What sex workers need to know about crypto

(Commissioned for the public by SpankChain)

Hi there!

I hope all my American readers will have a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. In the meantime, I’m excited to share a guide commissioned by the adult industry startup SpankChain, which gave me full rein to write whatever I actually think is useful. 

Special thanks to Aaron van Wirdum, who contributed feedback to the following beginner’s guide. As a quick reminder, none of this is financial or legal advice, nor does any mention of a product or service constitute an endorsement. These are just my observations, for funsies! Please consult professional advisors with regards to your specific needs. 

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s start with the basics. 

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is the oldest and most popular type of cryptocurrency in the world. Bitcoin is digital cash that people can send anywhere, as if every country in the world had PayPal, but without PayPal’s restrictions. This works because Bitcoin offers a public network anyone can use directly, rather than relying on PayPal or a bank for an account to access their payment networks. 

Some people call bitcoin “digital gold” because, like gold, it offers a universal measure of value. Just like taking gold jewelry to a pawn shop, today anyone can turn bitcoin into regular cash in almost every major city in the world. No one requires an ID to use bitcoin. 

All bitcoin users need is a device with internet access and a local exchange, or people who act as exchangers comparable to hawala. Sometimes, instead of an exchange, bitcoin users buy Amazon gift cards and trade those for products, or dollars. 

Why own crypto?

Even sex workers involved in lawful activities, like selling dirty socks, can legally be excluded from banking services and platforms like PayPal or AirBnB

If you get deplatformed, as a sex worker, you won’t win your money back in an American court. (Sex workers in Australia or Japan might have a better chance, depending.) As such, some sex workers prefer to hold their own earnings at home and liquidate (get dollars or local cash) as needed. 

It’s easy to store bitcoin on a device called an OPENDIME, which is like a tiny USB stick secretly containing a vault full of gold. Imagine moving around the world with a considerable portion of your wealth hidden discreetly in your bra, whether because you are fleeing an abusive boyfriend or crossing a border to escape an oppressive dictatorship. 

Plus, you could fall in love with a hot guy and fly on his private jet to elope in Paris with nothing but one fabulous white suit and a Birkin bag. (Hey, it’s totally plausible!) In short, some erotic performers and service providers use bitcoin to save for retirement, college tuition, or an emergency divorce/get-the-fuck-out fund. 

Farming simps for the yield of crypto 

Many sex workers I’ve interviewed over the years believe the best way to get cryptocurrency is to acquire it through trade. 

They don’t need to spend dollars to buy bitcoin. They simply offer to accept bitcoin, along with whatever payment methods they were already accepting. Collecting little bits of crypto over time is called “stacking sats,” because small amounts of bitcoin are called “satoshis.” 

Performers can cash out their earnings in bitcoin, just like dollars, from platforms like Pornhub, Chaturbate, FanCentro or ManyVids. Sex workers that already have their own websites might use companies like SpankChain or OpenNode for payment processing options. 

Plus, sex workers also receive bitcoin gifts directly, using mobile wallet apps. This is one of the most popular ways for clients to stand out, by pampering their favorite sex workers during the pandemic. With just a few clicks, the fan can send a little bit of crypto to get her attention or take care of her. (Some dominatrixes also have their subs mine cryptocurrency for them, a remote task earning money for her.) 

This is far less transactional than one might expect. Customers don’t use bitcoin to pay a set price for a single penis-in-vagina film from a stranger. Most often, these bitcoin-spending regulars care about their favorite performers. 

Symbolic wealth transfers are often part of a broader, affectionate dynamic. He might enjoy a picture of her cheesecake, for example, because he sees her as more than a hot body. 

“Treat yourself, Baby.” 

“I value you.”

“I’m missing you.” 

“Please hurry to send that custom content. I’m feeling urgent!”

There are many things fans can say to their favorite performers by paying in bitcoin, according to their means. Sex workers like OnlyFans model and SpankChain user Priscilla Jae manage crypto tips via mobile wallets.

“I’m still trying to figure everything out. I know there is so much more I have to learn about cryptocurrency,” she said.

(Image of Priscilla Jae, @4bbypjay, via Rick R.L.)

Saving and spending crypto 

Many sex workers accept and liquidate bitcoin using exchanges like Coinbase, Gemini, Kraken, Paxos, or Cash App. 

Some content providers may prefer to use an app called Strike, to accept bitcoin and then convert it to dollars automatically instead of actually receiving bitcoin themselves. All of these exchange platforms might ban these sex workers, however, just like banks do. For example, I know sex workers who got banned from both Cash App and Coinbase

Most exchanges basically operate like a new type of bank or PayPal. Therefore, crypto veterans only use those platforms as temporary money-changers, to get dollars or euros, rather than as vaults to store wealth. Instead, they might use service providers like Casa and Unchained Capital to store wealth at home. 

Unless a sex worker already had considerable computer skills, it’s safe to assume she spent at least $500 dollars on the equipment and service fees to start storing wealth at home. Sex workers, in particular, are quite likely to value financial privacy and pay for it accordingly. 

