily what I do. But it’s been…it was kind of really helpful. And actually I just really enjoyed it during lockdown. It gave me something to do.
Joreth: So you do different kinds of sex work. You do both real life and OnlyFans work.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, like it was mainly all real time. I did little bits online like webcam sessions and I’ve had an OnlyFans for a few years now, but it was something that I never really made a huge amount of money on. It was kind of more of a a way of promoting myself and quite a nice way for clients to kind of get to know me before booking me to meet in person as well. So it’s kind of worked quite well in that way.
Joreth: How long have you been doing sex work, any kind?
Mistress Ivy: About 15 years, I think?
Mistress Ivy: A long time. 15, 16 years or something.
Eunice: Has the industry changed over that time? I guess it’s had to. How has it changed?
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, like the kinds of clients I get are completely different now. I mean, I mainly work in like fetish, BDSM type sex work and sadly most of my clients are kind of dying out. I used to have mainly the older public school boys that like to be tamed and things like that, and I found that like a lot of them have died, sadly, and now I’m getting all these really young guys. They’re much more into sort of Sissy type stuff and things like that, and they’re all sort of between 18 and 25. I found it shifted from guys 60 plus to mainly like younger people now, and I think maybe that due to the influence of the Internet and things like that. But it’s yeah it’s changed loads.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, mainly guys in their sort of early 20s and things that have very different interests. And I think a lot of fetishes and kinks often come from childhood, and I think that’s maybe why it’s so different. Because different generations going through different things in life. Like the older clients I used to have were all into corporal punishment and caning, and now that doesn’t happen in schools. I found it’s it’s very different kinds of clientele.
Franklin: How are they finding you now? Are they more finding you on the Internet first and then booking rail-life sessions?
Mistress Ivy: It’s mainly all through Twitter. And OnlyFans is linked to Twitter as well. So, I mean, I do have other websites that I advertise on, but I think Twitter is like the main one that I kind of promote myself on and post on pretty regularly because it links to OnlyFans. That’s kind of how you get new subscribers and things.
Franklin: So essentially then, the demographics are kind of following the demographics of Twitter.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, yes, I guess maybe that’s why it’s younger clients as well. Maybe the older ones aren’t as familiar with Twitter and technology and things.
Joreth: So some people are probably familiar, like they have the idea in their head, that sex work is basically prostitution, you know, like they have the image that they see on TV: somebody on the street corner or a high end escort being the two common most common things. And they might not understand how, first of all, what other forms of sex work there are, but also how sex work works on a strictly online platform. Like what is it that you do on OnlyFans, for example?
Mistress Ivy: So on OnlyFans I post photo sets, a mix of sort of latex and naked pictures. I make videos sometimes, including other people. Sometimes it’s just spanking or fetish things. Sometimes it might be a little bit more sexual. Like, I’ve got a girlfriend that I kind of do more sort of sexy things with. I personally don’t do anything really explicit, it’s kind of more just nudity rather than sort of full on sex is what I post.
I think sex work, it takes so many different forms. It’s just such a huge subject, and there’s so many different ways of doing sex work. I guess I’ve done loads of different types over the years, because I like exploring different ways of doing things and kind of trying everything.
Mistress Ivy: There’s a lot of audio stuff I do, like erotic hypnosis and things, so sometimes I just post audio tracks of my voice.
And the other thing with OnlyFans is people can ask for customized things. They can tip you if you kind of post the things they like. So there’s other ways that are kind of more personal as well for OnlyFans.
Joreth: Is that kind of what sets OnlyFans apart from other forms of media-based sex work? You know, if I wanted to go to, say, PornHub, I can download any video that I wanted to, but with OnlyFans, I guess they get more personal interaction from you.
Mistress Ivy: I don’t really know much about PornHub. I’ve not really used it. I’m not sure, I’m not sure if they can interact personally with people. I think there is a thing on PornHub where you can do that now as well, because I think nowadays a lot of people that watch porn want to kind of get to know the people that are in it and see them as people.
And so sometimes the stuff I post on on OnlyFans is just like me doing my morning workouts naked, which is what I do anyway. And I think they just like bringing, you know, the realness of it, of me in my house kind of just doing what I do.
And I think it is about kind of wanting a connection with the person you’re seeing as well to some extent. And I think with OnlyFans, it is is personal. And I think what’s nice about it as well is you know that the money you’re paying is going to that person, and if you tip it’s going to them.
So I think for sex workers OnlyFans, although they do take quite a big percent, it’s a really good way of doing sex work, actually, using these online platforms where you know it’s just you and the client.
