Cryptocurrency for Sex Workers and their Clients

An expanded guide to alleviate all your fears on using cryptocurrency!

Those who follow my blog or twitter know I’m a fan of cryptocurrency, especially when it comes to sex work-related activities. I previously wrote an article about this last year, but some of it bears repeating and some updates are to be made given recent US and Canada legislation on cryptocurrency. For a brief introduction on what cryptocurrency is, please click here.

The deal with crypto and exchanges

Cryptocurrency (or “crypto”) can be a sex worker’s best friend when it comes to paying for advertisements and collecting deposits, due to its immutable nature and relative privacy compared to bank transactions, credit cards, or payment processors like PayPal. I say relative because users exchanging funds don’t get to see the identity of each other, which can provide some relief to those worried about their personal information getting out there. However most cryptocurrencies are not fully private, meaning you will need to provide some verification in order to buy or sell cryptocurrency on an exchange, and the transaction can be traced if someone were really looking for a tedious task to do on a Sunday evening on the government’s dime. Let me explain.

Crypto exchanges can function similarly to centralized exchanges in that they often require you to provide some sort of verification (we call it KYC or, “know your customer” in this business) to get started. This can take several forms but usually you’ll have to verify your ID or address. Some places will use your credit information, others will require you to submit a copy of a passport or driver’s license. The reasoning behind this is to prevent nefarious activity and money laundering, so the majority of legit exchanges require this and it’s hard to get around it. Of course, there are other ways to obtain cryptocurrency and you don’t need an exchange to do it. Hot and cold wallets can provide you with the ability to hold and exchange cryptocurrency, and a few unregulated exchanges exist, although I don’t recommend them.

Honestly, don’t panic about this. Holding crypto is not illegal (at least in Canada and the US; other countries have various laws banning digital currency, but this article isn’t for these markets. But I digress.) The only time you need to be concerned about owning crypto is when it comes time to file your taxes, as different jurisdictions will have different laws on how to declare them.

In the US, crypto is classified as a security, a property, and a commodity, and it’s regulated by the SEC. Canada regulates crypto exchanges as money service businesses and they need to be registered with FINTRAC. These aren’t the worst things in the world, but it does mean that if you’re running crypto through legit channels it’s best to get yourself a good accountant who can make sure you don’t run into trouble. No one wants the IRS coming down on them.

Coinbase remains the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the US and has been subject to a number of subpoenas from the US government, demanding the company turn over its user information (Coinbase was able to limit this). In general, the IRS expects you to treat digital assets similarly to any other money-making vehicle and it wants its share of the pie. Do your due diligence and don’t get fucked.

Things aren’t as harsh in Canada but the CRA does expect you to report crypto earnings as you would any other asset and have launched new initiatives to get more information (and money) from Canadian crypto holders. Suffice to say The Man is coming and as banks and financial organizations catch up to the tech, they’ll have more ways to find crypto holders and tax them. Welp.

How does this work in practice?

I like to make people aware of the consequences when they get into activities that may have various repercussions. Due diligence is a thing, and I’ve done mine by providing you with information about using crypto and getting dinged by the tax man.

But let’s say you’re cool with all that and want to get into using crypto anyway. How does it work?

You start off by joining an exchange, or obtaining crypto some other way. While Coinbase is the largest US provider, I prefer Shakepay here in Canada because it’s really easy to use. If there was ever a crypto platform that has embraced the KISS principle, this one is it. Shakepay lets you add money to your account using Interac E-transfer and once you’re an approved user the process takes only a few minutes. You can then readily exchange your fiat for cryptos and send and receive til’ your heart’s content (or to whatever the daily limits are, it’s usually a few thousand dollars).

Here’s some snapshots of my current account.

Shakepay allows you to keep Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH, another type of cryptocurrency) and Canadian dollars on its platform. If you look at my BTC balance, it says I hold 0.0191 coins, which is worth about $226 dollars. The value of those coins will change as the value of BTC changes, similarly to how the price of the Canadian dollar changes against the USD. The price of cryptocurrency tends to fluctuate a lot more than fiat, though. More about that later.

Let’s say I want someone to send me some BTC (YAY!). Here’s what I’ll give them. I’ll open my wallet and send them either my address or show them a QR code.

