The metaverse is a social space that users can socialize in as digital versions of themselves – a bit like Facebook, but in virtual reality
These days, talk of the metaverse is inescapable. With growing advancements in the world of VR, it’s only natural for people to wonder what might come next. And with the sex industry and sex, in general, making a large shift to virtual spaces during the pandemic, it makes sense that sex and intimacy would be the next step. Club Ruby, is a virtual reality strip club located in a shadowy corner of the metaverse. Like a real dive, it’s dark inside, save for the fluorescent red lighting, which illuminates the matching polyester sofas and cascades across the crimson curtains that garnish each private room. In the corner, there’s a bar and a stage with two poles on either side. Really — it’s just like any other strip club. The metaverse is a social space that users can socialize in as digital versions of themselves – a bit like Facebook, but in virtual reality. Facebook’s owner Meta does not run the app but it does operate the popular Meta Quest headsets used to access it. VRChat is home to many innocent spaces such as supermarkets and even McDonald’s. But there are also pole-dancing venues and strip clubs lurking around, A BBC report last month revealed that children can access the disturbing virtual spaces without being subjected to age checks.
Role of Web3 in the Adult industry
In the past year, Web3, also known as the next stage of the internet, has been prompting discussions of what’s possible for the future of digital art and digital embodiment. Simultaneously, internet censorship has reached its peak for sex workers and sex-positive individuals, making the internet as we know it, also known as Web2, sex-negative. To curb this, several creative pioneers have transitioned into the metaverse to provide safe spaces that double as marketplaces for lovers of erotica and other sex-positive forms of engagement. That premise lies at the core of what SEXN, a new cryptocurrency startup, is banking on as the next frontier for web3. The name “SEXN” stems from an existing lifestyle app called STEPN that theoretically allows users to earn money by walking, jogging, and just generally being active. SEXN, on the other hand, trades in the idea of moving-to-earn for moving-horizontally-to-earn. To get started with the web3 sexual app- which, by its profession, aims to provide a monetization opportunity for what it describes as the two most important things on the planet, sex and money- interested parties are incentivized to complete a variety of, erm, objectives to earn cryptocurrency. Web3 supposedly promises a new model of the internet, free from the restrictions that plague the centralized Web2 – but for sex workers, the same old patterns of censorship occur even in this brave new era. “It’s still the same, they still have to follow the same rules, they’re still governed by FOSTA/SESTA, which means … they censor us, they don’t allow us to be on their platform, they don’t play nice with us,” says sex worker Allie Eve Knox, who started selling NFTs of her work in 2020. “Web3, any kind of technology, it’s still not going to take that away.” After connecting a crypto wallet to an account and downloading the SEXN app, users are first tasked with buying NFTs, which range in rarity and can be used to earn tokens created by the project itself. Dubbed “Sex Organ Token” (yes, really) or $SOT, these tokens went live on June 1 and can be acquired by completing in-app tasks, all of which revolve around using one’s phone to measure sexual activity. $SOT raised just over US$100,000 before launch. In June of last year, Elon Musk tweeted a series of emojis that appeared to refer to CumRocket, an adult-themed cryptocurrency. No one was sure if it was a joke or if Musk was even referring to the project, but the price of CumRocket rose to 28 cents from 7 cents. Suddenly, sex work crypto projects seemed like a viable model – at least as promising as the billionaire’s other crypto fascination, dogecoin. “Everyone and their mother made a porn token last year,” Ben Fraden, chief business officer of Vicewrld DAO, a Web3 adult entertainment organization, said. He said he was aware of around 80 porn tokens, some of which, such as TABOO, had market caps of more than US$400 million.