Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Challenges Faced by Content Creators in the Sexual Wellness Industry: A Financial Perspective
The sexual wellness industry has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, fueled by changing attitudes toward sexuality and a desire for personal exploration and education. As the industry expands, content creators play a vital role in providing valuable information and entertainment to consumers. However, these creators often need help with banking and payment processing, hindering their ability to thrive in this burgeoning industry. In this article, we will explore the specific challenges faced by content creators in the sexual wellness industry and propose potential solutions to break down the barriers in banking and payment processing.
Challenges Faced by Content Creators:
Solutions to Breaking Down Barriers:
Content creators in the sexual wellness industry face numerous banking and payment processing challenges. However, these barriers can be broken down by addressing the stigma and discrimination, expanding payment options, and negotiating lower transaction fees. It is crucial for industry stakeholders, including content creators, industry associations, banks, and payment processors, to collaborate and find innovative solutions to ensure the growth and sustainability of this important industry. By overcoming these challenges, content creators can continue to provide valuable education and entertainment to consumers, fostering a more open and informed society.
Stefani Goerlich: Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality. The podcast where we discuss the intersections of intimacy
Wolf Goelrich: and information security. I'm Wolf Goerlich.
Stefani: He's a hacker and I'm Stefani Goerlich.
Wolf: She's a sex therapist, and together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age. Today we're joined by Shakun Sethi, innovator and founder of Tickle Charge by Tickle.Life, which offers payment solutions for high-risk industries. This was a project born out of her work as a sex ed entrepreneur. So she's joining us today to share that story to talk about the challenges facing content creators, and just what we need to do to help people monetize their work. So thank you so much for joining us today.
Shakun Sethi: Thank you so much. I'm so excited and actually a bit like my heart is palpitating a bit as well because I really want to see, like, you know… What we're gonna get out of this because this is the first podcast that I'm having with somebody in the sex education and tech together talking about something which comes across as so boring. But it's actually one of the most exciting fields to be in, which is finance.
Stefani: I don't think people are gonna think this is boring at all. We have had Jackie from the Center for Intimacy Justice on talking about advertising bans and the way that people are censored online. And to me, this just feels like a logical extension of that. This is another way in which people who are doing all kinds of work around sexual health and sexual pleasure and intimacy are kind of siloed and shoved off in this little box in a corner. And I don't think that's boring at all. I think that's anger-inspiring and fascinating.
Shakun: I just say that you know, anybody who gets into the sexuality industry are special children of God because they are here to just fight, and that's it. Just fight and not to take anything out of it. so, yeah, so and that is how it actually started because I was running a sex set platform called Life, assuming that I'm gonna make millions and millions of dollars because this is my second startup. But then you start encountering all the problems. You know, you start encountering advertising problems. You start encountering, you know, you have flagged multiple places. You can't make money. You just gone at that each and every square. And then ultimately, you just have to understand that this industry is a capitalist-oriented country and an industry, and we all are. You know, like we all need money to make anything happen to any shit happen. So we have to figure out the solution. If nobody else is doing it, might as well be doing it. Because otherwise, if you don't have money, you just can't have your say.
Stefani: So, tell us more about how this all got started. You mentioned Tickle.Life.
Shakun: Yeah. So I was pretty excited. I was studying in the Netherlands after my sabbatical after my first startup, and I was super exhausted. But then it was so exciting. You know, when you see sex toy shops coming from India, and then you're like, Oh, my God, this is so crazy. But then how do you exactly know what things work as you know what you're supposed to experience what you're supposed to know about them. And that was how Tickle.Life was born. It started as a content platform, but then we had to start making money as well. And you like something happens like from day one. And as an entrepreneur, you're supposed to understand what are the different kinds of inputs the universe is providing you, But sometimes you just ignore. The first thing was no bank wanted to take me and it was just a sex-ed platform, and nobody even tells you what you're supposed to say. So you know, very not going to the banks in the US and telling them, Hey, I want to do something about sex give me a bank account because I'm gonna give you the money. It's supposed to be that simple, and then you start getting emails that, hey, we can't take you on. We can't take you on, and then you have to end up spending money that you really do not have to hire lawyers to get a bank account we need. And then that bank account would not have the money that it was supposed to. Because you've already spent that money on the lawyers, you know, which you’re not supposed to. So that was how it started. But then we started making a very small amount of money through our content platform. But how a content platform was formed was we used to have a lot of people from the industry who used to contribute. So my question to all of them was always “Why are you doing this for free?” Because one I can't pay you. But why are you doing this for free? And the answer was always the same that we want some place where our learning would always be safe. It still did not hit me. What's happening? Because I'm also not sitting in the US that time I'm in India sitting in my room and trying to create something. And assuming that this happens and this is so simple. Everything is easy. So that's how a lot of tech that we started building for ourselves happened into life, which was not the idea that we ended up with our own podcasting hosting. When we had to run a podcast, we ended up our own newsletter service. When we had to run a newsletter. The lucky thing was that I had a Tech team and I had experience of running a startup before. But 99.99% of the people in the sexual welfare industry do not have that. And now the time was, you know, now I need to make money. So we ran a very huge roadshow sex-ed workshop, which was happening in three different continents, had over 10 educators. We had drag queens. We had I don't know how many brands who wanted to work, and I was like, You know what? Now we're gonna make money and whoever had given us some money as injured investors, we're going to show them that see you bet it on the right start-up, and we already have our own platform. Everything is going to be perfect. So the moment the money started coming in, we started getting flagged by PayPal and Stripe, which was what we were using. So there are 400 people who want to attend. Everybody wants to give the money, but we can't take in the money. So then we created another temporary PayPal account, and we actually had to make somebody say it and just keep on, like pressing that. Take the money in the account, take the money in the account, which is not taxable.
