payment processors

Stripe Cuts Off Platform Used by Dominatrixes

Stripe gets even more anti-sex by kicking off wishlist platform Wishtender, while AI porn sites, which are also against the payment processor's rules, are still using it.
Stripe Cuts Off Platform Used by Dominatrixes

A recent addition to online payment processor Stripe’s already strict rules has kicked a platform used by online dominatrixes off its services.

Wishtender, a platform that allows people to make wishlists and send gifts anonymously—and is used by many findommes and other online sex workers—announced that it was scrambling to adjust to Stripe cutting it off.

“Due to an unexpected policy change, Stripe has decided to part ways with WishTender.” the official Wishtender account tweeted on Tuesday. “We are thrilled to announce that we've acquired a new financial partner, and we are collaborating with them to continue building the best wishlist platform for creators.” 

Stripe, which is valued at $50 billion, is one of the most common online payment processors, and how many businesses (including 404 Media) accept credit card payments.

The announcement doesn’t say what the policy change was that caused Stripe to end its service to Wishtender, and Wishtender founder Dashiell Bark-Huss declined to comment. But looking at the archived page history of Stripe’s terms of use shows a change that could explain why Wishtender was cut off: the addition of “fetish services” as a banned category.

As part of a terms of use update in late January 2024, Stripe added more banned services to its list of prohibited businesses—an extensive list of categories that are not allowed to use Stripe. To the line “Adult services including prostitution, escorts, pay-per view, sexual massages, and adult live chat features,” it added “fetish services” and “mail-order brides,” and added “all” to “online dating services.” 

Another addition, which is noteworthy considering the influx of AI-generated porn sites that have cropped up in recent months and used Stripe, is “Any artificial-intelligence-generated content that meets the above criteria.” 

A Stripe spokesperson told 404 Media, "Stripe has a policy against commenting about users, so unfortunately we are unable to provide information regarding this specific case."

Sex workers have known that Stripe is not friendly to the adult industry for a long time. Wishtender doesn’t allow nudity or adult words, but its social media presence makes it clear that it’s sex worker friendly. Unlike wishlists like Amazon’s (which some sex workers stopped using due to labor abuses at the company, and has a history of kicking sex workers off unexpectedly) senders can give real items from online stores or give funds based on wishlist items like “coffee,” “a weekend away,” or “Louboutins” instead of sending literal, physical items. 

Stripe cutting off WishTender shows how the payment processor continues to enforce its policies hypocritically. In September, we reported that Stripe, which has very clear policies about not supporting any “adult content and services” including pornography, is processing payments for Civitai and Mage Space, two sites where users make millions of AI-generated porn images. Stripe is still processing payments for those sites, despite the fact that they still produce porn and Stripe’s new language about AI-generated content.   

As part of its announcement of the change, Wishtender is warning U.S. users that Stripe Connect accounts will not be able to receive gifts after February 15, and after February 9 for users outside of the U.S. It’s also suggesting users cash out their balances “as soon as possible and no later than March 15, 2024.”  

Financial discrimination is a well-documented, long-term issue for sex workers, even when their work is completely legal. Many sex workers face being kicked out of their own banks, denied loans or housing, and instability as they’re forced into constant migration to new platforms and payment processors, like Wishtender currently faces. 

“We've been working through this sudden and surprising change around the clock. It's been a challenge, but we are facing this head-on,” the announcement said. “We know how important it is for users to collect payments, and we’re implementing our new solution as fast as possible so users can experience minimal interruption. We apologize to those who may experience payment interruptions during this transition.” 

This story has been updated with comment from Stripe.