The Plight of the Crypto Hottie

Behind their Bitcoin-shilling thirst traps on Crypto Twitter is a fight for empowerment, however these women want to define it.

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The Plight of the Crypto Hottie

There’s a surprising number of bikinis in this particular corner of the internet. Snapshots of silk robes cinched around tiny waists are nestled between dollar signs and rocket ship emojis. You’ll find cleavage of the tasteful and brazen varieties, and mirror pics of glossed lips halfway obscured by jewel-toned iPhone cases. Hot girls on Twitter are bullish on crypto, and crypto is bullish on them.

Crypto Twitter (CT), a subculture of Twitter that discusses the trials and tribulations of digital currency, was previously overrun by mostly male adopters of the decentralized financial system. Thirteen years after its introduction, cryptocurrency is now mainstream, and so is the legend of the Bitcoin Bro. While an average CT feed was once clogged with delusional kings wishing meme coins to the moon, in the last year, women and nonbinary people have carved out their own room. Smartly, some of these Web3 hotties and conventionally attractive crypto influencers are doing so by taking advantage of their hottest commodity: sex appeal.

The sexually supercharged atmosphere within the crypto community presents an opportunity for a power grab, where women can profit directly off their bodies on their own terms by objectifying themselves before the manosphere gets the chance. And yet, many of these women are tripping over an ideological stumbling block as the industry questions whether or not this is really the most progressive way to exist within such a misogynistic space.

Seeking Power in the Inherently Horny Crypto Space

There is no shortage of powerful women in crypto fighting exhaustively to be recognized for their merits and technical skills alone, instead of their gender or desirability. Legitimate funds like Haun Ventures and feminist coalitions like Boys Club and Crypto Besties are creating much-needed opportunities for women to get in on the digital gold rush. Meanwhile, Hollywood’s most cringe-inducing girlbosses are also yassifying their way through Crypto Twitter with rhinestoned mint Trezor wallets. But the subset in question here is what we’ll call the crypto hotties.

Some of these women are employed in crypto: engineers, developers, communication officers, or investors who hope to simply challenge the idea that their sexuality has to be chained to the after-hours of 5 to 9. Others have made the pilgrimage from light sexfluencing on Instagram to light sexfluencing on CT, narrowing their target audience from “men” to “men who buy crypto” by posting photos of themselves thirsting in string bikinis with captions like “Shill your hottest #altcoins right now!” A third group lies somewhere in the middle: finfluencers, or women offering financial advice and educational content about cryptocurrencies, who happily tout their hotness while posting about projects and coins they’ve (sometimes) been paid to promote. Almost all of them are united in their search for some form of empowerment they hadn’t found within more traditional employment—financial, sexual, or otherwise.

Natalie Arabian, better known to her 30K followers on CT as Rea.eth and @moon_guurl, was once a regular college student pursuing an MD, but she dropped out to invest in crypto full-time. Since joining CT in August of 2020 to keep up with trading calls and market tips, she’s been posting DeFi tutorials on YouTube and market musings on Twitter in a tone that’s less buttoned-up financial advisor and more bestie screaming “Good 4 U” at the club. She’s also parlayed her (hot) social media influence into a few paid partnerships, though her main source of income is her investments, which are netting her better financial prospects than she thinks she’d ever have achieved as a doctor. A self-proclaimed rebel by nature and never really one to follow the rules, Arabian said the hot selfies are a statement of personal power that feel natural to her. “If I’m going to be hot, I’m going to be hot. If I’m going to be smart, I’m gonna be smart, but I never really think too much about it,” she told Jezebel. “It’s very freeing.”

The advantages of being hot, also known as “pretty privilege,” are apparent in most industries, though CT can be particularly eager to root it out. One individual replied to a woman’s tweet thread celebrating “cryptobeauties” with a sarcastic “all the women in crypto…have to market themselves with sex because they have nothing else to offer,” while another openly mocked crypto’s women sex- and finfluencers, tweeting, “CT egirls be like ‘no I swear they follow me because I’m funny,’” accompanied by a photo of Kermit spreading his asscheeks. There are very real wallet names like boobcoin.eth and titcoin.eth, and after the sexual harassment and gender discrimination warnings at Uber, Tesla, and SpaceX, it’s any wonder women feel safe sharing even modest selfies online within crypto, which echoes the punk spirit that once cloaked the emerging tech boom.

