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How Common Is Sex Trafficking, Compared To Other Things?

How common is sex trafficking in the western world? There’s a lot of concern about it, particularly in recent Onlyfans discourse. In some circles, sex trafficking is implicitly viewed as an epidemic, something we should make strong moves against.

It’s hard to get data on how common it is. People might not consider what happened to them ‘sex trafficking’, maybe it happens disproportionately to lower classes who are harder to survey, maybe people are extremely private about it, or ashamed, and would never check the ‘yes’ box on a survey.

So I figured I’d try a survey where I ask people about “who they know” – I’d ask a bunch of people (mostly from the US or western Europe) if they knew anybody who was sex trafficked, and also ask them if they knew a bunch of people with other traits, so I could see how social knowledge of people’s networks for different traits compared to each other.

For example, sex trafficking victims probably keep it quiet, so I also included questions about knowing rape victims or pedophiles – both things people also have a lot of incentive to keep quiet.

I also asked about other things – stuff like “do you know someone who’s a doctor” and “do you know anyone with lung cancer”, things that both have really concrete data so we can check to see how real rates compare with people’s knowledge of them.

I also asked about stuff around class to make sure I wasn’t only getting data from people exposed to upper-class communities where nobody has ever been sex trafficked. I asked about trump support, lottery winning (disproportionately played by lower classes), homelessness, and imprisonment.

I also asked about tribe stuff to see if people weren’t contacting insular communities. I asked about knowing active orthodox jews, practicing Muslims, fundamentalist Christians, trans people,

I also asked if people knew sex workers, both online and in person, as sex work communities presumably have high overlap with the types of people who might be trafficked.

I also asked about some classic rare things; winning the lottery and never learning to read before the age of 18 to get a sense of the ‘lower bound’ of things that should almost never happen.

In the survey, I asked people to tell me the ‘closest’ circle of those they knew; do you know someone who e.g. voted for Trump, personally? Are they someone in your wider network? An acquaintance? A close friend or family member? Is it you, yourself? The closer it was to home, the higher the score, and I took the average score of each trait to see how sex trafficking ranked.

I got around 3300 responses. Each question got an average score between 0-4 points for “how common” it was in people’s social networks. An average score of 4 would mean it happened to literally everybody who answered (e.g., breathed air), and an average score of 0 would mean nobody had ever even heard of someone in their networks it happened to (e.g., has been to Mars).
Here’s the total chart, from most to least common:

Before continuing, make a prediction – where do you think community knowledge of sex trafficking ranked among other things? How often would you expect people report knowing someone in their community had been a victim of sex trafficking?

Average rating – the question people answered – actual population rate estimate at the time of survey, if available

Do you know someone:

  • 1.92 – who’s switched their major political party affiliation after the age of 18
  • 1.82 – who’s tested positive for Covid-19? 2.8% at time of survey, Oct 2020
  • 1.73 – who’s been raped? 9.6%
  • 1.68 – who voted for Trump? 22.5%
  • 1.53 – who’s currently a medical doctor? 0.3%
  • 1.35 – who’s polyamorous? 45%
  • 1.24 – who’s transgender? 0.5%
  • 1.22 – who is currently a practicing Muslim? 0.3-1%
  • 1.17 – who is currently a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian? 0.3-24%
  • 1.12 – who’s committed suicide? 0.07%
  • 1.07 – who experienced a significant and permanent psychotic break? 0.1-1%
  • 0.94 – who is openly and explicitly racist; for example, clearly believes in the inherent superiority of one race over others? ???%
  • 0.90 – who’s been diagnosed with lung cancer? 0.3%
  • 0.89 – who’s been incarcerated for over 1 year? 0.26%
  • 0.83 – who’s an online or no-contact sex worker (e.g., stripper, camgirl), or has done this in the last five years? ???%
  • 0.80 – who’s been homeless for 3+ months? 1-2%
  • 0.74 – who was homeschooled for the entirety of their k-12 years? ~1%
  • 0.58 – public figures who are famous enough that news outlets write about their lives? ???%
  • 0.51 – who’s an escort or a prostitute, or who has done this in the last five years? ~0.3%
  • 0.50 – who is currently an orthodox Jew? 0.2%
  • 0.46 – who’s been murdered? 0.03%
  • 0.42 – who’s died from Covid-19? 0.09% at time of survey, Oct 2020
  • 0.33 – who won over 10k in the lottery? 0.1-0.5…??%
  • 0.32 – who you’re very sure is a pedophile? ~0.3%
  • 0.30 – who never learned to read as a child (though they might have learned to read after the age of 18)? (???%)
  • 0.10 – who’s been a victim of sex trafficking? This does not include consensual sex work. 0.02-0.04%

Sex trafficking came in dead last with a huge gap – well behind even not learning to read before the age of 18, which surprised even me. I also was surprised to find that the ‘actual’ numbers of sex trafficking in the US, as reported by the study from the top google result, reported roughly comparable numbers to the social visibility on my survey – one of the lowest total prevalence of any of the things I asked that I could estimate numbers for. This in itself might not even be true; sex trafficking numbers have historically been conflated with voluntary sex work.

While this evidence isn’t perfect – there’s a lot of small things that could nudge the results in different directions and I’d like to see it replicated by someone else – it’s still a piece of evidence in favor of “sex trafficking in the US is actually really, really rare.” Your chance of being a sex trafficking victim in the US each year is somewhere in between your chances of dying from bee stings and electrocution/radiation (but, to be fair, seven times more likely than dying from being struck by lightning. Seven!). Classifying this as an “epidemic” seems deeply dishonest.

“People wouldn’t report being sex trafficked” doesn’t seem like a very strong argument; it seems like social visibility of rape is pretty high, and that’s probably subject to the same pressures – social shame and fear. “You’re not asking the right people” also seems weird – I’m asking full social networks, networks which seem to have no issue picking up stuff like homelessness or 1+ years imprisonment.

The survey results are affected by ‘how public people tend to be’ about it; for example lung cancer, which hits the same percentage of the population as being a medical doctor, is ranked far lower in social visibility (0.9 vs 1.53). The suicide and homicide social-visibility numbers are depressed a bit because nobody could answer “happened to me”, but are still elevated because everybody talks about it when somebody dies. Interestingly, rape is more visible than “voted for Trump”; it’s not like I have a mega-liberal followerbase (~20% are Trump supporters and a lot more are libertarians), so I’m not sure exactly what to conclude from this.

(also; I’m using the word ‘visible’ here, but these numbers don’t differentiate between visible and prevalent; more prevalent, invisible things (e.g., prostitution) might get a similar social-visibility score to very visible, uncommon things (e.g., public figures))

Some more deets: though not all of my responders were from the US, I decided to use “rates in the US” as a baseline, assuming that the percentage of things (e.g., lung cancer, doctors, winning the lottery), were not hugely different in the US vs other western countries such as Canada or France.

