What We Get Wrong About Online Sex Work

Produced by ‘The Argument’

This episode contains strong language.

The online content-hosting platform OnlyFans declared in August that it would ban all “sexually explicit content” from its website. After immense backlash from users, the company reversed that decision just six days later.

OnlyFans isn’t the only site to come under fire for providing a platform for adult content. Pornhub and Backpage have been threatened with restrictions over child exploitation and trafficking allegations. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation filed a lawsuit against Twitter, accusing it of allowing and profiting from human trafficking.

But a big part of this conversation includes legal sex work and the rights of sex workers. The move to online work has made it possible for performers to have a direct line to their clients and to the general public. And with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, such sites have provided an avenue for content creators to continue earning money.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In today’s episode, Jane Coaston speaks with two women who are intimately aware of the workings of the sex industry. Jamie Rosseland is an advocate and public speaker for victims and survivors of trafficking. And Cherie DeVille is a 10-year porn veteran and a contributor to The Daily Beast.

Mentioned in this episode:

  • “What We Can Really Learn From the OnlyFans Debacle,” by Jessica Stoya on Slate

  • “OnlyFans Is Not a Safe Platform for ‘Sex Work.’ It’s a Pimp,” by Catharine A. MacKinnon in New York Times Opinion

  • “OnlyFans and the Future of Sex Work on the Internet,” an episode on NPR’s “1A” podcast

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Credit…blackCAT/Getty Images

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Sarah Geis and Alison Bruzek; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; additional mixing by Carole Sabouraud; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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