Wolf: I was just not alone because I can see that, right? Like the Tech is working against us. What are we gonna do? Quick, Sit down. Hit the button, please. To keep things flowing.
Shakun: Exactly. So and then you know what? Something very interesting happens. You stop making money because you're so scared of getting censored. And that and that was also something that was happening. You know, like, subconsciously with me as an entrepreneur. So 80% of the people ended up coming for free. Whoever we could take some money from we took it was a big success. But on paper or in my bank account, it was not because I've also ended up spending money. So then what I did was I was like, You know, what? If adult industry makes money, I think we need to go and figure out how do they do it? How do they take payments? And that was my journey toward going to different high-risk payment gateways and processors. And that's when I realized that you know, we are in a very, very, very, very, very difficult situation. Because what they do is you tell them. Hey, you know what? This is what I'm doing. I'm not even high-risk. I'm not even an adult. I'm just a sex-ed platform which follows all the compliances. But they would not even listen to you. They will just be like, You know what? Take this or leave it. Yeah, And the transaction rates are crazy. You know, it's it's so bad. It's so bad that, you know, like most of the time, when I look at people's statements, I'm like, Holy shit, how are they been making money? If they're paying, like, 10 12 13% of the transaction rate to a process, it just doesn't make sense. So then I wanted to do something else. I just needed a payment gateway. But just because everybody was giving me this input, all the processors who you end up finding, you know, like you really need to, like, go inside and find people will come onto the calls and they will not show you the face, you know, they would not listen to you. They would not even explain it to you what you're asking them? It just hit me that I might keep on slogging. I've already put so much of my life here. I'm an Indian. I come from a very small city. And now, whenever somebody calls me, they just talk about sex. They don't talk about anything else. Like I'm not an individual anymore. So either I need to quit right now or I need to quit really, really, really deep in. And that was how Tickle Charge was formed.
Stefani: This is why we're friends. this idea that I have two choices. Either I give up or I just go all in. It's a mindset that is so necessary and so rare. And it's one of the things that I love about you. Is this idea that I mean I could walk away and find something easier, Or I could be the one that owns the space of difficult work. and it's phenomenal. And I just what you saw was my face lighting up when you said that.
Shakun: Yeah Stefani, I actually joke with my parents sometimes. Did you throw me while I was a kid, and there's something wrong in my head? I could actually be doing anything easy. I could be just doing, like what I was doing before and actually been making money. Why am I doing something so hard? You know, you must have done something like you have to check or I need to go for an MRI. Something is not right, but I just think like, you know, you meet anybody in this industry, everybody's crazy or else they would not be here. and that's what makes it such a fabulous industry. And like I was a nobody. I'm still a nobody. But at least you know, people talk to you. People tell you what they're going through. People are there to share the information with you. And that was also something that really pushes you that if you are getting there, if you're gonna go and directly talk to banks a strange brown woman going and saying like, you know what? My maths is bad. I have jack-shit knowledge about payments, but I need you to work with me, and I promise you I'm going to get your work. It's just because of the confidence that you have that, You know what? There's an industry which needs it. And if you're gonna call somebody, they're gonna be there for you. So that was how Tickle Charge was formed. It's been a crazy ride. We are learning so much every single day. So I'm just like I'm just happy.
Wolf: Such a good story. And, as someone who's worked in and financial services as someone who's worked in banking, for a while is doing security with payment processors and looking at that whole flow. So, I vaguely understand the pieces. So this is one of those areas of like, oh, I get all those goods together. Yeah, but one of the things that surprises me is that the industry is so adverse towards working with sexuality professionals. Right? Um, even industries that are removed from the traditional, like adult industry and you think about something like Tickle, which I love the name, by the way. It's this isn't like this is like some seedy back alley, you know, business or according to the Internet or part of a town tick the tickle chart. It just sounds sounds very pleasant. And the website is so professional. And so what I want to ask you was Why do you think there is such a version and such friction in the space? It surprised me.
