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How blockchain tech is changing the face of porn (sometimes literally)

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  • Pornography is a massively growing sector for technology.
  • How is the adult entertainment industry adopting cryptocurrency?
  • And how will this effect performers and viewers alike?

Since the dawn of time, mankind has looked at technology and asked the all important question ‘can I make it sexy?’ Cryptocurrency is no exception.

‘History has proven that the adult entertainment industry plays a critical role in adoption for innovative technology. We saw that with VHS, Betamax, credit card payment icons and, most recently, VR goggles. We expect to see widespread adoption of crypto and blockchain in short order.’

Corey Price. VP for Pornhub.

No matter how buttoned-up we are on the issue, sex and technology are inextricably linked. They each breed innovation in one another. This innovation can be for good or evil, and cryptocurrency has certainly seen its fair share of both. For better or worse, Sextech is booming.

How blockchain tech is changing the face of porn (sometimes literally) 1

Mindgeek

The largest adult brand to incorporate blockchain tech is, without a doubt, the Pornhub parent company Mindgeek. The company is significantly ahead of the curb in its incorporation of technology, utilizing advanced algorithms, investing in Virtual Reality, and developing a free VPN service. However, it was only as recently as September of this year that the company began accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for its Pornhub subscriber service. So why did Pornhub put its mission to achieve sex in space ahead of accepting cryptocurrency?

Well, Pornhub only makes a fraction of its profits from subscription services. The premium service launched back in 2015, and although Pornhub doesn’t give out specific numbers, it can be assumed that the majority of users watch for free, with profits coming from ad revenue instead. There’s also the issue of user data collection. Although Mindgeek has always declined to comment on the subject, it’s well documented that sites like Pornhub take massive amounts of user data.

Interestingly, Pornhub first started accepting PumaPay, Tron, Verge, and Zencash in 2018, well before adopting mainstream cryptocurrencies. This seems baffling as the first choice over industry kings Bitcoin and Ethereum.

There was a lot of speculation about just how these smaller cryptocurrencies managed to seal the deal with Pornhub. Successful businessman and the internet’s local maniac, John McAfee, speculated that Verge (Formerly DarkDogeCoin) had financially supported its partnership with a pumping scheme. 

Whatever the method or reasoning, cryptocurrency payment options initially stagnated. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it; pornography exists for instant gratification. Unless a user already owns cryptocurrency, the steps required to get set up simply aren’t worth the hassle. 

With all this being said, why bother further investing in cryptocurrency at all? Well, this is where things get really interesting. As of March 2020, 10% of Pornhub’s paid performers accepted cryptocurrency as a form of payment. That’s a sizable chunk. This isn’t about the audience. It’s about the content creators.

Harem Token

So will cryptocurrency revolutionize sex work, particularly pornography? Yes, definitely, it already has. We’ve already got Harem Token in the works, a company that creates entirely fake images of women that can be deep faked into any given situation.

It’s pretty creepy. But Harem argues that using fake women will decrease the market for deepfakes of real people, a prominent issue faced by notable public figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Maisey Williams. The project is supported by the Harem Token (HAREM); users pay for ownership of their ladies, which is a pretty backward concept, to be blunt. 

How blockchain tech is changing the face of porn (sometimes literally) 2
An image from Harem Token’s official white paper, perhaps suggesting we shouldn’t take anything they say too seriously.

Does the idea have legs? Maybe. It’s hard to say. While it’s an interesting technology, I don’t think the argument that is replacing celebrities depicted in deepfakes with ai generated faces is much of a comparison. And you might think I’m glossing over the misogyny of generating women entirely to be sexual objects, and you’re right. I am. It’s way too much to unpack.

This also leads to questions of what this means for the performers. If you’re Mia Khalifa, for example, and someone steals your body and gives it a new face, what does that mean for your intellectual property? There’s got to be a better alternative.

Spankchain

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

Leigh Cuen

There is undoubtedly a stigma around working in porn. As recently as November of last year, PayPal cut ties with Pornhub, a decision that left thousands of performers’ livelihoods in question. 

And PayPal aren’t the only ones, Fintech corporations have developed something of a reputation for turning their backs on sex workers.

As the saying goes, how do you stop a bad guy with a gun? (or in this case a fintech startup) A good guy with a gun. Enter Spankchain.

Despite the cheeky branding, featuring memes and semi-naked girls, Spankchain is actually a kind of genius. It’s a cam site, not dissimilar to Chaturbate, with one key difference. It’s not run on fiat currency but rather an ethereum based cryptocurrency.

A whole micro-economy in itself, Spankchain runs on the stablecoin: BOOTY. Performers get a bigger slice of the pie, and viewers get the anonymity of transactions they’re looking for. Everyone wins, right?

Well the incorporation of cryptocurrency into adult entertainment is something of a double edged sword.

A content warning

I’ve started this article in a kind of farcical way because, for the most part, this topic is pretty ridiculous. However, I think it would be remiss to speak on this subject and not address the horrific underbelly of pornography. From this point on, I’ll be addressing subjects like sexual assault and human trafficking, including abuse to minors. 

The dark web

There’s no getting around the fact that sex work is often exploitative. While many people around the world have found a sex-positive lifestyle that not only brings them pleasure but also pays the bills, many others find themselves vulnerable and trapped in dangerous situations. 

Pornhub has often found itself at the center of controversy for this exact reason.

It’s extremely important to note that these are not minor issues, these are serious cases of rape and human trafficking happening on a massive scale.

And this goes well beyond Pornhub. In its earlier days, Bitcoin found itself inextricably linked to the Silk Road, while in itself a marketplace for drugs, these dark web marketplaces quickly became more widespread. One of the most infamous examples of sexual abuse funded by cryptocurrency is Child’s Play, a site that hosted graphic pornography featuring children. 

There are great advantages to the anonymity that cryptocurrency provides; however, this also gives new freedom to exploitation. With all this being said, many believe that blockchain tech can also be a savior.

Can crypto save the day?

Having seen all this, I don’t think blockchain tech will necessarily change porn for better or for worse. It’s probably best to see it more like an arms race, technology will always advance, and opposing forces will always compete for the largest benefit of the tech. It really comes down to a larger debate about libertarian values, which have been at the very heart of cryptocurrency since Satoshi Nakamoto’s original white paper.

Regardless of ethics, with PayPal’s recent investment into Blockchain technology, the face of cryptocurrency will change over the next few years massively. It’s hard to say how viable it’ll continue to be for adult performers as it becomes increasingly mainstream. 

Yaz Reynolds

Yaz Reynolds

Yaz is a content creator who enjoys researching the strange and unusual side of cryptocurrency. When she isn't writing, she works as an illustrator and animator. With good humor and a serious passion for the truth, she strives to get to the heart of the story.

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