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Lessons from the Porn Wars

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(Andrew Kelly/Reuters) Welcome the new anti-porn allies on the left. But remember, they are no friends of the Right in the larger culture wars.

When OnlyFans announced that it was banning hard-core pornographic material last month, conservatives greeted the news as a welcome surprise. The popular content-hosting service’s prohibition on “sexually explicit conduct” was widely attributed to a series of successful Christian activist-led campaigns. These efforts pressured major credit-card companies such as MasterCard, Visa, and Discover into cracking down on in-network banks doing business with porn producers. In a nebulous August 19 statement, OnlyFans implicitly attributed its new content restrictions to “the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.” To many, the decision looked like a rare conservative victory in the culture war — a salutary counterexample to corporate America’s broader leftward trend. “The pornography empire continues its collapse,” reported a triumphant headline in the American Spectator. “OnlyFans has fallen.”

But the Right’s celebrations were short-lived. In a swift backlash to OnlyFans’ announcement, the porn industry’s well-funded assortment of media propagandists, activists, advocacy groups, and think tanks attacked the updated content guidelines for capitalist greed (attempting “to shed the stigma of pornography to lure in major investors,” according to MSNBC), censorious puritanism (“they want to remove discussions of sex and sexuality from the public sphere,” a pro-porn activist told The Verge), and, with nary a hint of irony, the “exploitation” of “sex workers.” By August 25 — less than a week after its initial announcement — OnlyFans had buckled. “Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard,” its official Twitter account conceded in a statement. “We have . . . suspended the planned October 1 policy change. OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.”

In a microcosm, the reversal seemed like yet another disappointment in a long line of defeats for the traditionalist Right. As they continue their decades-long rearguard battle, social conservatives have been forced to reckon with an environment in which the forces of the sexual revolution hold an increasingly powerful monopoly on the centers

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