I got respondents mostly from twitter and reddit.

I gave detailed instructions about stuff like “only report for people you’ve known in the past 5 years”, and stuff like who qualified as an acquaintance. I included a hidden test for people to verify they’d read the instructions, and I doubled the score weight for people who passed the ‘I read the instructions’ test.

I’m planning on going through the data a bit more generally to find other interesting things (I also asked everybody their a/s/l, so gotta see if there’s any juicy correlates around there), and will probably make another blog post eventually.

Is penis size and race really uncorrelated?

I’d guess probably not? Penis size is correlated with height, and height is also correlated with race, so it’d be weird if there were no correlation whatsoever between penis size and race, just based on sheer physical size differences alone. Maybe it’s a super slight correlation, but we should see something, right?

My friend said “Hey, there’s no correlation between penis size and race” and linked Wikipedia:

The belief that penis size varies according to race is not supported by scientific evidence.[6][30] A 2005 study reported that “there is no scientific background to support the alleged ‘oversized’ penis in black people”.[31]

A study of 253 men from Tanzania found that the average stretched flaccid penis length of Tanzanian males is 11 cm (4.53 inches) long, smaller than the worldwide average, stretched flaccid penis length of 13.24 cm (5.21 inches), and average erect penis length of 13.12 cm (5.17 inches).[32]

A 2016 study of 248 Korean men identified the average erect penis length to be 13.53 cm (5.33 in).[18] A study of 115 men from Nigeria found that the average flaccid stretched penis length of Nigerian males is 13.37 cm (5.26 inches) long, which is near identical to the worldwide average, stretched flaccid penis length of 13.24 cm (5.21 inches) and average erect penis length of 13.12 cm (5.17 inches).[33] A 2015 systematic review of 15,521 men found “no indications of differences in racial variability”, and stated that it was not possible to draw any conclusions about size and race from the available literature and that further research needed to be conducted.[1]

According to Aaron Spitz, a urologist, many websites and studies promoting variation of penis size between races use unscientific methods of collecting information and often ignore contradictory evidence. He concludes that “when you really take a good look at the naked data, there’s not a whole lot there [showing racial variation in penis size].”[34]

Uh, what? This is extremely confusing to me. Does this mean taller men (and thus taller races) have smaller penises relative to their body size, and shorter men (and thus shorter races) have larger relative to their body size? If that were true, it’d be uniquely interesting and I wanna figure out why!

But I suspect it’s not true, and that Wikipedia (or the literature it’s based on) has some incentive to deny that race and penis size have any correlation at all, so I took some adderall.

The belief that penis size varies according to race is not supported by scientific evidence.[6][30]

The source here is an article that describes a study, saying “The findings also deflate a few other myths about male genitalia. The notion that penis size varies according to race, for example, is false.”

The study itself, however doesn’t investigate race correlations whatsoever; it has a single mention of ‘race’, and it’s to say “More research is required on the effects of race and age on penile length”

A 2005 study reported that “there is no scientific background to support the alleged ‘oversized’ penis in black people”.[31]

The full context of this quote is “Interestingly, there is no scientific background to support the alleged ‘oversized’ penis in black people. Mean penile flaccid length and stretched length recently reported in 123 Korean military men were indeed lower than other values on non-Asian populations [5] (Table 1). At present, in the absence of any comparative study, these values remain debatable, but the possibility of racial differences in penile size should not be overlooked when investigating patients complaining of a short penis.”

Which I interpret as, “We haven’t seen studies saying black people have bigger penises, but there might be some evidence for penis size correlation in other races.”

A study of 253 men from Tanzania found that the average stretched flaccid penis length of Tanzanian males is 11 cm (4.53 inches) long, smaller than the worldwide average, stretched flaccid penis length of 13.24 cm (5.21 inches), and average erect penis length of 13.12 cm (5.17 inches).[32]

But if you continue reading, it says that their findings were out of the norm for other studies, probably due to stunted growth:

In this sample the mean SD adult stretched penile length of 11.5 1.6 cm is near the lower end of the spectrum of other studies. In the world literature length varies from 9.6 to 16.7 cm.15,17,19 –23 Our findings differ from published studies in West Africa.15,16 There are several potential explanations, including delayed puberty, stunted growth/poor nutrition and a preponderance of young adults in the adult category.”

(also, they do find correlation between glans circumference and height in this study)

But even if we take the Wikipedia summary at face value, then is it claiming that Tanzanian men have smaller penises than average? Wouldn’t this be dangerously close to suggesting there’s some racial correlation with penis size anyway?

A 2016 study of 248 Korean men identified the average erect penis length to be 13.53 cm (5.33 in).[18]

This study is specifically about the effects of circumcision on erect penis length (and also find a mild correlation of penis size with height). I think Wikipedia included this in an attempt to show “Look, different studies of subpopulations break stereotypes!”

But this meta analysis on penis length says there’s high variability across reports of penis length, because people usually measure penis length by stretching the flaccid penis, and it’s hard to know if people are putting the same amount of penis stretching force across different studies.

From the same meta analysis: “The question of racial variability can only be resolved by the measurements with large enough population being made by practitioners following the same method with other variables that may influence penis size (such as height) being kept constant.”

They want to control for height, the most plausible explanation for correlation between race and penis size? If people were claiming “There’s no correlation of penis size between races as a percentage of their height or body mass”, I’d be fine. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it seems like a really plausible theory. But people are claiming there’s no correlation between penis size and race at all, which seems ridiculous.

A study of 115 men from Nigeria found that the average flaccid stretched penis length of Nigerian males is 13.37 cm (5.26 inches) long, which is near identical to the worldwide average, stretched flaccid penis length of 13.24 cm (5.21 inches) and average erect penis length of 13.12 cm (5.17 inches).[33]

Again, this is a study (small sample size) that is subject to the same problems of the Korean study; hard to be consistent with penis measuring, and is why the meta analyses continue being “idk hard to draw conclusions.”

The study didn’t find a correlation of penis size with body mass, but did find a correlation of penis size with butt size. Bigger butts = bigger penises, which is new thing to watch out for, ladies.

A 2015 systematic review of 15,521 men found “no indications of differences in racial variability”, and stated that it was not possible to draw any conclusions about size and race from the available literature and that further research needed to be conducted.[1]

This is the same meta analysis I referenced saying that it’s hard to measure penis sizes, cause it’s hard to compare independent studies to each other (which is exactly what the rest of this Wikipedia section was doing, by the way).

According to Aaron Spitz, a urologist, many websites and studies promoting variation of penis size between races use unscientific methods of collecting information and often ignore contradictory evidence. He concludes that “when you really take a good look at the naked data, there’s not a whole lot there [showing racial variation in penis size].”[34]

Unfortunately this dude made this claim in a book, which I don’t feel like buying and reading. And he’s not wrong – as far as I can tell we haven’t had a good, high-n study that was careful to use the same measuring techniques across races.