If I’m going to be hot, I’m going to be hot. If I’m going to be smart, I’m gonna be smart, but I never really think too much about it.

But the toxic machismo of crypto is precisely what makes it ripe for sex-ploitation. Cryptonatrix, a crypto investor, sex worker, and former journalist who has sold NFTs of her own sex work (and is going by her handle for privacy reasons), noticed that both her financial domination clients and some of the men she interacts with casually in the space tend to be impressed—and aroused—by women who understand the technology and scene of cryptocurrency, as Neanderthal-sounding as that is. “There’s definitely the assumption that women in general don’t know shit, so when we do know something, it’s really exciting for them,” she said with a laugh. As someone who deeply understands desire, Cryptonatrix believes that crypto itself is psychologically sexual, as “people get attached to the adrenaline rush of getting rich.” She terms this horniness crypto-sexuality: “It turns people on to watch themselves make money and to watch their NFT bags pumping.”

Some crypto hotties then capitalize off male excitability about money and sex. For Leigh Cuen, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Des Femmes magazine and a tenured journalist formerly of CoinDesk, that means using photos of herself to attract a readership, although she initially had zero intentions of doing so. Cuen, who described herself as a relatively private person who feels awkward taking pictures of herself, began to notice that when she supplemented her cryptocurrency blogs or newsletters on Strike and Substack with suggestive selfies, the amount of Bitcoin sent directly to her wallet, though still somewhat modest, skyrocketed in comparison with content unaccompanied by selfies. Readers were also more likely to subscribe to her newsletter or buy her products when enticed by her face or body.

“I was really surprised to find that the majority of people who were willing to become paid subscribers to my newsletter often were men who had clearly indicated through their tweets or Instagram comments that they found me attractive, but they were still interested in reading my long-ass essays and engaging in thoughtful conversations,” she said. “The kind of relationship they were looking for from me was not necessarily explicit in nature, even if it was motivated by attraction.”

Sometimes it’s really not that deep; some hot selfies exist for the sole purpose of being vain on main. Though, for Eva Beylin, director of the Graph Foundation, an investor with eGirl Capital, and an NFT artist on the side, thirst trap photos imply something far more substantial. Merely existing in the crypto space as a woman, regardless of appearance, is a statement in itself, she said: “You have to self-select to be here.” According to a 2021 report from crypto exchange Gemini, 74 percent of crypto holders are men, 71 percent are white, and the “average” crypto owner is a 38-year-old man earning $111,000 a year, making it difficult for women to elbow their way into the industry with grace. To make her presence known, Beylin, who has over 23K followers on Twitter, pays homage to the splendor of her own body by minting NFTs of her nude art. She doesn’t explicitly show any suggestive body parts but is clearly unclothed—her way of insisting that she can work in crypto without pretending she doesn’t possess a feminine body.

The men Beylin used to work with on Wall Street took clients to strip clubs as a flex of their masculinity; she simply wants similar flexibility extended to women. She believes that granting other women access to their sexuality while they work, as well as their potential for agency online, is a means for achieving crypto’s sorely needed equality. “I don’t ever want to feel like the professional work that I do, that I’m very good at, is going to be judged poorly because I also make nude art, and that, to me, is the final battleground of the patriarchy for us as women,” Beylin said. “We’ve never been able to fully take control of our own narrative. I don’t ever want to go back to feeling like I’m censoring myself.”

The power that hotness shepherds, though, isn’t without consequences, especially within an under-regulated financial sector. After Arabian tweeted about a meme coin called Island Inu, which she had been paid to promote but did not initially disclose, a CT sleuth with nearly 200K followers alleged that she had “rugged” or destroyed the coin, using her clout to send its value plummeting. “I would be very careful going forward dealing with someone who has acted like this…Do you really need an ‘InFlUeNcEr’ that bad?” the individual concluded.

Arabian’s transaction and price history, which she provided to Jezebel and were verified using Nansen and DexTools, show that the price drop that occurred when she sold her tokens fully recovered less than twenty minutes later and even continued climbing. “This unsubstantiated rumor was started by a group of trolls and other bad actors on Twitter and has led to harassment and death threats against me. It is unfortunate the witch hunt that has followed these rumors [has] persisted through today,” Arabian said in a statement to Jezebel. Six months later, trolls are still pestering her about “the rug” and suggesting she write a book about “how to max leverage simps in web3”—exactly the sort of harassment and unwanted attention so often attracted by influencers in any industry.

