Wherein I pay Aella for sex, and we just chat instead*
On sex work, dominating OnlyFans, and the digestive benefits of eating someone else's poop
*I didn’t actually end up paying her for sex, though when I DM’ed her at 3AM after too much champagne, the conversation inexplicably started in that direction before course-correcting, and it was a bit awkward.
Aella is the nom de guerre of a top OnlyFans performers, sex worker, Twitter pollster, blogger, and asker of awkward and inflammatory questions (like why is bestiality taboo?).
We were both attending the Founders Fund Hereticon event when we sat down in my hotel room to discuss the talk she gave at the conference titled “How to Pay for Sex.”
For the sake of both my girlfriend and the Miami Beach Police Department, can you confirm that we have not engaged in any lewd or lascivious acts?
We have not committed any lewd or lascivious acts, although it would be legal. It’s only if you pay for it….you can pay for the time you know. Then it’s legal.
I’ll think about that workaround for a second....
But we did not engage in any lewd or lascivious acts.
Thank you. I listened to your talk at Hereticon with Laci Green which I found fascinating. You said a couple of things I have questions about. Your own history, to trace it briefly: you had a rough childhood, very Christian, also homeschooled….then you went to work at a factory and tried to find a way out. You became a cam girl, and in broad brushstrokes, it was cam girl, sex worker and then OnlyFans.
You’re obviously a very capable, smart person: would the Aella story would have landed in the same spot if you had a different start in life? If you hadn’t worked in a factory say, or if your family had been different? Would you be a Y Combinator founder right now instead? Nothing against the current line of work, but I often ask myself the counterfactual of where I’d be if matters were otherwise.
It’s unlikely. Part of the reason I’ve been so successful is that I accidentally ended up in something smart, young women don’t end up in, which is sex work. Most people with some level of competence end up in college, and I didn’t for various reasons. That put me already into a minority….you mentioned earlier that you yourself stand at the desolate intersection of a Venn diagram of two different worlds. That has propelled me at a greater level of success than would have otherwise happened.
I really tried to go to college. Because I was very much stuck in the standard this is what success looks like. I had very, very small world view of what was possible for me. And when I didn't get to go to college, I cried. I was really sad: “well I guess minimum wage jobs are forever.” That's what my world was.
I think sex work really helped broaden that; it taught me kind of by accident that you can have success in life through very different ways. If you take risks, if you do the thing that other people don't typically do, but you do it very seriously and you do it very well, then that in itself earns some sort of respect or validation or the skills translate to other things. And I would never have been able to predict that beforehand.
That's not the answer I expected. You're essentially advocating for excellence—being the top 1% in whatever you are—whether it be OnlyFans or engineering at Facebook.
People tend to rewrite their own narratives and make them feel good about the present; I do the same thing, obviously. You feel in some sense it was a blessing in disguise, your rough start in life. That it set you on this course that you wouldn't otherwise have started?
I like that you said that people tend to rewrite their narratives. I think it's true. Probably if I had started with a different outset, I would be right now saying, “Yeah, the origin story was great.” You don't know the paths of the multiverse that get cut off and you sort of make do with what you have. But yeah, I'm very happy. The childhood thing was kind of abusive and I went through a period of time where I was traumatized and regretted it. But I think I have dealt with that and now I'm grateful for all of it.
One thing you said at the talk that got my attention…you're obviously pro sex worker. I don't know if you prefer the term prostitution or sex work.
Sex work is a broad label and prostitution is more specific, but yeah.
Okay … a couple things. One, you started the conversation by saying you felt OnlyFans was making you anxious and was obnoxious for a bunch of reasons, and actually you preferred sex work to OnlyFans. I think most people would default think, “Oh no, one would prefer doing a virtualized version of eroticism rather than the IRL version of it.”
You went even further, saying not only was it better for you, it's better for society, if I read you correctly. That broadly prostitution or sex work is better than porn for everybody involved: you, men and families.
