The Anti-‘Cancel Culture’ Republican Party Is Trying to Cancel OnlyFans 1

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar paints himself as a free speech advocate, but he’s never seen a sex worker he didn’t want to censor. This week, Gosar, the GOP author of the “Stop Censorship Act of 2020,” penned a letter begging Attorney General Merrick Garland to shut down OnlyFans and investigate the porn platform for violating the Mann Act. Known as the “white-slave” law, the 1910 law forbids paying to transport women over state lines for prostitution.

Gosar falsely believes that, “On this site, individuals can advertise their willingness to travel across state lines for illegal or immoral activities, and the platform providing publicity for these individuals appears to subsidize and capitalize off this travel. It is worth investigating this issue further.”

To prosecute OnlyFans, Garland would have to prove the company intended users to organize prostitution over state lines, but OnlyFans has done its best to make it impossible to arrange prostitution services on the site. OnlyFans goes out of its way to prevent users from even attempting to facilitate in-person sex work (they forbid users from even direct messaging about prostitution fantasies). OnlyFans even blocks performers and fans from typing the words meet or meeting in direct messages. If I wanted to meet a fan for coffee, I couldn’t even discuss it on OnlyFans. I would have to ask a follower to tweet me, then reply to them on Twitter with the message, “Can we meet for coffee?”

Gosar cites “anecdotal reports about prostitution, child exploitative material, and illicit sexual coercion.” But performers upload their IDs before posting content on OnlyFans. Gosar purposefully describes everything from “coercion” and “child exploitative material” to illicit images of sex trafficking, but he fails to cite a single data-driven account of sex trafficking or child abuse on OnlyFans.

You can’t say the same about Facebook or Instagram. The National Council for Missing and Exploited Children accuses Facebook and Instagram of reporting 20 million child sexual abuse images in 2020, more than any other company. If he really cared about abuse, Gosar would target Facebook and Instagram. Right now, he’s targeting OnlyFans while letting Facebook and Instagram off the hook. It’s equivalent to a local food inspector being called to shut down a clean restaurant while letting a dirty chain restaurant stay open with no consequences.

Of course, prostitution differs from child abuse. An escort has nothing in common with a child abuser, and performers don’t use OnlyFans to sell prostitution services. Gosar paints OnlyFans performers as prostitutes and prostitutes as child abusers to conflate all adult performers as depraved miscreants. He aims to create an environment where lawmakers will criminalize consenting adults for producing pornography.

Gosar paints OnlyFans performers as prostitutes and prostitutes as child abusers to conflate all adult performers as depraved miscreants.

Gosar’s assault comes amid a new panic around pornography. First, The New York Times collaborated with a homophobic church to paint all PornHub users as sex traffickers and criminals. Then Utah decided to pressure phone manufacturers to block porn on adults’ phones. After four years of insisting freedom of speech is under attack by the left during the Trump era, Republicans are back to policing Americans’ sexuality and censoring porn stars.

Gosar would deny this. He claims he’s protecting victims. “The protection of vulnerable people from correction of illegal or immoral sexual activity should be a priority of your department,” Gosar writes. The keywords are immoral sexual activity. He wants Garland’s Department of Justice to treat acts deemed immoral the same as criminal activity.

Of course, the Justice Department lacks authority over enforcing morality. They enforce laws. It’s easy to dismiss Gosar. His letter didn’t even go viral. He’s a cartoon character, but cartoons can cause grave damage. If we don’t pay attention, Gosar and his ilk could illegalize certain types of sexuality, giving the Justice Department the right to police what consenting adults do in their bedrooms. It’s easy to dismiss Gosar as a Trumpian blowhard whose own family hates him, but we live in dangerous times. If we learned anything from the Trump era, it’s that the impossible can happen. A reality star can become president. And if we aren’t careful, pornography could be a crime. Scream now before it’s too late.