Still, that kind of influence seems far more intoxicating than a close reading of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In or a night at a “women in crypto’’ event could ever be—the sort of raging power Cleopatra had over Marc Antony, as opposed to the limited satisfaction one feels from removing all the exclamation points from an email.

Whether she’s consciously aware of the power her hottie online presence bestows upon her or not, Arabian cites various reasons for keeping up her bouncy bestie Twitter persona. She said her main priorities are to have fun and meet new people, but she also characterizes her existence in the space as a protest to the rules of traditional finance, which dictate that “you act like a guy, you dress in a power suit, you maybe don’t share a lot of your life.” She wouldn’t classify her own two-piece version of a power suit, like others might, as self-objectification, though. “It’s not really objectifying when we all decide that we’re okay with it,” she said. “I don’t feel objectified. If it ever stopped being fun for me, I’d stop doing it.”

Cuen was more than “okay” with putting her physical body to work not so much because it allowed her to make a quick buck, but because it accomplished a goal deeply rooted in feminist principles: The selfies gave her financial freedom. “It is empowering that I could choose to leave a full-time job, which is something that I would never have been able to do without those selfies,” she said. “It’s empowering that I’m choosing which clients to work with and which to not, which is something I can only do from a place of financial security. That financial security is provided by the people who interact with those selfies.” Not everyone sees it that way.

Where Crypto-Sexuality Gets Complicated

Capitalism and feminism as values are often at odds with each other, so the insistence that women can achieve true gender equality in a cultish industry motivated in perpetuity by profit, like crypto, can ultimately prompt some side-eye. Crypto hotties demanding to be taken seriously with a combination of slogans like “empowered women empower women” and a readiness to throw elbows onto the table can attract heavy mockery from women outside of the crypto space, who sometimes unfairly classify them as the living personification of the vomiting rainbow Snapchat filter. Actor Amanda McCants captured the disdain in her satirical role as Bitcoin Babe, the “crypto girl shilling babecoin” who screams, “I never let go of bossbabe ever!”

Of course, to be at once smart and hot—an enchanting notion popularized by now-decaying girlboss culture—is no longer novel, but the continued warcry sounded by women in crypto creates ideological friction. If women objectify themselves to profit off masculine tendencies within male-created and male-driven systems, do they really take power away from men? Or do they further enable the aggressors by making crypto inviting to one subset of women: those deemed attractive by men?

“It is exactly because this is a male-dominated space that the most visible women here [who aren’t sex workers] are objectively hot,” said Cryptonatrix. “Women who know that they’re hot are going to have more confidence in inserting themselves and making themselves seen in a space like this. They’re the ones who are embraced, welcomed, and respected by the men here, whether that’s for the right reasons or not.”

Cuen notes that celebrating our bodies in public, regardless of appearance, is still a radical act for women that invites serious risks like stalkers and impersonators, both of which are far less likely to plague men who share similar content. Beylin believes that not only are the risks worth it, but that the freedom to express one’s self in a sexual manner through NFTs or otherwise is the only way to get out of the hole women repeatedly find themselves in. “The end goal is that any of us can post nudes and also be CEOs,” she said.

Not every woman within crypto agrees that self-sexualization is the hammer we should all be using to shatter that stubborn fucking glass ceiling. Some balk at the idea of objectifying themselves online—or even discussing their gender at all when they’ve worked tirelessly to convince the DeFi man-natives that their minds are far more noteworthy than the tits on their chest. Melissa Henderson, the head of community at a Web3 and blockchain software company and founder of Violet Summer, recalled that a man once walked up to her at an industry event and said, “So NFTs…that must be going over your head. This must be like a foreign language, right?” After hosting and attending in-person meetups like that one, Henderson noticed that whenever she wore a nice dress, attendees assumed she wasn’t part of the industry, so she started dressing like she was already a part of the “boy’s club” so as not to isolate herself.

The end goal is that any of us can post nudes and also be CEOs.