Franklin: So what happened when OnlyFans decided that they were going to ban adult content? Like, they did this thing where they were like “oh, we’re not going to do adult content anymore,” and then they reversed track a couple of weeks later and said “Oh yes, we will.”
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, I mean, it really affected a lot of people I know. Not all of my income is from OnlyFans, so I tried not to overthink it and get too upset about it. But I have got friends that all of their money is through OnlyFans, so it’s completely, like, destroying their income. You know they make good money from it, and it just would have destroyed everything. So yeah, a lot of people were very upset about that.
I did set up a profile on…there’s another one called AVN, that’s kind of organized by sex workers. And there’s a few others that I’ve kind of set up, but I found I’ve just not got as many followers on there, and I think it’s because OnlyFans is so well known. It’s the only way I’ve really been able to build up enough followers to make it worthwhile doing.
Joreth: Sounds like the adult version of Facebook really. We can’t seem to escape Facebook just because it’s the first one and the biggest one, even though everyone hates it. There’s a couple of dozen other platforms, but nobody else is on them, so why bother?
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, and I think because there’s so many of them everyone’s on different one. And it’s it’s a lot of work to upload your content as well. It takes time, and if you’re having to do it to multiple different platforms, it’s just too much effort for me to be honest.
So I did make these other ones, but the only one I’ve really stuck with is OnlyFans because it seems to be the only one really getting the followers.
Franklin: Yeah, it seems like there’s a huge first mover advantage for really any kind of social media. And it’s the same thing with Twitter, right? People have tried to do short form blogging platforms that have failed. So it’s it’s kind of interesting that what has happened is that Twitter, which is the 900 pound gorilla in its genre, has become a funnel to funnel people into OnlyFans, which is the 900 pound gorilla in its niche.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, although I think they’re cracking down on sex work on Twitter as well, which is a shame because at the moment I look through my Twitter feed and it’s just all porn. I’ve noticed they’ve been closing down a lot of sex workers accounts and things. Not entirely sure why, but I think a lot of these places are just trying to get rid of the sex workers, which is a shame.
Franklin: Yeah, Instagram did something like that too where they started closing down the accounts of anybody who was an OnlyFans sex worker on Instagram.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, yeah. And the other thing with Instagram that’s really bad is I’ve noticed a lot of people have taken my content from OnlyFans and Twitter and have been making fake Instagram profiles to try and extort money out of people using my photos.
That’s literally about 15 to 20 fake Mistress Ivys at the moment. It’s it’s very frustrating. That’s the only downside to this stuff. As soon as your stuff out there and online, people will steal it. And I think I’ve just had to kind of accept that that happens rather than try and chase every single person.
And also Instagram are pretty useless about doing anything about it.
Franklin: They steal the content, not to try to sell it, but to try to extort people?
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, to try and pretend to be me and extort money out of people or sell it as well. It’s both. And they’ve stolen things from OnlyFans and Twitter.
Joreth: So like any content creator, especially small independent content creator, you’re having to constantly chase down, and, you know, your work, other people are stealing for their own nefarious purposes. It can get overwhelming for anyone who’s creating any kind of art, basically.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, it’s upsetting and I think if you really take the time to watermark everything you can kind of get out of that. But honestly, I’m just not that great at editing, and I’m just a bit lazy. I’ve just posted all my stuff and now it’s kind of out there getting stolen, and I’ve noticed when I try to watermark things I just don’t post as much, because it just adds on so much more time to do things.
So yeah, that’s the downside. Things like definitely get stolen.
Eunice: I was just curious about the proportion of work that is online versus in person. I know obviously with the pandemic and stuff that changed for a while, but in your ideal world, what sort of proportion would there be of online work versus in person work?
Mistress Ivy: So I definitely prefer in person work due to the style that I work in because I like to kind of physically sort of touch people and be with the person. That’s why what I really enjoy doing, and at the moment I’d say probably more than 90% of my work is in person with the money I make.
I find with online work, it’s very hard to make money from it because there’s so many people doing it. Like so many people. And especially during lockdown, it just became such a competitive industry. And obviously that was my whole source of income during lockdown. But I think with just so many people are doing it, it’s just incredibly hard to make money online, really.
You have to really, really try hard, and it’s a lot harder. I’m constantly editing videos, constantly having to promote myself. I find it a lot harder to make money online, actually.
Eunice: So what would you say is like the most significant obstacle that makes it hard to carry on working with OnlyFans or doing online sex work or similar?
