The adult industry’s growing war over Titcoin

There’s a war between payment processors and the adult industry.

Visa and Mastercard ensure that pornographic content comes at a high price for merchants, performers, and consumers. Individuals selling adult content are on the rise, whether it be adult cam shows online or other content via sites like ExtraLunchMoney or AdultWork. Yet those who perform in porn are still stigmatized, often considered untouchable by popular crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.

As a result of this tension, the subject of cryptocurrency has come up as a potential solution. And why not? It’s been treated as a more anonymous way to exchange real life money for real life goods that bypasses the big banks.

But as the arrests around drug trafficking site Silk Road demonstrated, that was not strictly trueBitcoin addresses can and should be used once to maintain more anonymity, and Bitcoin is still considered taxable income by many states. Even using Tor may not protect you, if law enforcement wants to find out who you are and what you’re doing.

Still, because Bitcoin’s not directly connected to your legal name like PayPal, it can feel safer for people who want to keep their financial and personal habits (and their credit card numbers) private.

As an adult performer, there are some definite advantages to accepting a cryptocurrency for your work. The No. 1 reason porn performers are told by processing firms that accepting money online will cost more for them is because of chargebacks. People often purchase an online product, download the content they want, then register a chargeback with their bank or credit card company. Cryptocurrency doesn’t allow much wiggle room for this—once it leaves your wallet, it’s gone.

However, cryptocurrencies also require a lot of trust, as many of the places where they can be purchased expect you to offer up your bank information instead of a credit card. Furthermore, they aren’t accepted in many places, so you have to trust that your currency will have practical value—hard to have faith when the Bitcoin exchange rate varies so dramatically day to day. I don’t want to sell a product that’s worth $50 for a percentage of a Bitcoin that may or may not cover the cost of production and paying performers from one day to another. 

With various porn sites from Brazzers to Indie Porn Revolution taking Bitcoin, I grew curious about the recent trend of cryptocurrencies marketed to the adult industry, as Sexcoin, Porncoin, Wankcoin, and Titcoin jostle for space to be successful Bitcoin alternatives. Why would one choose one of these adult-specific currencies if the only places taking them are other porn companies? If performers were to use a cryptocurrency, they’d want to be able to use it for grocerieshome improvement, maybe even land, not Volume 3 of Bangin’ Babes.

What’s the incentive for the adult industry to start accepting such a niche cryptocurrency, then? To answer my confusion, I interviewed Edward Mansfield from Titcoin. If cryptocurrencies are essentially interchangeable, why make your own, and what sets his product apart?

When I asked Mansfield about this, it seemed like his focus was more on what the adult industry could do for cryptocurrency, rather than vice versa.

“Even with Bitcoin’s gaining popularity, it still struggles with the lack of adoption amongst the larger population,” said Mansfield when I asked why he created Titcoin. “Companies like Overstock, Newegg, and TigerDirect are helping raise awareness, but that strategy to date only targets existing crypto-consumers who buy computer hardware and not the average person who infrequently requires technical equipment. What would really help cryptocurrencies is universal support from an industry that appreciates discreet forms of digital payment with high recurring demand. The adult industry is the prime candidate for cryptocurrencies to become more mainstream and widely adopted.”

This explains why Titcoin is targeting the porn industry, but it doesn’t provide a clear argument for performers and producers to start accepting it—a sticking point for me. A name like Titcoin, and a marketing strategy that involves a reclining naked lady, is not going to be accepted for transactions at day-to-day businesses.

“The same question can be asked about choosing between American Express and Mastercard,” Mansfield explained, but I think he missed something here. I use Visa. Visa is accepted all over the world, for all sorts of transactions. It can handle foreign currency transactions. It can handle Square. I’m not going to choose between American Express and Mastercard when Visa works in more places for more things, and I’m not likely to choose Titcoin when Bitcoin could pay my rent.

I suspect Mansfield and his fellow Titcoin partners were thinking more about having a laugh than thinking about the consequences of creating what would effectively become a stigmatized currency. “We chose the name ‘Titcoin’ because it’s instantly recognizable and very clear on what it is,” he said, and he’s correct, but it’s also clear that it’s an adult product.

As a porn performer, I can tell you that the world outside the industry is not interested in dealing with adult anything—it’s hard to even get a job outside of porn once you’ve worked in it. I don’t expect making a currency specifically to be “dirty money” is going to do much other than further stigmatize sex workers. (Never mind that the naked women on TitCoin aren’t there celebrate the female form; their branding exists for the purposes of low-brow humor, as a wink to male consumers.)

But, of course, it’s not really about the women who work in the industry—from what I can tell. According to Mansfield, it’s instead about discretion, or “hiding your porn purchases from your partner.”

“A consumer may want to separate their finances by using Bitcoin for everyday items, while having a separate Titcoin account for adult entertainment,” Mansfield explained. “In the future, a husband and wife may have a joint Bitcoin account, but one of them might want to conceal their ‘adult’ purchases from their spouse.”

I’ve never been in a position where I’ve felt the need to hide my adult purchases, so maybe that’s true. But from my understanding of cryptocurrency, there’s still no reason not to use Bitcoin for both wallets if you felt inclined to lie to your partner about your porn consumption.

Why would you invest in a completely different cryptocurrency? Because they’d market to you and Bitcoin won’t? We have our own marketing teams, and I suspect Titcoin would get more from marketing partnership that a porn studio would. People are way more interested in boobs than they are in finances.

Titcoin had, however, thought about payment processing times. Bitcoin transactions can take a long time to process (sometimes up to an hour!), and porn is an instant gratification kind of thing. Mansfield knew that was something they’d need to address. “We are in the process of issuing a new wallet that will cut block times down to about 60 seconds each, leading to five-minute transaction periods. We’re focused on streamlining payment processing; [Bitcoin is] focused on investing and trading.”

I don’t feel comfortable signing up for yet another money management startup run by young men who have never had sex for money. Call me a cynic, but I think the best people to advocate for the adult industry are the performers themselves. According to Mansfield, the “fact that [Titcoin is] not directly related to the adult industry proves our trustworthiness,” but if we’re to trust Titcoin, the people behind it have to prove they won’t make porn’s problems worse.

Photo via James Cridland/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)