Shakun: OK, so there are multiple reasons, I'll start with, like, you know how, most of the high-risk payments that you end up using? Why, you know, they're charging so much and they're only able to charge so much is because they've created an image, a mirage, that this is very, very difficult that anybody who's getting into the industry is doing something illegal, and we're the only one who can save us. So that's the 1, you know, like part of the piece. And they do not want to educate you because if you're educated, then you're going to be asking the right questions. And once you get the right questions, that's when you know you are going to start like figuring out whether this makes sense or not. The second thing is a lot of people keep on, you know, like complaining. Why does Stripe not work with us? Why PayPal doesn't work with us. They should work with us. We're making. They will make so much money. But then we also have to understand how their business model has evolved. Subscribe A PayPal. I'm going to be like giving you very, very basic information. It's not. I'm not even using the technical terms. They actually ended up taking one license. OK, so they have one license and everybody they're putting in is under that single license. So if there's one bad apple, the entire system will fall. So they have to be very, very particular about what they're working with. And that's also how Stripe would work. So when PayPal and Stripe would work there, they would not take anything which has even like a percentage of risk involved. And quite frankly, they should not because then you have so many other players who are just doing like maybe selling a t-shirt, or maybe headphones. They all will be jeopardized just because there was somebody who was doing wrong. So these are the reasons why app – you know why PayPal and all of them would not do so, which is technically like an aggregate model. OK, and the third reason is why this industry a lot of issues have been faced because of money laundering. So even like we usually end up getting a lot of platforms which would look completely like a sex-ed platform. OK, but behind What's happening is after a few days, if you view it or after like you have actually looked at the URL and done your pre work will realise that they're actually doing something completely different. And if you look at any other industry, they will always follow the rules. Any industry, you look at tech, you look at a bottle maker, you look at everyone. But here the problem is nobody even knows the rules. So I would be like hey, I am a sex educator. So I'm expecting a sex educator Mogen account. But I'm actually projecting through my website as if it's an escort service. So nobody would give me a sex-ed-centric low-risk merchant account because when they look at my website or at the kind of work that I'm looking at doing it comes across as if I'm I'm in an escort service, and this completely boils down to two reasons. One is there's no education. You just think a lot of us think that, You know, if you are selling anything to do with sex ed or sexual wellness, we have to come across as sexy. So there's a very thin line between adult and sex-ed. And also the second thing is because there are so many bad players here, and how bad players work is There's something called licensing, So my website is ticklecharge.com. I will take a merchant account, which is processed on ticklecharge.com. OK, but what happens is with a lot of adult platforms, they will create multiple, and you know, well, you will understand. You know you will create multiple UR ls subdomains. You know I might create tickle charge one dot com tickle Charge two dot com and I'm using the same processing everywhere. So what's happening is the banks, Visa, MasterCard, they're not able to keep a check on all of them, which is something that they have to because they everybody's answerable to someone. So these are like the major reasons why so many problems come. And what I've understood is that, you know, we just and I was one of them. When you think about money, we just think that money is very confusing, so we don't want to understand it. Hey, I'm an educator. That's what I know. You know, this is so confusing. Oh, my God, I just want to be a part of the advocacy group, which is saying like, Hey, Stripe and PayPal should give me an account because that's simple. But unfortunately, what we are doing, like I said, you know, like we have to be fighters is not simple. And there's a reason why it's not simple. Because they don't want everybody to take it because they want to give it to you at a certain rate. So you have to understand what you're doing. And that also leads to a lot of problems.
Wolf: Yeah, I can see that on the problem side and so, I got a couple questions on that. But first off, when you're describing the separation between you know, your business and being seen as an escort service. That reminds me some of the conversations we've been having about promoting our conference right? And one of the things I keep saying to advertising people. Look, look, look, we wanna be sexy, but we don't want to be sexualized. We don't want to be like going out and having adult content to talk about this because this is not an explicit show. That's not what this show is about. It's not what our content is about. And so I completely agree with you on that division. One of the things I wanted to understand a little bit better is when you say bad apples, right? Money laundering makes sense to me. I also hear a lot about chargebacks where it's a fraudulent charge and people try to reverse it. What are some of the other bad apples? What are some other things that if someone is in one of these payment systems or one of these licenses that could put everything at jeopardy?
Shakun: OK, one of them would be like, you know, like I said, So it comes across as an escort service But then there's also that you're actually money laundering. There's another one that, you know you might give. Like I'm not in the US right now. I need an account. So I might make, you know, you know Stefani as a proxy, but Stefani has no idea. And Stefani is actually acting like a proxy for, like, 15-20 other companies. So that actually happens a lot here.
