As the headlines focused on Bella Thorne's $2 million OnlyFans record continue to pile up, sex workers are speaking out about how Thorne's approach has the potential to damage the platform and the industry at large by erasing the years of oft-ignored bravery and resilience endured by those who actually deserve the credit.
One source of contention is present in Thorne's own statement about her decision to start an OnlyFans account. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Thorne stopped short of calling it an experiment, though the implications were pretty clear.
"It's a feature we are researching as I'm living it currently," Thorne, who is using her OnlyFans page as prep work for a new movie with Sean Baker, said. "What are the ins and outs? What does a platform like this do to its users? What's the connective material between your life and your life inside the world of OnlyFans? ... How can it change your life for the worse and the better? How far are you willing to go, and how far do you WANT to go? You can be me, or this talented girl from Montana, and OnlyFans could change your life—if you want it to, of course."
Given that Thorne was already a well-to-do figure in American pop culture prior to starting her OnlyFans, it's not clear how the last part of that statement was meant to be taken.
And while the same article excerpted above included mention that Thorne was planning to dump the money she earns on OnlyFans "into her production company and toward charity," the exact nature of the latter has not been publicly announced. Thus, sex workers and a litany of industry supporters are wondering why the star—who directed Her & Him for Pornhub last year—didn't include confirmed support for advocacy groups in her movie-researching OnlyFans campaign.
The potential to boost the necessary normalization of sex work is there, many have argued, but it can't be realized without thoughtful action being included in campaigns of this size. Furthermore, Thorne's $2 million story pushing OnlyFans back into headlines—following recent shout-outs and co-signs from Beyoncé, Cardi B, and others—could be made far more valuable if it were coupled with a high-profile push for decriminalization.
Critics have highlighted these issues and more via social media, where Thorne's sister has taken a defensive stance, as well as in a Rolling Stone piece from EJ Dickson published on Wednesday. That piece includes commentary from several in the industry, including OnlyFans creator Savannah Solo, who noted the offensiveness of seeing Thorne presented as an "entrepreneur" while others in the past—including rap artist Rubi Rose—were mocked for signing up on the platform.
An oft-mentioned example of how to better go about this is the promo surrounding FKA twigs and 645AR's "Sum Bout U" collab earlier this month. Twigs coupled the release of the single's OnlyFans-inspired music video with the launch of a fundraiser that will see its donations distributed among SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement), Lysistrata, and ELSC (East London Strippers Collective).