Mistress Ivy: Especially recently, there’s been all these new weird things, like getting all these model release forms, and having to get proof of age of every single person that’s in your films. Which, I understand why they’re doing it. It’s a good thing, but it’s also kind of hard when I’ve got people I’ve worked with years ago, and I’m having to chase them up to get all these forms and things.
Also, they’re very restrictive of the kind of content you can post, and because mainly what I do is fetish, a lot of stuff gets taken down, or they close down your account, because they don’t want to see certain kinds of things.
There’s lots of language you can’t use, and that makes it hard because just everything takes time like I type in a word like “caning.” But you have to change it to something else, because you can’t use that language.
And I found the fact they’ve got so restrictive on words and language and what you can say makes it really hard, because I’ll try and write something down to sell a film and it’ll be like, “You can’t say that. You can’t say that.” And sometimes they’ll just delete it because you’ve said the wrong thing.
However, the way my brain works, I just want to type what’s happened. But there’s all these weird rules nowadays, and I think that is the hardest thing about online work, really. Just all the weird rules and things in place.
Franklin: Does the UK still have those restrictions? I know they had for a while, a porn law that was like, you know, this extreme porn thing where you can’t do fisting, you can’t do all of these different things. Are those still in effect?
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, I think that’s changed now actually. But the problem is OnlyFans specifically has a lot of strange rules around what you can and can’t post, and it’s similar to the UK porn laws, so it makes it kind of hard to know what you can post. And so I’ll post some things and think, “will I get my account deleted?” And they brought in a load more rules fairly recently.
But on my OnlyFans I’ve got about 600 videos and about 10,000 photos or something already on there, which I just leave on there for people to log in and see. And for me to go back through everything and delete things that might not be allowed on there.
Or you know, my friend’s in my picture with me, but I now need to get either delete her or find a model release and things like that. I have to go through everything, and it’s just honestly too much work for me to do that. It’s just far too much work. It would take me forever, and I don’t make enough money on it to be be bothered to do that.
And so I’m kind of at a point now where I probably have things on there that I shouldn’t, and I’m just hoping I don’t get deleted because I just can’t be bothered to go through 10,000 photos.
Joreth: Yeah, that’s a lot of work.
Franklin: I kind of wonder if some of those rules aren’t just based around the individual squicks that like the CEO of the company has.
Mistress Ivy: They change them all the time as well. Like one minute, something’s fine, and then something isn’t. And the fact that it’s constantly changing and the language you’re allowed to use is changing, it just makes it very hard to keep up with.
Eunice: What would you say the weirdest rule that you’ve come across? That they’ve hit you with, as it were.
Mistress Ivy: Do you know what? I’m honestly really lazy, and don’t really pay attention to the rules very much. I guess if I get deleted, I just try not to stay too attached to it.
I think the one that disappoints me the most is I think you’re not allowed female ejaculation or watersports or anything like that. For me, I just think water sports is something I really like doing, and something I do a lot, and I’ve got loads of videos of it and it feels quite good. I can’t just post that.
I just see it as, like, you know, you can have like really full on face fucking and anal sex and all of that stuff. But I can’t have like an innocent little video of me taking a wee. Like, it’s just… (Laughs)
To me, that’s what I find strange.
Joreth: Very arbitrary.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, I just find it strange that I can’t just post a video of me taking a piss when there’s all this much more, I’d consider much more extreme stuff.
Joreth: Yeah, it sounds like if they can’t get you off directly then they’re just going to make this labyrinth of rules to discourage it, just to make it difficult for people to start it, you know, without outright saying “We don’t want you here.”
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, it’s quite frustrating, actually. I should play more by rules, but because they’re constantly changing and things like that, I honestly don’t know what the latest rules are.
Joreth: Yeah, why bother learning?
Joreth: They’re just going to change again, right?
Mistress Ivy: And I’ve heard of a lot of sex workers…it’s quite horrible actually, and actually Adultwork did this to me, but on OnlyFans have heard of sex workers having their account shut down for some rule that they didn’t really know about. And then all of their money just getting kept by OnlyFans, which is awful. I try and make sure I take my money out fairly regularly for this reason, but they just literally steal all the money and closed down their account.
I had Adultwork do that to me, and when I complained about it, they just told me to fuck off basically. There was over a grand in there, so I was really upset about it.
