Sex workers are moving to blockchain payments, here’s why

By Shira Jeczmien

Updated May 21, 2020 at 10:57 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Sex work has long been battling with issues of payment. Faced with a hostile environment on popular payment platforms, such as denial of services, blocking of accounts and sometimes freezing of funds, simply using cash, PayPal or any of its peers is becoming a dwindling option when it comes to sex work. It is not uncommon for sex workers to find their online payment accounts frozen as a result of customers reporting their services or a crack down from the bank or payment company itself. In a recent interview with the Outline, the New York City based humiliatrix explained how she lost $2,000 from a client who had begun harassing her online, and eventually, “I think he’d gotten upset and reported me, knowing I would lose my account. I would prefer it if all my clients paid in crypto. For a lot of sex workers, it’s the best option.” As a result, the trending blockchain currencies are proving to be the safest and easiest option for thousands of sex workers around the world.

The autonomy of cryptocurrencies is finally allowing sex workers a way to earn their living in a dignified and secure way, removed from the illegality that comes with breaking the user policies of traditional payment platforms and in some countries, the law. Yet the world of cryptocurrency for sex work comes with its own difficulties, saturated with companies and initiatives eager to exploit workers and customers with vapid promises. How can sex workers be protected in the same way as any one of us are under the customer policies of PayPal or SquareCash? From SpankChain to TittieCoin, dozens of companies are already honing in on the potential cryptocurrency has in the online and offline sex world. The recently launched SpankChain is the first blockchain camsite using Ethereum with its own token appropriately called, Spank. The goal of SpankChain’s founders is to create a space that directly caters to the needs of the industry and users, and “What the industry and performers need is a way to safely and securely store their money.” But so far, it seems that few of the newly sprouting currencies have showed clear intentions to meet the needs of sex workers and how to use this new world of currencies in a way that is ideal to both parties.

The link between the porn and sex markets and technological advancements isn’t particularly new. The porn industry has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology—such is a case with many industries that are marginalised and oppressed within mainstream culture; the internet, and technology more broadly, offer a sense of freedom. And this holds true when it comes to sex work and escort. In 2013, before everyone knew or even heard of cryptocurrency, the escort service VIP Passion began accepting bitcoin payments. Just a few years later, tutorial videos of how to pay with bitcoin for the services advertised on backpage.com began going viral after hundreds of banks pulled their services from the platform.

The positive impact of adopting cryptocurrencies into the various facets of sex work are many fold. From security to customers who fear the penalties (in the U.S. for example it is illegal to pay for sex and those caught face a fine of up to $25,000), to securing the accounts of sex workers and with that their livelihood. Another benefit of adopting crypto payment into sex work is the promising reduction of fees. Currently cam models take home 70 percent or often less of their earnings, while new cryptocurrencies in this field are working to change that to 95 percent.

As many sex workers are moving their businesses from traditional payment platforms that discriminate against sex work, they are also educating their customers on these services and with that, wading out the bad in support for the good. With a growing number of users already adopting this payment method, pressures can be put on these new currencies to continuously work on their terms of use—to find new ways of protecting those who both pay and receive the funds from fraud or breach of terms—much like any other payment service would.

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