There are some other studies that do suggest penis size correlations with length, though a lot are self reports. This page from suspiciously-named penissizes.org claims to have gone through a bunch of studies and found correlations between penis size and race, but they don’t give a lot of info about their methodology and also say “we need to do more research.”

So I can’t say Wikipedia is wrong – according to the sources it gave, there’s no good evidence to support racial correlation with penis size, but there’s also not good evidence to say there isn’t any, either. And over and over again, I find articles online quoting the sources above to conclude that there isn’t any correlation. It’s like, if a few meta analyses found “Hey, we haven’t done the research required to determine if there’s a correlation between hand size and longevity yet,” and then everybody ran around reporting “There’s no correlation between hand size and longevity, it’s a myth!” No, jesus, we just haven’t figured it out yet.

(I also didn’t look deeply into arguments claiming that there is a correlation; it’s possible there’s some solid evidence out there in the other direction).

But race is correlated with height, and height is correlated with penis size, so thus, race should be correlated with penis size. If this isn’t the case, and it might not be, it’d be super interesting to know, and I’d love to see research about it. It’d be a much more fascinating reality than if there were a race-penis size correlation; why would smaller men have proportionately larger penises??

The Enlightenment Interviews

A while ago, a monk told me confidently that a spiritual guru who was well respected in my community, was definitely not enlightened.

After this I got interested in what people meant when they were talking about enlightenment, so I asked anyone who reported being enlightened to talk to me.

I didn’t only use the E-word; I also asked for people who were awakened, or hit stream-entry, or any sort of intense equivalent spiritual shift. In this post I’m going to use the “enlightenment” word, but keep in mind I’m using this as a word that broadly refers to the “big thing” that people were calling by different names. Most people had a strong aversion or weird reactions to self-claiming enlightenment.

I had in-depth interviews with 20 people; 18 of whom came to me and 2 well-established practitioners who I chased down. I focused on asking questions that teased at the edges of how they understood the state they’d achieved – e.g., “if someone claimed to be enlightened, what would make you doubt them?” I also read several long emails describing their experiences, and did a large survey.

This blog post is very personal – it’s my unique lens on the patterns I heard reported among these people. You might disagree with the way I’ve drawn boundaries around things; if so, I welcome you to do your own interviews and draw your own boundaries! My information is also limited – I pulled a lot of people from the west (though a few did come from eastern traditions). They were also mostly male.

So: What the hell are people talking about?

I made a list of spectrums that summarizes the variance in experience I heard reported:

The Bliss Spectrum: characterized by nirvana, ecstasy, constant happiness. They claimed they had reached a state where they were shivering with delight at all times.

The Mental Health Spectrum: of clearness, purpose-drivenness, fulfillment, being aware of what they wanted at all times, being motivated, healthy, whole. For them, ‘enlightenment’ was working all their personal shit out and having a hyper-functional life.

The Science Spectrum: Intense, awesome scientific epiphany. An awareness of their smallness, the universe’s largeness, deep realizations about being walking matter, of the intricate beauty of evolution.

The Superpower Spectrum: The possession of magic abilities, including being able to talk to beings from other dimensions, telepathy, and receiving sacred knowledge imparted to them from divine creatures.

The Concentration Tricks Spectrum: Intense concentration and mental abilities. They were able to alter their perception, slow time, change the space around them, see the refresh rate on monitors.

No-self spectrum: Altered senses of self; they included inanimate objects or other people in their sense of self, or had no sense of self at all. This includes ego death.

Understanding Spectrum: A general spiritual epiphany; people reported a sense of completion, of having ‘no more questions’, of finally comprehending what’s going on, of nonduality, of wholeness.

Wordless Spectrum: An altered or unusual relationship to words, typically distrustful or disconnected; playing with words, going meta with words, not using words, not-claiming, claiming contradiction and paradox.

Perception Spectrum: Seeing your experience as your own; experiencing yourself as inherent and integral to the experience; a realization that your brain is constructing things, often associated with dreamlikeness.

Morality Spectrum: An intense sense of an ethical direction; describes a ‘right’ or ‘moral’ direction, uses goodness as a consistent guiding description of their insights.

Love spectrum: A sense of love and compassion for all living beings

Tradition spectrum: How much they adhere to classic wisdom and beliefs; tends to believe in reincarnation and karma, places authority in the Buddha’s teachings

Disassociation spectrum: Stoicism; the ability to carefully control emotions, independence from environment, remaining unaffected by whims or pain or pleasure.

Peace: A sense of being deeply okay, at ease with the current moment, settled, present, like everything is all right.

The spectrums are probably the most detailed way of summarizing the variance, but if I’m gonna get a little more sloppy, I also binned them into loose groups based on recurring patterns I noticed.

  1. Material enlightenment – mostly characterized by a lack of spiritual terminology; materially enlightened people did not stray outside of what was explainable by science and didn’t develop any excess beliefs around consciousness. They mostly were high on mental health, concentration tricks, and science spectrums. Some but not all heavy meditators were here; stories of hitting ‘rock bottom’ before their enlightenment were common. Interviews with these people tended to be very clear, and reminded me of an inspirational talk given by a competent CEO at a dinner party.
  2. Skill Enlightenment – most heavy meditators seemed to group here, and were more analytical and verbally precise. These people tended to have spent a huge amount of time focused on their own minds, and were high on perception and concentration tricks, but also bled a little bit into understanding and no-self too. They were more likely to have distinct vocabularies, and tended to report their states as more episodic as opposed to constant. They generally did not have the sense of wordless self-inclusion that was prevalent in:
  3. Standard Enlightenment – the most commonly reported type. standard enlightened people reported psychedelic or meditation use. They seemed to be high on the peace, wordlessness, no-self, and understanding spectrums. They’re contrasted to Skill Enlightened people in that they had a chronically difficult time explaining things. There was a lot of stopping and restarting in conversations, and the vibe felt more like fingerpainting to me. They tended to report enlightenment as very mundane and nothing special at all.
  4. Traditional enlightenment – the least commonly reported type, traditionally enlightened people placed a much stronger emphasis on action and belief than the other types. While there was a greater tendency to be wordless, they also expressed the highest sense of love and morality spectrums. This was the most difficult type for me to understand, and I got the sense I needed more background knowledge to make sense of what they were trying to say; there was a confusing combination of Standard Enlightenment, but built around references to strong and clear belief systems.

Also for all of these spectrums I got a faint sense of there being levels of advancement; e.g., some people reported much weaker sensations around material enlightenment-y things than others did. No one bin seemed to have a more clustered level of advancement than the others; as in, I didn’t notice a distinct cluster where everyone reported similar things and also seemed to be at the same level.