Joreth: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Mistress Ivy: That’s the thing with online sex work, I think. They can just do things like that. And because it’s based in America, I think, it’s not a UK company, there’s no real way of getting your money back. If they suddenly decide that they don’t want you, they’ll just close down your account and keep everything that you’ve made for them, everything.
That’s really soul destroying. And I think that’s why I try not to have too much of an attachment with online work, because I know that that can just happen. Like, I know there’s a good chance. I can really build up a following, and then all of a sudden they can just, you know, for whatever reason, decide they don’t want you and then you lose everything.
So I think that’s probably why I try not to invest myself too much into it.
Joreth: Well, that seems to make sense that, you know, when when OnlyFans made their announcement that they were getting rid of sex work, basically, and then changed their mind afterwards.
Joreth: And now with all of these arbitrary rules, and they can steal your money, you know a lot of people are saying that they don’t trust OnlyFans, and some of the other online platforms. How do you feel about all of these online corporations, since you don’t feel safe with them, you just said that, right?
Mistress Ivy: Now even PayPal, you know if they think you’re doing any sort of sex work, they can just keep all your money. And I think all of these online things, as soon as you do sex work, it’s true they can just keep it all and just, you know, shut you down. So I don’t really trust any of them, really.
Maybe the ones designed for sex workers are a bit more reliable, but then it’s harder to get the followers on there. And so I find myself posting a lot, taking a lot of time to do it, and making less than $5 a month. it’s just not really worth it.
Mistress Ivy: You know, and so yeah, I think it would be really good if there was something that was more, I don’t know, more looking out for the sex workers and the people that are making the money for these companies because right now it feels like…probably because we are disposable, really. There’s so many people doing this work now, you know, they just don’t really care. Like, they just don’t. There’s always someone else.
Eunice: Yeah, and sex workers have never been protected anywhere at any time really.
Mistress Ivy: No, no they’re not.
Franklin: OnlyFans kind of pointed the finger at their upstream financial providers when they decided that they were going to ban sex work. And then they said that they renegotiated with their financial providers when they reversed that ban. And so it makes me wonder if, you know, you can have an OnlyFans that was set up and run by sex workers, and maybe would be a little bit more friendly to sex workers. But if they’re being held hostage by the same upstream providers, then they’ve potentially got the same problem.
It seems like what you’d actually need is an entire vertical industry where the website is sex worker friendly and the credit card merchant account is sex worker friendly and the merchant processor is sex worker friendly. You know, if even one part of that chain isn’t sex worker friendly, they can really ruin everybody’s day.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, yeah, that’s true.
Joreth: So what are your impressions about the industry in general? Like, where do you see this going? Sex work has always been, you know, in danger. Sex workers have never been cared for. You’ve never really had any protections.
But it seemed that everybody rallied around the sex workers when it looked like OnlyFans was going to cut you all off and then they came back with it. Do you see any changes in the industry? Do you see getting any more protections? Any less? How do you see the industry changing? Or is it?
Mistress Ivy: So I think it’s sex work is becoming much more socially accepted, and I think that probably is due to the Internet. I think a lot of people during lockdown ended up getting an OnlyFans and it has become a much more acceptable way of making money socially, which is good.
But then there’s still a lot of other people trying to make rules for the sex workers thinking it’s gonna help the sex workers, but not really asking for sex workers’ opinions.
So for example, the Nordic model that they’re trying to bring into the UK is meant to help the sex workers, but actually it’s terrifying. None of the sex workers want it. Nobody is listening to the sex workers. It’s just them doing what they think will help the sex workers. That will basically mean that they can prosecute clients coming to see us.
Joreth: Oh gosh.
Mistress Ivy: So they think they’re helping the sex worker. But the reality is, by doing that, sex workers are still going to do sex work. It’s pushing our work underground and it’s going to mean that the only people, the only clients we can get, are ones willing to break the law. So it kind of, you know, it just messes things up for everyone.
Things like that, I find quite scary and worrying. I think sex work is definitely becoming more accepted, but I think there’s things like the Nordic model and all these ideas that people have, I think they need to be speaking to the sex workers.
And there’s a lot of sex worker charities as well, but again, they’re coming from this perspective of sex workers need to be saved and find a new job and get out of sex work. And there’s very few that are kind of supportive of happy sex workers doing what they do.
Like for me, it’s like, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I love it and I feel empowered and happy that I just get to work for myself and do what I want. And I think most sex workers I know are kind of really happy with the work they do.
Eunice: There is this sort of association in many people’s minds between sex work and human trafficking, which is ridiculous, ‘cause then they ignore all of the you know domestic laborers or manual laborers or whatever that are actually human trafficked and instead focus on sex work because, you know, “Oh no sex work scares me” or “sex work icky” or something.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah.
