With the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies, it’s no surprise that it is gradually permeating in all professions. MelissaSweet1, a camgirl in Arizona, started accepting cryptocurrency as payment for her erotic webcam performances three years ago. She usually converted it into fiat currency.
Since last year she has started collecting the digital coins in a hardware wallet. Crypto has now become a part of her retirement plan. Like MelissaSweet1, several other sex workers have recently started shifting to crypto usage. Sex workers are already using the technology for both transactional currency and as a global store of value.
Sex workers find it really hard to get any kind of mainstream financial services in the U.S. “More banks are viewing any sex work as high risk, and an increasing number of banks are refusing to accept direct deposits from adult industry companies,” said MelissaSweet1, who wished to remain anonymous.
In such an environment, sex workers – a diverse category that includes not only escorts but lawful workers such as erotic dancers, porn stars and even film production professionals – consider saving money the traditional way as increasingly risky because their accounts can be closed and funds were frozen without warning.
To avoid such a measure from centralized crypto services, they’re also moving their digital money offline from third-party services to cold storage methods under their control.
Adult performer and token enthusiast Brenna Sparks tweeted about this recent trend, recounting a conversation with a makeup artist on set, Sparks wrote: “She happens to invest [in crypto] as well. ‘I’m trying to retire.’ I shook my head in agreement. ‘Same.'”
The practice of cold storage has gained prominence. In this, the private key is kept in a wallet – which is like a long, indecipherable and hard-to-remember password – offline, either on a piece of paper or a hardware device. Most people are getting their private keys off of CoinBase.
This protects legal sex workers from the possibility of having their crypto confiscated. “The reason that security is taken so seriously by the adult industry is that they are so used having their accounts discontinued or frozen without warning by traditional centralized institutions,” said Nathan Smale, chief operating officer at the crypto startup Intimate.
“You are dealing with women and men who have always had to take responsibility for their own safety and protection, rarely being able to rely on others to actually help them,” Smale said. “Is it any wonder that they would take control of their own funds and manage them?”
Leah, a 20-year-old sex worker who specializes in a form of BDSM, talked about her concerns regarding the government creating stricter regulations for cryptocurrency transactions, which would result in the kind of discrimination and account closures sex workers have often dealt with from legacy financial providers.
So Leah uses a hardware wallet in addition to exchange accounts on sites like Coinbase. The one downside of cold storage is that key management can be stressful and involved. If one loses their key or forgets the PIN or the recovery passphrase for a hardware wallet, they will never be able to access their money.
“Cryptocurrency is something still pretty new, it’s decentralized so you have to hold yourself more responsible,” MelissaSweet1 said.
The SESTA/FOSTA legislation package that passed in the U.S. in March, equated consensual sex work with sex trafficking and weakened legal protections for internet service providers (including online financial platforms) used by sex workers.
There is another bill working its way through Congress, which could criminalize providing banking services for “traffickers.” Laws like these make it difficult for sex workers to manage their finances. “These laws do pose a real threat to me,” MelissaSweet1 said.
There are no laws being broken here. Many will accuse them by saying that saving for retirement without a licensed service provider could lend itself to tax evasion. However, there are many blogs and social networks for sex workers which are full of freelancers sharing tips on how to file taxes – including taxes on bitcoin payments.
“There is a way to report income even when you’re doing something that might be, in some states or locations, outside the law,” said Mike Stabile, communications director at the Free Speech Coalition, a nonprofit adult industry trade organization. “Those people who are working in sex work do pay taxes. They do have deductions.”
Some sex workers are looking into other potential wealth-building applications for blockchain technology. For example, Ginger Banks said she hopes to someday establish her own studio using smart contracts to send royalties (which are rare in the adult entertainment industry) directly to individual cryptocurrency wallets for long-term income throughout retirement.
“It feels like I am a part of history if I hold these coins for the future,” Banks said.
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