Wolf: Yes, I see.
Shakun: You know, and you don't know, like, Stefani would also, you know, maybe would not get to know about this. So then that happens. Then what happens is a lot of time. What happens with payment processors or payment gateways? They would say, OK, you know what? We can work with you when they go to the acquirer bank. They're not going to project you as an adult or a sex ad. They will project you as somebody completely different. So for that, what they're going to say is, Hey, you know what? Can you just make some changes on your website? Can you just say, you know, bring everything down? Can you just take off the word you know sex? Take off this word so the acquire bank is assuming that you're doing something else. But then later on, when they get to see it like Hey, you know what? They're not. That means this merchant cheated me, you know, because ultimately it's happening in the merchants platform, you know that happens. So when you're talking about fraud when you're talking about chargeback, chargeback is really, really, really high. So anything that you're making any of the financial services work really hard will make it difficult for you to get an account. And that also includes keeping a check on what you're doing. So even your website, because you have sex in it a lot of places, But like, you know, sooner or later and if you start monetizing it and hopefully it becomes so big and you know, like you start making a lot of money, it will be flat because everything is not manually done, you know? Like there There's there are computers. There are, you know, like some calls that have been set we're going to be evaluating, you know, terms which are, like, you know, SEX centric. And then they're gonna come to you and say, like, you know, what are you doing? And even if you say, like, hey, you know what? This is just This is not about sex. This is not, you know, like whatever you end up saying, they will still not understand it because they're like then why did you use this term? You know, like like why, You know, there are, like, so many terms around, and that was the reason why. You know, we started with Tickle.Life. I wanted to use a sexy word. But then, because of the bank account and my lawyers who had spent money on and I wanted to take as much out of them as possible, they said you can't have a mention of sex. So then it just depends on you. And I was in one conference a few years back, and one of the founders said that I don't care. You know, this is what I'm doing. So I'm gonna go openly talk about it, which is absolutely fine. So you have to choose your battles. Are you ready to do it then and ultimately end up paying on your transaction just because of your name and then you know, like after a few days getting advertising banned or XYZ banned, or do you want to go the other way? It's completely what journey or how hard you are as an entrepreneur that you want to run.
Stefani: And I guess we're in good company because, you know, we already have been banned from advertising. Um, my practice as a sex therapist and some of our conference advertising. That was one of the questions I had when we talked to the center for intimacy. Intimate justice was, you know, I thought you guys just negotiated this with me. I thought you fixed it. But it's all consent agreements, and it all still comes down to the discretion of the hosts.
Shakun: See, See, Stefani. There's also one more thing here. How much money are you able to give Meta? You know, and that is what I'm talking about. You know, it's a capitalistic, you know, economy, you have to make money to have your say you can sign thousands of documents, but if you're not able to give them the revenue that they need as an industry, you will not be heard. And if you see a lot of startups who actually had the ads there is because they are able to pay that much money. It's very, very simple. So, actually, as an industry, we have to really work together. How can we make more money with whatever resources we have, which is really a difficult task, But that should be the only objective, you know, rather than where, Where should we market ourselves? Where should we, you know, get more popularity? It should just be like how do we make money if you want to get ourselves, You know, the place that we deserve, anywhere.
Stefani: This reminds me a lot of the situation that the LGBT community was in before Stonewall, where all of the, you know, queer clubs and the gay bars and the lesbian, um speaking were run by the mob because they were considered marginalized. They were considered shady or scandalous and polite society didn't want to be associated with them. So all of their opportunities for engagement were mafia run and it results in sort of this, you know, it becomes like a social or institutional punishment for being bad, right? Like you're queer in the sixties or you're using SEX in your title in the 2020’s. Um, and it's a punishment. But it's also a way to exploit people that are doing work that are stigmatized or people who are stigmatized in the same way that the Mafia could charge exorbitant rates for cover charges or drinks in a bar in the fifties. Financial institutions are taking financial advantage of people who don't have another option. And that is a systemic injustice that I don't think enough people are talking about.