Yeah, I think so. To be clear, I think both of them are better than not existing. I think online sex work is better than the lack of online sex work. But compared to online sex work, in-person or full-service sex work, is definitely healthier. It more mimics the organic interactions we have with people. And it doesn't get subject to the pretty toxic effects that come when you have very asymmetric interactions online. Because with the online thing, it's a bunch of men to one woman, all at once. And so it really modifies the interaction in ways that kind of are fucking with the psyche a little bit. I really prefer the one-on-one stuff.
Here’s a confession: I dated an escort in grad school. She was also a grad student, very bright, working on a PhD. And we talked about her motivations, because I found it interesting why she opted for it.
She also came from a hardscrabble background: Minnesota, single mother, trailer park, poor. She told me, “I just wanted to make more than I'm making in grad school.” That was literally the only thing. Paraphrasing: “I go out weekends and I come back 1200 bucks to the good and I hang out with SVPs from so-and-so tech company at the St. Francis Towers in San Francisco, and that's what I do weekends.”
Before we started dating, she just laid it on me as I guess an ethical disclosure, like, “By the way, you have to know that I have this other second life.” And I'm like, “Huh. That explains the other closet with all the fancy clothes you never seem to wear.” She had two closets, normal grad student clothes and then lots of black dresses. Naively I thought when I first met her: “Do you go to social balls all the time? I don't understand this other wardrobe.”
As you are, she was full of agency and very intentional about her life. In fact, she was probably one of the willful grad students I ever met. Grad students are typically total train wrecks, but her life was absolutely put together. I did wonder then about her—if it’s too personal, we don't have to talk about it—but I do wonder if sex work changes your own sexuality. Does it warp it in strange ways and do the lines ever get blurred? When people imagine themselves in that situation, because of course they’ve not had the experience, they struggle to project what it would be like to have that very personal part of their life become a professional occupation.
Yeah, to some degree. Overall, it has a relatively small impact. Because I'm just very good at compartmentalization. The kind of sex that I have with clients is totally different psychologically than the kind of sex I have unpaid. I forget sex that I have with clients. After the appointment, it just vacates my brain and I just don't remember it at all. It's like some other thing that randomly happens: it's not important.
But there is one way in which it is impacting my personal sex life, which is I'm much less tolerant of doing things I don't want to do anymore. Because in my professional sex life, I'm constantly doing things that I'm like this is not something that's arousing to me at all. Now in my personal sex life, I'm a fucking selfish bitch. I'm like, if I'm not genuinely enjoying exactly everything that's happening in the sexual interaction, I'm not going to do it. I just don't care. Now it's kind of on an unreasonable level of selfishness, which works great if I find somebody who's genuinely compatible with me because then we can both be selfish together and it really gets us off. But at this point I just stopped having sex with people who aren't already very compatible with me because I'm just not really willing to compromise anymore.
Obviously you date outside of your work. I follow your Twitter, and I think you were partner shopping for a while at some point, weren't you?
Searching for a serious relationship, yes.
How's that going?
Pretty good. Among the groups of people who I'm interested in dating, none of them have an issue with sex work whatsoever. I've already filtered through a couple other things that it's no longer any sort of factor whatsoever in the relationship. So I met a guy I just dated for seven months this last year from the date-me survey. I don't know if you saw that at all.
Yeah. I did see that.
Yeah. So did a survey and then he scored #2 on it. I designed the poll and then scored the different answers and sorted everyone onto a list. He scored the second highest and so our first date was three days in an Airbnb. It was great; we ended up not being long term potential, but it was a great experience. And so I'm trying to approach dating with a little bit more intention now.
Another thing that caught my attention in the talk is that you mentioned, and I don't recall whether it was your professional sex work or just private sex life, but you have a spreadsheet in which you have all your men. You organize them, and I assume there are various columns. Is there a global score? What column do you sort it by? How does that spreadsheet work?