By Leah Callon-Butler, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer, intimate.io
QUESTION 2 of 4: What does this mean for the activities of consenting adults, whose trusted relationships have been legitimised and sanctioned by central authorities?
One example of a legitimised and socially accepted adult activity is: Marriage. However, the conventions of marriage have evolved very little over time, which fails to reflect the changing nature of relationship dynamics in different parts of the world.
Marriage, in the traditional sense, is an archaic model of wealth transfer and control, which is deeply patriarchal and steeped in customary tradition. Binary by design, it is also an inadequate representation of the plethora of romantic arrangements and familial structures that currently coexist.
Even in Australia, which I would like to think is a relatively progressive country, same sex marriage was only legally recognised in December 2017.
“Marriage from my perspective is an institution driven by monotheistic religion and internationally restricted to heterosexuality,” says trans woman and LGBTIQ+ activist, Alyssa Henley. “The underpinning concepts of heteronormativity and monogamy aren’t reflected across the animal kingdom, yet it’s romanticised and celebrated throughout western culture. Many countries also use marriage to subjugate women and exclude LGBT people. Some forward-thinking countries have at least opened this up for non hetero couples, however more work needs doing in this area,” she says.
With the divorce rate well over 60% in some countries, it could be argued that marriage — as it has been historically defined and controlled by centralised bodies —is becoming less and less relevant to people today.
The blockchain has offered an alternative however, offering the opportunity to tie the knot with a smart contract programmed to meet the specific needs of the couple (or dare I say ‘group of people’) getting married.
In a recent BrightTALK seminar, founder of BitNation, Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, said she was the first to offer marriage on the blockchain as a service back in 2014. She explained how important it is that people are given access to these decentralised services because the blockchain is neutral, while governments are not.
With a user-initiated smart contract, lovers can achieve a form of relationship legitimacy not possible within a regulatory framework that is incompatible with their particular deviation on the judicial general-issue of love.
Crypto luminaries Brock Pierce and Crystal Rose first put their marriage on the blockchain in 2016, creating an open source smart contract set to a period of one year and one day. At the end of the contract, they have the opportunity to assess, renegotiate and refresh the terms before continuing with the arrangement (or dissolve it altogether, if they so desire). They recently renewed their marriage contract for the third time — on a plane at 30,000ft.
Another example of centralised authorities influencing the activities of consenting adults is the marketplace for sex work. Even in jurisdictions where sex work is legal or decriminalised, sex workers still face many obstacles to operating safely and securely due to the unreliability and exclusivity of traditional mechanisms for payment and identification.
This is because the majority of mainstream financial institutions and payment processors — such as PayPal and Stripe — are governed by a set of guidelines that prohibit Adult oriented businesses from utilising their services.
“No bank manager will approve a loan for a sex worker, knowing where their income comes from. If you have a bank or a PayPal account in the UK, and they were to find out you were paid for providing sexual services, they would close that account. Exactly the same happens with Lloyds, Nationwide and HSBC. There are a couple of prepaid credit card accounts that are allowed to be used by sex workers in the UK but you are looking at massive, massive interest charges,” explains Charlotte Rose, an advisor to intimate.io who Marie Claire named one of seven sex workers better suited to run the free world than Donald Trump.
As such, sex workers have turned to crypto as an effective solution to their financial woes, with benefits such as enhanced privacy and security outside the conventional financial systems that have failed them. “Cryptocurrencies are one of the few options we have left. Without a way to screen customers and take payment, I can’t provide for my family,” says Charlotte.
Crypto is even providing a more dependable means for sex workers to save for their retirement, as Leigh Cuen reported for CoinDesk earlier this year.
However, with many of the major crypto platforms facing increasing regulatory pressure, some of our formerly favoured channels are becoming decidedly un-crypto, with new terms and conditions that appear to be less and less libertarian.
Case in point, the Coinbase User Agreement now states the following:
By opening a Coinbase Account, you confirm that you will not use Coinbase Services in connection with any of following businesses, activities, practices, or items:
- Adult Content and Services: Pornography and other obscene materials (including literature, imagery and other media); sites offering any sexually-related services such as prostitution, escorts, pay-per view, adult live chat features
Which renders Coinbase as useful to a sex worker as… PayPal or Stripe.
It’s wonderful to see crypto gaining momentum in mainstream financial arenas, but I personally fell in love with blockchain for its potential to liberate those who have been left behind by the narrow, non-inclusive and overly conservative governance structures of some centralised authorities.
This a 4-part blog series following a 1hr discussion titled ‘Relationship on the Blockchain’ during The Blockchain Summit on the BrightTALK platform. The panelists were Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, founder of Bitnation; Violet Lim, founder of Viola AI; and me. Moderated by Akasha Indream of Miss Blockchain.
Leah Callon-Butler is Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer for intimate.io, a cryptocurrency bringing safety and security to the Adult Industry. With over a decade’s experience spearheading the business development and growth strategies for a range of emerging tech startups, she devoted a large part of her MBA to the topic of social entrepreneurship. Leah has consulted to the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) on SDG5and is a member of the Women of Sex Tech.
Twitter / Telegram: @leah_cb