Privacy 

For beginners, privacy means not posting personally identifying information online.

Sex workers might start with using a password manager, two-factor authentication for platforms like Twitter and Instagram, plus separate devices (laptops, phones, etc.) for sex work. They avoid cross-using WhatsApp with other platforms where they want to be pseudonymous. They avoid social media posts about a specific location on the same day they were there. It’s very hard to maintain separated online identities, but many sex workers manage to do this. 

Among sex workers who uses crypto, they actively avoid information that might connect their faces or know-your-customer information to their personal crypto wallets. Advanced computer users may try tools like Bisq, BTCPay and Wasabi Wallet to use bitcoin without needing accounts connected to their real names and photo IDs. 

From a safety point of view, with regards to privacy, it’s generally discouraged among tech-savvy sex workers to use an exchange account for storage of coins. Some exchanges use the same bitcoin addresses over and over, which means anyone reading the public data could figure out that the sex worker has an account at that exchange. 

Shrewd sex workers may use Wasabi or BTCPay to generate unique bitcoin addresses, instead of repeatedly using the same address. However, most sex workers who use bitcoin post public addresses for simps to send digital cash to. It’s as simple as tweeting “tip me here,” along with a picture of a QR code.

These sex workers are basically publishing the equivalent of their bank account numbers for fans to deposit (or monitor) at will. Among sex workers who post bitcoin addresses on websites with pictures of their faces, these performers may still spend bitcoin using a privacy feature called CoinJoin. 

For example, if a sex worker wants to pay her landlord, or liquidate for dollars at an exchange with her real ID, or move the bitcoin to another wallet for safer storage, the CoinJoin feature obscures the path from her publicly known address to her personal account. Someone would need to work really hard to identify her transaction. If she cleans the simp-wallet address out regularly, at least her money isn’t sitting in a glass vault associated with her Twitter profile. 

“You need to use bitcoin, including CoinJoins, very carefully. It’s not a magic solution,” said Wasabi researcher Yuval Kogman. “Bitcoin’s privacy, today, is still awful. You need to make unique addresses and most exchanges won’t help you with that. So you really want to be using your own wallet if you want some basic privacy.”

So far, we’ve only talked about bitcoin. But bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency. There are literally thousands of things people call cryptocurrency.

On the other hand, don’t trust anyone who suggests another crypto “solved” bitcoin’s privacy tradeoff. Sex workers who use other cryptocurrencies still typically agree bitcoin is the safest and most liquid crypto. 

Tokens

Here’s the most important thing a beginner needs to know about assets beyond bitcoin: Other cryptocurrency networks, such as Ethereum, are not like bitcoin.

Sex workers routinely accept the Ethereum network’s native ether token the same ways they accept bitcoin. However, few performers store such tokens for long-term savings. There is no other cryptocurrency like bitcoin.

Just like it would be silly for someone to tell you “silver is the new gold,” other cryptocurrencies aren’t “better” than bitcoin. Crypto projects claiming to offer all of bitcoin’s perks are often peddling gilded trinkets. In reality, Ethereum-based tokens offer different benefits than bitcoin. 

For comparison, Chaturbate has a non-crypto token system on its camming site, which doesn’t use a crypto network. Performers rely on the camming site to turn Chaturbate tokens into dollars (or bitcoin). Performers can’t move Chaturbate tokens off of the camming platform to hold them in personal wallets. In contrast, performers can hold their own Ethereum-based tokens. 

Over the past few years, companies like SpankChain issued their own cryptocurrency tokens. These Ethereum-based tokens are mostly like the Chaturbate tokens and arcade tokens that preceded crypto technology; They are only useful in particular venues. The distinguishing factor is that performers can hold SPANK tokens in personal wallets. 

Performers and other industry players might use these crypto tokens like a very complex Costco card. The crypto token can indicate membership of a group or cooperative ownership of a network. In SpankChain’s case, the site gave SPANK users lower fees and more influence over the startup’s platform than performers ever had on mainstream sites like OnlyFans or Chaturbate. Granting users more power over their software tools can be an appealing offer. 

Startup tokens may be very useful for doing business in a particular marketplace. But sex workers can’t elope and sell these tokens on the street in Paris. No one can (accurately) promise that the dollar-denominated value of any cryptocurrency, whether it is ether or bitcoin, will go up and inevitably prove to be a “good investment.” 

What is crypto really worth?

Cryptocurrency isn’t an easy way to get rich, even if some people who bought it early did get rich. Sometimes, people get lucky. The value of crypto is determined by how people use it.

For sex workers, crypto can be worth a secret vault of gold or a membership to a fan club with lots of simps. Depending on the circumstances, sex workers use cryptocurrency in many ways. 

So, there you have it. That’s what I think a crypto-curious OnlyFans performer needs to know. What other resources do you think deserve a mention? Leave me your thoughts in the comments! 

I’ll try to address the comments in next month’s newsletter, which will include freelancing updates and my latest crypto experiment. Until then, take care everybody!