I’ll admit it: I was nervous about joining the Blockchain world. From the outside, the culture seemed impenetrable — full of dudes with specific jargon and complicated trading charts. But I had almost a decade of experience in the world of sexuality, sex-ed, and adult… and the more I learned about blockchain, the more convinced I was that it could resolve real problems in that space. I wanted in. Specifically, I wanted in to SpankChain.
I couldn’t have pinpointed why at first, but within a few weeks of working there we went to three conferences that made my allegiance clear.
We attended ETHBerlin — an Ethereum hackathon where we learned that the organizer had fought hard to get us time on stage, because people 1. Made the assumption SpankChain was just a company of opportunistic bros and, 2. Didn’t want sexy topics on stage at a serious tech event. Obviously 2 is unfounded because we’ve already launched a beta product aiming to solve real problems [NSFW] — with users who deserve to speak on their experiences. As my teammate Jasna says “Fuck solving tech problems if we’re not solving people problems.” But to that first concern about the bros? It happens relatively often. People are skeptical about who we are, to be doing what we’re doing. And that’s fair.
In fact, a few days later, I found myself empathizing with those skeptics in a room full of men during a panel on “The Future of Camming” at the EU Summit in Prague. I watched a panel of men talk mostly about projections for profit and tech in the live cam industry AKA how they were all going to make money on the backs of the — largely female — performers, who were decidedly missing from the conversation.
It’s not that I was surprised, but this insider look at the industry made me appreciate the #SPANKteam culture and ethos even more. Because here’s the thing—our panel wasn’t like those dudes. Ameen got on stage and took a backseat while three brilliant woman (who happened to be sex workers): our advisor (Brenna Sparks), co-founder (Janice Griffith), and model manager (Allie Eve Knox), answered questions.
Knowing Ameen (spoiler alert: he’s my brother and extremely competitive) I know he never intended to build a team to hit some tokenized diversity numbers. He built a team with the absolute best people he could find, and it turns out, if you actually use merit to judge, your team may very well be half (or more) women.
But what drew me to SpankChain is deeper than surface identities. I could tell the culture of the team wasn’t what I’d imagined tech would feel like, and as a data enthusiast and obsessive researcher, I started to ask “why?” So I sent a fairly personal (anonymous) survey to the team. Here’s the results from the 11 people who answered (one person didn’t want to! And that was cool, because autonomy!):
- 50% women or non-binary
- 46% identify as “straight”
- 82% are kinky (and proud!)
- 91% watch porn — for fun, as opposed to for work ;)
- 27% identify as monogamous
- 64% identify as having a disability (visible or invisible)
- 55% are current or former sex workers
However, a culture isn’t just dictated by identities, but also by ideals. So Chase and I surveyed the team again to see what they figured the values of the company were, in their own words:
- “Empower” and “community” showed up in 6 of the 12 answers
- Sex-positivity and inclusivity were mentioned 33% of the time
- Others responses stressed: Respect, Ending sex work stigma, Liberation/freedom, Playfulness (memes, fun, and laughter showed up more than once), Shipping cool shit (duh).
There’s a lot of lip service paid to making inclusive teams, but how many people building tools for the adult industry are personally familiar with it as providers? How many are actually the kinds of kinksters who understand the different fetishes users are seeking? How many know what women (a group that’s — conservatively — at least 25% of the market) want? How many have a healthy relationship with their own desires, and can admit them without shame or blame?
All these should be requirements. Designs reflect the maker, and repressed people build oppressive products. What would the adult payments ecosystem look like if the makers respected sex workers, better yet, were sex workers? What if they valued liberty and bodily autonomy? What if they found joy in sex, and thought the process of buying porn should be pleasurable?
I’m betting it’d look a lot like SpankChain.
From casual conversations from the team, it’s clear these (wildly) talented people choose to be here—and could just as easily work at other top companies in their respective industries. Many team members pitched themselves as staff before there were even openings for their position (myself included). SpankChain isn’t “just a job” to anyone on the team. We work long hours, not because of some toxic tech culture “prove yourself” crap, but because we are dedicated to building the future we believe in. As Ameen said recently in an interview for Xbiz: “The company vision is incredibly ambitious, and I think everyone on our team is utterly insane for trying to achieve it.”
Are we perfect? Of course not. But the real deal is that we’re inherently choosing a different path by designing in collaboration with sex workers, and working outside the powers trying to keep the sex industry exploitative. Instead, we’re funded and built by dreamers and rebels, by people who believed in us after reading a whitepaper by Spanktoshi Nakabooty, who took a bet on a company named SpankChain.
The culture isn’t an accident; our community demands the best of SpankChain. Here’s a tweet from our advisor from a year ago today, where he threatened to leave within a year if the team didn’t evolve inclusively:
Guess we’re keeping the advisor. 50% of our team are women (and non-binary). Inclusivity, sex-positivity, and bodily autonomy are part of the SpankChain DNA. And guess what? Not only is the larger Ethereum community noticing, but — judging from these tweets in response to our “Self-Sovereign Sexuality” panel at Devcon4 last week — they’re embracing these values too.
I may have been nervous to throw myself into SpankChain, but I’m here to stay. We all are. And if the future I just described moves you: Join us. Join us on discord, in your inbox, on your instagram feed, on twitter — anywhere. The future we build will only be as good as the community we’ve got pushing us forward.