The Trials and Tribulations of Online Sex Work

Support sex workers in a world where influencers can use their bodies to sell products but sex workers can’t use theirs to survive

Sarah Moon // Contributor
Naomi Evers // Illustrator

With everyone and everything being offered on social media nowadays, we have seen an incredible rise in online sex work—especially in the wake of this global pandemic.

Online sex work has been a saving grace for many of us sex workers, even before the pandemic. It’s especially wonderful for folks with disabilities and/or mental health issues that make it difficult to do a regular nine-to-five job.

The pandemic has seen a surge in “survival sex workers”—those who have now hopped on the bandwagon with the idea that slangin’ pictures of their feet is going to be enough to pay the bills—and that’s just not true. Many of these people do very little research into the cause and effects of online sex work and how it can change your life forever. 

The Kim Kardashians of the world can post nudity freely and without consequence, while the rest of us are policed by bots and coding that removes our posts unless we cover our bodies or risk deletion, shadow banning or worse. These double standards are ridiculous.

Unfortunately, there is still a massive amount of stigma surrounding sex work and the individuals who provide it. Whether it’s hate, cyberbullying or the inability to post promotional pictures to social media without getting flagged. It’s clear these apps discriminate against sex workers—why else can an otherwise unremarkable John Doe pose nude with a trombone covering his genitalia on Facebook without a second thought? 

It is a daily battle for sex workers just to be allowed to post on the internet advertising services and content to survive and that’s only one singular aspect. Online platforms are making it harder for folks to survive with shadowbans—a censoring tactic used on many of these platforms—and unclear Terms of Service.

Sex workers have to fight for their rights in multiple ways. We have to hustle every day in a social media world that doesn’t allow us to have or use our female form to our advantage—we are punished for it. I’ve had to delete so many memories, so much of my work and any media that gives the slightest hint that I have the female form or that I am a sex worker.

Thorne considers herself a trendsetter for starting an OnlyFans, when the reality is she irreparably damaged the platform for all of us that have been grinding to survive in an online climate that doesn’t even allow us the ability to promote in any real way.

I have used ridiculous nicknames, different spelling and cheeky suggestions just to promote my work to prevent my social media accounts from being deleted. Such pet names as “Lonely Hams,” “Only Cans,” or “Onlee Fawns” to refer to OnlyFans, one of the most popular websites for independent online sex work. Having to resort to hilarious taglines like “L1NK 1N b10” to trick the social media bots into thinking I’m not selling content. 

The Kim Kardashians of the world can post nudity freely and without consequence, while the rest of us are policed by bots and coding that removes our posts unless we cover our bodies or risk deletion, shadow banning or worse. These double standards are ridiculous.

When celebrities, and others with privilege and power, dip a toe into sex work without doing any research, it can cause real harm to sex workers dependent on those platforms. When Bella Thorne made an OnlyFans account, she sent out a $200 USD pay per view (PPV) for pictures of her naked in bed. Thorne was able to post a direct link from her Instagram account, which is something us bottom feeders aren’t able to do. When the photos never materialized, the amount of refunds demanded resulted in OnlyFans setting a tip limit for PPV’s of $100 USD. They also introduced payment processing delays for creators in many countries. 

Thorne considers herself a trendsetter for starting an OnlyFans, when the reality is she irreparably damaged the platform for all of us that have been grinding to survive in an online climate that doesn’t even allow us the ability to promote in any real way. Thorne’s wealth and power should mean that she deserves to be giving more than those bottom feeder sex workers struggling just to have a voice.

As it stands, all sex workers are going to be fighting censorship and demonization for a long time. You can help sex workers by sharing their content, tipping them, signing sex worker positive petitions, repealing bills like FOSTA-SESTA and speaking out against the censorship of women’s bodies on the internet, as well as in real life. It’s time we become pro-sex worker and pro-women.

An offical petition has been has been put forward by repel Bill-36 and decrimalize sex work in Canada. You can find and sign at https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Sign/ e-3132 by Mar. 31.


1 Comment
  1. It is grossly unfair that in this age, in this decade and this century that this is even a conversation
    We are allowed to use our bodies in a variety of ways to support ourselves, I don’t see how as adults with a sound business model, that this should be so discriminatory.
    I have a good friend who also has a sex toy shop. Her mission and vision being about “encouraging women to have happy healthy sex lives”. This is a huge industry, that is for the most part run by people who just want to make an honest living. For some it is using their bodies to create an art form.
    We should not be censoring art and the female form within that art. There is a lot of time, thought and consideration goes into this art form. Like any other modelling job, makeup, costume, lights, setting etc etc etc goes into it.
    We have a very a long and irrational history of censoring or portraying the female form in ways that mostly force women into particular roles, accurate or not.
    This is women saying that they are more than capable of producing their own art and making an honest living from that, and that like any other industry, should be able to do so.
    I couldn’t be more proud of my daughter for challenging those norms in such a brave and courageous manner

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