Pop quiz! Which of these is more morally shameful: selling nude photos of yourself to other adults, or being an employer who pays your employees so little that they need to sell nude photos of themselves to make ends meet?

Unfortunately, a lot of people would probably say the first is the worst. We have a real puritanical streak that runs through our culture, particularly where sex is concerned. We often conflate sex and morality in a way that harms us overall. Maybe I’m the one with the messed-up sense of right and wrong, but I tend to measure actions based on the harm they cause. Who is a more moral person: a woman who has a lot of (consenting, adult) sexual partners, or a woman who is a virgin until marriage, but owns a business and makes her employees work unpaid overtime?

This past week, the New York Post – a trashy tabloid that soldiers on, undeservedly outlasting dozens of better papers – ran a story about a young woman in New York City who was supplementing her low paramedic salary by selling sexy pictures of herself on a website called OnlyFans. Now, OnlyFans isn’t just for porn. It’s a subscription website where, for a low monthly fee, you get access to exclusive content. The format means it’s pretty flexible: Musicians, artists and personal trainers all use it. But the amount of control OnlyFans puts in the hands of its content creators means it’s become fairly popular for naughty content. I took a lot of history and literature classes in college, so trust me when I say: Every time a new technological medium has been invented, humanity has figured out a way to use it to create porn.

The article was pure voyeurism and had no journalistic merit; there was no compelling public interest. It’s not like the paramedic stole an ambulance for use in filming sexy videos. She’s 23 and trying to make a living in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country. The Post should pick on someone their own size. The real scandal is that someone whose job is rushing to the scene of emergencies to save lives isn’t paid enough to live comfortably. The last thing you want when you’re having CPR being performed on you is the first responder worrying about making rent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar situations popping up in Portland. Cost of living is skyrocketing, and the City Council is continuing to slow-walk the emergency wage raise that people voted for.

Isn’t the American Dream to hustle and be an entrepreneur and use whatever talents God gave you to make something of yourself and achieve financial security? Then why wouldn’t that apply to particularly photogenic women? Besides, we’re literally in the middle of an economic crisis and a public health emergency. OnlyFans has seen a huge spike in both subscribers and creators: Subscribers because, well, what else are you going to do if you’re stuck inside and you’ve gone through your entire Netflix queue, and creators because selling nude photos is something you can do safely from inside your home. With OnlyFans you can set your own prices as you see fit, and you can block customers who are abusive. We shouldn’t be sweeping sex workers to the darkest corners of the internet. It’s not helping anyone.

I don’t know which enrages me more: that a woman whose job is literally to save lives is paid so little that she has to take on side gigs to make ends meet, or that the existence of nude photos of a woman is enough to make her worry about her job security. I mean, have we ever considered how weird that is, that simply having naked pictures on the internet means risking a job? We all have a naked body under our clothes.

When I write my columns, I bare intimate parts of myself. I write about my hopes and fears, my failures and blunders, my recovery from alcoholism. Why should someone selling intimate photos of herself be judged any differently than someone who sells her thoughts and experiences?

As a society, we need to take a good look in the mirror and sort out our priorities. Call me a crazy liberal hippie, but I’d like to live in a culture where sexual activities between consenting adults are no big deal, and where working one job is enough to survive.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemillennial

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