Insights from Aella, an OnlyFans star who has been at the forefront of this change.
This is a rather pathetic way to glamorize the most degrading occupation a woman can have. Would we expect this woman to say she feels disgusted with things she has to do and her clients (on the record, using her actual alias)? No one would be acquiring her services in that case.
Thomas Edison said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. There are a lot of options available to women in this country, not just factory work vs sex work. But even with the factory work it is still possible to work one’s way up. At least in that case the society does not close its doors, but actually looks positively at starting from humble beginnings.
The good question to ask that woman would have been what impact her choice of occupation had on her family and what limits it places on her own future.
It's interesting how many commenters were apparently unable or unwilling to read or understand the article because their moral prejudices got in the way. I don't even necessarily disagree with them about prostitution (I have never, and would never, get involved with it on any level), but there is value in trying to understand points of view that are very different from your own, and Aella and Bari certainly gave us an opportunity to do that.
I enjoyed reading this, and appreciate the deviation from your typical subjects.
One of the many reasons I enjoy reading your work is that you are fiercely independent. The thing that first put you on my radar was your resignation letter. More specifically,
you mentioned something to the effect of Twitters not on the masthead of the NYT but it might ad well be given how much their journalists are influenced by its members.
By the same principle, I encourage you to keep writing about whatever you want and not changing your approach based on user feedback.
I have enjoyed the vast majority of your work but this interview was very disappointing to me. For the vast majority of women "sex work" is not glamorous or financially lucrative. Mostly it is degrading, abusive, disgusting. It is neither "sex" nor "work" but rather rape and exploitation. I would much rather you interviewed Julie Bindel or Rachel Moran or Gail Dines or their US equivalents.
Women don't need to be "protected" anymore, but intact couples and families are far better off in terms of health, finances, and outcomes for children--so the need for stable partners will always be there in a functional society. I think Bari and Aella are missing a piece of the puzzle: the fact of government programs gradually taking the place of male partners, both financially and in child-rearing. In the JAMA article, sexual inactivity is higher for low-income men and men with part-time or no employment, and occurs mainly among unmarried men, all of which perhaps fits a "government as spouse" hypothesis, and may partially explain the data.
I wonder if all the women and children in the world who are trafficked to be “sex workers” are happy with their lot. Actually I don’t have to wonder. They are enslaved. This interview sounds like a Pretty Woman scenario. Totally unrealistic.
Wow. Amazing stuff. Aella is clearly a very thoughtful and intelligent person.
Her paragraph that includes "Why are men here?" resonates with something I've been thinking about for a while. In mammal species, females get pregnant, give birth, and nurse their offspring. In many mammal species, males mostly just hang around waiting for mating opportunities and engaging in dominance challenges with other males in order to save time when mating opportunities come along (like, if there's a female in heat and two males are nearby, it simplifies matters if the males have previously established which one is dominant and therefore gets to mate). Without any lasting family relationships between fathers and mothers or fathers and children, the males' reason to exist is basically just because you need two sexes for sexual reproduction. In humans, on the other hand, due to the extreme stresses (compared to many other species) of pregnancy and childbirth, and the potential to have many children of varying ages all needing some degree of parental attention for many years (unlike many species where a small litter of offspring grow up together and achieve independence within a few months of birth), we developed a different role for males as providers and protectors. Another way to say this is that among humans, despite any apparent "dominance" of women by men, in reality men are an adjunct sex whose purpose is to aid women. But once reliable contraceptives came along in the 20th century, spurring women to become more independent, men were left in the position of feeling (whether they realized it consciously or not) that their purpose in life was no longer valid. If women can indeed "do it all", as the feminists of the '70s and '80s said, then what are men needed for other than impregnation? And how does society deal with this situation?
This was totally fascinating and I listened to it twice in full before deciding to write. There are two things that I want to raise with you.
First is the way that your guest described her escort work as a kind of therapy session for needy men, and that she found it really fulfilling. I sat there thinking this is totally out to lunch! As a high cost escort she was basically the Lamborghini of prostitutes, and I would hate to hear the career highlights of a street prostitute in LA or Bangkok. I’m sure they wouldn’t be endearing and heartwarming sex positive messages. I know you don’t necessarily agree with everything your guests say, but I thought that without any pushback from you, it put a phony spin on what most people consider an exploitative business. I had a similar reaction when you did that Hoover Institution interview and Niall Ferguson kind of roped you into some of his extreme statements that I don’t think you actually agree with.
The other thing I wanted to mention was about the discussion at the end about shame. Your guest said that shame in society is increasing and being weaponized as a method of control. It sounded to me like you agreed with her. I can understand that a prostitute/pornstar might have a higher shame threshold than I do, but my experience over my adult life is that actually the operation of shame is on the decline in society. Starting with the “no shame in my game” types back in the 90s, society has come to tolerate increasingly crass, dysfunctional behavior of all kinds, with predictable results that, as you point out constantly, no one is allowed to say the real reasons for.
I guess those aren’t really questions, more like comments from a fan. Overall I want to say great work, every article and podcast is interesting, and I look forward to seeing what you do next!
