This week, the New York Post has come in for intense criticism after publishing an article about a paramedic in the city who was working a side job selling pornographic images of herself on the website OnlyFans. The EMT worker apparently did not want to be profiled by the paper but they published the story anyway. It’s not true that the Post “doxxed” her, as they have been accused. Doxxing is the malicious publication of private information. The story may have been malicious, but they were publishing what the woman herself had already revealed publicly. Anything you put on the internet for public consumption is no longer private. The New York Post did not force the woman, or any other woman, to make public what should be private. With that said, the story was inappropriate and rather baffling, as she is not a public figure and nothing about her life is newsworthy. Lots of people put embarrassing material on the internet on purpose. A news organization should have a clear and ethical reason for publishing it. I can’t imagine what that reason would be in this case.
But the national conversation has gone beyond merely criticizing the Post for running a needless story about a woman on OnlyFans. Quickly, the controversy became an opportunity for prominent voices on the Left to promote sex work itself as a legitimate pursuit. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, along with the ACLU, declared that “sex work is work.” Lengthy think pieces were written defending cyber prostitution, and old fashioned prostitution, as noble professions. While the wagons are circled around OnlyFans, other publications like the Daily Beast have worried that the recent criticism of PornHub may be driven by anti-sex-work bias. It has long been a goal of the left to normalize prostitution. Companies like PornHub, and especially OnlyFans — porn sites that “empower” women by providing them a platform to sell their bodies — have essentially achieved that long sought goal, even while prostitution remains technically illegal in most states.
Is it true, though? Are women empowered through prostituting themselves online or offline? Is sex work real work, as AOC contends? As to the latter question, in a very strict dictionary sense, the answer is yes. Work means “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” I suppose there is a minimal amount of physical effort involved in posing nude for a webcam. And the intended result, of helping men masturbate in exchange for profit, is no doubt accomplished. But if we take a more elevated view of “work” and define it as “the use of a certain skill in performing crucial service that has tangible and lasting benefit to the consumer,” it is not work at all. There is no skill involved in taking off your clothes, and there is no lasting benefit to the other person involved in the transaction. Perhaps my definition of “work” is a bit ad hoc, but it points to the clear distinction that exists between a prostitute and, say, a car mechanic. Both are doing something with their bodies in exchange for money. But only one involves a tangible and rare skill, and yield results which will benefit the consumer in a substantial way. If these are both work, or even “real work,” they are still not the same kind of work. There is a reason one is respected and the other is not. And it ought to stay that way.
The other thing that separates the OnlyFans prostitutes from members of more dignified professions is that the prostitute debases and dehumanizes herself. Her entire role is to be debased and dehumanized. She is meant to be nothing but a masturbatory aid, an empty vessel, faceless and nameless. Workers in other kinds of jobs may feel rather debased at times, and often for good reason, but the prostitute offers up her debasement as the product. Her body, her privacy, her sexuality — all that is most intimate and sacred — is what she sells. It is a very different sort of thing from the Walmart cashier, who may experience her own sort of namelessness, but her dignity is not the product that customers have come to buy. There is a reason that drug abuse and suicide are so common among porn stars and prostitutes. The media chalks it up to “mental illness,” or social ostracization, but one need not be sick or alienated to feel despair amid a life dedicated to one’s own degradation. Of course women are depressed when their “work” consists of presenting their bodies to be ogled by men on the internet. What else would they feel? Joy? Fulfillment? We are constantly being assured by miserable people that if we do what is meaningless and empty, we will find happiness. As always, the lie reveals itself. Nobody actually is happy doing these things that are supposed to make them happy. They find despair and self-destruction where the happiness was supposed to be.
It was interesting to debate this issue on Twitter this week and read the counter arguments. Two themes emerged, seeming at first to contradict each other. First, as discussed, I was told that prostitution and porn are empowering and beautiful. Second, I was told that all work is debasing and dehumanizing. Every worker is a prostitute, in effect, because they are all being exploited in exchange for money. This is Marxism, and it’s wrong, but it clarifies the debate. As it turns out, the Left is not actually elevating prostitution by calling it “real work.” Rather, they are degrading real work. They aren’t pulling prostitution up to the level of work but pulling work down to the level of prostitution. Yes, prostitution is dehumanizing, exploitative, and ultimately pointless, but so is everything else, they say.
Their view of life, of everything, is so vulgar and dreary that they cannot see the difference between someone who uses the skills and talents they’ve cultivated in order to provide a good or service that has actual value and makes people’s lives better, and someone taking off their clothes and showing their genitals to strangers on the internet. It is not that they see the genital-flasher as doing something noble. It’s that they don’t see nobility in anything. The whole world lies before them in shades of grey. All things are empty at their core. So, why not prostitute yourself? Why not turn your body into a commodity? Why not treat it like something no more valuable than a toaster over you find in the clearance section at Walmart? Nothing has value. Nothing has meaning. That is their fundamental belief.
Happily, though, life is much more than they make it out to be. Your body is much more than a product that can be put on a shelf. Your sexuality is much more than a service to be bought and traded. And that is the truth, which is far more empowering, uplifting, and liberating than anything these people are selling us.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.