Now, to be clear you shouldn’t take these bins as definitive; for one they’re as much a reflection of me as they are of the people I talked to. Also, the more people I talked to the more I began to realize that there was a lot of variance; someone might agree almost entirely with something I’d heard someone else say, and then have a completely bizarre and unusual thing to follow up.

I also mostly paid attention to the kinds of things people chose to talk about. It’s very likely that e.g., traditionally enlightened people might agree strongly with the no-self spectrum, but in my interviews they talked about it less than the others.

There’s also a few spectrums I didn’t put in bins; either because the sample size was too low, they were outliers, or they were roughly reported equally by everyone.

Most people did seem to overlap bins a little bit. If I had to make this a fun personality quiz, I’d assign one ‘dominant’ bin and one ‘secondary’ bin.

So – how many people were ‘really enlightened?’ The answer is I don’t know, and I don’t care. I interviewed everyone who claimed to be enlightened or some rough equivalent without filtering at all their qualifications. My goal is not to provide a correct definition of enlightenment, it’s to help map out the landscape of the kinds of experiences people are talking about, and maybe provide some more concrete terms for what’s going on.

Readjusting To Porn

As you probably know, I grew up in an isolated, homeschooled environment. I’d moved up to northern Idaho in an attempt to go to college, but my parents were very “use your bootstraps” people and wouldn’t help me financially or cosign on any loans. They also made too much money for me to qualify for financial aid, so I was screwed; a few months into college I got an ominous letter and had to drop out shortly afterwards.

I’d been brought up with the expectation of being a submissive housewife – but here I was, 19 years old, no support system, education, or future, and with an unsettling cultural disconnect from everyone around me. Everyone used words I didn’t know, references to movies I hadn’t seen, attitudes drawn from music I hadn’t heard.

So I worked whatever I could. I occasionally went hungry, unable to afford food. I slept on a mattress on the floor in a large group house. I ended up working very long hours at a factory with no windows where I wore a uniform and stood on my feet all day and saw the sun only on weekends.

So when someone told me about this thing called camming, that I could be a camgirl and maybe make money, I of course tried it.

I started camming when I was 20, and I did well. I was really really weird, produced out of some bizarre cultural dark alleyway and yet walking around in a lithe young body. I worked very hard and made a lot of money, eventually averaging $200/hr.

I did this for five years. Of course I would do this! I had no other real path in life. My adult identity grew around this. Internet sex work was my freedom. I learned performance, I learned how to flirt and be sexy – a huge task, given my previous isolation from any celebrations of harlotry. I made some of my deepest, longest lasting friendships with other camgirls; I used the funds from camming to travel the world. I cammed from Cape Town over an ocean view, from Australia, from Istanbul behind carefully drawn curtains.

I didn’t feel ashamed at all. Why would I feel ashamed of something that gave me so much freedom, that let me be something more than a housewife or a factory worker?

I’d been using my large horny following to gather data from, and over the years clumsily taught myself statistics as I tried to figure out how to analyze the data. A friend helped tutor me. So when a crypto ico told me they’d hire me as a data analyst if I quit camming…. I agreed.

The way people treated me online, changed. Normal, upstanding people started following me on twitter. Respectable authors would meet me for coffee and let me publicly share photos of us together. People invited me on podcasts. Eventually the majority of my internet following were people who didn’t know I’d ever done porn.

This went on for about three years. It was great.

And, as you know, I got back into porn. The allure of Onlyfans drew me in, as it has most women with two working breasts. I’d quit the crypto company to cofound Askhole years ago, but Askhole wasn’t exactly going to give me a retirement fund.

So, over the past twoish months (or since April 2020, if you’re in the future), I’ve been pornographic online again. This time is different – I’ve had a few years of SFW as a proper, established adult – something that doesn’t really have a parallel when I was 18 and confused. So here’s some weird mental things I’ve noticed.

I feel gendered. It’s increased since starting up Onlyfans recently, and I also noticed it decrease sharply after I quit camming years ago. The ‘gender’ sensation feels like it’s located in my lower pelvis and vagina, and it feels attached to me. I don’t typically have any internal sense of ‘woman,’ but I have a distinct sense of ‘womanness’ being lodged inside me.

I feel a disconnect with my identity. Over the past few years, “Aella” – which was originally my porn name – became something very close to me. I’ve written on this blog about deeply personal things, like my childhood abuse. I did a documentary where I tripped acid live on camera, where I sobbed freely. I enjoy a deep vulnerability here – and suddenly introducing sex work back into this is bizarre.

Because with sex work, I can’t be totally honest. I can’t even talk about this too much at a meta level for fear of losing income.

And so for the first time in a long time, I feel this ‘body suit’ sensation slipping over me. My body and my character feels like clothing, something heavy and thick that I’m wrapped in. I have the sensation of suddenly thousands upon thousands of eyes looking at me – I’m posting heavily on reddit so this is literally true – and them seeing my body suit laying like meat on top of me.

It doesn’t feel… bad, really? It feels a little surreal. My body meat feels like a tool I’m precisely wielding. It doesn’t feel like mine though, not really. The naked, bouncing photos of me on screen feel like an avatar I’m presenting in my stead.

I’ve got my twitter and my blog as nonsexual, as me. It’s bizarre that my name here shares the name under which I fuck myself on screen.

I’m noticing an irrational hatred at men (mostly the ones that comment on my posts outside of Onlyfans). I’m thinking loud, dramatic thoughts that are completely unfair, because I’m simultaneously making lots of money. There’s something about this exchange that makes me feel really sad. I feel sad for the men, compulsed to give me money. I feel sad for me, because I hate all men right now. It’s really hard for me to connect with the compassion I usually feel for the male sex. Maybe it’s because I feel like they’re not really looking at me? Evolution is so cruel.

I also notice some confused semi-shame at my return to porn. I didn’t feel this the first time – I entered camming so early, and it was so liberating for me, that I was simply thrilled. Now I have a reputation, or something. Now fancy people who have opinions that matter, have opinions that matter about me. I feel a little like I’m letting everyone down. I feel afraid that people will pull away from me. These fears feel fuzzy and unclear. The threat is unknown. I think I’m confused at how to handle my dual identity now. Do they think both Aellas are one and the same? Do they know that my porn Aella is simply a heavy floating suit of meat clothes?

The income from this is worth it. I have no education or serious job history or even mental discipline to work a normal 9-5 job. I know if I want to retire, standard career paths aren’t an option for me. Onlyfans income right now is giving me a serious shot at early retirement, and the freedom from that is so valuable. When I remember this, everything else becomes easier. My meat suit becomes a little lighter, and the confusion around reputation is a little less scary.

“So shun me,” I think. “At least I will have financial security. At least I’m not a stay-at-home housewife or working at a factory where don’t see the sun.”

