Another Porn Site Says Banks Forced It to Stop Paying Sex Workers

AVN Stars announced on Wednesday that it would end monetized content on the site, citing banking discrimination. 

Dec 2 2021, 4:55pm

AVN Stars, a platform where sex workers can sell porn clips, announced on Wednesday that it will no longer allow creators to monetize their content on the site beginning January 1. 

In a press release, Adult Video News wrote that discrimination from banks forced the decision. 

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“Unfortunately, AVN and GayVN Stars has not been immune to the banking discrimination that so many of our industry friends have also encountered recently,” AVN Media Network CEO Tony Rios said in the press release. “We have had numerous corporate accounts shuttered in the past year alone.” 

Throughout December, models can keep selling content as usual. On January 1, however, all content on the site will be free.

“We lost probably 16 bank accounts this year. It's just exhausting,” Rios told me in a phone call. “The adult industry has always had banking problems. I can think back to losing my first bank account in like, 1996. It's just par for the course. But I think that at this point, the stakes are so much higher, when you're talking 10’s of 1000’s of creators that really rely on this,” he said. 

“It's infuriating that we cannot get paid for doing completely legal work,” Nikki Kit, a dominatrix who uses AVN Stars, told me. “We are seeing the effects of work that has gone on in the shadows for YEARS. The anti-porn crusade is gaining traction in the public eye now. It's concerning because our rights are being stripped away before our eyes.”  

Following OnlyFans’ announcement in August that it would ban all explicit content (which it backtracked days later) due to pressure from banks, AVN Stars was frequently mentioned as an alternative platform where models could safely move to and keep making their livelihoods. The platform, launched in 2020, has billed itself as being a place sex workers can trust, because it’s built by people in the industry.

“AVN Stars is a social media site—created by the industry, for the industry,” the description on its website states. “At AVN Stars, there’s no need to worry about being shadow banned or having your account deleted, because here you are free to post and find the hardcore content you want to see.” 

But no website is exempt from the financial industry’s long history of discrimination against sex work. Not even the biggest companies are exempt from it. Mastercard and Visa stopped service to Pornhub almost a full year ago, and those credit card companies still haven’t returned. AVN is a longstanding adult industry news site that also hosts an annual conference event and awards show, with the AVN Stars platforms being one of its newest additions. 

In October, Mastercard enacted new "specialty merchant" regulations that forced creators to abide by even stricter documentation and moderation requirements than these sites already demand. Platform moderators were forced to make sure existing content was in compliance with these new regulations, and creators saw their content go down or put on hold in the process. Despite meeting with internet freedom and sex work activist groups who told Mastercard that these changes would continue to put workers in precarious situations—not make them or anyone else safer—Mastercard went ahead with the regulations. 

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“You have these people that sit in these offices that are really disconnected from the banking relationships, that are just looking at patterns of transactions,” Rios said. “They see, ‘oh you sent $50,000 from here to Europe or whatever, what is this about?’ And then they start Googling around and then they figure out it’s the adult industry. Depending on that one person's judgment call, [platforms have to] start to tighten things down, and ultimately [banks] shut the account down. And then we just get a letter that says, ‘We're sorry, we’ve made the decision to close your account.’”

“How many people that watch porn are willing to not only admit that they watch or pay for their porn, but that they believe porn people deserve to be paid for their work?”

Some creators who use AVN Stars are angry, not only at the loss of income this decision represents, but at the way AVN Stars handled the announcement. Several people in the replies of the announcement on Twitter expressed frustration that this was how they were learning about the news. Kit told me that the platform sent a direct message to creators on the platform, but only some creators received that message before the announcement was public. Kit said that learning about it this way infuriated her; “I wish they would have communicated the change in a more empathetic manner,” she said.

AVN Stars ending monetization is a symptom of a larger problem in the industry, Kit said. “People outside of the industry don't feel comfortable saying ‘hey, what you're doing to these people is wrong,’” she said. “We're hidden away from society because the public is so uncomfortable talking about sex as a whole. Let alone discuss the porn they are viewing, or the health and happiness of the performers they enjoy seeing...  I hope that people can get more comfortable discussing sex and sexuality openly, and quickly. Because if people can't even discuss sex or sexuality, how can we discuss the rights of the workers within the sex industry? How many people that watch porn are willing to not only admit that they watch or pay for their porn, but that they believe porn people deserve to be paid for their work?”

Kit said she hopes that another site being taken away from sex workers creates a “ripple effect” that reaches outside of the adult industry, and that non-sex workers start speaking up. “Because while there are MANY within the industry, the public doesn't seem willing to LISTEN to models within the industry,” she said.

Updated 12:33 p.m. EST with comment from AVN CEO Tony Rios.

Tagged:

porn, SEX WORKERS, labor

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