In the past week, I came across a piece of news in the financial press which led me to think about how changes in the escort industry often reflect changes in the wider world. In brief, what happened is that a firm known as Diebold Nixdorf declared bankruptcy, stating that it was about $2 billion in debt. Now, in case the name is not familiar, what they make definitely will be: they are the largest manufacturer in the world of automatic teller machines, holding 32% of the global market share in this line of business. That sounds impressive, but iecently, their business model has plummeted, as they have sold significantly fewer cash dispensers, given that people have moved to alternative payment methods which rely less on the need for physical cash notes.
I found this interesting, as one of the things I've noticed has been the way escort bookings have been paid for has changed significantly over time. Traditionally, escorting has been a strictly cash business, where you pay your money, and in return, a lady lets you have her honey. Sure, there have been times where bartering of services would take place, or where payment in goods would occur (as happened with the reallife Texas Chicken Ranch, satirised by ZZ Top and Dolly Parton, with clients could bring in birds of one kind in return for naughty favours from birds of another kind). However, as a general rule, cash has been king for a long time; almost as long as prostitution itself has been known as the oldest profession.
In the past two decades though, there have been a number of gradual shifts in payment methods, leading to changes in behaviour and opportunities for all parties involved. First, some massage parlours started taking card payments, with even extinct venues like Sandys Superstars and World Famous Babes accepting credit and debit cards about 20 years ago. From a client point of view, this made them great places to visit, as now they had somewhere to collect frequent flyer miles and put their meets down as a business expense.
However, from a business point of view, they were even more attractive, due to a reason that is never mentioned. This was because now, with cards, clients had a quick and easy way to extend their bookings without having to nip out for money once their cash had run out. The net effect was that what was originally a 30 minute meet with Miss Whiplash could now be turned into a multiple hour appointment with Miss Whiplash and her pals in the VIP room for as long as the card funds allowed (or until the credit limit was maxed). While it doesn't take the brains of a giraffe, or man, to figure out that this was problematic when it came to money management, there was nothing to stop some individuals from getting hooked on hookers, which is what definitely happened.
That said, few establishments or individuals accepted cards due to the risks involved, with the biggest exception being findom ladies, who have rather efficiently suckered men into being cashpigs via ATM "cashmeets". Instead, what we have seen is a greater acceptance of alternate non-cash payments, hastened by the greater need for contactless payments during the Covid epidemic; increased acceptance of mobile phone apps, and the coming of many new fintech firms operating as online processors and virtual banks.
Because of this, new ways of engaging in sexwork have developed, some of which are improvements on old methods, while others are totally new. For example, previously, payments occured on the day of the meet, as that was when the client would meet a lady and give her a pretty envelope with dough. Now though, it is possible to pay deposits prior to an appointment, which has made it increasingly possible to meet a whole new selection of ladies, either locally or through the tours and FMTYs which are becoming commonplace. This is largely since ladies now have a greater degree of confidence that a client is genuine when he covers at least some of their fee in advance than would have happened in the past. Similarly, we are now witnessing the development of a whole new online genre of sexworker, in the guise of the online findom brats, who generally collect tributes without ever meeting their "clients", or simps, in person.[Y}
Regardless of how you look at it, the overall effect has been a gradual decline in the flow of physical cash in the adult industry, just like see occuring in the wider world. The effect of this change has been widespread, ranging from the mundane, such as handbags and wallets shrinking in size, right through to the significant, such as entire towns losing all of their bank branches, adversely impacting community life.
Now, it appears that we are reaching yet another inflection point when it comes to cashless payments for adult services, with the arrival of a new kid on the block in the guise of cryptocurrency. In case you have heard of cryptocurrencies but don't know what they are, they are effectively digital currencies where all transactions are recorded on an online register in a realtime basis by a digital database using cryptography. It sounds fancy, but means there are millions of computers globally, burning electricity on a massive scale, to run this system, doing calculations nonstop to keep these registers of transactions up to date.
Along with its speed, transparency and relatively lower transaction costs, advocates claim that such a system is fantastic, as it means crypto operates outside of the authority of the government and central banks. In doing so, this reflects the "true" value of money without state manipulation, via measurres such as interest rates and quantitative easing. There are loads of different cryptocurrencies on the market, each with different values, of which the best known is Bitcoin, so to make things easier, we'll refer to all crypto-dough as being bitcoin.
Crypto has been around for a decade now, and has been a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of valuations, but what is clear is that ever more providers of adult services and goods are now happy to accept crypto. From escorting and femdom, through to advertising and toy sales, sellers are clearly stating that they are happy to deal in crypto. In part, this is just standard business practice, going with the flow of what competing retailers do in the wider world of commerce. However, in other aspects, it is more profound than the earlier step of going cashless, by avoiding the concept of cash entirely. This is since crypto now offers a way for marginalised sellers in the adult industry to circumvent the stranglehold that the banking sector has been increasingly applying to it in recent years.
In brief, high street banks have increasingly questioned the manner in which providers of adult services earn their funds, for reasons which are good and bad. From a legal point of view, this is problematic in a country like England, where the legal position is there is nothing written down to prevent a woman from working as a prostitute (or in the wider field of adult entertainment, from being a stripper to an OnlyFans model). Thus, if the job is not illegal, you would expect a woman could go about her job, earn money, and then rightfully deposit it at her local bank, safe in the knowledge that it is an acceptable economic activity which does not need to be questioned.
However, this is not quite the case, as financial institutions can, and will, be queasy when it comes to how these funds are obtained. In part, this is within their remit to ask questions of interest, as they have a legal obligation imposed on them under their banking licenses to engage in what is referred to as "know your client" dilligence. Thus, when working girls go onto sites to complain about a bank teller asking where their cash came from, all the bank is doing is covering its ass like it it entitled to do (although they often turn a hypocritical blind eye when significantly larger funds are deposited into offshore accounts from dodgy oligarchs, sanctioned governments and fake companies which are clearly up to no good).
However, in the past couple of years, financial institutions have also acted against sexworker due to moralistic reasons. While this has been most prevalent in the USA, it has occured in the UK too, with sexworkers not only losing access to banking facilitites, but also having their funds frozen for substantial periods of time. The most egregious example of this though is from Mastercard, one of the two big credit card processors in the world. Soom after the Republican government in the USA passed FOSTA-SESTA, ostensibly to curb exploitation online, Mastercard went one step by introducing a new policy which effectively barred a wide range of adult transactions from being undertaken unless subject to types of review which could be both time-consuming and costly. In the UK, the most noticeable impact has been on AdultWork, where ladies now have to jump through more hurdles than they did before to something even as basic as posting a new photo on that platform (although other advertising sites, such as Vivastreet, just don't give a shit and carry on with business as usual). Despite being derided as being unconstitutional in the USA, the Mastercard restrictions are likely to remain in force here unless the UK government does something about it, which given their habitual dithering, seems unlikely.
Given the lack of effective pushback so far against such restrictions, it only stands to reason that things will get more restrictive in future for sexworkers when it comes to accessing financial services. What happens then is a question of conjecture:, as things could go two way. On one side, we can find ourselves moving even more into the cybermoney world as a way to circumvent Big Banking, with every punt being digital. Alternatively, as seen with the weird revival of vinyl albums in a streaming age, we could go full retro, with paying to meet an escort going back to the paper-based roots it so heavily used to have. No matter what eventually happens, life promises to be interesting regardless of what happens to the mechanics of paying to play.