Shakun: Exactly, and you know what? That's what's happening. So it was such such a scary time when I was actually going to all these high-risk payment gateways and process. It was really, really scary, you know, because you don't know what you're getting into. I'm not able to get hold of you to talk to you and give you business. How are you going to take care of my money? You're not there to give me answers. And on the call, it's so evident that I'm nobody for you. How am I gonna work with you? You know, and it's it's a complete Mafia channel that has been created. Like, you know, people are charging so much and you just have to you just have to pay you. You can't do anything. You just cannot do anything. and that is the thing. Like, you know, you have to have, like, we have to figure out some, you know, solutions that what do we do? You know what do we even learn from LGBTQ as because if you see a lot of advertisements, you can see a lot of big brands have started working with them, Obviously that you know, there are problems, but there's also something very interesting that's happening in the society. So what has been the tier? What has been the, you know, the downfall? There's a lot of understanding there because if we take it from there, we might be able to find solutions because I still do not think solutions are going and sitting outside big tech companies and saying like, you know what, make us a part of your group, because I really, um, see what's what's what happens is I don't know if you're genuine or not for me to know if you're genuine. I really need to put my resources into understanding you. Do I have that much bandwidth to put that resource on? Right. So if Tickle Charge while we are working, we could have actually closed hundreds and thousands of accounts by now. But because we have to look at each and every person and each and every company, and 99% of people do not even know what they're doing wrong, our speed is really low. And it becomes more like a social enterprise than a financial enterprise. We cannot expect that from other companies, you know? So what do we do? We have to work together. You know, like we have to, like, just, like, come together and say like, Hey, you know what? Let's work together. Let's find solutions to everything on our own. We should not be dependent on anybody else.
Wolf: Yeah, be be independent. Take it back. And when we think about payment processors, right, just to to take it up One level. So payment processors are like the Stripes and the PayPals, like you mentioned, they're the folks that take the credit cards and do the processing, and then they run it through their back ends to MasterCard, Visa, and what have you, when you're talking about high-risk payment processors? What, What do you mean? What do you mean, there? Like what are what are some of those like that? Everyone knows the pay pals. But who are they?
Shakun: So what happens is, um you know, the most important thing here to look at is an acquired bank who has the appetite for taking high-risk and 99 percent of the time. they do not like to be, you know, advertised. Sure. And there's a reason why because, you know, then they will be advertised, and then, you know, like, you know, people are gonna talk about them, and they'll be like shit. Now we can't take anybody home, you know? so it's broken down for adult industry, for sexual wellness industry or for high-risk industry in three parts, Number one is at the top and acquire bank. It says, OK, fine. I'm gonna guarantee that what Stefani is doing is correct. The middle part is the one who's processing and processing is who's doing all the shitty work. And the last part is a payment gateway. You will 99% of the time. See those traditional, you know, like authorized.net or even the new payment gateways which are, you know, based out of authorized.net are the one who are actually working. And the reason is because the acquirer banks want something which is very simple. They've given a V sheet, They just want it to be simple. They just want to understand how things work. So these are like the three streams that work. If you're talking about payment Gateway, then there are a lot of them which work in high risk. And there is NMI, there is NBO. There is like I said, you know, authorized.net, which people are still using. But if you look at it like for me, it was a big shock because in India, the fintech industry is at a very different level. We don't have to wait for hours to get, you know, like bank transfer. We just, like, get it done in, like, five minutes. And I was like, Are you like, kidding me? This is the USA. You know, we always dreamt of being in the USA like what's happening with the finance. Like, why are you people so slow? Why the statements are so bad, you know? so that's how it works. But ultimately the call is taken by the.. What do you call it, acquired bank. Most of the high-risk payment processes or payment services that you hear about are CC Bill pay. So we will be like a competition to them. Then there is MobiQuick and a lot of them. OK, but a lot of these people and I'm not saying, like, which one out of them. A lot of them are called payfac. So in a way, PayPal and Stripe is also a pay fact. And a payfac means they've taken a super merchant account from the quarterback. OK, we want a bigger account. We want that we should be able to transact $5 million per day hypothetically. So they showed it to the banks and bank said cool shop, Take it So once they've taken it, all of us fall under this. So we are not directly working with the acquire bank. So we don't have a merchant ID, we have a sub merchant ID, and that is the model that we all have been following in the sexual wellness industry, at least because we are a small ticket size. Our industry does like 25,000 to 30,000 maximum per month, which is a very, very small ticket size amount for any of the banks to actually, you know, work with you directly. And that was what the judge, you know, was telling them that. Hey, you know what? You did not even know that sex educators make money and they were like, No, they don't. No, no, no, They do. They do. They do really like it was so crazy. I don't know, Like on the last call that I told you, if I would have spent this much amount of time in educating the banks about this industry, I would have raised I don't know how much money from IBC. In the same time time period, they had no idea that there's a industry called for sexual wellness.
Stefani: So how does tickle charge fit into this? How does tickle charge become that system and become the person that serves that industry?
