News outlets were quick to cover the launch of Titcoin, because it’s good fun and good click-bait to put porn and tech trends together (whether or not they make sense together at all). Titcoin was heralded as “Bitcoin for porn” in articles that offered little explanation of what that actually meant for sex workers or the five dudes with a 56k-modem who still pay for porn.
Titcoin got its initial cheeky coverage, and attention ebbed. But then something interesting happened: former stockbroker Patrick McDonnell joined Titcoin as an advisor in September. McDonnell is known for having once worked under Jordan Belfort aka “The Wolf of Wall Street” and served six years in Federal and State prison for Wall Street related crimes. Popular cryptocurrency news site Altcointoday wrote, “The primary reason Titcoin decided to engage Mr. McDonnell with their project is he has the gift to not only open the doors but to close the deals.”
McDonnell’s job, it seemed, was to enlist adult industry partners to help popularize Titcoin. Given how natural the fit is between cyptocurrency and adult industries, there could be huge money for anyone selling alternative payment options. But does Titcoin really have what it takes to disrupt the adult industry’s payment status quo, now that there’s real finance muscle on board?
Typically altcryptocurrencies (ie, branded varietals of Bitcoin) rise up from grassroots communities—like Dogecoin, for lovers of the popular Doge meme. Titcoin’s rollout, on the other hand, was top down. Launched in June by a trio of finance guys— Edward Mansfield, Richard Allen, and a third anonymous founder—Titcoin is most definitely outside of the adult industry, and they’re up-front about it: “[W]e’re not trying to promote pornography, per se” Mansfield told VICE this summer.
So what, then, has Titcoin done to be adult-industry friendly, other than insert ‘Tit’ into its name? Not too much. Titcoin has claimed it will privilege “anonymity and privacy”—but for whom, and how, remains to be seen. Bitcoin.org sternly warns all users that Bitcoin is not anonymous, and anyone can see transactions on the network. But Mansfield told VICE that Titcoin transactions will be “more private than they would with a Bitcoin account,” which doesn’t really make sense. So far Titcoin’s documentation has failed to produce anything showing how this could be true.
Titcoin’s lack of substance explains, in part, why the currency has had a hard time luring the adult industry’s mainstream. At launch, Titcoin told press that interest came only from potential investors and fringe adult companies and that there was more "suspicion” than traction with the big adult companies.
One way Titcoin or McDonnell could solve the venture’s critical adoption problem is by finding out what the sex worker community really needs in the payment space. It makes sense that cryptocurrencies appeal to people whose business is sex: they are independent of any central authority and can be transferred through a computer or smartphone without an intermediate financial institution. It also doesn’t come up as an odd charge on your Visa bill, nor can sex workers under duress be forced to give the money back after services have been rendered. Online payment processors such as PayPal, Stripe and Square, banks like JP Morgan Chase, and even online fundraiser platforms like Kickstarter, Patreon and WePay, have all made headlines in the past year for denying, seizing and closing the accounts of sex toy retailers, porn stars, erotic photographers, sex bloggers and even condom startups. In an environment hostile—nee, discriminatory—to anyone with the word “sex” on their website, cryptocurrentcy seems like a much-needed ray of hope.
But most vendors and consumers who need what cryptocurrency provides are already turning to Bitcoin, not Titcoin. Bitcoin has become the de facto currency of the internet for a growing number of adult industry supporters everywhere from the shops of Silk Road to the tip jars of Reddit’s 'girls-Gone-Wild’ to Passion VIP, the first Bitcoin brothel, which opened in Birmingham England last September. Outside of porn, widespread adoption has earned Bitcoin both the US Treasury and European Central Bank designations as virtual currency (though there is much debate among economists about whether it should be thought of as a currency or an asset, seeing as it’s seven times more volatile than gold).
For Titcoin to be desirable to sex workers, it’d need to feel like it was offering certain advantages that Bitcoin wasn’t. It would need to embrace the community of sex workers who are discriminated against by the mainstream financial system, not just try to make money off of them. To succeed, McDonnell will need to get adult companies and their users to do business in Titcoin. But first, Titcoin will need to prove it actually cares about them.