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For Pornhub performers, Paypal's exit could mean financial ruin

Last week, PayPal announced that they were ending their relationship with Pornhub. In a statement to Vice, PayPal said that their decision was based on the fact that “Pornhub has made certain business payments through PayPal without seeking our permission. We have taken action to stop these transactions from occurring.” The nature of these payments to PornHub’s performers were regarded to be outside of their terms of use.

Pornhub is considered one of the best platforms for independent porn performers to earn an income. The website has the seventh highest online traffic in the United States, behind Google, Youtube, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo, and Twitter.

“PornHub is only one of about 6 platforms that I use to sell/stream my content on,” a performer who goes by the name Sarina Havok, told Mic. “In terms of income it is my second highest source and the payments have been pretty consistent so it's pretty crucial to my livelihood at this point.”

PornHub only gave their performers who use PayPal two days warning before they would have to change to another form of payment. A performer who goes by the name of Gween Black, told Mic that PayPal was the easiest way for international performers like herself to get paid. “PayPal was the easiest way to get paychecks, since it converts to your local currency at payment and has no fees for wire transfer,” Black said.

Currently, PornHub has two other options for international performers in their Model Program to receive payment — Paxum, a global ewallet that allows users to request money for a fee of $1.00, and Verge, a cryptocurrency. Black echoed common complaints from online reviews about Paxum. She describes Paxum as “a company with several issues for international models, such as delayed prepaid cards and delayed wire transfers,” as well as “a ridiculous amount of fees.”

Black describes herself as a “crypto enthusiast,” because of the ability to send and receive payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and because it is decentralized currency that exists outside of banks. Formal financial institutions have never been a safe way for sex workers to receive or manage their money; PayPal being only the most recent example. Sex workers have also been banned from receiving transactions on Venmo (owned by PayPal) and CashApp. For Black, cryptocurrency is a way to protect your work and to “keep working anywhere you need.”

For Havok, what she wants from PornHub isn’t a cryptocurrency. She wants there to be direct deposit options for performers who aren’t based in the Untied States or Canada. Havok is from Canada, but spends a large portion of her time in the United States. “I'd just like to see Pornhub offer direct deposit in currencies other than CAD$ for the benefit of models who don't live in Canada or who are inconvenienced by only having that direct deposit option,” Havok says.

Black considers herself lucky because she doesn’t only rely on her PornHub performances for income. She is also a live-cam performer on other sites, and a painter. So while the PayPal departure is a problem for her, she is more concerned with performers who weren’t prepared for the switch

“In this industry, we always learn to not put all our eggs in the same basket very fast,” she said. “I can’t help but empathize with those that haven’t learned this lesson yet.”

For Havok, an initial period of panic was experienced upon learning of PayPal’s decision.

“The announcement came at a very bad time and initially I was quite concerned because I had really been counting on the payment being there on payday,” Havok says. “It was going to set me back at least a week in terms of work and make me late on some very important payments.”

Havok says that PornHub helped her rectify the situation impressively quickly, and was able to get her the money within the next day — but that she was only able to receive the money so fast because she could be paid in CAD$.

In a statement to Mic, PornHub’s Vice President Corey Price said that the company is “devastated” from PayPal’s decision “to stop payouts to over a hundred thousand performers who rely on them for their livelihoods.”

“The payments PayPal is referring to are only the payments that were being made to models in our Model Program,” Price said. “Decisions like that of PayPal and other major companies do nothing but harm efforts to end discrimination and stigma towards sex workers,” Price continued. “While we still have several payment methods for our models available, we will continue to add more sex worker friendly ones and explore cryptocurrency options in the near future.”