Shakun: So what we do is, we're still working with Bill, like via six, Bill or pay. But what we're doing is we're not We've not created, like a master merchant account. We're actually saying you deserve to have your own merchant account. And merchant ID because your data is your data. Your data is not my data. If we suppose Wolf also And you were also my customer, and Wolf did something wrong. I should not be in a position to jeopardize you, you know, because then I'm flagged by my acquirer bank in saying, you know what? From your account, you people are making so and so problems. So we're going to keep a check on you. What am I going to do is to save my ba. I'm also going to ask you to make changes. And that's what that is the reason why a lot of people are like, you know, deplatform very quickly. He Wolf did this most probably. Stefani would also do this. So before something happens, might as well take her off. So what we're doing is Wolf goes with us to the bank directly. The bank says OK, this is what Wolf is doing. Wolf is doing it out, hypothetically. That means he is running a dating site. So then Wolf is 5967 as a merchant code. So Wolf’s rules are going to be different. His information on the website is gonna be different. The contracts that he's going to be signing with his collaborators with everyone is going to be very, very specific. But Stefani is a sex educator or a therapist. So Stefani's MCC code is going to be very different, and Stefani is going to be doing something very, very, you know, simple. So Stefani might be like 5964 I suppose if you're selling toys on the side, Yeah, so both of you will be seen differently, even though you both are talking and talking about sex. And you, both banks will directly know what you're doing. So that means if Wolf screws are full course, because the bank has, you know, thrown off. but you're not bothered. You don't even know who Wolf is, you know. And as it is, even in a pay fact model, you would not know what will does. but his karma also impacts your life. You know, that's that's that's the difference. We're just like going directly to the banks. They're saying, Hey, you know what? This industry will make money. We'll give you the you know, the clients directly. The good part is because your data is your data. Now, as a payfact, I would always ask Wolf and you to give me a back-end access 24/7 morning. You can wake up and you will see that something is off and you will just like, you know, message your payment processor or the service. And they will say, I think Visa deleted those. But actually, they have deleted them because they were like, You know what? Our account will go off, and you know, our business will completely go off like, you know, in, like a single a single day. That's one which is, you know, the security. The bad thing is with us, it takes a little bit longer because we are actually getting you verified and we have to get you verified, because if there's a promise that you're gonna get an account then you better get an account. And for that your verification is needed, because if you're not verified, you might get an account by proxy today. But in the next two months, you're off. And that actually happened to somebody yesterday from somewhere else. They were matched. So if you ever get an email for any sex educator, any therapist, anybody selling toys that hey, you've been matched. That's not something to be happy about. That means you've been flat and you can't do business for five years. So when I heard the word match, I was like, Isn't that a good term? Like, matched, I’m matched? but apparently, yeah, yeah, No match acting means you've been flag like badly flag and you be like, you know, put us aside that Hey, you know what? This person is not good. This company is not good. EILS is the number. Everything goes for the doss. So that is the reason why a take charge might be, you know, take more time for you to get an account rather than in a single day. But it's just so that you can actually work, and you can sleep because I could not sleep. And I did not have, like, a, you know, a stable payment and it led to anxiety. and I think that's the reason why a lot of us are so anxious about things because everything is hard.
Wolf: Yeah, and it's all up in the air and the rules aren't clear. And there's feels like the entire system is rigged, at least what you tell me from what I hear from others, this solves the payment acceptance side if the bank decides to deplatform you, right? So, for example, I've heard folks who are content creators and were caught up in a banking situation where the bank just basically closed all their accounts.
Shakun: So the number one is the bank, which you are using for your business. so you are a merchant. OK, any business is a merchant, So that's one bank. If that bank goes for a toss, that's you. You are just unfortunate, you know, and the second thing, what happens is a lot of them have stopped getting bank accounts actually, right now that's also happening. And we get, like, a lot of inquiries that hey, you know what? Can you open me a bank account? So we started, like, looking around at services, and we found that people have been charging $13,000 to help somebody open a bank account. You know, And I'm like, You know what? These people are not even making money. How will they spend that much money? That's how we can give you a bank account. So we are working and we are, like, you know, like, really, really pushing to work on it. Hopefully, next few months, we should have, like, you know, some partner who can at least just give you a bank account because I think that's a very important piece of the entire puzzle. That's one bank. The next one is the acquire Bank. Acquire Bank is just related to your business. The acquire Bank doesn't know your name. They would not know its word for Stefani. They would just know you with a code, you know, like your account number. So they will know you with the code that you are in as an adult or as in a sex act. OK, a lot of time acquire banks also deplatform you when that happens, that's when your payment processing stops. That has nothing to do with your personal bank account that has everything to do with the acquire bank. So what we do is from time to time, we keep a check on what you're doing every month you get an education series about what are the new rules? What's happening on your platform that you might be doing wrong. You're always open to ask questions like, Hey, you know what? This is what I'm doing. Like the people who actually end up selling, you know, sending pictures. Hey, I'm gonna be doing an education series, and I was thinking about wearing this. Is it OK? So we actually even respond, like, you know from these two, Maybe you should wear this pink. It also makes you look prettier, you know? so it's just like, you know, you have to do a lot of hand holding. But then also what happens is I suppose one