Would-be clients of upscale escorts in Birmingham, UK now have way to pay for escort services that's just as discreet as cash and more secure: Bitcoin has officially entered the realm of sex work.
The world's oldest profession met the world's youngest currency as escort agency Passion VIP announced it now accepts payment for its adult companionship services in bitcoin.
Located in the second most populous British city (after London), Passion VIP is hoping the introduction of bitcoin payments will open up a new market by giving clients an alternative payment method.
Passion VIP (birminghamescorts.co.uk, site NSFW) told us,
We felt there were probably a lot of people out there who had Bitcoins and no way to really enjoy spending them. Accepting bitcoins seemed an obvious extension of our own interest in the currency.
Bitcoin is called the currency of the Internet: it is a new, peer-to-peer exchanged, decentralized electronic form of cash that can also be described as a "cryptocurrency."
It is independent of any central authority, and bitcoins can be transferred through a computer or smartphone without an intermediate financial institution.
In a recent announcement, the plucky UK escort service added bitcoin transactions to its online pre-payment menu.
Order companionship, pay in Bitcoin
Customers can now order up the companionship they desire and pay in bitcoin on Passion VIP's website.
Clients simply contact the agency's receptionist to say they want to pay with bitcoin, confirm the booking times, and then send payment via Passion VIP's bitcoin address (Passion VIP's cryptographic public key) on its NSFW Bitcoin Escorts page.
Its "Bitcoin Escorts" page also has a handy scannable QR code if clients want to speed up the transaction.
The page also includes basic information about bitcoin transactions and links for people who want to learn more, or open an account.
The savvy UK adult business explained,
Clients who already hold bitcoins can use them immediately.
Those who aren't familiar with the currency will find information on our website on how to buy and trade in bitcoins.
Once the client's payment is processed, Passion VIP calls the client back with a confirmation and the date is set - with no one worrying about payment, theft or counterfeit on either side of the transaction.
The workers also can't be forced to return the money even if under duress.
It could also make it difficult for police to prove that sex was had as a result of a financial transaction.
Additionally, with Bitcoin, clients don't run the risk of an odd-looking transaction from a foreign country appearing on their credit card bills.
In this business model, it stands to reason that Bitcoin could make high-risk work such as escorting less dangerous and more businesslike.
Passion VIP told ZDNet,
There are several advantages for both escorts and clients. For clients the advantage is that it is totally anonymous. You could argue that cash is anonymous too, but not in the same way.
For the escorts it's an easy an anonymous way to accept payment and unlike credit cards there are no chargebacks, which have been a huge problem for escorts and agencies in the past.
It also means that escorts are not handling large amounts of cash, reducing the risk of theft or robbery. Few personal details are exchanged when using Bitcoins; it's simple and efficient and a safe method of payment.
Passion VIP has a stable of fit male and female companionship workers, all available for in-house services or outcall visits - but the service is careful to state on its website, "Please note that this is not an offer for prostitution. Money exchanged is for time and companionship only."
In the UK, the exchange of sexual services for money is legal - but public soliciting and owning or managing a brothel are crimes.
For ordinary payment by cash or card, each Passion VIP escort has different rates on their individual profile pages.
Bitcoin rates are higher.
The agency's bitcoin rates list two separate categories distinguishing premium companionship from standard, with higher rates for more exclusive companions.
The cost for one hour of a "Standard" lady's time is 2.5 BTC, 90 minutes is 3.75 BTC, a dinner date is 5 BTC, an overnight will cost you 14 BTC, and additional hours are 2 BTC each.
One hour of an "Elite" lady's time is 2.75 BTC, 90 minutes is 4.75 BTC, a dinner date is 5.25 BTC, an overnight will cost you 15 BTC, and additional hours are 2.25 BTC each.
At current Bitcoin exchange rates, that puts an hour with Standard companionship at $309.75 (£192.62), and $340.72 (£211.88) for one hour of Elite time.
In domestic currency, Passion VIP's Katarina is £150/hour, Mike is £120/hour, whereas Elite Alannah is £160.
And with one bitcoin exchanging for 1 = $123.9 (£77.05), asking an Elite to spend the night will run a steep $1858.50.
Like sex work and similar forms of paid companionship, the Bitcoin currency is controversial for a number of reasons.
Both share an unstable market, covert operation and the need for relative anonymity, and neither are widely accepted as "legitimate" in their categories (work and currency, respectively).
However, bitcoin is a lot younger than the "oldest profession" - the protocol was created in 2008 and the currency's network was in 2009.
“I think of bitcoin as the local currency of the Internet. As a local curency it reinforces the community we’re trying to build,” Kahle said— Reed Sturtevant (@reedsturtevant) September 26, 2013
Bitcoin has been mildly popular as currency for adult online "cam" work in the past few years, where clients pay for live adult entertainment - usually shows or sexual interaction, and with individuals rather than agencies - performed via webcam.
The most famous example is Reddit's NSFW community, Girls Gone Bitcoin (/r/girlsgonebitcoin, NSFW).
In this subreddit forum, people - mostly girls - show skin while flashing a FirstBits payment address or QR-code where viewers can deposit their "appreciation" in Bitcoin.
Since then, amateur couples on "Cam4BTC" and various other adult performers have posted to Girls Gone Bitcoin when they offer live online sex shows in exchange for bitcoins.
LadyBytes, the female Reddit member who started Girls Gone Bitcoin said she wanted to start it to teach more women about bitcoin, and:
(...) I also saw the potential for employment. Work anonymously... No taxes, no work visa?
She told Bitcoin Magazine, "A lot of people don’t know what Bitcoin is. My response to them: Get used to it, this is the future of porn."