Not this again... A porn site called AVN Stars has announced it will cease all payments to sex workers using its platform at the end of the year, citing “banking discrimination.” Both AVN and GayVN will still operate after December 31, but creators will not be allowed to monetize any of their content.
“Unfortunately, AVN and GayVN Stars has not been immune to the banking discrimination that so many of our industry friends have also encountered recently,” CEO Tony Rios said. “We have had numerous corporate accounts shuttered in the past year alone.”
This is by now an intimately familiar problem for the internet porn industry. Even OnlyFans, one of the most popular amateur porn sites in the world, has not been immune; the company briefly banned explicit pornography earlier this year after facing overwhelming pressure from banks and payment processors. Pornhub, too, was brought to its knees by swift action taken by companies like Visa and Mastercard.
Online sex work is entirely legal in the U.S. On the internet, though — just as in the real world — money is often more powerful than the law.
Nothing to do but quit — The discontinuation of payment on AVN Stars essentially renders it useless to sex workers. And as with this summer’s OnlyFans debacle, it leaves creators not just without money, but without community, too.
AVN Stars very much understands that it’s letting its users down. The company felt it had been left with no other option, though. “We lost probably 16 bank accounts this year,” Rios told Vice. “It’s just exhausting.”
This is not a new problem — Rios remembers losing his first bank account for this very reason back in 1996 — but it affects many more people now that a true creator economy has formed around internet porn. “I think at this point, the stakes are so much higher, when you’re talking 10s of 1000s of creators that rely on this,” he said.
Money conquers all — AVN Stars’ business model is one sites like OnlyFans have made hundreds of millions on. It’s social media for porn. These spaces are more important than ever, given how unfriendly mainstream social media sites like Instagram and Tumblr have become to even the slightest bit of nudity.
As is often the case with the internet, the only real solution to this problem is increased oversight and policy reform. There’s no good reason banks should have the power to derail entire industries. That’s easier said than done, though. Conversations around sex work are taboo as ever, despite the popularity of sites like OnlyFans and AVN Stars.
In the meantime, these sites need to do more to protect — or, at the very least, to warn and prepare — their users for this possibility. AVN Stars didn’t even contact creators directly about the change; many reported finding out about it on Twitter.