Eunice: And I guess you’ve seen a lot of those kinds of rules, kind of impacting on your work as well.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, which is, you know, just such a shame because it’s a completely different thing. There’s people being trafficked for all sorts of things. Not just sex work. And there’s a huge difference between, you know, trafficked people and people doing the job out of choice. They’re completely different things. And so trying to mix them up together just isn’t really helpful at all for anyone.
Joreth: Yeah, a bunch of years ago, like between 10, 15 years ago, in the porn industry in Hollywood, CA here we had a similar thing. They come in trying to save everybody, without any understanding of how the industry works.
And so we had a foundation. It was called the AIM Foundation. It was a medical foundation created by a very well known porn star that did STI testing and treatment and all of that sort of thing. And they sort of put into place this voluntary program where all of the performers would get rapid HIV tested, and they would have to bring a negative test result in order to work each day.
Joreth: So it was a rapid HIV test and the test window was very short. So it was pretty safe, and this was a voluntary program. You know, any studio could opt into it and there was no penalty if they didn’t, but you got, you know, bonus points like “yay, this is a responsible studio to work for.”
And in all the time that they were running this program I think they had only seven individual cases of any of the performers getting HIV, and they all got it from not other performers. It it caught it before they passed it on to any other performers.
And then California decided they wanted to start covering the porn industry under our OSHA, which is our national worker safety organization. They wanted to cover it under those laws, which makes it illegal for the employer to demand medical records.
So like in every other industry, that’s a protection for the workers, but in the porn industry was the exact opposite, and so it ended up passing in spite of, you know, years of protesting from the porn performers. And so now AIM was out of business and they can no longer require test results from the performers, and the HIV rate spiked among performers in California because that’s what happens.
So it sounds like you all are going through the same thing no matter which form of sex work you do or where you live, it’s somebody coming in trying to rescue you and actually making things worse
Mistress Ivy: It does, yeah.
Franklin: What is the saying? “Never speak for somebody you have never spoken to.”
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, exactly.
Eunice: If you had an ideal platform that was sex worker friendly and you could feel safe on, what would it look like?
Mistress Ivy: So OnlyFans is pretty good to be honest, it is good. It’s easy to use, it’s easy to upload content. I think the things that I would like to be different would be not having as many stupid rules. Although I do understand why the stupid stupid rules are in place to some extent. You know, I do kind of get it, but feel like they definitely judge fetish and alternative sexuality, and it’s very kind of straight and vanilla. And so I guess something a lot more fetish friendly, a bit more open.
For me, that’s what I would like. And maybe them taking less of a big cut as well.
Eunice: Something you said just there was really interesting. You mentioned it being kind of very vanilla and very straight, so even OnlyFans?
Mistress Ivy: Yeah. Very.
Mistress Ivy: I’ve really had to limit my stuff. When I first started OnlyFans it was nearly all fetish stuff because that’s what I love and that’s what I do. And then when all the rules came into place, I had to change my content. And so now what I do is mainly glamour, even though most of the people are following me on there wanting fetish. So they’ll message me with specific requests for, you know, something kinky, and I’ll say “I’m really sorry I can’t do that because of OnlyFans rules.”
And so I feel very limited, like I want to just be able to post what I want to post. I guess for me it’s a creative process, like, I am really kinky, and I want to share this stuff and make cool kinky videos, and I feel currently just really restricted and limited to what I can post.
And so I guess a platform that’s more fetish friendly really would be great.
Joreth: So is there anything that you would like to make sure gets mentioned about the online sex work industry that we haven’t covered?
Mistress Ivy: The one thing I will say about it is it’s an incredibly hard way to make money. Like, incredibly hard. I’ve been on there for a few years, and I can’t remember what percentage I’m in. I think I ‘m in the top 2% of earners on OnlyFans. But I’m still only making like between $100 and $200 a month, and that’s like one of the top 2%.
Mistress Ivy: It’s so hard to make it there because it’s just so competitive, I think. There’s so many people on there. And also they they don’t pay a particularly high price. I put a lot of work into it. I post every single day, sometimes twice a day, but it is definitely not an easy way to make money.
For me, OnlyFans has been something I’ve kind of done during lockdown for my own sanity, to kind of keep my presence out there and do things.
