Annie of POV is Curating Curiosities

Category: POV Podcast

Author: Aria Vega

Annie is a writer, OnlyFans creator, and the editor of POV’s online magazine. Their work is focused on sex, cannabis, and traveling the world. Just don’t call them a hedonist. You can follow Annie on Twitter.

Podcast Transcript:

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Aria Vega [00:00:00] This podcast contains explicit content. Listener's discretion is advised.

Aria Vega [00:00:05] POV by Lustery explores culture, politics and creativity in the sex industry, one point of view at a time. I'm your host, Aria Vega.

Aria Vega [00:00:17] Annie [redacted] is a writer and the editor of POV's online magazine. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Annie first became a writer while still living in their home city. They write mostly about sex, as well as cannabis and travel. Annie ended up in Berlin by chance, but slowly made it their home, especially once they started writing for POV in 2018. By the way, listener, this interview probably sounds like it took place in an auditorium because my audio is just a bit echoey. I've just moved, and my home office is still pretty empty. Just picture me and Annie at a big post-pandemic sex conference in Berlin somewhere. Since this event is imaginary, I have decided on a lingerie-only dress code. You all look super hot! I appreciate your patience while I get my new recording setup going. Let's meet Annie [redacted].

Aria Vega [00:01:11] [Interview] Your work as a writer is is really centered on pleasure. You've written for Lustery and also various other publications about sex and cannabis and travel. Do you think of yourself as a hedonist?

Annie [00:01:25] I don't know. I think of myself as somebody who doesn't turn down opportunities to experience more. And, you know, sometimes, you don't want to experience more. It can always be a good story, it's not necessarily what you expect the experience to be. I'm thinking specifically of once writing a freelance story for Cosmopolitan magazine. I signed up to have this O-shot. Have you heard of it?

Aria Vega [00:02:00] No, like a picture of your orgasm face?

Annie [00:02:03] No, I wish! No, I know what that looks like... *Laughter*

Aria Vega [00:02:13] That was a wild guess! OK, you'll have to explain that to me.

Annie [00:02:19] So it was basically... I think this was in about 2017, and one of the Kardashians had made this vampire facial super popular. That's the thing where they take your blood and they take the plasma out of it, and then they inject it back into you. That's mean to revive your skin.

Aria Vega [00:02:42] Oh, my gosh! *Laughter*

Annie [00:02:47] Then, I don't know, some insane person was like, Let's take this exact concept, but do it with the clit.

Aria Vega [00:02:58] [Voiceover] You heard that right, listener. A plasma injection into the clitoris for the purpose of enhancing sexual pleasure. Now, there isn't a ton of research on this. Just some articles from a few brave journalists who have had a range of experiences. Let's just say, Annie wishes they hadn't been quite so eager, but the opportunity was hard to pass up.

Annie [00:03:21] So, you know, that kind of answers the question. I don't think I'm a hedonist, I'm just curious.

Aria Vega [00:03:30] You're intensely curious. And so it sounds like your writing has basically been a vehicle through which you explore life's pleasures and really interrogate their impact. So these days, you're the editor of the POV blog for Lustery. When you first became editor, what was the creative vision that you had for the platform?

Annie [00:03:55] You know, it's it's hard to say that I had one vision. It was the middle of the pandemic when I became the editor. So it was just like, OK, we are on the edge of the apocalypse. And now I got my dream job. *Laughter* You know, trying to find this like this balance, I guess, between what felt like like survival and then trying to pour myself into the space creatively. But I think the biggest thing that helped me develop my vision of POV was actually really getting to know the contributors. I had many Zoom calls, many long email threads, and it kind of just organically became very clear to me that, you know, POV is point of view. It's not my vision; my vision is a very small part of that. But what the space is about is about giving people a platform, and about having various voices. And it's kind of always for me...the way that I approach had been important to state to people, Hey, what do you want to write about? What feels important to you right now? And give guidelines. We have themes every month, but ultimately it's more of a collaborative process, and I love that. That's meant that my vision changes and evolves and it's not mine, it's the community. That is really what the vision is now, is that it's community space and it's about people. When I started off writing about sex, one thing I really, really hated was this kind of article that will be like "5 Moves to Drive Her Wild." Because, what is that? When I started off writing about sex, I was writing for things like Men's Health, and FHM, like, lad mags. And I thought, l've found myself inside! You know, the space where people most need to learn about feminism, about consent. I'm like an insider, and I don't want to say, you know, these are five moves to drive her wild, because I don't know her and I don't know what she likes! And maybe this is something you need to talk about. For me, having POV is this community space. No one is an authority on pleasure, no one knows everything. But if we're adding voices together and speaking as a community, this is how we learn. But I never want to go, I'm an authority. I know exactly what's going to get someone off. Because I don't.