Cheating As A Last Resort

When I was ass deep in sex(y) work, I heard a common story: “I’m married,” they said. “I love my wife more than anything, but we don’t really have sex anymore.” One guy (married), dipped his toe in after he found out he had terminal cancer. Another was a caretaker for his wife who had too many medical problems to have sex. Yet another simply had married a woman who’d lost her sex drive. Occasionally it would be someone who simply wanted a little bit of novelty.

This was complicated. I don’t like being the “other woman”; I like clear, open communication and consent with all parties involved. In my personal life I absolutely do not fuck with anyone monogamous, ever. But my business was being sexy; if they didn’t watch me, there were a hundred other girls happy to take their money instead. I’m here for a transaction; your personal life is not my business. Still though, I felt a little weird.

I also felt sad. These men would often tell me how much they loved their wives (or girlfriends). “I would never leave her,” I heard. “She’s a strong, incredible woman”. I never once heard anyone talking shit; every single person who mentioned a romantic partner talked about them lovingly. Often they were conflicted; they knew what they were doing would hurt their partner if they found out. But they had needs – they felt emasculated and lonely in their relationships.

“I do this because it’s compartmentalized,” they would tell me. “I’m not pursuing a girl at my work or neighborhood or anything – the transactions here are a safe boundary so this doesn’t affect my home life at all.”
It started to feel weird that they had to keep me such a secret. I felt bad for them that they were trapped in a culture that shamed extra-relationship sexuality so much. Why should it be so wrong that they seek to fill their needs of physical intimacy?

Of course, doing this “correctly” would mean to talk to their partners, explain their needs, and see me with full consent of all parties involved. I often suggested this – why don’t you talk to your wife? But the answers were all the same. “She’d leave me if I suggested it” or “She’d absolutely say no” or “I already tried and she freaked out.”

Sometimes I’d ask if they considered leaving her to find a more open relationship. “I can’t,” they’d say. “I’m 65 and we have a house and grandkids. I can’t destroy my whole life just because of this.”

I’m not saying violating an agreement with your partner is a good thing – there are many difficult situations where the best solution is not a good solution. I am saying that there are a lot of people – probably mostly men – for whom violating the agreement with their partner is the best option available to them, even taking into account their love for their family, because the other choice is unbearable.

They didn’t know it would be unbearable; our culture gave them no warning. The monogamy contract – even for people who consider themselves monogamous – is so basic, default, and universal that people sign the marriage certificate with the same naivite as eighteen year olds sign themselves into mass amounts of college debt.

And like college debt, it’s seen as the “thing to do” – the necessary step in order to perform the correct dance in life. “No one will hire you if you don’t go to college” is akin to “No one will build a life with you if you don’t agree to monogamy”. People don’t question it. Everyone’s doing it.
But unlike the student loan crisis, the epidemic of intimacy-starvation is suffered silently. We don’t care about it, because it affects primarily men and we care less about men’s emotional wellbeing. We violently shame those who are caught trying to fill their needs – we mock them, divorce them, take their kids away.

Of course not all cheating is like this; many genuinely do not care for their partners, don’t even try communicating their needs, and view themselves entitled to lots of sexual novelty without regard for the feelings of those around them. This is definitely something they have a lot of freedom to avoid, and I agree shaming these habits will probably end up helping everyone involved.

But lots of cheating is done with intense guilt and reluctance – and almost all of it is done at least somewhere on the spectrum between “sociopath” and “kind lonely old man”. It’s gotten to the point that usually when I hear a tale of cheating – particularly in longer-term relationships – my sympathies go equally to both the cheater and the cheatee. They were both caught in an unsustainable arrangement, fed the powerful old story that sexual intimacy is equal to love and commitment, and then blamed themselves (typically the cheater) when this story fails to be realistic or sustainable.

Sex work of all forms – camming, stripping, escorting, etc. – seems to be a good solution as a way for men in intimacy-starved relationships to get their needs met in a tightly compartmentalized way that won’t threaten the rest of their lives.

And this also means people don’t need to do full-blown polyamory, where their partners fully date other people. I’m not necessarily advocating for that – only to release our death grip on the monogamous system that’s so strict it ends up hurting people. Let’s loosen it a little bit, and realize that very often, extra-marital intimacy can do far more good than it can harm.

It’s insane that we got to the point where our culture is both so sexually open and where the only two socially-approved options are either “explode your entire life” or “never experience sexual intimacy with someone again”.

Let’s Get Enlightened!

Let’s get enlightened!

Let’s take it seriously. Cross your legs, pinch your fingers together, it helps. With enough effort, you too can attain nirvana, loss of all suffering, total peace. You might need to squeeze your eyes shut. Everything about this is Very Important and it is Very Important that you try very, very hard.

This is wonderful! Feel how expertly you are shaping reality by trying very, very hard. Feel the desire pounding through your crossed legs, seeping into your pinched fingers, the desire of doing this better, of helping you get there. Become an energy field of desire. Shake with desire. Squeeze your eyes shut with desire. This is how to take this seriously; feel gravely every pain you wish to escape from, the True Weight of Suffering, which is absolutely real and inside you, behind you, like a beast or shadow, linked inextricably around your being.

If only you orient yourself to the desire elegantly enough, you know it should disintegrate like sand – you’re just not sure exactly how to orient yet. But you’ll get there, if you keep putting in the effort. In this you are a master artist; the archetypical character of running from the darkness, towards the light. How fantastically you yearn! Feel the vast network of conceptual construction that allows you to even hold the idea that there’s an answer; feel how constantly you are actively giving rise to your desire, your story, your character. You are the one pursuing enlightenment, and you are the one failing to achieve it.

This is beautiful. In your attempt to orient, you are a beast. In your failure, you are god.

So, since we are taking this Very Seriously, if you are God in your failure, then the answer is obviously to fail as much as possible! Therefore, you will never reach enlightenment. You will suffer for an eternity. You are small, a creature, a little infant. You are stupid, you are horrible, you are evil. No one will ever love you.

Are you god yet? Did embracing that make you god? Are you exploding with the divine? No? Hm.

Okay – you are fantastic, you are all powerful. Everything you do is perfection. You are radiating love and wisdom and eternal beauty. You are a beacon of hope and awe.

God yet? Maybe. Maybe we’re not taking this Seriously Enough.

Wait,” you say. “Are you trying to make fun of Serious Effort? Are you one of those people who thinks you just need to sit back and open your third eye and realize you were enlightened the whole time? Because there’s obviously something out there that I don’t quite understand and definitely don’t have, and just sitting back and hanging out, waiting for my third eye to open or whatever, has not helped me at all. All I’ve got left is to take a serious shot at this, so that’s what I’m doing.

I approve of serious shots! Go find a guru, one of those mystics that insists you need to meditate for a minimum of 10 years before you can even begin to get enlightened. Go do yoga in a hot room, do a vision quest, do psychedelics. Hell, become a Catholic if you’re kinky.

