Adult content creators on crowdfunding site Patreon are facing a sudden spate of suspensions, with many reporting “implied nudity” as the reason their pages are shut down.
Wednesday, Vex Ashley, a founder of the independent erotic film production collective Four Chambers, tweeted that their Patreon page was effectively shut down.
“This is bigger than us & Patreon. It’s a world wide crack down on freedom of expression, on women, on marginalised people, on sex and sex work, on non conventional forms of labour that counter the status quo: the domination of corporations and patriarchy. On dissent,” Ashley wrote. “Just to be clear what is at stake, this is my whole income, my livelihood.”
The Four Chambers Patreon page is now effectively a tip jar, with a simple “Thank you” message in place of an about section or description.
"We have been ramping up the proactive review of content on Patreon due to requirements from our payment partners,” a Patreon spokesperson told me in an email. “Our community guidelines have not changed, and when we discover a page that is not in compliance with our guidelines we place that page in a state of suspension and work directly with the creator to bring them back within our guidelines. We have also doubled the size of our support team to ensure we get back to creators and give them 1-1 guidance as fast as humanly possible."
According to a Patreon blog about creator fees, these partners include Stripe and PayPal (which has a history of refusing to serve sex workers), but the pressure to turn sex workers away comes from major banking networks.
In late 2017, Patreon expanded its adult content guidelines, to include stricter guidelines for "bestiality, incest, sexual depiction of minors, and suggestive sexual violence." At the time, it resulted in suspensions and bans of many adult content creators whose work Patreon previously permitted, but no longer fell in line with new guidelines.
Now, many more adult content creators are reporting that they’re experiencing a renewed wave of suspensions on the platform.
Kate Victoria, a photographer and adult content creator, told me that Patreon also suspended her account on Wednesday. She told me in an email that the reason Patreon cited was “public nudity,” but she said “there wasn’t a single nude body part showing that I would consider to be adult-orientated.”
The one image that she suspects did trigger the suspension was in a tier-reward image, which was nude but censored by text. “I didn’t get any warnings, just an email and notification that my account was suspended,” Victoria said. “I would be more understanding if I’d uploaded a fully nude image in a public post but that wasn’t the case.”
She also said that it’s frustrating to have this happen so close to payout at the end of the month—she relies on Patreon for at least 60 percent of her monthly income.
Sex workers, porn producers and anyone working in the erotic labor trade have always faced discrimination from payment processors and banks—many institutions refuse to give accounts to people working in the sex trade. Patreon set itself up as an alternative home for creators of all kinds to make money doing what they love, but in the last year or so, even they have experienced pushback from payment processors on what is and isn’t allowed.
Patreon’s guidelines for adult content state that “all public content on your page be appropriate for all audiences,” and “content with mature themes must be marked as a patron-only post.” For several of these reports, Patreon warned that “implied nudity” was the reason for the suspension, where it appeared in public areas or publicly-visible patron tiers and banners.
“You can’t use Patreon to raise funds in order to produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies, or providing a private webcam session,” the guidelines state.
Nicole Vaunt, an adult content creator, told me in an email that Patreon reached out to her a few months ago, and told her to remove any nudity or implied nudity from her Patreon public page and public posts. She did, and hasn’t had problems since.
“But I'm honestly scared of losing my livelihood at any minute,” Vaunt said. “Once Four Chambers was deleted it felt like the canary in the coal mine for all of us. This recent influx of suspensions and removals is a slippery slope.”
Update 9:05 p.m. EST: A previous version of this article misstated the 2017 changes to the Patreon community guidelines.