Aria Vega [00:07:06] Absolutely. I'm so glad you put it that way, because it's really putting in perspective the way that the sort of sex centered media of ten or fifteen years ago was a whole cottage industry of sex content designed to keep us from talking about sex! That's really what these articles, "five movies to drive her wild," "how to give a better blowjob"... Every single piece of advice said everything except "talk to your partner," and just the fact that that whole genre of sex advice was considered so progressive so recently is really interesting. The way that I do see the current vanguard of the sex positive media... The biggest distinction between then and now, I would say, is 1) an emphasis on pleasure and 2) an emphasis on, well, there's no one right answer for everybody. And there's really no way to have good sex without talking about it. So here is how we can maybe talk about it better and seeing more advice geared toward that. Do you feel pressured as an editor to successfully amplify healthier discourse about sex online, given the rampant misinformation, censorship, whorephobia, all of these social toxins that pollute the space?

Annie [00:08:29] I wouldn't term it pressure, but I do feel a lot of responsibility. That doesn't come from anywhere other than, I want to do right by people. And how do you figure out what that is when our needs are so diverse and our perspectives are so different? And I think that again comes back to this idea of community, and with any article that I commission, I don't expect the writer to know at all. I don't expect it to be everything that you can stay on the topic. I just expect a kind of humanness to it so that somewhere somebody is going, Yeah, I relate to this or this. This resonates with me. And I think when you know, when you're losing sight of the humanness of who you're writing for, that's when you can really mess up.

Aria Vega [00:09:30] How can people who aren't writers or content creators contribute to a culture of healthier discourse about sex online?

Annie [00:09:38] It's a tricky one, because I think you've got to meet people where they're at, and not everyone is as comfortable talking about sex as I am. I get that and I respect that. Not everyone even wants to use their real name if they're commenting. You know, there's still a lot of stigma. So, I would never want to say to people, "you have to step out of your comfort zone." But I would say if there are people who are doing that and you like what they're doing, support them! That can be subscribing to somebody's Medium, or paying for your porn, or just liking what somebody is posting like. It's about engaging with people. Again, sex does not belong to certain people. Talking about it does not belong to certain people. Whatever your comfort level is, figure that out and go from there, and there's no wrong way to have an honest conversation.

Aria Vega [00:10:48] [Voiceover] So there you have it, folks. You don't have to be an artist or an activist to help move the needle forward when it comes to sexual politics. Engaging with those of us who are can go a really long way for sex educators, erotic creators and more. Those sweet likes and retweets boost visibility and expand our pool of customers and clients who support our livelihoods. They also actively oppose the political and algorithmic forces that devalue and obscure our work. That is something Annie is experiencing from a new angle these days.

Annie [00:11:20] So I joined OnlyFans a little over a year ago. I will admit right now that I was insecure, I guess, or not even insecure. But you know, I've spent so long talking about sex in other spaces that this was something that felt like an extremely natural move to me. And then when I did it and I felt like, Am I an imposter? That was surprising. And yeah, it's it's been a very interesting year. It's been a good learning experience, but it's also been something that before OnlyFans even existed, it was something that I kind of like dream about, having a space that I could like share openly with people. Not in a kind of like, "I want to be naked on the internet" kind of way. But just like, "I want to have the freedom to be naked on the internet if I want to without this being an issue. "

Aria Vega [00:12:19] You said that, in part because you were in sexuality spaces as a writer before you started making your own content, that you felt like an imposter. What do you think contributed to that sense? What gave you the sense that you were doing things out of order?

