On August 19, 2021, the news broke about canceling sexual content on OnlyFans. Originally, the company’s founder and chief executive Tim Stokely subsequently blamed the banking sector, which he said would “cite reputational risk and refuse our business.” Tim points to particular banks such as BNY Mellon, Metro Bank, and JPMorgan as being particularly difficult. But it’s really not about the banks. The cock-blocking here is NCOSE. 

Most people have not heard of NCOSE. At a surface level, it looks as though they have a respectable mandate, the elimination of sexual exploitation, sexual violence, and sex trafficking. We would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree with that. Unfortunately, this is a disguise to which radical religious-right political groups use, to shore up political support. 

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A quick history and dig into NCOSE

It demonstrates sarcastic righteous indignation that parades as savers of our children. At the heart of NCOSE, they are an anti-pornography group, and it’s their premise (backed by hand-picked academics) that pornography is the reason for all sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

Originally founded by clergymen in 1962 under the name Morality in Media (MIM), they led several protests against adult shops, the sale of sex toys, and other erotic media like the 1979 film Caligula and Madonna’s 1992 book Sex. None of which are considered pornography as of today. How about Sports Illustrated, which shows much more than Madonna’s sex book. Attempting to make a direct connection that all pornography leads to sexual violence and fabricating an inevitability that scares the pants off religious conservatives. The most unfortunate part, these folks have political influence. 

In addition, the religious-right group pushed for abstinence-only sex education programs in schools and boycotts against Disney. Ummmm, still do not see the pornography here. Not only did this MIM group not fancy that Disney was distributing non-children’s films under its Miramax film label (how dare they expand their business) but also for extending employee benefits to LGBTQ workers’ same-sex partners. And people still take this group seriously? That says a lot about society. 

MIM decided in 2015 that Morality of Media was not comprehensive enough and wanted to make it sounds like a broad coalition at the national level, hence the new name. I refuse to spell it out and give them credence. Subsequently, they managed to have sixteen states pass a resolution declaring pornography as a public health crisis, none of which are blue states. Surprise Surprise.

The NCOSE has been accused by the anti-sex trafficking group, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, of “use misleading ‘research reports’ to fabricate a false medical consensus about the harms of pornography.” According to Mattie Quinn in her 2019 article on Governing, “The link these state resolutions make between pornography and sex trafficking is also largely unfounded“.

A 2011 paper in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology called for a better evidence-based approach to both topics. ‘While no one would claim that sex trafficking is fictional, many of the claims made about it are wholly unsubstantiated,” the paper finds, including the link to pornography. What’s more, Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason has criticized the group for promoting claims about sexuality and pornography that she claims contradict the findings of peer-reviewed studies.

The NCOSE has also opposed the legalization of sex work, in opposition to the pro-legalization stance of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the World Health Organization. The three aforementioned organizations argue that sex work criminalization increases exploitation, abuse, and violence against sex workers. 

Prior to MIM, we have the Pre-National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Operation Yorkville (OY), founded by an interfaith group of three New York clergymen in 1962. One of the founders of MIM, Father Morton A. Hill, S.J was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. In addition, Hill was influential with Reagan and we know how the “war on drugs” went. Yet they continued. In turn, they formed the White House Working Group on Pornography in 1983, to address tighter enforcement of the laws. 

There is a consistent thread here that should be pointed out. A group like this doesn’t just walk into the Whitehouse and gain support. These people have influential friends. These influential friends fund their organization. NCOSE feeds directly into the religious right divisive politics we see today. 

Why all the fuss?

The same reason it’s always been. The Military-Industrial Complex. It’s no accident that NCOSE chases social media because social media is a major distraction. A distracted workforce is not a productive workforce! There has been sex trafficking and sexual abuse before social media. It goes on over email, and yet we don’t cancel Microsoft.

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Sex trafficking work has been conducted over the phone, are we canceling those too? Thus, why are we not putting Verizon on the dirty dozen list? Of course not, because those folks use those technologies too! Oh, and there’s the privacy issue to which they cannot generate statistics to use in their favor from email and phones, so they go where they can. It’s not illogical, it’s just that they are barking up the wrong tree. 

A quote from the NCOSE website, “Using every “social media” tactic of the era, Morality in Media became the beacon of hope and light for those concerned about the insidious trend toward normalization of sexual exploitation in American culture.Let’s get something straight, nobody is trying to normalize sexual exploitation. That’s ridiculous and offensive that they would even suggest that.

The tone on their website is immature and strikingly righteous, and it wreaks of indignation as na-na-a-poo-poo. The fact that they celebrate these “victories” like it’s the Sexual Political Olympics, is disrespectful, “While everyone has their own personal favorite, some of our significant achievements include:”. Personal favorite? Doesn’t that seem a bit inappropriate given the context? Are we shopping for new shoes or eliminating child sex trafficking? Because I can’t tell. 

But what does this say about the adult industry?

What about society as a whole and how can we keep moving forward when we are consistently hit with one thing or the next? Bankers banning financial transactions, social media accounts canceled, marketing challenges, to say the least, and the hypocritical stigma the west holds, pretending that sex is taboo but yet everyone is involved behind closed doors.

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The numbers don’t lie, see PornHub stats, read A Billion Wicked Thoughts, 30 million dollar industry and growing. We love sex, we love to be in love and we crave relationships and connection, in their various configurations. That means, for all of us working toward a sex-positive world, WE ARE DOING THE RIGHT THINGS!

The fact this group exists, the fact that OnlyFans and PornHub have made international news headlines, means we are talking about it. Not in the positive way we would like, but it’s out in the open, nonetheless. Everyone working in sexual health, sexual wellness, and sexual education is collectively the STRONGEST advocate for eliminating sexual violence, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. Why not work together? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

Consider this a letter of encouragement to everyone working in the adult industry, sex research, sex educators, and practitioners, and to all the businesses that support them, keep going, stay the course, we’re getting there! Yes, the OnlyFans issue is a slap in the face, but we’re in the ring, fighting the good fight and we’re winning.

We are deeply embedded in a sexual revolution!! Oftentimes, you cannot see it until the wave passes, but rest assured, you are all doing really important things. Things that matter, that are legitimate and ultimately required for health, education, wellness, happiness, and pleasure. Not to mention changing the world.