How to Pay for Porn With Crypto

Artists and workers in the sex industry routinely face problems with traditional finance, making the case for crypto as a preferred payment.
Updated Aug 31, 2022 at 3:16 p.m. UTC
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Megan DeMatteo is a service journalist currently based in New York City. In 2020, she helped launch CNBC Select, and she now writes for publications like CoinDesk, NextAdvisor, MoneyMade, and others. She is a contributing writer for CoinDesk’s Crypto for Advisors newsletter.

Editors note: Some of the projects linked to in this article are not safe for work

For adult content creators and sex workers, using technologies like crypto, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralized finance (DeFi) isn’t exactly a craze. In fact, one could argue that crypto is simply a rational option in an industry that regularly faces police raids, censorship and blacklisting from legacy payment processors.

This piece is part of CoinDesk's Sin Week.

Tube sites like Pornhub and subscription platforms like OnlyFans revolutionized the business model for adult content creators, prompting a shift away from the era of Jenna Jameson-like moguls toward one that encourages erotic content creators to start their own production studios right from home.

And thanks to NFT marketplaces and a growing number of digital payment options, the creator economy model theoretically allows artists of all kinds to connect with a smaller – but perhaps more loyal – circle of paying fans. In this way, some may view the technology as the next logical step in the evolution and distribution of porn.

How to pay adult content creators with crypto

A number of projects have begun cropping up across the industry that allow adult content creators and their fans to integrate crypto and NFTs.

NFTreats, for example, hosts an online magazine, Treats Zine, that helps onboard erotic artists to crypto through educational content. Notably, NFTreats lets artists split the proceeds from NFT sales with their team of up to four collaborators. NFTreats focuses on featuring elevated, sensual artwork that, in addition to being erotic, is inclusive and thoughtful.

“[Porn] doesn't have to always end in that huge dopamine hit,” said Ernest, co-founder and chief product officer at NFTreats, an inclusive, Polygon-based NFT marketplace for erotic art. The creative goes by his first name professionally.

“Sexuality is a big part of our existence, so let's make engaging with our sexuality online a nice experience. And sex education, too, I think is a big part of that," he added.

NFTreats collectors can purchase Polygon’s native cryptocurrency MATIC using a credit card, which makes the purchasing process on NFTreats easier for crypto beginners while still remaining discreet (no porn-related charges will show up on your credit card statement).

In addition, the iconic Playboy brand has recently integrated NFTs into its traditional business model. Playboy NFTs, the brand’s digital collectibles arm, hosts a Discord community for collectors and artists. Last October, Playboy launched a profile picture (PFP) collection called Rabbitars. Rabbitar holders can receive digital access to Playboy’s archival content, special metaverse experiences, giveaways and more.

Finally, blockchain-based economic infrastructure company Spankchain has recently introduced SpankPay, which serves as a crypto alternative to mainstream payment processors. Creators and porn platforms can integrate SpankPay into their websites to facilitate easier crypto payments with the ability to cash out to a bank account. According to the SpankPay website, models can register for a SpankPay.me profile, set up payments and keep 99% of their earnings with no chargeback risks.

The payment processor has also released its own NFT collection called Spank Pop Shots, which come in packs of four NFT videos that feature various levels of nudity from verified adult models.

The case for paying with crypto

As the popularity of platforms for erotic content has grown, so has pushback, which leaves adult content creators vulnerable to the whims of hot and cold public sentiment.

“The existence of an adult creator on these platforms is very precarious,” Ernest said. “One day, the terms and conditions are great. And then the next day, you're not allowed to do this on here, or [the platform is] withholding all of your payments … and all of a sudden, [the platform is] being leaned on by pressure groups, whether it's Christian fundamentalists or politicians.”

OnlyFans has repeatedly changed its guidelines regarding sexually explicit content and previously caught flak for blaming creators for customer chargebacks – a result, Ernest argues, of customer embarrassment that makes people want to cover their tracks.

And that’s why crypto – a permissionless, decentralized, censorship-resilient payment system – seems to make sense. Unlike payment processing platforms such as Visa, Mastercard or PayPal, which have reportedly blocked payments for adult content in the past, crypto doesn't require an intermediary like a bank to process peer-to-peer transactions. Creators can therefore accept payments more freely and anonymously without relying on centralized financial platforms that may change their policies because of external pressures.

Decentralization and sex work

For those in the sex work industry, the philosophy of decentralization goes beyond porn.

“I’ve been making the joke that a lot of the stuff in the [sex work] industry … has been decentralized for a while,” media personality and sex tech expert SxNoir told CoinDesk in late 2021.

Due to stigma, those who work in adult entertainment or sex work often turn to grassroots organizing to meet their needs. For example, the mutual aid organization Red Canary Song distributes food and medical care to Asian-American sex workers, and the advocacy coalition DecrimNY works to destigmatize, decriminalize and decarcerate those who perform sexual labor, whether by choice, circumstance or coercion, according to its website.

“That's not a centralized method of distribution,” SxNoir said.

Grassroots organizations often leverage monetary donations across several platforms, including cash, Venmo, CashApp, Zelle and more. There’s also the collecting and redistribution of physical goods, language services, resources and other types of aid. These efforts often happen through a collective as opposed to a single, centralized service provider. Instead of sending care recipients to a hospital, for instance, Red Canary Song operates a mobile health van described on the organization’s website as an alternative to policing in anti-trafficking.

“When we think about mutual aid and helping the community – honey, that's not centralized,” SxNoir said.

NFTs and erotic art

In addition to crypto serving as an alternate payment method for sex services, NFTs are being used by the community as a conduit for artistic expression.

“NFTs are becoming this new way for artists to express themselves online,” Ernest said.

“The traditional routes they had were [platforms] like Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter … I remember there being a huge thriving sex-positive community on Tumblr,” he explained. “Some people discovered their sexuality there. And it was just amazing. It was really pure … All of a sudden you could find this amazing art and photography centered around sex positivity and queerness.”

Tumblr then banned nudity in 2018, shutting down what some considered a refuge for online sexuality. Instagram soon followed suit, with few exceptions for breastfeeding, health-related contexts or protests.

Ernest believes NFT marketplaces might be the right solution needed to fill the gap. And sex-positive artists – along with their fans, collectors and investors – need to make sure they are part of the conversation.

“I'm looking around and I'm seeing that a lot of people are jumping on NFTs, but where's the sex positivity? Where's the queerness?” Ernest asks. “If [NFTs are] going to become culturally a big way in how we engage with art and media, then sex workers and erotic artists need to have a stake in that.”

This article was originally published on Aug 29, 2022 at 7:35 p.m. UTC

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Megan DeMatteo is a service journalist currently based in New York City. In 2020, she helped launch CNBC Select, and she now writes for publications like CoinDesk, NextAdvisor, MoneyMade, and others. She is a contributing writer for CoinDesk’s Crypto for Advisors newsletter.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Megan DeMatteo is a service journalist currently based in New York City. In 2020, she helped launch CNBC Select, and she now writes for publications like CoinDesk, NextAdvisor, MoneyMade, and others. She is a contributing writer for CoinDesk’s Crypto for Advisors newsletter.


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