Annie [00:12:36] OnlyFans, very much the same as with how I've approached my writing work or almost anything in my life, I've kind of done things my own way. And when I step back and try to compare to anyone else, I'm going, Wait am I doing this right? It's also it comes down to... We keep being fed this narrative that there is something inherently problematic about being naked on the internet, that this is some thing to be fearful of, that if you have other prospects, why would you do this? It makes everyone doing this kind of work seem like they're in a desperate situation, or seem like there's no other option. I am privileged enough to make this choice. Even as a very sex positive person, you realize that on some deep down level, there is this niggling voice going, Is this right? Is this good? And being sex positive and being empowered is acknowledging that the point exists, it's not about not having those questions. It's just about being able to engage with them.

Aria Vega [00:13:55] It's interesting that that "no options" narrative that is so prevalent. That, "Oh, everyone who does sex work is doing so because they had no better prospects." It's just another way in which the agency of sex workers is undercut to non-sex workers. It's another way to to paint them with a broad brush and make them seem like perpetual victims of circumstance, or whatever it is. And one of the biggest ways that we can undercut that stigma is to understand that there are a multitude of reasons that people pursue this work.

Aria Vega [00:14:32] [Voiceover] All that being said, Annie is wise to be thoughtful about their relative privilege as a sex worker, which can't be said for all creators on OnlyFans. When those with a higher profile beyond sex work treat the profession like a tourist, it can blow back on the people who are actually in the trenches. A prime example is actress Bella Thorne, who once directed a porn film as research for a role and later made a creator account on OnlyFans to sell vaguely suggestive selfies at the $20 a month tier. After Thorne misled her fans about the nature of a $200 pay per view image — as in, it wasn't a nude as she'd promised — the fans requested so many refunds that OnlyFans changed their payout structure for everyone. Creators now had to wait weeks instead of days to receive their funds, and there was a new cap on the prices they could charge, which wasn't the case before Bella Thorne's stunt. It was a harsh blow to creators early in the pandemic, but it wouldn't be the last. Earlier this fall, OnlyFans announced that it would no longer host explicit content on the site, triggering an exodus. After widespread internet outcry, the ban was reversed, but the damage had been done. Annie remembers exactly how it felt to receive the initial news.

Annie [00:15:51] [Interview] That first moment hearing about it, it was this combination of my heart sinking to my feet, and also just going Right, of course it was coming.

Aria Vega [00:16:04] So, shock, but not surprise.

Annie [00:16:07] Yeah, exactly. The day that it happened, I was with some friends who also crators there. Everyone's phone was blowing up. And every single person who knows that you have an OnlyFans are suddenly sending you the same article or tha same links, and you're like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard, I heard. Friends of mine who... They've been through the exact same thing with Patreon, with all sorts of platforms. And it's kind of like, I don't know if you live in a disaster zone, or [along] the tornado routes or whatever it is, you were setting up shop knowing full well that it can all go to shit any day. But what other spaces do we have? And I think there was just this incredible sense of fury and resignation. For me personally, I was traveling at the time, and it immediately just became a thing of, I need to make time to write something, put something onto my OnlyFans. Because people started jumping ship. Not creators, but fans. So OnlyFans goes, Oh we reversed our decision, it's fine. But a lot of people who were supporting producers there went, No, I want nothing to do with this or OK, it's going under, I'm done. And almost every creator that I know, like the month after it was all meant to go down, they're having one of their worst months ever. So it's incredibly frustrating that they've kind of painted themselves in this light where they've gone, Actually, kidding! Everything's fine! There has been an effect.

Aria Vega [00:17:55] I imagine this would have been painful at at any time, but particularly at that point, a year, year and a half into a pandemic that has indirectly made OnlyFans a household name because of the work of sex workers. And then to do this at all during a pandemic! There were so many ways that the timing of that seemed particularly callous, and I don't think that OnlyFans will lose the association with that aspect of it.

Annie [00:18:27] Oh yeah. But I mean, it also doesn't hurt them because it's not like there is really any competition out there. You know, there are a couple of other platforms doing similar things, but at the end of the day, unfortunately, it is also a matter of that... OnlyFans has become a household name, so people that might have reservations about following your fan account on some site they've never heard of, they're like, OK, yeah, OnlyFans, cool, I've heard of them. That's fine. That's fun. This is pop culture. I think there's this almost still a reluctance to really engage with the fact that this is sex work. It's kind of what we were talking about earlier. It's it's not a brand. These are people and they're getting naked and they're fucking. This is not about like the household name OnlyFans. This is real people doing real work.

