Bitcoin Can Only Help Performers on Pornhub If People Pay for Porn, Period

“The actions of MasterCard and Visa are creating yet another barrier for our customers to pay us and I’m worried they won’t even bother."
December 15, 2020, 2:00pm
Bitcoin Can Only Help Performers on Pornhub If People Pay for Porn, Period
Image: Gabe Ginsberg/Contributor via Getty

Last week, Visa and Mastercard cut ties with Pornhub, one of the world’s most popular discovery and advertising platforms for adult content. The move was spurred by reporting that showed the platform hosts illegal, stolen, and non-consensual porn, but it also disadvantages sex workers around the world who rely on Pornhub for income. 

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When it comes to financial discrimination, cryptocurrency fans will often argue that “Bitcoin fixes this.” But the reality is more complicated.  

“I believe Bitcoin can benefit sex workers very much,” said a veteran sex worker who goes by AndrAIaMatrixxx. “If it stays out of the hands of banks/government and in the hands of people, we can keep the value high.”

That’s a tall order, however. Money networks may be inherently bureaucratic, meaning compliance applies to anything with significant value. Case in point: The credit card companies unceremoniously cut ties with Pornhub after years of online content creators criticizing Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, and begging the company to more aggressively moderate non-consensual content

Pornhub already supports cryptocurrency, and some sex workers have made Bitcoin an integral part of their business. For example, Brazilian cryptocurrency user and OnlyFans performer Gween Black said she has been using Pornhub for three years. Earlier in her career, she said, Pornhub payments made up roughly 40 percent of her monthly income. 

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“I get paid in there monthly via USDT,” Black said, referencing the cryptocurrency Tether. “It’s divided into different services: We get ad revenue for the free videos, Pornhub premium [is] based per view on videos on that system, fanclub (monthly subscription by users), Model hub sales (paid downloads and full videos), tips, custom video requests and live camming.”

Pornhub Doesn't Care

Black said her public-facing revenue streams, like ad revenue and premium memberships, are most likely to get slashed by Mastercard’s new policy. People will pay less, without a Visa or Mastercard option. Yet she’ll continue to cash out her (now reduced) earnings in cryptocurrency. From her perspective, cryptocurrency does offer a partial solution to financial censorship, especially since most international transactions cost her roughly $75 and take 15 days to receive even small amounts of fiat. 

“Cryptocurrency offers a great democratic and fast way to trade on the internet,” Black said. “People will adopt crypto more and more after seeing their banks and credit card providers denying them the ability to spend on things they want to.” 

In the United States, performers like Allie Awesome have already lost access to Model hub income after the  credit card companies dropped Pornhub. She’s also a cryptocurrency user, but said any crypto income is rare. 

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“The actions of MasterCard and Visa are creating yet another barrier for our customers to pay us and I’m worried they won’t even bother,” she said. “A lot of people are dependent on porn platforms to put food on the table. These changes are devastating to sex workers.” 

Many sex workers and adult content platforms are happy to accept cryptocurrency. Adult content platforms, like Pornhub and OnlyFans, are raking in over $300 million annually and could use such wide profit margins to cover the legal and technical costs of pivoting to a crypto economy. The trouble is, few people are willing to pay for porn with cryptocurrency. 

The Next Web reported in 2018 that less than one percent of Pornhub users pay in crypto, for example. Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find a performer who receives more than one cryptocurrency payment a month from several fans.  

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It’s harder to find men who are willing to pay sex workers with crypto than it is to find sex workers who know how, and are willing to, accept it. MindGeek told The Block in March 2020 that 10 percent of Pornhub performers already opted to cash out in cryptocurrency, even before the credit card issues started. 

Yet another Pornhub performer who also uses cryptocurrency, God Ciara, said few consumers pay for porn in any currency. This feeds into a troubled power dynamic: Most porn platform owners are men. The consumers also skew male, while creators are predominantly young women. 

“There is no empathy or compassion for creators, at any level. If they are amateurs, then their porn ‘isn't good enough to be paid for.’ If they are pros, then posting their content for free is ‘fine because they're hoes with too much money,’’’ Ciara said. “They view men who make money from porn as geniuses, but the women are just sluts with an iPhone.”

Ciara said she is glad Pornhub and ManyVids offer Bitcoin payment options. However, she said she needs a PayPal account or exchange account at a company like Coinbase to turn cryptocurrency into dollars for food and rent. Both of those companies are known to ban sex workers, as well. Platform policies still control search and reach. Direct payments directly to a performer’s crypto wallet are rare, albeit welcome.  

If men who own bitcoins pay for Ciara’s content, and platforms give her the option to cash out in bitcoins instead of using credit card networks, Ciara said she is happy to deal with the overhead of currency conversion as needed. Sex workers will use whatever tools they have to in order to, as Allie Awesome put it, put food on the table. 

“If the transaction is not violating international or local laws, we should not be forced to succumb to monopolies that decide what we can and cannot purchase,” Ciara added. “Or, at the very least, another option should be available so the consumer and provider have a choice.”

All things considered, the only hurdle keeping mainstream porn platforms from prioritizing cryptocurrency tools is the lack of people paying with it. If the people who own Bitcoin actually pay for porn with Bitcoin, it would be a game-changer. Adult content creators are primed and ready for the proverbial crypto revolution.