Ukrainian sex workers have started leaving OnlyFans over its refusal to completely withdraw from Russia, as it becomes one of a small cohort of Western platforms to resist the digital iron curtain descending on the Russian population.
Dozens of Ukrainian OnlyFans creators have been writing to the platform over the last two weeks, pleading with its leadership to cut their Russian counterparts off from the service. In a throng of email exchanges seen by VICE, some have even taken to deleting their accounts in protest of the platform’s refusal to leave, while others have demanded the platform explains the nature of its ongoing activity in Russia.
One of them is a cam model who goes by the username Lil_Monki, who told VICE the longer OnlyFans and other global brands like it stay put in Russia, the longer Ukrainians will be subjected to murder, and even war crimes.
“Some people say it’s not fair because not all people support Putin and not all people are guilty for his actions. But neither are the people in my country,” Monki said.“I think heavier sanctions are the smallest price Russian people can pay for the murdered women and children in Ukraine,” she said.
“They pay the price with money and with their comfort. Ukrainian people pay it with their lives.”
Since the beginning of March, the major platforms Russian president Vladimir Putin hasn’t blocked have left the country on their own accord. Facebook was one of the first to get the boot during the last week of February, before Twitter and YouTube received similar treatment shortly after.
Their expulsion from Russia has been largely attributed to Putin’s attempts to seek control of the narrative around his invasion of Ukraine. But others have left to try and avoid withdrawing on Putin’s terms.
Among them was TikTok, which suspended livestreaming and new content being uploaded from Russia on March 6. Netflix followed suit, while behemoth tech forces like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and many more have either heavily restricted their services in Russia or withdrawn entirely. Even some video games, like Minecraft, are no longer available.
OnlyFans, however, still stands.
During a 24-hour period earlier this month, some creators thought that sanctions had impacted Russian models on OnlyFans after all profiles based in Russia “went dark” and were later marked as inactive.
A spokesperson for OnlyFans, whose majority owner is reported to be of Ukrainian descent, told VICE at the time that the platform stands by its Russian creators and understands they aren’t responsible for “these heinous acts”.
“After experiencing financial restrictions we have been able to restore account activity for creators in all countries. Their accounts will have full functionalities as long as we continue to have payment methods to support them,” she said in early March.
“We were not terminating or suspending any creator accounts based on the creator’s location, and we are doing everything we can to support our community.”
Since then, Russian creators have taken to Twitter to claim that their accounts have been deactivated and that OnlyFans had again allegedly deactivated their accounts without warning, leaving them with no access to the funds they had yet to be paid out.
One Russian OnlyFans user told VICE that she still had access to her account, and could still post content that could hypothetically continue to earn the platform revenue without any way for her to withdraw her cut. Payout methods have become heavily restricted as a result of financial sanctions.
It’s a moral quandary not lost on Ukrainian sex workers, who have long descended on Telegram group chats with their Russian counterparts as equals: a unified Russian-speaking community that stretched across a slew of eastern European countries.
Now, as a relentless stream of missiles continues to rain down on the towns they once called home, several Ukrainian sex workers told VICE they struggled to square up their feelings about their Russian colleagues; that they are at once not responsible for Putin’s invasion, but shouldn’t be spared from harder-line sanctions.
Kara Xaen, a 26-year-old Ukrainian sex worker who recently returned home from Germany to be with her family in Ukraine’s south-east before fleeing again, told VICE that OnlyFans hasn’t come close to doing the “bare minimum”. She said there’s no point in only going “half way”.
“Otherwise, I’m worried this war might go on forever,” Xaen said. “And this is our big fear, because it can turn into Donetsk or Lugansk. At first, everyone is watching, everyone is concerned. And then a couple of months go by and everyone might say ‘We know about it, we go back to our normal life’.”
“I’m not directly against Russian people, as I said, I don’t have any direct hate for the Russian people,” Xaen said. “But overall, I believe they should be shut down from every possibility to earn money in the global market.”
OnlyFans didn’t respond to requests for comment on its ongoing activity in Russia in time for publication of this article.
Follow John on Twitter.