Sex sells: and clearly, so does bitcoin. From strippers in Las Vegas to sex workers in Amsterdam, it seems like everyone is eyeing virtual currencies. In this article, we’ll explore some of the good, the bad, and the everything in between ways in which blockchain is entering these X-Rated industries.
The porn industry has consistently been way ahead of the game regarding tech, and its members were some of the earliest adopters of the Internet. They are continually at the forefront of advanced electronics like virtual reality, hoping to make it “so real that it is indistinguishable from sex”, according to NY Times sex columnist Joel Stein.
To put this in perspective: Porn sites bring “more visitors each month than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter combined”. Porn has always had such a huge demand, people have been finding ways to watch it (via ASCII) before streaming video capabilities were even available. Today, roughly 30% of internet content is porn.
So while it may surprise some people that adult entertainers are often very technologically savvy, it shouldn’t: they know there’s a huge market out there for the latest and greatest in sex tech. And now, they’re looking to the blockchain.
What do you guys think about Nav Coin?
— Goddess Venus | NYC / SF (@venusyourgod) December 17, 2017
One of the biggest issues in the porn industry is privacy. It’s considered a taboo subject, and people are usually not too happy upon discovery of their partner’s sexual Internet endeavors, with 56% of divorces involving “one spouse (almost always the man) having an obsessive interest in online porn”. Welcome to privacy coins.
While Monero and Zcash are some of the most well-known privacy coins and porn sites that accept cryptocurrency are growing, there’s been a meteoric rise in blockchain startups targeting the porn sector. Startups like FAPcoin, SpankChain, OKOIN, and Vice Industry Token are aiming to do more than just conceal transactions: they are attempting to revolutionize this industry.
Instead of paying for porn, the Vice Industry Token wants to pay content creators, curators, and porn viewers through crypto. Built on Ethereum, SpankChain says “our smart contracts allow us to eliminate third-party intermediaries and unfair payment practices while providing more powerful privacy and security”.
SpankChain believes it will give performers better control of their finances since financial institutions often discriminate against them. Firms like Paypal and Square prohibit some adult businesses from using their products due to “morality clauses”, and take steps such as shutting down webcam models personal accounts without forewarning. Decentralized platforms like SpankChain can’t freeze your account.
“I met a hooker in the red light district (Amsterdam) that accepted Bitcoin/Ether/Zcash/Ark… and even some more. I asked why not only Bitcoin? She told me [usually] it was only Bitcoin, but because of the high fees she started to accept all her favorite coins…”. (Comment from discussion PORNSTARS into crypto too? WTF is next!).
Blockchain startup SexService.io is attempting to change the game by facilitating safe hookups on the blockchain. Prostitution is legally protected in many countries, but being picked up by strangers without knowing who they are has ever been safe. Nor going with unknown escorts is ever safe, with cases of clientele being drugged, robbed and worse. By verifying users, recording their transactions on the blockchain, ensuring ultimate privacy and attaching a reputation rankings system to their profiles simultaneously, SexService.io hopes to make “the world’s oldest business” much safer.
Although legalizing prostitution is highly controversial, research agrees that transparent sex work and not hiding in the shadows makes it safer for sex workers and for the public. When Rhode Island District decriminalized indoor prostitution in 2003, both “forcible rape offenses and gonorrhea incidence” declined for the overall population by more than 30% between 2004 and 2009. In the Netherlands, a 2015 research study by the Institute for the Study of Labor on prostitution decriminalization showed similar results: a 30%-40% decline in sexual assaults in the first two years.
Legends Room LV calls itself the “the world’s only #Bitcoin night club in #Vegas”, and paying in digital assets like bitcoin or the clubs native currency the LGD is apparently very popular with patrons. By scanning temporary QR code tattoos located on the dancer’s bodies, you can pay for any of any of their services.
In an interview with LasVegasNow, Legends Room LV founder Nick Blomgren said this feature is a big draw for customers. They also like cryptocurrencies privacy, as it allows customers to hide their visits to the club from their significant others. “It’s the best place to spend it if you don’t want your wife to know or you don’t want your boyfriend to know,” Blomgren said.
Employees like Summer Chase believe the technology can help those working in the adult entertainment industry take back control of their finances. According to her, “there are certain banks that… will shut down your account and actually deny you from having an account because we work in the adult entertainment industry.”
Another employee Breanna Sparks, who became interested in blockchain at the young age of 19 (she is now 26), claims to offer crypto payments offers a unique selling position along with advantageous tech benefits. “It’s peer to peer. It’s anonymous, and it’s instant.”
Modern-day slavery: it may not be lighthearted like the previous content, but it’s an important topic that needs to be discussed. Today, more than 20 million people are currently being forced into the $150 billion dollars illegal industry. According to the United Nations, 79% of human trafficking is sexual exploitation, and 20% of all trafficking victims are children.
What does this have to do with blockchain? For starters, authorities from around the world are saying human traffickers are using cryptocurrencies to hide money trails that could likely lead to their arrest. “They are asking for payment in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, a new factor which creates problems for law enforcers,” said Jamaican Deputy Superintendent of Police Carl Berry. In Jamaica alone, there are an estimated 7,000 men, women, and children living in captivity.
Privacy coins designed to avoid tracking (like Monero and Zcash) are some of the favorite forms of payment for offenders. Bitcoins ledger records transactions publicly and can be easily used as evidence, which criminals have caught onto. They’ve started realizing coins like Zcash encrypt senders true addresses, making it nearly impossible to find data patterns on traffickers when its used in multiple transactions.
While this is certainly concerning feature of blockchains advanced technology, there’s hope. Researchers are developing tools to analyze coin transactions on Zcash, but the road is long: there are a lot more blockchain protocols out there dedicated to privacy. And from what from it seems like new ones are emerging every day.
According to Reuters, U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS) blockchain adviser Yoshiyuki Yamamoto believes “blockchain could be used to give them paperless identification documents based on biometric data, such as fingerprints or facial scans, which would be impossible to fake”. In November, UNOPS announced its partnership with the World Identity Network (WIN) and other U.N. agencies to launch a pilot using blockchain to fight human trafficking.
Countries like Moldova are also looking to blockchain technology for its useful identification methods, as an estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide are unable to prove their identity. The problem with invisible people is far worse in developing countries, and Moldova, being Europe’s poorest country, is no exception.
Experts say rural children are particularly susceptible as they often don’t hold any form of identification, making it easy to smuggle them across borders with fake documents and concealing them from being identified by authorities. In Southeast Asia alone, 24 million children are unregistered. In Sub-Saharan Africa, its nearly 20 million children. Combined, nearly 30% of children do not legally exist in these two regions.
Right now, we know that cryptocurrencies are often used by criminals to avoid detection. Hopefully, though, blockchain can do a lot of good. One element it can accomplish is sex worker empowerment and help them take back control over their business affairs and safety. Another benefit of the technology is that it can help in the fight against human trafficking. By giving paperless identification documents to the millions of trafficking victims, there’s a good possibility authorities can better identify and find them.
No matter how anyone perceives it, it’s clear that sex is a powerful driver of innovation. Porn, prostitution, stripping, and human trafficking all have one thing in common: blockchain allows its workers and customers to conceal their endeavors.
- Blockchain and Sex Work: How the Technology is Gaining Traction - August 17, 2018