acquirer bank takes you off since we work with multiple. And if you know what the problem is, we help you please, with another acquire bank as well. So that's how it works. But usually an acquire bank only would take you off if they have been flagged by their investors. That is the reason why you do not get to hear a lot about their names. Or secondly, you've really, really, really done, you know, amazingly well in, you know, like jeopardizing your future, which is again, chargeback. And now this chargeback is really horrible how it's done. And you've heard about stories, right? Oh, yeah, Yeah. Chargeback is going off the roof. People usually say, like, you know what? I did not have money to pay for veggies this month, So hence I have applied for a charge pack on something that I was subscribed for. You just can't do anything. So that is the reason why you should not let if you ever get a refund request. Do not think twice. It's very unfortunate. Do not let this go to the acquire bank. You still get a window of 24 to 48 hours, try to solve it then and then, which means most of the time you might just return the money. Or you might say, Hey, You know what? You had my product. Keep it, enjoy it. Or the third thing is, that usually happen if you're a little bigger, You there are multiple, services. And we also have started providing a service as a joint venture where there are consultants, MasterCard facility, Visa facility, which we work to see if suppose if Shakun is swiping a card on Stefani's website and I'm an ongoing offender, that means I usually buy stuff and then I ask for a chargeback. Then you will, you know, I would not even get to actually pay or swipe the card, which will help you to, you know, bring down your chargeback. And also again, you must be like, you know, your refund policy is not correct. Maybe if your refund policy is not correct, you are completely, completely in hot soup. So there are services now that are coming up. There are solutions. This so there's a solution to everything. You just have to ask the right question. And that is why education is important.
Stefani: Don't know why you warned us that this would be boring. I have found this incredibly fascinating. And my social worker brain Forget my my sexual educator, sex therapist brain. My social worker brain is firing because I remember I, early in my career, Um, in several different agencies and contacts, I worked with people that were unhoused or that were at risk of becoming unhoused, or that we're couch surfing with friends and one of the biggest challenges to people being able to move from homelessness into a more stable environment was their access to banking. And in the social work world, we literally talk about this as you know, the population of the unbanked. People who might be working a minimum wage job and don't have enough to open a bank account at any given time or are hit by fees so constantly that it doesn't make sense to them to maintain it. So instead, they use, um, check cashing places who take $20 to cash their paycheck. But it's cheaper than a $35 overdraft fee at the bank, And this idea that some people are simply too poor to afford a bank account is a huge barrier to people having a stable basic-needs-providing life. And we often think about that in terms of the unhoused community and from a social work perspective. But I don't think we've ever really thought about it from the other side of people who are the artists and educators and entrepreneurs and content creators who are at risk of losing their access to their livelihood, not because they can't afford it to be banked, but because the banks are saying, no, we don't want you. And I think that listening to you talk about finance and banking and the intricacies of how payment processing works, as a social worker who's had a lot of experience on the other side with the “it's easier to pay $15 to the check cashing place than $35 to chase,” Um has really given me a dramatically different sort of conceptualization of, of how systemic injustice in money and finance and banking works. And I wanna thank you for that.
Shakun: Thank you so much like, you know, for for for not finding it boring. It's just like you know, I'm like, I'm actually geeing about, you know, payments about banking, about things. It's just you know, it's horrible and there's a reason why it is so. Because then you're actually able to make a lot of money. You know, I was so. I come from India and India is considered to be a, you know, country of Kama Sutra. But we do not talk about sex anymore. And I was talking to somebody like, you know, why don't we talk about sex? Why can't I just wear, like, really? Really? Um, you know why? Why can't just, like, openly just go out and, you know, just like, where did karma sutra life go? And the answer was very simple, that it's all politicized, you know, they have to subjugate you in order to take something out of you. So if you think about sexuality, if you think about you know, adult industry, they are not doing something wrong, but because they become make it so difficult. And that's how they're able to take so much money out of you. Like when I'm saying like you know they will take $5-6,000. You need a bank account. You can't be taking account you know, money in your personal account. How much can you take? You can take like you know, you can push to $50,000 but if you're good, you're gonna make more money. But you would need a bank account. Otherwise, is the, you know, like there will be repercussions. So what is the best option that you will you will take? You will go and you will say, Listen, I'm going to give you $5000 and that's how this industry works. You know, that's how it is so difficult, Like I was so uncomfortable. So I have a rule. Whoever I do business with, I want to see them. And if you're not ready to put your screen on, I am not comfortable, you know? And that is how this industry is because they also, you know, make you feel so uncomfortable. And when you are uncomfortable, that's when you make wrong decisions and that's how it happens. Like, you know, in India, I was trying to help someone, and we don't even target India because India is a very different ball game altogether, but different rules and regulations. so there is someone who can work here. But then there is an obnoxious cause just to say yes. And the reason is because they're not making money. And I was like, obviously if they're not making money, how are they going to pay this? You know, that's this industry, because this industry people just have this illusion that everybody makes a lot of money. And guilty as charged, I was of the same assumption before joining, and that was my pitch to my angel Investors that, Hey, you know what? I'm gonna make you, like, at least 50% off, you know, like 50% more. But that's not the case. There's hardly anybody who's making money because of all the issues that we go through.