The address is that really long string of letters and numbers on the bottom of the QR code (feel free to use it to send me cryptos). Then the sender will either copy this address into their wallet or will scan the code. Then they can type in the amount to send and the transaction gets posted to the blockchain. Once on the blockchain, a user can go back and review the transaction to see if it’s gone through, and they can’t reverse it. It’s all very magical.

Let’s say I want to send someone BTC for whatever reason. I’ll select “send” which will open up the window on the left. I can input an address (one of those long letter-number combos) or I can scan a QR code.

Once I either scan the code or select the address, the window on the right will open and I can enter the amount of BTC I want to send and hit continue. It will then walk me through the rest of the transaction. Once the transaction is finished and published to the blockchain, I’ll get a notification.

Here’s an example of a blockchain transaction using my very own address. You can search for it yourself using the Blockchain Explorer.

If you look through the list it will tell you how many BTCs have been bought and sent through this address. On the left you can see the hash (which is a unique identifier of that transaction that confirms its existence on the blockchain — you can ask someone to give you this to confirm they’ve sent cryptos). On the right you’ll see two addresses to where the crypto ended up — one to the main sender and one for “change”. The change concept is a bit tricky and isn’t necessary to understand for our purposes, but an explanation can be found here.

Now, if you click on one of the receiving addresses (the one beginning in 14eg) you can follow that transaction down the rabbit hole. You could conceivably do this all day if you wanted, clicking along each address and seeing who sent and received with it. What you don’t see is any personal identifying information corresponding to each address.

What does this have to do with me as a sex worker or client?

Since peer to peer exchanges don’t require information to be shared between each other, there is relative privacy between users. If I pay for Slixa ads with BTC, Slixa doesn’t see my name or address, nor can I see theirs. Similarly if a client sends me BTC, I can’t see their personal information.

Another added bonus is that these transactions are immutable, meaning they can’t be reversed or refunded. Immutability is a key feature of blockchain technology because it prevents data manipulation and therefore integrity. If a client sends me BTC he can’t try to initiate a chargeback like he could using a credit card. A client sending an Interac E-transfer can’t cancel the transaction or fail to give you a password. Someone sending PayPal can’t file a dispute and put you at risk of having your account closed or your funds frozen. In short, crypto is easily the best way for clients and escorts to transact with each other and with related adult services.

Most people in the sex work community either know someone who has had a bank account or credit card closed because of its association with sex work. I abruptly had two Capital One cards cancelled in 2018 while travelling in Europe, and was never told why. There are multiple reports of people in the US having their accounts suspended or cancelled in a post-SESTA/FOSTA world. While I’m not aware of individual reports of Canadian banks closing sex-worker accounts, I have heard of people being declined in investing and opening accounts because of their sex worker status.

Most big banks will have something in their Terms of Service around not using your bank account something they would deem “illegal, improper, or unlawful”, at their discretion. FINTRAC has mandated regulations around detecting and reporting suspicious transactions relating to human trafficking, although there is some debate on whether the banks adhere to them.

In short, the more distance you can put between your legal information and sex-work related services and websites, the better. Using crypto is a great way to do this. Although there is a possibility that someone highly motivated could trace transaction addresses down the rabbit hole, it’s fairly slim if it’s unrelated to tax.

I heard people use crypto for investments. Should I HODL?

It took three months working with a crypto ICO to learn that “HODL” meant “hold on for dear life”, and related to the concept that people using crypto as an investment vehicle want to hang onto their wares. I know a few crypto investors and they trade crypto with similar mechanics to trading other investments (buy low, sell high). It’s never been my thing because it’s a highly volatile market and I’m not investment savvy.

The volatility has been an argument for getting into crypto in the first place, which I think is a bullshit argument. You don’t need to hold cryptos for investment. In Shakepay (and other exchanges) you can leave money in the fiat portion of your wallet and buy crypto as you need it. This is generally what I do.

This was a fucking long article. What’s the whole point?

The whole point is that you can easily get into using crypto for all your sexy-work related stuff. Unless you’re planning to launder massive sums of money or do zero tracking with respect to accounting and taxes, you shouldn’t worry about using crypto.

Don’t be afraid, my lovelies! Embrace the digital age and go crypto.

Some handy links:

Exchanges

Shakepay

Coinbase

Coinsquare

Binance

News Sources

Coin Telegraph

Coindesk

Bitcoin.com News

Connect with me online!

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Twitter

Toronto-based sex worker, entrepreneur, law student and all-round sassy babe. Follow me on twitter at @lafemmeisobel or visit my site at www.isobelandrews.com