Sexy selfies and feminist GIFs are selling like hotcakes on non-fungible token (NFT) markets, but not everyone is thrilled about this trend.
Blockade Games co-founder Marguerite deCourcelle, who sold more than $160,000 worth of NFTs before the NFT craze really kicked off in August 2020, launched a cypherpunk self-portrait NFT in early September and said she intends to explore more “personal tokens” over the next year.
“I brought in about $20,000 in a month. I haven’t really focused on selling personal NFTs as a part of my business model,” deCourcelle said.
She marketed the campaign with photos of herself, portraits that clearly required styling and editing skills, which predictably attracted trolls and harassment on social media. Some trolls suggested models can’t be trusted, the infamous temptress trope, comparing deCourcelle to beauty queen Jessica VerSteeg, who is being charged with fraud. But deCourcelle wasn’t deterred.
“The bitcoiners that see me with a personal token are outraged that I’m … selling a scam with ‘my good looks.’ Most of my supporters and fans enjoy that I’m so front and center,” she said in an interview. “It brings more transparency as I try to be more personable and engaging.”
She said haters suggest she must choose to either be a model/influencer or a developer/designer, as if she couldn’t be both. Like many different types of influencers, crypto influencers often market by modeling, which plays out across social media instead of fashion magazines and runways.
For example, Rachel “CryptoFinally” Siegel collaborated with a variety of artists using Rarible in September to issue dozens of NFTs inspired by her selfies. She said one of her NFTs sold for hundreds of dollars worth of crypto, 1 ETH, and another of her NFTs is a lingerie photo titled “I’m in it for the money,” listed for $3,614 worth of ETH.
Siegel said she hasn’t cashed out any of her earnings yet. Instead, she uses them to mint new NFTs, buy collectibles from other artists and pay for other types of transactions. Many of these pieces are complex images, not simple selfies, all using her general vibe and features.
“The selfies are representative of new demographics starting to enter [the NFT market],” Siegel said.
Some crypto-savvy women are now using NFTs to profit from their public image, selling to fans who understand they’re basically paying a tribute to the creator in exchange for a blockchain-based receipt. If sex workers can sell bathwater or socks, and podcasters can sell stickers, why can’t crypto influencers sell blockchain receipts?
In response to the haters, who call these women vain and accuse them of harming the industry, Siegel tweeted: “if my selfies alone have the power to destroy crypto then honestly let it burn boys lmao let it burn.”
While some women find new conduits for artistic expression in NFT markets, others are dismayed to find their images used by strangers.
Although it may be unlawful for a stranger to profit from her misappropriated image, depending on the source, Ashtoshi herself struggled to get support from the platform to sell her art. She’s one of the critics who thinks selfie NFTs are silly.
“While, of course, my pictures were posted publicly on my Twitter, to have them taken from my page and then attempt to be sold with promises of ‘writing a person’s name on my boobs,’ etc., is a bit unsettling,” Ashtoshi said in an interview. “It’s unfortunate because I did ask to be verified on Rarible the same day I posted my art – but it never happened.”
Women in the crypto community don’t have a choice whether people will attempt to profit from their sexuality. They only have (limited) legal options to fight it like a cat-and-mouse game. This is a tale as old as time, where predominately male circles demean women profiting from their own image as the artist and owner, rather than the passive muse. As a painter who did not want to sell sexy selfies, Ashtoshi said she was disappointed by this dynamic.
“I won’t be posting anything else on Rarible or using the platform for anything from here on out,” Ashtoshi said. “While the idea of NFTs is super fascinating, I think there absolutely has to be some type of verification measures put in place to guarantee that what you are purchasing is an authentic piece of art.”
Ironically, a blockchain receipt only proves authenticity if the artist (or trading platform) invests legal resources to defend personal brands. No one suggests male influencers “deserve” to have selfies misappropriated, the way women are slut-shamed for selfies taken from Twitter. Some might say the self-portrait NFT trend is part of a wider push by feminist crypto fans to de-stigmatize self-sovereignty, especially with regards to the female body.
Ashtoshi said she wished she had posted her painting NFTs anonymously, to avoid her debacle. Other artists use anonymity to court controversy, such as the team called ButerinSisters (after Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin). They made a clitoris GIF NFT for roughly $54, which was traded by several collectors. ButerinSisters said they met other feminists in the space by promoting this NFT, and hope to playfully educate a few men as well.
“We are feminists and when we discovered the Rarible platform we realized that there were mostly creations made by men and for men, it seemed interesting to us to show feminine creations,” ButerinSisters said in an interview. “We want to use the web 3.0 technology to fight [the patriarchy] and develop feminists representations with decentralized infrastructure, which cannot be censored. … Anatomy is political.”