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Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a Young Voices Associate and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State and her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and the Washington Examiner. She has spoken on topics of economic freedom, Bitcoin and feminism at Tea Party conferences, CryptoCurrency Conference, ISFLC, the Heritage Foundation and various other events. She has also appeared on Al Jazeera America.

April 24, 2014
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First Pot, Now Porn. Can Bitcoin Save the Adult Industry?

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  3. First Pot, Now Porn. Can Bitcoin Save the Adult Industry?
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Oversexed and underbanked? Chase Bank recently informed hundreds of porn performers that the bank will close their accounts by mid-May. Apparently Chase has a history of discriminating against sex workers and the adult industry.

When banks pulled the same thing on Washington and Colorado’s state-legal marijuana dispensaries, they quickly moved to bitcoin. Banks claimed to be concerned that though the dispensaries were legal to operate by state law, marijuana is still illegal to buy, sell, or own at the federal level. However, the problem with Chase and sex work appears to be reputational.

In Colorado, new cannabis vending machines accept bitcoin. And dispensaries have begun taking it in Washington as well.

Perhaps this is a viable solution for the sex industry. It’s doubtful that bitcoin exchanges such as Coinbase or Bitpay would discriminate against sex workers. And if they did, customers could just pay their wallets directly. In fact, many sex workers already accept bitcoin. The Girls Gone Bitcoin subreddit lets customers pay ladies directly in bitcoin for naughty pictures and videos. In the U.K., at least one escort agency accepts the cryptocurrency.

Since the internet permanently disrupted the porn business model, the industry has been looking for new ways to monetize. Another way bitcoin could change the equation is through micropayments, which bitcoin makes profitable for the first time ever.

This is just one more example of the ongoing problem of too little competition in the banking sector. Whether for legal, reputational, or just risk management reasons, it’s estimated that up to a third of the U.S. population is unbanked or underbanked. Government led consolidation in the banking sector, plus lending regulations limiting interest rates and fees make banking to certain populations unprofitable.

Bitcoin is a helpful alternative for many underbanked populations, and it grows more viable by the day as more merchants accept it.