Crypto isn’t known for being the most gender-inclusive space. But even crypto influencer Rachel Siegel never imagined that a recent industry event would end with a surreptitious photo of her butt going viral on Twitter—and a conference employee egging it all on.
Siegel, 30, is a former substitute teacher who claims to have made millions off of crypto by investing small amounts starting in 2017. She now runs a Twitter account with more than 194,000 followers under the handle @CryptoFinally, where she tweets about the market, industry news, and her own life.
On April 9, Siegel was among the 25,000 crypto fanatics at the Bitcoin 2022 convention—a four-day extravaganza for fans of the original cryptocurrency. Siegel told The Daily Beast she was waiting in line for the mechanical bull—one of the conference’s many sponsored diversions—when another conference-goer struck up a friendly conversation. Siegel said she thought nothing of it at the time, and enjoyed herself the rest of the day.
When she got home and clicked into Twitter, however, she was greeted with a photo of her own rear end. The man from the conference had apparently taken a picture of her while she wasn’t looking and posted it on Twitter with a single word: “lol.”
The man had posted the photo as a retweet of one of Siegel’s own: a selfie she had put up earlier that day. His photo was decidedly less flattering—a closeup of her backside taken from behind, her derriere looking notably less voluptuous. The tweet was obviously intended to highlight the difference.
Commenters quickly jumped into the replies to mock Siegel. (”How we serving them flapjacks?” one wrote.) Others made memes out of the image. By the time she saw it, Siegel said, the photo had been shared by multiple high-profile crypto accounts.
To Siegel and others, the incident was just another example of the harassment some women face in the crypto sphere. Much like in traditional finance, women are wildly outnumbered in the crypto space, making up less than 5 percent of the most prominent crypto entrepreneurs and only 15 percent of all bitcoin traders. That imbalance, many women say, leads to a boys’ club atmosphere that is uncomfortable and occasionally menacing.
Women have previously reported non-consensual touching, inappropriate questions, and unsolicited come-ons at industry events. In one infamous example, an after-party for the 2018 North American Bitcoin Conference was hosted at a Miami strip club. “We’re a bunch of dudes with a lot of money in our 20s,” one attendee told Bloomberg. “We like naked girls.”
As a crypto influencer, Siegel was familiar with online harassment. But the photo was the result of a real-world encounter at a conference that claimed it was “dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for all attendees.” She fired off a tweet about the incident, calling the man’s behavior and the subsequent engagement with his post “fcking disgusting,” and sent a direct message to the conference organizers asking about their harassment policy. (At the time, she believed the photographer had won the bull riding contest, and asked whether he would still be receiving the prize: one bitcoin, or about $40,000. Conference organizers later confirmed he did not win.)
Hours went by with no response, until one of Siegel’s followers offered to start an email chain with her and some of the conference organizers. Organizers responded quickly to that thread, according to screenshots Siegel provided to The Daily Beast, and seemed to be trying to track the wannabe paparazzo down. Siegel said she felt like they were making progress.
The next day, Siegel received a response to the direct message she had sent to the official Bitcoin conference Twitter account, from an employee who identified himself by his personal Twitter handle. Siegel searched for the handle on Twitter and found a user who identified himself as a conference employee. He had tagged both the conference and its sponsor, Bitcoin Magazine, in his bio.
He had also, Siegel saw, “liked” a number of the tweets mocking her and the surreptitious butt picture. She was stunned.
“Oh you made a mistake,” she wrote to the official conference account, attaching screenshots of the tweets the employee had liked. “Completely unacceptable behavior on behalf of the conference organizers. Thank you for identifying yourself.”
The official account responded by using the laugh emoji reaction to her messages.
“Crypto ma’am,” the employee wrote back. “My personal account doesn’t have anything to do with this account. Feel free to voice your concerts[sic] to our support team.”
The Daily Beast attempted to contact the conference via multiple channels, including by calling the company’s director of events at the number listed on his email signature. When this reporter identified herself, the man who answered said it was a wrong number and abruptly hung up. The conference’s head of public relations also did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment.
The photo incident continued to spiral in the days that followed. Siegel responded to the email thread with the conference organizers, alerting them to the messages from the Twitter account. Around the same time, the employee removed the official conference tags from his Twitter bio, leading some online to speculate that Siegel had gotten him fired. More than one person referred to her as a “Karen.”
Meanwhile, crypto enthusiasts were hotly debating whether posting a covert photo of someone’s rear end really constituted sexual harassment, and whether Siegel could honestly cry foul, given that she’d posted selfies of her own butt before.
“Anyone who posts photos of themselves on the internet deserves whatever criticism they get,” one user wrote. “Still milking this?” another jeered.
Conference CEO David Bailey eventually weighed in with a Twitter thread, writing that he despised “woke bullshit” but wanted to build a “dope community” where people “aren’t harassed over shit they can’t change.”
“Someone on our team engaged with a dumb tweet from our official account. Extremely immature and I’m pissed about it,” he wrote. “They’ve been seriously reprimanded but everyone makes mistakes and I’m not firing them for it.”
Bailey, 31, also urged anyone who harassed women at the conference to “stop being a fucking loser,” adding: “Bitcoin is for woman [sic] too.”
“My mom, sisters, aunts, wife, daughters all attend the conference and the moment one of them is made to feel uncomfortable I’ll kill a motherfucker,” he wrote.
Siegel was not impressed. “The official CEO response to the conference admin harassing me is ‘everybody makes mistakes’ & I should have had a man at the conference to ‘kll a mf’ for me,” she tweeted.
Emails between Siegel and the conference organizers became increasingly tense, with Siegel’s attorney saying he had hired litigation counsel and demanding to be put in touch with BTC Media’s lawyers. The company’s head of people, Nick Beaird, responded by saying he did not see a legal issue.
Beaird also informed Siegel that he had not been able to identify the photographer, and would not be able to disclose his identity even if he had. In regard to the employee who liked the mocking tweets, he said the company would be “investigating the entirety of the situation” and “taking measures… consistent with our policies and practices.” He did not specify what those policies and practices were.
In her final email to the company, to which Beaird did not respond, Siegel wrote: “The behavior of you, and everyone involved has been despicable. If you can take a moment to step outside whatever game of power you're playing right now and look at the situation maybe you can realize how appalling & honestly traumatizing this has been for me.”
Throughout the entire affair, Siegel said, she heard from other women with similar experiences at crypto events. Kelsey Cole, a cryptocurrency cofounder and investor, replied to one of Siegel’s tweets saying she had received rape threats, death threats, and bomb threats since getting into the industry. Another woman, Amanda Goetz, tweeted that she had recently heard from several women in the Bitcoin space about being sexually assaulted. “I no longer go to crypto events for this reason (unless hosted by women)” she tweeted.
Siegel said she was nervous about speaking to the media about the incident, for fear it would further ostracize her in the industry. But the messages she received from other women also convinced her that speaking out was necessary.
“The zeitgeist of the internet is that it’s just me, but it’s also these dozens of women who are too scared to show themselves because of what happened to me,” she said.
She added: “I don’t think this is a story that lives and dies with my ass.”