It's extremely sad that so many young men and women are failing to have romantic relationships with each other today. Life has gotten so precarious for so many people, few have the time, energy, and resources to invest in finding a mate. And it's not just the men who suffer from the lack of romantic relationships, the women suffer just as much and more. Although I would love to be young again, I would want to be young again as things were when I was young back in 1971, not young again in the online woke dystopia of 2021.
Bari - I love your work and although I found this (I listened on the podcast) very interesting and enjoyable I happened to coincidentally listen to it after Candace Owen's recent podcast with Tim Ballard who described his non-profit and experience with human trafficking (including the story of how he bought a 2 year old boy and a 3 year old girl at a human trafficking sex shop as part of a sting - he and his wife ended up adopting those two children and he was able to bust that operation b/c of the deal). Anyway, it was heart-wrenching and eye-opening listening to the numbers of enslaved people and children (millions) that are forced into the sex trade. I happened to listen to your podcast interview with Aella soon after (Aella is obviously very smart and I appreciated you bringing things back full circle at the end with her critique of the media, group think, etc) but it made me wonder if you were aware of Tim Ballard or any of the stats on sex trafficking when you did this story. To me it seems like a glaring issue that I could not stop thinking about while listening to Aella, even though I appreciated how intellectual, honest and independent she seems to be.
Clearly indicates that not only are we slouching to Gomorrah, we are like 95% of the way there.
Fascinating article, extremely thoughtful on both sides. On the protection issue, I always felt, in my marriage, that my husband and I were protecting each other--I thought the ways we did so were (perhaps stereotypically) masculine and feminine. Things worked great until he died, thought we both learned to appreciate the wag who called marriage a contract between a man who can't sleep with the window open and a woman who can't sleep with it shut.
Boring! Surprisingly boring. I couldn't finish the article. That's a first since I found "Common Sense". I think you fanned on this one. Oh well, nobody's perfect.
The Q&A about her childhood Christianity was the part which leapt out for me. Christianity had to be defended. In ways which feel eerily similar to today's diversity orthodoxy.
A couple days ago, I listened in as my wife was part of a Zoom meeting held by her company's diversity leader. And the entire meeting was dedicated to "allyship", or, how to be a better ally. There was a built-in assumption that those who did not buy into this, were, in effect, not allies, but enemies.
By making it an "allyship" conversation, there wasn't room for objecting, lest one wanted to be marginalized or fired (and yes, a CEO at that biz was once fired for their political views). One was coerced into to positions because there simply was no chance to speak out without causing great harm to one's career. Much as Aella described her religious upbringing as inherently defensive, the meeting felt very much as she described. Underneath the kind sounding words was a defensiveness that was ever-present. Any pushback against being an ally in the forms the diversity officer suggested was an opportunity for rejection. In other words, your career would get cancelled.
Aella's said her defensiveness of Christianity was "just sort of built very quietly into the background to how I processed information and addressed criticism and concerns." That sort of brainwashing was embedded in the diversity meeting I witnessed.
It is being ingrained, so it becomes built into your thinking. You had better process information and address concerns/criticism "the right way." Its all very cultish. And very disconcerting. And fwiw, I'm a liberal. I support diversity. But I'm not OK with the cult telling people (really requiring people who want a career), how to think.
All of culture, religion and law is about the regulation of shame. God help us if it ever disappears. It has been abused regularly but do you suppose the gas chambers and stalags could have happened without disregulated shame?
Thank you for this illuminating interview. Very brave of you to post this considering some of the comments below. It was lovely to read Aella's perspective on men's needs and loneliness and how she has been able to deliver a sort of healing intimacy to some of them. Human touch is powerful and healing and our shame-based attitudes toward physical intimacy leave many starved for touch.
I was also impressed that you did not shame or denigrate her but listened thoughtfully to her commentary. She has chosen a way of being in the world that many despise or judge. But she does not apologize for it. I am glad of that. It's time to stop shaming women who are openly sexual or freely choose work in the sex trades. Yes, there is violence and problems in this space—related to abuse, coercion, and underage issues, but this woman has found a way to engage with it safely.
If we weren't so squeamish about sex, I'm sure that we could figure out a way to legalize it (regulate it) within some healthy boundaries. We could start by emulating European attitudes toward nudity. In many places nudity is desexualized. Some brave films that have tackled perspectives on human sexuality are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sessions_(film) and also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortbus. American culture simultaneously hypersexualizes and shames bodies. We are very conflicted and prudish and we don't like discussing it. We educate our children very poorly (if at all in some families) on this issue. As if ignorance (and it's concomitant denial) were ever a solution for anything.
We can turn our noses up all we like—sex work is not going away any time soon and society will never control this space. In fact, it appears to be burgeoning. So, why not consider viable paths forward that include keeping sex workers safe, healthy, and give them some legal protections if things go wrong, etc.?
I'm not advocating against families. But, I believe that both healthy family units and sex work can coexist in the same culture. This simply requires exercising a bit of courage and creativity.