There’s a couple of girls I know that dou make thousands of pounds a month on there, but it’s really rare. Like really, really rare. So I guess for anyone who wants to start doing online sex work, I’d say it’s it’s not easy. It’s really hard. Really, really hard.
Joreth: Like everything else, that’s the labor of love. You do it because you can’t not do it, but maybe have another form of income too.
Mistress Ivy: Yeah, I think I think it’s a bit like being famous, you know, like very few people are gonna get enough followers to really make decent money on it. Very few. It’s not easy.
And you have to invest that into it as well. Like kind of you know with photo shoots and makeup and all of this stuff ,like you kind of need to invest a lot of stuff into it to to create good content. And then, you know, decent camera and all of that stuff. And it’s it’s still just so hard to make money on there.
There’s times during lockdown when I was making, you know, like couple of dollars for a video and I was thinking it’s worse than minimum wage, really. You always think of sex workers as being well paid, but it’s it’s hard. It’s really hard to make good money on it.
Franklin: I wonder if there’s kind of a first mover advantage there too, like I don’t think anybody has hit on this idea yet, but what’s going to happen the first time somebody starts doing kinky NFTs? Eunice and I were talking earlier today about this whole idea of NFTS, which is, yeah…
Eunice: I have opinions about NFTS.
Franklin: Yes you do.
Mistress Ivy: What’s an NFT ?
Franklin: A NFT is what happens when a JPEG meets the blockchain. And what you can do is you can actually, you can actually buy like exclusive ownership of a JPEG and put it on the Ethereum blockchain and this becomes a thing.
Eunice: It is an artificial scarcity scam that ruins the world. And environmental dam—sorry, I have opinions. Moving on.
Franklin: Like people will pay tens of thousands of dollars to be the first one to buy, you know, a Nyan cat JPEG.
So here’s the question. The first person who starts doing kinky porn JPEGs and selling them as NFTs…are they going to make five cents or are they going to become millionaires?
Eunice: NFTs make the world worse.
Joreth: Possible future job opportunity there.
Franklin: Yeah, but I mean honestly, I’m really curious about that. Like, is it going to be in the future that the way you succeed at this is to be the person who is chasing the new technologies?
Eunice: Because porn has always pushed the latest technology. It’s made technology better, faster, along with the video gaming industry.
Franklin: And I think that there is going to be a time, and it’s probably going to be fairly soon, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet, where porn does meet the blockchain, and I wonder if that’s going to make somebody a millionaire.
Eunice: Anyway, I know that we’re running short on time, so where can people find you?
Mistress Ivy: So my name is Mistress Ivy, and so I’m on Twitter as ivy_miss. Or I’ve got a website which is mistressivy.co.uk. I also have another website which is more about therapeutic BDSM and that’s called bdsmhealing.co.uk.
Joreth: Well, thank you so much for your time, Mistress Ivy, this has been fantastic.
Mistress Ivy: Thank you, it’s nice to chat to you.
Franklin: It sounds like the problem she’s dealing with is a lack of stability in the rules about what’s permitted and what isn’t, and I wonder how much of that is driven by OnlyFans and how much from their payment processors. You can’t run an online business if you don’t even know whether something you’ve posted today will still be permitted six months or a year from now.
Eunice: I think this is a consistent thread we see again and again in spaces where sex workers are operating though, whether online or in the flesh, so to speak. There’s no space or opportunity for sex workers to make their voices heard about how any of these repeated changes to the rules affects them.
Joreth: We’d like to thank Mistress Ivy and @goldplatedpussy for their time and lending us their perspective on this topic. Although we each have some related experiences with adjacent or parallel industries, it was really good to hear from people who were directly affected by the changes made at OnlyFans.
Franklin: So that’s our episode for today! Next time, we’ll continue our examination of the world of sex work and what counts as sex work.
We’d love to hear from you! Send links to studies, feedback, comments or suggestions for future episodes to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know someone else who might enjoy this podcast, why not share the love, by giving us a review on iTunes or Stitcher or your podcatcher of choice. You can find our Web site at www.skepticalpervert.com, where you can check out the show notes for links to the transcript and the studies we’re drawing from. And don’t forget to join our patreon, which is linked on the website.
Eunice: And remember, if you too are skeptical about any nude being worth $200, send that money to us and we’ll confirm your belief it’s a way better way to spend that money!
Joreth: Maybe we’ll use it to pervert more of Franklin’s nightmares for you!
Eunice: Can confirm, great use of the money, 10 out of 10 would horrify Franklin again!
Franklin: You two are terrible! Don’t listen to them, they know not what they say.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download