The Bella Thorne and OnlyFans Controversy Explained

Bella Thorne

Earlier this week, actor Bella Thorne joined subscription platform OnlyFans and then bragged on social media that she had made $1 million USD in one day.

For those not familiar with OnlyFans — the platform gives content creators an opportunity to charge for their content, which can be accessed by members through its subscription-based service.

As The Guardian reports, the OnlyFans model purportedly works well for “everyday sex workers who want to make adult content without being at the mercy of an exploitative industry and middlemen who take all the cash”.

So, when Thorne, with a celebrity presence and a chunk of money to her name (between $5 and $12 million) joined the platform and then went on to brag about her earnings, sex workers who use the website as a source of income protested her use of the site.

Why did Bella Thorne use OnlyFans in the first place?

Thorne is not the only celebrity to use the site. Cardi B and Sonja Morgan have also made waves for using the platform to give their fans paid content.

However, Thorne’s case was a little different.

After the backlash, she justified her position by explaining she was researching for a new role in a Sean Baker (Tangerine) film.

Fans of the star flocked to her account after she misleadingly charged $200 USD for nudes, which turned out to be sexy lingerie photos. Fans quickly turned on her, asking the platform for a refund.

Within days, Thorne had 50,000 subscribers and had made $2 million USD — money which she claimed would then go into the project and towards a charity.

What did OnlyFans do?

OnlyFans had to process thousands of refunds which also included processing costs, and while it denied that Thorne’s actions were the reason, it also made changes to its website and the way creators can charge for content.

Previously, there was no maximum amount that users could charge their fans, however, now there is a cap saying that creators could only charge $50 per piece of content with a tip maximum of $100.

The other change saw users now being paid monthly instead of weekly.

Bella Thorne

What does this mean for sex workers?

Sex workers who use OnlyFans took to social media to air their grievances — and did not think it was a coincidence that the changes took place directly after Thorne’s misconduct.

They also explained what this change meant for them, with some saying OnlyFans was their only source of income during the pandemic.

By and large, the wage remodel meant that sex workers have had a reduction in income and have to change the way they live as they are now being paid monthly.

According to Erika Heidewald on Twitter, there are 450,000 content creators that have been impacted by these changes.

What did film director Sean Baker have to say?

On Friday, Baker then took to Twitter to announce that “the news is not correct” and that he was “NOT attached to this project”.

Baker explained that was “in development on two features that I’ve put years of research and love in to” and that “neither” of the films had anything to do with Thorne or OnlyFans.

“Earlier this month I had a conversation with Ms Thorne and discussed a possible collaboration in the far future that would focus on her life and the circumstances leading to her joining OnlyFans.

“On that call, I advised her team to consult with sex workers and address the way she went about this as to NOT hurt the sex industry.”

Baker then went on to say that he was an “ally” and has “devoted his career to tell stories that remove the stigma and normalise lifestyles that are under attack.”


Bella Thorne apologises to sex workers

In a series of Tweets, Thorne apologised to sex workers who were affected by her actions.

“I hurt you and for that I’m truly sorry,” she said, before clarifying her intentions. “I wanted to bring attention to the site, the more people on the site the more likely of a chance to normalize the stigmas, and in trying to do this I hurt you.

“I have risked my career a few times to remove the stigma behind sex work, porn, and the natural hatred people spew behind anything sex-related. I wrote and directed a porn against the high brows of my peers and managers because I WANTED to help with the stigma behind sex…[sic]”

Thorne said she was trying to use her voice and her platform to “advocate for something bigger than yourself” by “bringing a mainstream face to it”.

She then said that she would be meeting with OnlyFans about the new restrictions to find out why they added them.

“This is fucked up and I’m sorry comment any ideas or concerns you want brought up to OF!! and send me your links and a pic so I can promote you guys,” she said.

How did sex workers on OnlyFans react?

One Twitter user called out Thorne for scamming people.

“You scammed people, which in return made us look like scammers and not the hard working people we are. You did nothing for this community. We never asked for your help, nor did we need it. ‘More people to the site’ you meant to YOUR ONLYFANS? You didn’t promote any of us lmfao,” they said.

While another said: “This would be all [fine] and dandy except for you dipped your toe in, and called it sex work”.

OnlyFans is yet to announce any additional changes.

More to come as new information comes to light.

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