Crowdfunding Site Threatens To Shut Down Sex Workers Who Receive Pay Through Them

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The crowdfunding site Patreon recently updated their terms of use that threatens to shut down a number of members who use the site to facilitate sex work. For a long time, their guidelines for acceptable content were fairly broad; they merely asked that you add an NSFW tag to your profile so that users could decide for themselves what they wished to see.

They went after the obviously illegal stuff of course, like incest and bestiality and the like. However, the rest was considered fair play and investigated on a case-by-case instance.

Now, the guidelines are much more, as the site EnGadget put it “proscriptive”:

Users are now prohibited from selling ‘pornographic material,’ as a reward for their patrons. In addition, they cannot use cash from the site to ‘produce pornographic material, such as maintaining a website, funding […] movies or providing a private webcam session.’

Google ‘Patreon + Webcam Session’ and you’ll find plenty of adult content providers that offer such incentives to their users. It’s not just webcams, as some offer access to, for instance, a private Snapchat account that may do a similar job. It’s not clear how many performers are affected by the change, but it’s likely that we’ll be seeing the effects of the crackdown in the near future.

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Patreon’s legal department has made all the appropriate noises in response to creator concerns, claiming that they won’t simply be erasing profiles they consider offensive. Rather, they will employ their “Trust And Safety” team to work with creators to bring their content into compliance. There will also be an appeals process for the profiles that do get booted without warning, which seems likely considering that the new policy articulates that most of those using the site for this purpose have always been “operating outside of the Community Guidelines.” Are they not merciful?

Sarcasm aside, I have conflicted feelings about this. First, I don’t think Patreon’s creators ever intended for the site to become a pay haven for cam girls and indie porn houses. The fact that the site has become such a thing strikes me as a greater indictment against cultural attitudes against sex work than against Patreon itself, whose sudden narrowing of what constitutes pornography on their website is merely a reaction to their unexpected success in that arena and the inevitable backlash it causes.

All the same, if Patreon won’t take social responsibility for ensuring that sex work – which isn’t going anywhere, whether anyone likes it or not – is safely and legally paid for, then who will? It’s not like there’s some kinkster billionaire out there ready to drop serious venture capital on VendMo for sex workers. Chances are that guy’s a Republican, anyway.

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Pushing sex work deeper into the black market only makes it more dangerous for everyone involved, and is in fact extremely perverse in the way that it satisfies our nation’s collective fetish for punishing “bad people” in order to feel better about ourselves.

Ultimately, what Patreon and the rest of the nation need to understand is that people have sex. Furthermore, some people do it for money. Some even do it for the camera. And a whole lot of people do it for both. It’s about time we got over it, especially if we’re not going to give so many of them any other options to earn a living. We’re only hurting ourselves in the process, which I guess feels pretty good considering how constantly we go about it. And here I thought masturbation was a sin.

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