Because the truth is in the doing, not in the knowing. Your pursuit of truth is art. Your years of sweating in a tense meditative posture in a dark room is art. Your celibacy and your whoredom is art. You can do no wrong. You can also do no right – your striving is beyond that. Striving is the entire damn point, and you of all people are getting the point excellently.

All right, I’m striving, am I enlightened? Because I don’t feel like it, really. I’ve had some weird experiences but none of this… eternal peace or whatever. If this is what you mean by enlightenment then everybody is enlightened and it’s not really that great or meaningful.”

No, you’re not enlightened. Striving will get you nowhere. You should strive, but it will get you nowhere. A man is least attractive to a woman when he’s trying the hardest to woo her, so you’ve really just got to chill out and let the enlightenment sidle up to you after you’ve started focusing on stuff like getting ripped and playing the guitar really well.

But I contradict myself! Does striving get you nowhere, or is it enlightenment and art? Do you want an answer? Are you bothered by the inconsistency? Wonderful – let’s get hot and bothered. Getting hot and bothered is the point too!

Because the trap is in thinking you know what’s going on. As reality comes to you, you box it neatly with labels so that you can handle it, process it. You are a wonderfully executed labyrinth of conceptual construction. Even here, you search for understanding – if only something will click, then you’ll get to put it in the magic box with the magic label. You handle your own mind with gigantic, strong fingers that grasp like a vice everything that moves. Even here, with these words, you grasp desperately when reading them, and I grasp when writing them. You are in a toy box being very distressed about creative use of the toys.

You are an idiot; you are a genius. You are the epitome of evil, you are the paragon of virtue. You are enlightened, and you are not. Let yourself stretch across all states; let yourself die to the single character you are. Sensemaking is something you do to keep your ego alive.

Are you curious? Does curiosity feel good? Turn inwards with that feel-good pleasure of search. Annihilate yourself. Let nothing escape that crushing spotlight. Let it feel good. Let pain feel good; realize you’ve been trying to make it feel bad. Feel yourself. FEEL YOURSELF. Feel yourself here, inside these words. Information does not exist on the page, or in the reader, but rather in the union of the two; the meaning you’re experiencing does not lie in these words. The meaning you’re experiencing does not come from the world around you.


No you’re not, you utter jackass. You complete, total fool. Start crying. You haven’t cried enough. Did you think this wasn’t going to hurt? Did you think there was bliss on the other side? What the fuck did you think ‘dissolution of suffering’ meant – that you wouldn’t want anymore? Do you want to stop wanting? No – and this is the noblest truth – you don’t want to stop wanting. It’s obvious, because right now you’re taking things Very Seriously, and it’s beautiful. So here you are, with the raw razorblade of desire tearing you apart as you sit in half lotus position, and you are in utter agony. This is wonderful! Feel how expertly you are shaping reality. Feel how alive you are in every tear. Feel how your desire is universal; the desire of every conscious being screaming in pain across all of existence. This is holy.

Be holy! Be a shitstain, but also be holy! Unless you really want to be holy, then knock it off, and then just be a shitstain. One of those will be easier for you.

Do you understand? Are you taking notes? Are all these Important Facts sliding neatly into your knowledge? Excellent. You’re doing so good at being a person!

And if you don’t understand and are frustrated, then you should go study very hard for ten years, and maybe something will happen that will make you feel very proud and like you’ve earned it and like your reality is different now. I officially grant you my condoning. After you’ve gone and gotten educated, please come back and teach me something, because some days I am an idiot baby.

I hope you have learned much from this Very Important Instruction Manual On Enlightenment.

Are You Just Pushing The ‘Insight’ Button?

Psychedelics seem to crop up among the people and writings I’m interested in, and I’ve read your accounts of acid effects a few times now, the latest due to Jacob Falkovich’s recent essay. You describe feeling like you’re drinking raw truth from the universe’s faucet, which seems in line with many others’ experiences, with the exception that you then decided to put your mouth on the pipe (sorry). I’m a sucker for this idea of self-destructive truthseeking.

But I imagine a substance – we’ll call it bacid. Bacid is an asshole. It makes you think you’re seeing truth, but then forget what you learned or how to communicate it. “Attempting to explain it defeats the purpose,” you desperately rationalize to yourself, “I know it was real because I experienced it.’ Despite doing nothing but fuck with you, bacid attracts users because its entire benefit is unfalsifiable.

Is this just a sinkhole for smart people waste brainwaves trying to pattern complete compelling-sounding noise, like some kind of upgraded version of dream interpretation? I’ve always wondered if people look at Mary’s Room backwards. Obviously she experiences a new sensation, which is not the same as learning a new truth – but then why do people who take psychedelics want to make claims about truth? I can’t square the complete and utter certainty people express in the importance of their experiences with the immense and varied power of brains to be wrong,e specially with the help of chemicals.

tl;dr Should I drop acid? Asking for a friend.

-Email from Ragnar

This is a great way of framing a question or premise I’ve heard many times – that psychedelics induce delusion, wireheading, that they press the “I’ve got the truth” button in your brain without it corresponding to any actual truth.

Of course we see a lot of people who take psychedelics and develop concrete beliefs – stuff like aliens, the spirit realm, or telepathy – things that don’t seem to have much evidence from the outside, which really supports the idea that the drug we’re taking was actually acid’s asshole cousin Bacid all along.

There is a bit of a distinction I want to make here, one I’ve slowly come to suspect over watching a lot of people trip. I want to propose two categories of “things you can do with your mind while tripping” – belief construction and deconstruction.

As I’ve written about before, acid tends to change your relationship to your beliefs, kicking the legs out from things you thought you knew. The resulting confusion is intolerable, and our response to this is to try to build (unconsciously!) beliefs to give structure to the ensuing nonsense. For example, you might process ‘noticing subtle changes in body language” as “telepathy, obviously”. This results in a “shift along a belief plane” – the nature of the beliefs are unchanged (believing in telepathy feels pretty similar to believing in body language), but the beliefs themselves have shifted into something new – sort of like unplugging one wire and then plugging in another into the same port.

This explains a good deal of how people on psychedelics want to make “claims about the truth”. And with this, I would agree this is pretty consistent with people taking Bacid – it’s a drug that scrambles our understanding of reality, but we’re not actually learning anything that important or useful.

But sometimes you can do a mental move that’s not plugging a new wire into the same port, but rather fucking with the port itself. This usually involves tolerating confusion – instead of looking for a new belief to make sense of the world, to experience the search without trying to satisfy it. Another way of saying this is that you would take your ‘looking for reality’ sense as object, something to which you exist outside. This leads to some extremely hard-to-articulate experiences that do not interact with belief in the way we typically know, and the claims made from this are not the same as claims made about other things. Koans are a good example, where they’re often deeply nonsensical and not meant to be processed intellectually.

