What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘blockchain’?
Chances are that the words ‘decentralized’, ‘cryptocurrency’, and ‘bank’ aren’t too far from the top of your mind. Most people involved in the world of blockchain these days are either straight-up crypto traders or financiers looking for the way of the future.
Practical uses for blockchain technology have been a hot topic right along with the epic rise of cryptocurrency. Banks the world around have been discussing and conducting pilots and tests and everything in between; still, not many financial institutions have reached the point of actually adopting blockchain.
However, there is one industry where blockchain has played an active role for years, and it’s probably not what you’re expecting.
The “[$97 billion] porn industry is definitely a leading indicator of technology adoption,” Litecoin creator Charlie Lee tweeted in mid-April. “I’m glad to see them opening up to .”
I think I was a bit too negative on this news. Wasnt trying to be. Anyways, congratulations to @justinvendetta and the Verge team. Porn industry is definitely a leading indicator of technology adoption. I’m glad to see them opening up to cryptocurrency. 🚀 https://t.co/lS9bekE3aS
— Charlie Lee [LTC⚡] (@SatoshiLite) April 17, 2018
Lee was speaking PornHub’s announcement that the website now accepts Verge, a cryptocurrency noted for its anonymity. “Here at Pornhub, we’re all about convenience and security, which makes cryptocurrency an attractive form of payment for us,” PornHub VP Corey Price told Hard Fork. “We’ve been looking at crypto for quite some time and, while overall adoption is relatively low, we think it has gained enough steam for us to penetrate the market.”
Lee also expressed enthusiasm for PornHub to start accepting Litecoin.
If you accept LTC, I will buy some just so that I can spend LTC to pay for porn. Deal? 😂
— Charlie Lee [LTC⚡] (@SatoshiLite) April 17, 2018
The truth is that while PornHub may have only gotten into the crypto game in April, cryptocurrency has played an important role in the adult entertainment and sex work industries for quite a long time.
Indeed, “anyone who says crypto doesn’t have a real use case hasn’t been talking to sex workers,” wrote reporter Leigh Cullen in an article for CoinDesk. In fact, VIP Passion became the first escort service to accept Bitcoin all the way back in 2013.
The cryptocurrency and sex work industries began to intersect in a serious way back in 2015, when Visa and Mastercard pulled their services from Backpage, a site for personal ads that was often used by sex workers (the website has since been seized by the FBI). At the time, both companies explained that the decision was made in an effort to end human trafficking.
When the two major payment providers exited the site, sex workers who relied on Backpage to connect with clients were forced to switch to crypto; Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Litecoin became the only forms of payment that could be used on Backpage.
The sudden and forced switch to crypto led to an outpouring of support–the online community of sex workers and adult entertainers wrote guides on crypto usage by and for each other. “This is obviously an awful situation; many sex workers rely heavily on Backpage for their business,” wrote Liara Roux, a San Francisco-based escort in the introduction to one such guide. “While it would be wonderful to have a magic wand and fix this problem, bitcoin is one of the few payment methods still accepted by Backpage and I want to make sure those who need it can use it.”
Do Bitcoin and Crypto Provide Payment Security for Sex Workers?
While the initial switch to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may have required some technical knowhow, it can be argued that the change provided some benefits to sex workers and adult entertainers.
“Most (nearly all) bitcoin services don’t care what you do for a living,” wrote Hobart-based escort The Lovely Corrine, in her Bitcoin guide for sex workers. “You can get paid for things that credit card processors won’t allow or charge a premium for.”
Indeed, payment processors like PayPal and Square have restrictive policies that bar users from sending and receiving payments for anything related to adult industries, including sex toys, pornography, or subscription-based online adult communities.
Payment companies “have systematically denied service and redlined the adult entertainment industry. They have routinely closed accounts of small businesses, artists and independent contractors whose business happens to be in the sex industry,” reads a blog post by cryptoeconomic-powered adult entertainment ecosystem SpankChain.
Cryptocurrency has also provided an avenue for sex workers to have more direct control over their money. “Having a bitcoin wallet would allow workers to have more control over their money,” reads a post by Bits and Chains. “Bitcoins and cryptocurrency would make it harder for pimps, and brothels, or the government to siphon off wages gained from prostitution.” The post also notes that Bitcoin has been a financial tool for the homeless population and other demographics who are not part of the “formal” economy for some time.
Porn Sites Adopting Crypto
Now that cryptocurrency seems to be an increasingly important part of the “formal” economy, the adult entertainment and sex work industries seem to be moving further towards the “formal” economy as well. Coincidence? Maybe, but the relationship between these “outcast” industries over the past several years only seems to make it more likely that they are (in some way) leapfrogging each other closer to the mainstream.
After all, cryptocurrencies do offer consumers of adult media and services exactly what many of them are seeking: privacy.
“Whether someone is trying to hide their purchases from a spouse, wants to avoid being part of a customer data hack (like Ashley Madison), or simply doesn’t feel comfortable giving their personal information to an adult website, cryptocurrencies can help,” wrote Killian McGrath, Co-Founder of Unhashed.com, in an exclusive email to Finance Magnates. “While Bitcoin provides pseudonymity, [which makes] it very difficult to find out what purchases someone has made, truly anonymous cryptocurrencies like Monero and Zcash make it impossible.”
Indeed, the synergistic relationship between the blockchain and adult industries is evidenced by several recurring factors. For one, the fact that a growing number well-established adult entertainment companies and websites are adopting crypto payments.
Along with the partnership between PornHub and Verge, Playboy has announced the ‘Vice Industries Token’, which will power an ecosystem described as “a video entertainment platform where viewers can watch videos, and as a cryptocurrency where anybody who participates (in viewing, adding, or curating content) will get paid with VIT’s proprietary cryptocurrency.”
A Growing Number of Adult Industry-Related Blockchain Projects
Another factor indicative of the strong relationship between the blockchain and adult industries is the growing number of blockchain projects that are centered directly around adult media and services.
There’s SpankChain, which has grown from a Reddit post by one ‘Spanktoshi Nakabooty’ to an 8-person team working “to solve common pain points endured by both sex workers and consumers of their work (you)” with blockchain technology.
There’s LiveStars, an Ethereum-based token that powers a blockchain adult streaming platform and social network.
And there’s a whole, whole lot more (get ready for puns.)
Titcoin Nominated “Alt Payment Services Company of the Year” via 2016 #XBIZAwards | https://t.co/xKw9KfmtDR#bitcoinpic.twitter.com/J0zY3ou4Fq
— Titcoin™ (@OfficialTitcoin) January 19, 2016
There are also projects designed to make the adult industries safer for all participants–for example, Hussy.io combines dApps with a trusted authority “that can verify the identity and a health state of each sex worker and issue a immutable confirmation to the Blockchain that each potential client can verify before arranging a meeting.” The platform also confidentially verifies customers’ identities to protect sex workers.
The use of the Bitcoin blockchain has also indirectly contributed to the tracing and prosecution of human traffickers, whose activities can be tracked through the blockchain.
Any way you slice it, these industries have much potential to benefit each other in big ways; we can only hope that blockchain will continue to be used to make the adult industries more secure, more pleasurable, and safer for all participants.