Sex Workers Banned from Banks Turn to Crypto

Some say cryptocurrency is a lifeline for sex workers who are discriminated against by banks, while others remain skeptical.

This article is a writeup of the fifth episode of CRYPTOLAND, Motherboard’s documentary series about how cryptocurrency is affecting culture, politics, the environment, and our shared future. Watch it on Motherboard’s YouTube.

Allie Eve Knox is banned from all of the payment apps and platforms most people take for granted: PayPal, Square, Circle, Cashapp, Venmo. All of this is because she’s a sex worker and dominatrix: she produces adult content for cam shows, custom clips for clients, worn socks and underwear for people who collect them. 

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These platforms kicked her off because their terms of use forbid anything remotely sexual—thanks to conservative cultural and legislative pressure on banks to discriminate against sex work in all forms. Some sex workers believe cryptocurrency, as a decentralized payment structure that’s more anonymous than traditional finances and less vulnerable to fickle terms of use or prudish stakeholders, could disrupt decades of deplatforming.

For our fifth episode of CRYPTOLAND, Motherboard visited Allie and Belle Creed, another sex worker primarily using cryptocurrency, at the Las Vegas headquarters for Spankchain, a crypto platform made for sex workers by sex workers. 

Crypto and NFTs are the only reason she and Creed, and many others in their position, were able to weather last year’s shakeups in the porn industry—OnlyFans announced and then walked back a decision to ban NSFW material, which caused them to lose subscribers, and Visa, Mastercard and Discover cut ties with Pornhub, cutting off hundreds of performers from their livelihoods. In October, Mastercard implemented even more strict rules for adult content platforms and their creators, causing them to lose even more money—and opening them up to more vulnerability.  

As banks and payment processors made it more and more impossible for her to make a living, Allie’s been using cryptocurrencies for years, taking payments in Bitcoin from clients and making NSFW NFTs that return royalties on the secondary market. It’s been a lifesaver in many ways, but as federal agencies get more involved in regulating and monitoring crypto, it’s also caused her some trouble. She’s under investigation by the FBI, but the feds won’t tell her what, specifically, she’s done to come under new scrutiny. 

“We can be fucked for any reason, and often are, and will be,” Knox said.

When we got back from Vegas, we spoke with Liara Roux, a sex worker and author who’s used crypto for years. She’s also experienced discrimination from credit card processors that shut down her accounts for taking payments for sex work, and experienced the absurdity of banks’ ruled firsthand. “[Crypto] was something I preferred in some ways, because there was no possibility of chargebacks,” she said, referring to when customers buy content and then demand their credit card cancel or refund the charge. “And unlike cash, you could accept it in advance, it was this happy spot between the two, where I could get paid before booking so I didn’t have to worry about whether the person had money or not, and I also didn’t have to worry about them potentially clawing it back.”  

Tagged:

sex work, cryptocurrency, cryptoland

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