Pornhub Embraced Bitcoin. Why Didn't OnlyFans?



When Visa and Mastercard cut off payments to adult website Pornhub last year, concerned over reportedly lax policies to prevent minors from posting content, the site leaned into Bitcoin payments.

OnlyFans, faced with a similar conundrum, chose to say so long to the adults in the room. In the process, it may have left an opening for cryptocurrency-inclined competitors.

OnlyFans, an online subscription service that became one of the world's top 400 websites by connecting viewers directly to content creators—mainly adult models—has dumped its largest earners and banned "sexually explicit material." Although it says nudity will still be allowed so long as it meets its acceptability standards, pornography won't be.

The culprits, says the company, are probably whom you'd expect: "banking partners and payout providers" that weren't big fans of facilitating payments to a platform known for porn. 

Whereas Pornhub found a way to keep the money flowing by turning exclusively to cryptocurrency payments for its premium subscriptions, OnlyFans, which expects to gross $1.2 billion this year, capitulated to payment processors.

That leaves a void in the space, says Allie Eve Knox, an adult performer and advisor to SpankChain, an Ethereum-based token created specifically to help sex workers get paid more easily. Until today, OnlyFans was her biggest source of income for adult content. 

EXCLUSIVE: The inside story of Spankchain

"That thing that [OnlyFans] gave us was a place to have a paywall (subscription price), a place for [pay-to-view] content (content that could be unlocked at a price), a content store (a place to offer and sell content), and a live stream site," Knox told Decrypt. "We have had all of those individual sites for a while but [OnlyFans] was able to combine them."

That one-stop-shop element means creating a cryptocurrency alternative won't be as simple as just posting some Bitcoin payment addresses. But, said Knox, "Crypto can be helpful. There are tools that already exist in the crypto space that could make an [OnlyFans] competitor very doable." 

She pointed to a list of resources tweeted by Eva Beylin, director of decentralized API network The Graph. They included OpenSea and LivePeer for NFTs, Arweave for storage and SpankPay for payment processing in Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Others, spurred on by today's news, are eager to work on the problem—one that SpankChain has been toiling away at for half a decade. Jess Sloss of Seed Club, for instance, suggested setting up token gateways on Discord or Telegram. He followed by saying, "To be clear, to do this right there is still a lot to be figured out." The tech isn't quite right yet for most creators' needs.

Still, crypto-based competitors face more than technical challenges when it comes to adult content. There are potential legal ramifications as well.

Take former classifieds site Backpage.com, an alternative to Craigslist that generated much of its revenue from sex worker advertisements. After it lost its credit card processors in 2015, it turned to Bitcoin. The Department of Justice shut it down in early 2018, and secured the conviction of its CEO on money laundering charges the following year. 

And, then too, there is the social stance toward sex work, which represents the biggest barrier, said Knox:

"Honestly, things that we need are things like support—helping us fight stigma, supporting us publicly, hiring sex workers, building platforms with us on the team, retweeting our content (that we all know everyone is buying)...so that things like this won't happen."

You don't need crypto for that. But it wouldn't hurt.


Guide & Tools