But a lot of people who go through this, myself included, still seem to try to make claims, write blog posts or whatever about philosophy and truth or something, and this looks a lot like ‘trying to make claims about the world.’ Often it might be! The distinction is subtle and possibly an illusion – but this desire to communicate comes from the part of your reality that is not in direct contact with the Knowing or whatever, because communication itself relies on so many belief systems to start out with (that you exist, how words work, etc). This is fine, but I acknowledge the paradoxical nature of it and why I often put “nothing I say is true, do not ascribe truth unto my words” at the beginning of many of my blog posts.

But how do you know that this category of experience isn’t ‘Doing Bacid’? My answer is that you don’t. Your frame of ‘this drug is making people delusional and this isn’t useful’ isn’t that wrong.

This ties strongly into my experience of doing acid as insanity – I feel extremely aware how my perception of reality is so deviant from the norm, and the part of me that’s modeling reality perceives myself as insane.

You’re not wrong about your concern. It’s a real concern, and probably true. If your ultimate decision is decided by this frame, then you should not do acid, it will make you crazy.

But I have access to the frame where I am insane – I can feel my insanity from the belief where I’m doing Bacid, not acid. I seem to be just as functional and rational in the world as I was before. All the weird claims I make around psychedelic experiences don’t seem to impact my ability to function.

My ‘insanity’ does not feel like it exists on the same plane as the types of beliefs you’re worried about changing. I haven’t plugged any different wire into the same port. The normal wires still get plugged into the same ports, and my body goes around acting like normal.

The experience of intense revelation and understanding were not about functional beliefs (though they can be, but these results are practically beneficial in the normal world and in ways you care about, such as how doing LSD concretely and measurably healed a lot of childhood trauma I had). The intense revelation came in a meta layer, around what it means to hold a belief, about my sense of self and my relation to those beliefs. In that way they become very difficult to communicate, and people often do it extremely poorly and with a lot of confusion.

Sure, maybe acid is actually the asshole cousin Bacid, but that’s not really the thing that matters. If you think it matters, then you’re worried about our ability to do truth detection and it getting corrupted – but this concept of truth detection is a functional belief that exists on the plane where we plug wires into ports. Bacid doesn’t (have to) change your ability to plug the right wires into the right ports, but it might change your relationship to the port itself, and thus has nothing to do with the kind of truth detection you’re worried about corrupting.

Now of course some people take acid and end up with really weird beliefs, but for the purpose of this article I’m going to assume that you’re sort of like me and don’t end up with weird beliefs. If you’re not like me, then I’d recommend starting with very low doses and working up, and then stopping if you notice belief changes on the concrete level. Or you don’t have to take it at all. If you don’t have a pull towards it, then don’t worry about it.


In the beginning was the world, and the world was made of atoms, and the world was atoms. Truth Existed, as something objective and elusive, to which I could be closer or farther.

With my first (good) acid trip, I was blown apart by beauty and purpose, and saw how much of a participant I was in my experience. Colors were brighter. The atoms of the world became sacred art. The seal had been broken – where before I had been a scientist puzzling things on paper, now I was part of the puzzle, and it felt like waking up.

I became an evangelist, feeding irresponsibly high doses to newcomers and feeling confused when they didn’t all have the same reaction I did. My framework was excited; something radical had happened to me, and the integration into my sense of purpose was raw and inconsistent. I had a sense of collective consciousness, like I was tapping into a great unified awareness or something. I wanted other individuals to feel like they were part of a collective consciousness too, ironically feeling somewhat uncollective with the individuals who didn’t grok the psychedelic realm, man.

With each successive acid trip, I felt profound insights emerging at subconscious levels, though they remained as just faint impressions to my sober self. So, in an attempt to bring more faint impressions with me, I kept going back – I was learning, something really important, and it was changing me. I really did feel better – I was at greater ease with myself and my life, I felt intense love for everyone around me, and I was hemorrhaging art onto every blank page in sight. I accidentally did therapy on myself, permanently healing trauma around my abusive father. This stuff was good for me, and so the nonverbalness of my insights didn’t bother me, really.

In hindsight, I view most of this period as marked by a strong belief that I understood something important – I’d begun a process of self deconstruction, and most of the people around me were still stuck on the world is atoms. I had started out this process as analytical and curious, and now my analytical habits were giving me a new framework – one for profound changes in my relationship to reality that nobody could understand; in this solitude, I viewed myself as enlightened.

My trips were breathtakingly beautiful, filled with ecstasy and horrible pain. I didn’t shy away from either – I sought out the intensity, and every trip spent at least some time sobbing in agony. I writhed, I shuddered, I danced, hard. I increased my doses, put terrifying or sad music on my playlists. I tripped with others, but increasingly alone, sometimes in the dark, sometimes in silence, where I lay still and staring directly into my own blistered mind. It was forced meditation on steroids, and it was utterly exhausting. Inevitably, during each trip, I would think I can’t go on – there’s no more of me left, I am as weary as the dead – yet somehow I kept on, like a body dragged on a rope behind a speeding car. The acid pried my eyes open with the gentle power of god. I was an infant, formless and unknowing. I was pure love, born to be sacrificed for mankind.

The process of this annihilation followed a cycle of holding on and letting go in a particular way – the slow dissolution and defense of my lattice of beliefs.

We’re each a gigantic, complex lattice of beliefs, intertwined and functional; the large scale, top-level lattice features things like “conservative social norms are bad” or “if I save enough money, I can retire”, while the bottom, low-level stuff consists of the granular, unconscious ones, like “pain is bad” or “I move through time”.

And with each trip, a chunk of my beliefs would disappear from the lattice. I don’t mean they disappeared from mexperience, but more that they would become object, where my experience of the beliefs transitioned from “reality indicator” to “a playful frame” – I lost the sense that the belief corresponded to anything measurable outside myself, and thus lost the sense of control I’d had from feeling like I knew what was going on.

It’s a bit like visual illusions – have you ever felt your brain ‘snap’ from viewing an illusion one way, to viewing it another? Nothing about the concrete sensory data changed – you’re still seeing the same shapes and angles – but the frame you used to make sense of it shifted, quite suddenly, and maybe you became aware that your experience of the illusion was your frame, and that the frame was not inherent, that it could move, and maybe then you held what you saw lightly, playfully, without the idea your frame actually corresponded to reality.

In the void of departing beliefs, the remaining belief structure (to which I was still subject) would attempt to reconcile with that void, like the seared ends of a burned paper curling in on itself. This is where my belief in enlightenment came from – I detected that I had a great void in me where many beliefs had been, and when the lattice of remaining beliefs attempted to make sense of it, it came into a “I must be enlightened” framework, a framework I did not take as playful, but rather sensed as some indicator of reality. This process repeated subtly for everything – my belief that I was separate from others became playful (e.g., “I now see that my separateness from others is just a construction”), and so in its void my lattice latched onto the belief of collective consciousness (e.g. “I now realize we must all be part of the same mind”). My belief in timespace as a traditional, measurable thing that I existed inside of became object, and so in its void I got something like “all internally consistent realities must necessarily exist.”