“I don’t post my ass and my pretty face and then be like, ‘Oh crypto!’ because it’s not the type of image that I want to showcase of myself, especially because I want these guys to take me seriously,” Henderson said. She wants to make it abundantly clear that she’s not just here, as one dude at a conference implied, “to get with the hype.” She also doesn’t want LGBTQIA and more introverted women developers, some of whom she’s worked alongside and many of whom don’t have tons of followers, to assume they have to look a certain way to fit in. That checks out: Some women who aren’t hot in a cisgender, heterosexual sense have told Cryptonatrix they don’t feel comfortable sharing themselves online. Others are being pushed behind the guise of NFTs or avatars after being promised that, in the metaverse, they’d be free of bodily objectification and judgment.

Sex workers, too, are paying close attention to the blurring of lines between working, influencing, and existing in hotness within crypto—and, more importantly, to who reaps the privileges of sexuality when money is on the figurative table. Just as Bella Thorne benefited from posting her ass on OnlyFans while sex workers using the platform to support themselves through ER shifts were fired from their jobs, Cryptonatrix sees a connection to the way selfies are received on CT. “People love to see a PG-13 version of a whore,” she said. “This isn’t to dismiss any sexism women face while doing this, but it is nowhere near what sex workers who identify as such experience.”

A popular crypto influencer recently became entangled in this debate, when some sex workers and activists demanded she acknowledge that selling NFTs of herself in booty shorts or a robe borrowed cues from sex workers who had come before her. Cuen, for her part, acknowledges that accompanying her writing with hot selfies is at the very least predicated on the industry that sex workers built, and though neither she nor Beylin characterize what they do as sex work outright, they are aware that their public images invite only a tiny percentage of the harassment and stigma that sex workers face.

Allie Awesome, a sex worker (real name withheld for privacy reasons) who also invests in crypto and is active on CT, has been vocal about how the many benefits crypto hotties enjoy—tips in eth, clout, popularity, followers—are in large part available to them because they don’t label what they do as sex work. While she wishes all profitable crypto hotties would acknowledge women like her who took bullets in the form of whorephobia and shadow bans, she doesn’t believe in labeling others without their express consent. “I define sex work as getting paid to arouse someone sexually,” she noted in an email to Jezebel. “If that definition resonates with crypto influencers, I hope they will consider joining the fight for sex workers’ rights.”

For Allie, that fight entails all women, sex workers included, utilizing their bodies and their sexuality as they wish, whether that means creating horny NFTs to earn royalties or simply posting boob pics without fear of harassment—or feeling the need to justify their actions. “We’re all being objectified, and I believe we have every right to capitalize on that gaze,” she said. “I’m supposed to let men jerk off to me for free?!?”

The Crypto Hotties’ Bottom Line

The practice of posting sexy content can’t be simply maligned as stupid, frivolous, or a symptom of leftover ‘90s bimbo romanticism. What the crypto hotties have tapped into is something a lot of women outside the cryptosphere (other than sex workers) are hesitant to admit that they do outright: exercising personal agency by using their faces or bodies as promotional tools. In the same way that the Kardashians exploit their curves to sell shapewear to impressionable copycats, and old-school Instagram influencers posted thirst traps while hawking flat tummy tea, hotness can and should be put to use in crypto, so long as the opportunity is extended to all.

I’m supposed to let men jerk off to me for free?!?”

Today, most of the women interviewed for this story are busy managing their investment portfolios and trying to onboard more diverse folks, offering a listening ear while hoping to maintain an atmosphere that doesn’t scare newcomers off. They said they wanted all women to thrive in crypto, and understood they’d have to work together—as pink-pussy-hatted as that sounds—to get it done. To attract women developers to her employer, for example, Henderson proudly leans on the ethos that many believe defines the crypto industry: “Come as you are.”

But for women in every industry hoping to level the playing field once and for all, coming as you are usually means being torn down for existing as you are. Sexuality, whether displayed or pointedly ignored, becomes, often unfairly, a woman’s entire persona. Every top of a tit on Crypto Twitter is a statement, because a woman’s ability to work, to dress, to behave, and to post photos in peace does not exist—yet. “We’re literally making the space ourselves,” Arabian noted of the crypto hotties’ online dominion, triumphantly. “We’re fucking creating it.”

In the meantime, if we have to live in a patriarchal, finance bro-dominated society, we might as well post pics of our boobs and get cash for it. Cuen just hopes her hot selfies won’t ever be the most interesting thing about her: “I hope you write about my accomplishments, but those two things are not mutually exclusive. I’m comfortable enough and aware enough of my own sexuality to discuss it without thinking that that discussion becomes the only discussion about me.” Sometimes, it really is not any deeper than that.

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