Aria Vega [00:19:34] Real work that they have every right to do. And I think that's I feel like that's really getting lost in the conversation, which is so focused on like the moral outrage with the ubiquity of OnlyFans. And I think that's that's a big part of why we've seen "sex work as work," that slogan really proliferate. Somebody put it really well on Twitter, I saw somebody say that the most essential utility of that slogan is to help make it clear that sex workers, like all workers, are exploited. Work is an inherently exploitative process, and therefore workers deserve protections from the most dangerous aspects of it. And so therefore, sex workers deserve those protections just like any other worker. And I think that that deserves to be centered way before all of the moralizing and hand-wringing. It frustrates me — it seems like the the double edged sword of the ubiquity of OnlyFans. On the one hand, like it's making sex work perhaps a little bit more normalized, but on the other we are focusing on the wrong aspects of it.

Aria Vega [00:20:51] [Voiceover] So much moral outrage around porn has sounded the same for decades, like the collective concern about porn being an unrealistic representation of sex. Of course, as we know from my recent conversation with erotic creator Delfine Dahlia, that concern that would be much better directed at mainstream movies. Instead, this flimsy argument also blatantly ignores just how much porn production has evolved in the internet age.

Annie [00:21:19] [Interview] Anyone can pick up a phone, pick up a camera and record themselves having sex. Whether they're masturbating, whether they're with their partners, whatever. Any one can be a creator. I think what that also has really emphasized is that porn... A lot of it is performance, of course, but it doesn't have to be. And when people make this argument that porn gives a unrealistic expectations about sex.. That is one type of porn!

Aria Vega [00:21:54] [Voiceover] Annie also notes that modern porn performers aren't just taking on production roles in order to create their content independently, they're also doing their own PR, growing a following online and keeping folks engaged and entertained with free content.

Annie [00:22:09] [Interview] And also the fact that porn is not meant to give you realistic expectations about sex. Porn is about fantasy.

Aria Vega [00:22:16] Hello! Say it again!

Annie [00:22:19] It's not sex education. This isn't the job of porn creators now. You're seeing a fully fledged human being. This isn't somebody that just you'll see on some VHS once and never see them again. People are engaging with porn performers on social media. They're seeing that this is not somebody who is just faking orgasms on camera and that's all you know about them. And I think that humanizing is important.

Aria Vega [00:22:55] It absolutely is. And I think that's absolutely key to the shift that you're describing in porn, and possibly entertainment in general. Now that it's no longer top down with a select few deciding for everybody what type of entertainment they can have access to, social media has democratized that and we're all creators. We all have access to the same — for the most part — to the same tools and platforms, and we are using those tools and platforms to add dimension. The flip side of that is sometimes you find out your favorite pop star has some really awful opinions about something you care about, and you wish you didn't know that shit! *Laughter* But that's that's life. That's the internet, and that's life. You take the good with the bad. Figure out how to mitigate the bad and amplify the good. And I don't know. I think we're doing our best.

Annie [00:23:44] We really are! *Laughter*

Aria Vega [00:23:48] That's Annie [redacted], writer, OnlyFans creator and editor of the POV online magazine. You can follow Annie on Twitter @ababygodzilla, and you can read her work on sex, porn and not-quite-hedonism at lustery.com/pov. Did you also become an erotic content creator in the time since the pandemic began? I love to hear about your experiences, and the most important things you've learned from sex workers who have been at it since The Before Times. Hit me up at askaria@lustery.com, or you can find me on Twitter @vegadreamcawst. If you're into the show, please leave us a five star rating and a review. POV is brought to you by Lustery, and this episode was hosted by me, Aria Vega. It was edited and produced by Kathryn Fischer and Adrienne Teicher, and our showrunner is Paulita Pappel. Lustery is the home of real-life partners filming their sex lives behind closed doors. If you're 18 or older, you can find us at lustery.com, and we're on Twitter and Instagram @lusterypov. So long, lovers!