Stefani: So as we move towards the end of our conversation this time because you and I are gonna keep talking, we always do. And you're gonna be with us in Detroit. So there's gonna be lots of conversation around this. But as we move towards the end of this episode, you know so often people think that the adult industry is this billion-dollar monolith, and it is in a very small and distinct way. The adult Industry – capital I – absolutely is. But there are so many independent people who don't want to be connected to an industry who might be doing this as a form of creative expression or as a way to educate people and not for per interests that people tend to think of when we talk about sex and sexuality and intimacy. and because of that, this very much is a social justice issue. This is a way that individual people are making their living and contributing to their community. And I'm curious, you know, as we head towards the end. What guidance would you give people who are maybe like me and, you know, mental health professionals wanting to do good work, but who are also allied with those people who are maybe just creative, sensual expressionists who want to put their art and their bodies out into the world? What can we do, um, to support one another to challenge the systemic injustice and to make sure that, um, people have access to the resources they need?
Shakun: See, I wanna break down and break this into two. Number one is if you're thinking about making money, then you have to understand that you can't be scared of numbers and you need to be educated. It's very important. I was shit scared, and I'm not kidding. The reason I took so long was because I was scared, you know? What is this? What is this? You know, like, what are these like every two months or new policy changes, But people do not want to understand it, you know, like people just go blind that, I don't want to like, you know, I know my marketing. I know my customer. That's it. That's one part of it. The second is about allies, because, like, you know how I've been saying that we cannot be dependent on high tech because ultimately, high tech is run by people who are not resonating with what we are doing as an entire industry. We have to really, really, really, really you know, like, support each other. And it could be in multiple ways. So I'll give you an example. If I am a therapist or if I am a social worker, for me to reach from here to there, I need multiple resources, multiple advice, multiple counseling, you know, on different fields. So if I'm an ally, I have to understand what you need. It can't be just like you know me, posting about you on LinkedIn. It has to be like, Hey, what do you exactly need? You know, So and what I understood was one of the biggest reasons why a lot of us are not, you know, able to make money. All the issues kept aside because obviously, a few people are able to make money is that we ourselves are not able to ask the right question and ask, you know, what do we really need? And all our allies? We just end up collecting them in a single feed. So we really have to, you know, broaden our horizon. And that was the reason why I found this very exciting, because there is tech a very completely different field. There is, you know, something to do with sexuality working together, you know, And that is the reason why this podcast makes so much sense. So we have to actually go out of our cocoon, and we would find that there are a lot of allies who would assume that, You know, this is the only thing we can do, but actually, they can do a lot of other things. So we need those outsiders. We need to welcome them. Tell them what are our issues rather than just telling them, Hey, this is what I need because a lot of time, things just come, you know? So it has to be an amalgamation of a lot of things. You have to take a lot of maybe advice from, you know, like, how behavior was formed. There are different startups, but they're all working together. I need to raise funds. I know, like, you know, there are gonna be, like, 10 different tech bros I can go to, You know, I love using this for tech bros. I can go to they might think, like, you know, I'm a woman, a poor woman, You know, she needs our support, but whatever you know, they're still going to connect me to those 10 people. I need this thing, you know so there is a community and everybody is not doing the same thing. But everybody actually has the role and goal, which is to create revenue here. It's about, you know, to express ourselves for sexuality for, you know, for making a change, for making a dent. But we all end up working together. We have to go out of the cocoon. And I was just like, Oh, my God. I just know people in sexuality I stopped knowing people outside, you know, you you just you you just become stagnant. And I think that's also one of the major things that we have to like, really, really shift in our industry as a whole.
Wolf: I wanna thank you so much for your bravery. I wanna thank you for willing this, this service, this tickle charge into life. This is fantastic. I really appreciate the conversation today.
Shakun: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have no idea why I was supposed to do it, but I just think like I was born to do this. So hence I'm doing this.
Wolf: It's great to have you with us. It's great to have you listeners for joining us. Thank you so much for tuning in to Securing Sexuality. Your source of information you need to protect yourself and your relationships
Stefani: Securing Sexuality is brought to you by the Bound Together Foundation, a 501 C three nonprofit together in partnership with our conference sponsor, Adam and Eve, from the bedroom to the cloud, we're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Wolf: Be sure to check out our website, SecuringSexuality.com to links for more information about the topics we discussed here today, as well as our live conference in Detroit
Stefani: Where if you're curious about how this works, you can talk to Shakun in person and join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week.