Thorne raised $2 million in one week on OnlyFans, and users who rely on the platform for their income aren't happy.
Actress Bella Thorne recently joined OnlyFans, a site that allows subscribers to pay for (usually "adult") content.
During her first week on the platform, she reportedly made $2 million in one day. Reportedly, Thorne advertised a revealing, explicit photo that cost $200 to access—but when fans opened the photo, they saw that Thorne was actually covering her chest. Many fans attempted to cancel the charge and demanded that the website refund their purchase.
Shortly after, OnlyFans changed its policy to cap pay-per-view messages at $50 and tips at $100. Many sex workers who rely on the platform for their incomes are upset, blaming Thorne's antics for the platform's sudden policy change.
"If someone wanted a personal photo shoot or video, the normal way to go about this is a subscriber will direct message a creator and ask for personal content," said an OnlyFans creator named Stephanie Michelle to Mashable. "Now, overnight, OnlyFans has capped this commission allowance at $50...This basically has a lot of girls unable to give their services to subscribers at their set rates, forcing everyone to lower our income level."
Thorne recently told the Los Angeles Times that her stint on OnlyFans is part of her research for a movie she is making about digital sex work, and she claimed that the revenue from her subscriptions would be used to fund the film and would also be donated to charity. "OnlyFans is the first platform where I can fully control my image; without censorship, without judgement, and without being bullied online for being me," she said to Paper Magazine.
But sex workers are angry at Thorne and other major influencers who have joined the site recently, viewing their efforts as exploitative. This list of influencers includes Cardi B, who promised to release behind-the-scenes footage from her video for "WAP." Dorinda Medley, Sonja Morgan, model Blac Chyna and "Love & Hip Hop" stars Safaree Samuels and Erica Mena all joined OnlyFans recently as well.
OnlyFans is a primary source of income for many sex workers, many of whom have been severely hurt during COVID-19, and many have taken offense as celebrities have started carelessly capitalizing on something many people use to survive. "So cute how Bella Thorne made her OnlyFans on a whim without doing an [ounce] of research on how it would impact the community and she immediately f–ed it up for us," tweeted sex worker Savannah Solo.
So cute how Bella Thorne made her Onlyfans on a whim without doing an once of research on how it would impact the c… https://t.co/eIYLNOUCxH— Savannah Solo @ Onlyfans (@Savannah Solo @ Onlyfans)1598576769.0
Another Twitter user wrote, "Sex Workers are unable to get pandemic relief because of criminalization and are struggling to get people to spend $5/month on their content, meanwhile a rich celebrity makes $1 million in a day cosplaying as one. Give money to working class sex workers, not celebrity LARPers."
Sex Workers are unable to get pandemic relief because of criminalization and are struggling to get people to spend… https://t.co/BT8TQA0dD0— Fibromarxalgia (@Fibromarxalgia)1598400603.0
Some are even calling Thorne's arrival a kind of digital gentrification. "To witness a celebrity gentrifying a platform and making obscene amounts of money without acknowledging the plight of sex workers is truly a slap in the face," wrote OnlyFans creator Aussie Rachel.
"It's worth noting how dominance of the mainstream in formerly niche places always ends in the exclusion of those who started it," wrote a Twitter user named Kayleigh Donaldson. "This is sadly how capitalism works: Oft-marginalized & working-class voices create new spaces & ideas as alternatives to the status quo; corporations step in & dominate; said original voices are shut out or even made illegal in those spaces (especially sex workers & activists.)"
This is admittedly a shaky comparison but the takeover of places like OnlyFans by major celebs reminds me somewhat… https://t.co/vBVvwLdR7K— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Kayleigh Donaldson)1598447135.0
Others see some positives in Thorne's arrival on the platform, viewing it as a step towards the destigmatization and decriminalization of sex work. After all, criminalizing sex work usually only causes people to go further underground and can put them in more dangerous situations.
But the general conclusion appears to be that Thorne's "research" is doing little to actually help sex worker communities. Instead, she might take note from celebrities like FKA twigs, who recently started a GoFundMe for sex workers facing a loss of income during the pandemic.
"I feel like now is the time for me to step forward, pay respect and shine a light on the challenges facing sex workers, especially during these uncertain times," said twigs in a statement. "Sex workers I know and have met have discipline, craft, talent and work ethic — not only do they deserve better long-term, but their income has been wiped out by the lockdown and many are invisible to the financial aid available to others."