AYO TECHNOLOGY

Could Cryptocurrency Revolutionize Porn?

Penthouse and others are backing an adult cryptocurrency that will revolutionize the way we watch porn and reward viewers much the same way Steemit rewards bloggers.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

If Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin, had gone out on a Tinder date with Stormy Daniels—they might have had sushi, gone to a karaoke bar, and really hit it off. What could have happened next? Possibly the creation of the most intriguing cryptocurrency yet to appear—Vice Industry Tokens (vice tokens), which bills itself as “The Revolutionary Adult Cryptocurrency.”

It is a virtual currency and erotica access platform with many redeeming features—including the possibility that users will get paid to watch pornography—in virtual currency (tokens). It’s certainly an intriguing idea, in theory, but will it really provide a satisfying experience, will it have staying power, or will it just fizzle out, like so many other virtual currencies?

We decided to take a deep look.

The creation of vice tokens has its roots in the explosion of free pornography on the web, which is dealing a hard blow to America’s adult industry. Convincing the emerging generations, who have essentially grown up with free porn and tube sites (YouTube, YouPorn, etc.), to pay for products they already consume for free is nearly impossible.

So, these days the question many adult entertainment companies face isn’t how to profit, but how to survive—and the answer may be in cryptocurrency.

Vice Industry Token Inc. advertises the ability to go beyond free porn. They spell it out on their website: “Free was good, it’s just not good enough anymore. Get paid to watch porn.”

In order to get paid, users will have to participate and engage in more than their own sexual gratification. The CEO, Stuart Duncan, who has over a decade of experience in the adult industry, explains his revolutionary concept behind offering consumers the ability to get paid for their porn consumption, using blockchain technology to ensure it.

A blockchain is a digital decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions, spread across a computer network. It grows as “completed” blocks (recent transactions) are performed and are chronologically added to the chain. Theoretically it makes digital currency or the equivalent, impossible to forge.

“My plan is to attach my blockchain to any existing adult website and tokenize certain aspects of the business that they’re operating,” says Duncan. “Then when someone comes in and starts using a video, commenting on it, sharing it, they turn on something I call ‘proof of brain’ and what they’re really doing is engaging with our programming. That’s how they get paid.”

Payment is made via vice tokens, which can be used for goods, services, and products on the platform itself, and any of the platform’s partners.

If you watch enough porn to accumulate XX numbers of tokens, you could then use them to purchase premium porn or possibly even a one-on-one live conversation with your favorite adult star—if that service is offered. Additionally, at some point, if you wanted to create and upload your own adult content, you could earn even more tokens.

Considering that at pre-launch there are already more than a dozen listed partner companies, including Penthouse, finding a place to spend the tokens shouldn’t be too difficult. Stuart says the first websites accepting vice tokens will be online by July 1 or possibly earlier. To be a part of this new movement, powered by Duncan’s vice tokens, partnering companies had to agree to accept the tokens from users and within the community.

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“Penthouse is invested in this deal with actual coin,” says Penthouse owner and CEO Kelly Holland, as she explains the significance of the partnership. “Penthouse is a 52-year-old brand and it has been at the top of its game and also had its dark moments; so how do we make a 52-year-old iconic brand relevant? By partnering it with markets that are contemporary and relevant. We are not a legacy brand; we have a legacy but we are not trading exclusively on nostalgia.”

Excited about new technology and the future of blockchain possibilities, Holland praised Duncan’s ability to spot cultural trends and his acumen as a strategic thinker.

“I have great faith in Stuart to see the future and connect users’ experiences from the tube world and blockchain world. So I bet on my understanding of the blockchain world and how it works but more than that, I bet on Stuart,” says Holland. “What I like is incentivizing people. Look at the classic models of things like PornHub, who survive—how can you survive if you’re giving it away? Well, it’s about traffic and eyeballs and moving that traffic around and that was the genius of PornHub. The genius of this is traffic as well and what happens behind that traffic when it’s tied to a cryptocurrency.” PornHub is a free adult video sharing website and the largest pornography site on the internet.

