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How The Pandemic Changed The Sex Work Industry

UPDATE (Aug. 25, 2021, 11:35 a.m.): When FiveThirtyEight published this video in July, longtime sex workers described their experiences with censorship across platforms in the past and told us it was only a matter of time before OnlyFans kicked them off the platform. On Aug. 19, OnlyFans announced that it would ban sexually explicit content. The company’s CEO attributed the decision to pressure from banking partners. On Aug. 25, however, OnlyFans announced it was reversing that decision after getting assurances from payment processors.

During the pandemic, many sex workers found themselves without support. Even sex workers — like strippers — whose jobs are legal were denied unemployment benefits and stimulus money. As a result, a number of in-person sex workers turned to online work. But online performers have struggled to get paid for years, long before the pandemic. As the industry changes and more performers move online, will the very platforms that sex workers made famous turn on them?

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Michael Tabb is a former video and motion graphics producer at FiveThirtyEight.


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