Read the full article by Sofia Barrett-Ibarria at RollingStone.com 

Traditional payment platforms can get spooked by sex work — so online performers are moving into the high-tech realm of digital currency.

Two years ago, Gabi was struggling to maintain a career in the adult industry. She worked long hours streaming live as a cam model and producing video content for her online audience, but the job didn’t seem to be paying off.

Since most major credit cards and payment platforms won’t process payments for adult services, including live-streamed erotic content, cam models like Gabi have to use specialized platforms to stream live shows and process payments from fans. Unfortunately, these sites can be extremely competitive, and some use ranking systems to determine models’ visibility on the site based on their time spent online.

“The longer you spend online without making any money, the lower your ranking drops,” Gabi says. “That puts you in a position where you literally have to work for free for days and days and days. Every hour that you spend online without getting tipped, you can just hear the ranking number dropping in the back of your head. It’s extremely anxiety inducing, because the lower you get down in the rankings, the less your chance of making any money to bring your ranking up.” She’d been burned by this system many times. One site, Gabi says, required a 65-percent cut of her tips, in addition to the rights to use her image for advertising purposes as they saw fit. “They advertised me as a ‘Local sexy single in your area ready to fuck for free,’” Gabi says. “Nothing about my services are free.”

Gabi considered giving up camming for good, when she came across a promotional raffle on Twitter for Cryptotitties, a cam site that runs on cryptocurrency. Interested participants could buy tickets using Spankchain, a blockchain-based payment platform currently in beta, designed specifically for use within the adult industry. “I started seriously digging into cryptocurrency and how it could help with all of the payment processor issues that we’ve been having as sex workers,” Gabi says.

Gabi, who for a time worked as a Spankchain brand ambassador, believes cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies offer a viable solution to widespread issues with payment processing. “I’m usually thinking about or interacting with the crypto community daily,” she says. As adult performer Janice Griffith wrote for Medium in 2017, blockchain technologies like Spankchain can offer performers greater control of their financial future. “With SpankChain, we’ll be putting more money into the pockets of talent and working hands  —  instead of payment processors and middlemen  —  leaving models with more power over their careers and options in how they want to build their legacies,” she wrote. “Control over your career trajectory is the ultimate power.”

A switch to cryptocurrency can also offer greater creative freedom. For example, ManyVids, a popular camming platform that accepts credit card payments, forbids depictions of fetish acts including urination, genital insertions with objects other than dildos or vibrators, or sleeping on camera, as outlined in their terms of service. Official upload rules for models also include a list of restricted words, including “period” and “menstruation.” Cam model Zhaddie Grey says using cryptocurrency eliminates these restrictions completely. “You can basically put out whatever you want.”

The basic functions of blockchain technology remain largely a mystery to many outside the tech space, but as Gabi points out, “some sex workers have taken bitcoin for years.” Cam sites Strip 4 Bit, Xotica, Tits For Bitcoin and NSFW Reddit group Girls Gone Bitcoin all accept Bitcoin payments, serving as cryptocurrency testing grounds since 2015.