Having designed vice token with the consumer in mind, the creators aren’t expecting an audience of blockchain experts. “Consumers are earning a utility token by being on sites powered by vice token. They’re not going to care how the blockchain works, all they’re going to care about is getting a product for free and then the bonus of getting something for it, getting paid,” says Duncan. “We have to make the blockchain easy to use so its transparent to them.”

It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical side of the platform but it’s very similar to the already successful Steemit, a social media and blogging platform that pays for users to blog and interact using another cryptocurrency called steem. There’s no investment necessary for Steemit either—you just have to blog, promote posts, and curate content to earn rewards.

Of course, Steemit inspired Duncan. “I needed to build a blockchain that instead of paying people to blog would pay people to watch video. The people working on the blog side of it asked me, how do you intend to pay people to watch porn and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? It’s the same thing you’re paying people to blog.’ We’re simply going to have to program the blockchain to do that.”

Another way of thinking of vice tokens is as carnival tickets, Duncan explains. “The Vice Industry Token platform is like a carnival that’s come to your town. You can use the carnival tickets [tokens] to play all the games and take all the rides. You can even win more tickets when you play the games.”

Offering a glimpse of the future, Duncan proposes that paying for porn might be the first step to a greater good for all. If he can pay you to watch porn with his “attention economy token,” then it’s only reasonable that the same token eventually might be usable currency for other things. Attention economy refers to a marketplace where consumers agree to accept services in exchange for their attention, which may result in financial transactions.

“I came up with this concept about having an attention economy token but when you take [it further with] the idea of a token economy, I can pay you to watch porn, then maybe I can pay you to use a smartphone and have free phone service. If I can do that, maybe I can pay you to educate yourself,” says Duncan. “I know it sounds crazy, but you know what? No one thought cryptocurrency would be worth anything either. I don’t see why we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves by using the blockchain. We can use this technology to stop piracy, educate ourselves, and find a better way to do things, even providing better adult content.”

Bill Heilmann, another executive of the firm, explained that the service is more than just getting paid to watch porn. “Yes, people will earn VIT (vice industry tokens) for uploading content. Producers, curators, and viewers all have the ability to earn tokens. That’s really the power of our idea. With tube sites, the only real winners are the tubes. Everyone else is left fighting for scraps. In this model, everyone wins, including the viewer.”

Will vice tokens eventually become something that could be cashed out for other virtual currency or even fiat money? Right now, nobody knows or can legally say, especially with the recent crackdown on anything that resembles a questionable initial coin offering (ICO).

ICOs are unregulated means by which funds are raised for a new cryptocurrency venture. Typically a fixed amount of the cryptocurrency is sold to early backers of the project in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued warnings about them.

Could vice tokens become the equivalent of bitcoin, which can be cashed out for hard currency? No one wants to say that definitively. Theoretically, it should be possible and even probable if usage becomes widespread. If you remember the days when virtual gold and items from the online game Everquest were being sold for real money, you shouldn’t have trouble imagining how it might play out.

And while online gaming is huge, it is pornography that historically has driven the adoption of new technology by the masses.

Jonathan Coopersmith, a technology historian, pointed out that the first VHS tapes on the market in 1977 were X-rated films. Hollywood movies followed later.

The symbiotic relationship between the internet and erotica is no exception. When the puppets in the popular musical, Avenue Q sing, “The Internet Is For Porn,” the audience laughs because they know it’s true. Meanwhile, bitcoin has done for currency what the internet did for information—made it accessible and direct for hundreds of millions of people. Cryptocurrency is revolutionizing finance. Combining net-traded cryptocurrency with pornography may be the best match since salt and caramel.

Jake Adelstein has covered bitcoin and related cryptocurrency issues for The Daily Beast since 2014. Aurora Snow has covered the adult industry and human sexuality for The Daily Beast since 2013.