Keep in mind I was not aware that I was subject to the beliefs I was subject to; internally, this felt like I was deconstructing myself, and the sense of deconstruction did not include giving me knowledge of the things I hadn’t yet deconstructed. My lattice of beliefs was undetectable to myself, and only became alive at the edges of what had been destroyed.

The Journey In was a slow process of whittling away the beliefs I was subject to, and watching the remaining beliefs contort themselves in attempt to maintain the idea that they corresponded to something outside myself. As my island of self got smaller and smaller, my experience of reality – and my ability to function – got weirder and quieter.

I entered profound silence, both internal and external. I lost the urge to evangelize, my inner monologue left me, and my mind was quiet and slow-moving, like water. I inhabited weird states; sometimes I would experience a rapid vibration between the state of ‘total loss of agency’ and ‘total agency over all things’. Sometimes I experienced pain as pleasure, and pleasure as pain, like a new singular sensation for which there were no words at all. Sometimes time came to me viscerally, like an object in front of me I could nearly see except it was in my body, rolling in this fast AND-THIS-AND-THIS motion, and I would be destroyed and created by it, like my being was stretched on either side and brought into existence by the flipping in between. I cried often.

I became sadistic. I’d previously been embracing a sort of masochism – education in the pain, fearlessness of eternal torture or whatever – but as my identity expanded to include that which was educating me, I found myself experiencing sadism. I enjoyed causing pain to myself, and with this I discovered evil. I found within me every murderer, torturer, destroyer, and I was shameless. As I prostrated myself on the floor, each nerve ending of my mind writhing with the pain of mankind, I also delighted in subjecting myself to it, in being it, in causing it. I became unified with it.

The evil was also subsumed by, or part of, love. Or maybe not “love” – I’d lost the concept of love, where the word no longer attached to a particular cluster of sense in my mind. The thing in its place was something like looking, where to understand something fully meant accepting it fully. I loved everything because I Looked at everything. The darkness felt good because I Looked at it. I was complete in my pain only when I experienced the responsibility for inducing that pain.

I lost many more concepts besides love, like ‘death’ and ‘self’ and ‘other’. Somewhere in all this I lost the belief that I was enlightened – I realized that to think I was enlightened, I must also be holding onto a belief about what enlightenment is made out of, and to have a concept about enlightenment, I must also have a concept about what it is not, and about who has it and doesn’t, and how this was functioning as a division in concept between myself and other, and was incompatible with the experience of self as the divine. When I realized this, the belief faded, and some deep part of me melted away. The word ‘enlightenment’ became a joke, one that applied and did not apply to me and others equally.

With this journey to annihilation came loss of function; for example I had lost many of my beliefs about my experience of time, and so my experience of time changed drastically; I constantly found myself in moments of infinity, like time had slowed down in between my thoughts, and I completely lost my ability to hold plans for my future. I lost the belief that ‘pain was bad,’ and so my experience of pain transitioned to something closer to curiosity, and I became less responsive to hunger. The thought of being tortured for an eternity didn’t scare me at all. I was fully prepared to go insane. I stopped working, and my income dribbled to a halt. I was a creature inside a dream, formless, a conduit of something unnameable. This state was an awareness and peace unlike anything I’ve ever known before or since. This state – and all the weird states I described above – maintained itself in between doses, when I wasn’t tripping, as well as for nearly a year after I quit.

My goal was to keep Looking, because I wanted to see everything. I strove to observe every part of my experience in the finest detail, and in this process I began to disappear. At some point I realized if I continued down this path I would die – both philosophically and physically, because the


I felt ready to die, or something close to that. I felt that I could stare at it without flinching, that I was unafraid; in fact I’d taken to compulsively whispering under my breath “I am dead” as I moved through the days of my life.

But upon realizing TO KNOW IS TO DIE, that to achieve completion was suicide (which I say with the greatest love and awe possible), I noticed that a rejection formed, and the movement towards Looking flipped to a movement away. I watched the decision happen to me, as if TO KNOW IS TO DIE by its nature contained a renunciation of that truth. If to know is to die, then it was in the very nature of life to look away, for that which does not look away, does not exist. The understanding was the rejection. I’d been swirling around it like a galaxy in my search this entire time, and the moment I finally laid eyes upon the white hot core, I fell into and through its event horizon. I was reversed, I was undone. I was completely, finally, mercifully, finished.

And so, after about 40 trips in the span of 10 months, I stopped doing acid. It was easy to stop, like casually turning off a light, but it was painful and disorienting. The Knowing felt like a lover I’d said goodbye to, and I would go to sleep feeling the ghost of it around me, and the bittersweetness of not touching it. I ached.

As the Journey In was bizarre in my past steps, the Journey Out was bizarre in my first steps. For months afterwards I tried hard to rid myself of the Knowing that inhabited me like a sacred shivering infant, to shut the eye that had been bleached to ivory by the heat. Joy-rightness-fun echoed up from somewhere deep within me when I started relearning anxiety, insecurity, or fear. They were wonderful, because they meant I was something. I could feel my edges again, signs where I’d started to forget what I really was and started to buy into the form I was becoming.

I began to see others who I’d once long ago seen as unenlightened, as now much more advanced than me – as symbols of successful forgetting, I wanted to cling! I was an idiot child, surrounded by adults, who were wise in the ways of the world. They were successfully immersed in their roles. I was impressed.

The integration back into normal life was really, really weird. I eventually came back, getting mostly functional after about a year, although some effects never left.

I didn’t realize that what I’d done to myself was noteworthy or unusual – I sort of assumed other people must be doing this a lot, because of course I wasn’t the only person who’d tried acid – all this was no big deal. As far as I was concerned, I existed in a vacuum. I hadn’t read any texts, followed any rules or traditions, undergone any training, or talked whatsoever with any spiritual teachers. I had no calibration of my experience with the rest of the world – until a few years later I talked about my experience at a dinner party and people responded with shock, which was a sudden and strong reframe for me. I was different from other people, apparently, in a much bigger way than I’d thought. This shook me up.

Once this whole thing became A Story, it started getting even weirder. I wrote about it on reddit and got a huge amount of attention. People started referring to me as the Acid Queen. Opinions were divided – some looked to me with awe and asked for advice, while still others explained how I was infantile or unbalanced, and that you can’t get very far with LSD, that only meditation would get me to the real stuff. At this point, for a while at least, I found myself immune to the spiritual opinions of others – this thing within me was utterly beyond doubt, and the words others spoke seemed like games around the Knowing. People tried to match the things I described to various traditions or stages, but these discussions felt like play. Why describe the unnameable?

The “talking about it” was weird. The place I had been was always this presence behind me, like this slow strange god had thrust its hand into the world and I was a character painted on the tip of its thumb. And to talk about it was to give it form, to say what it was and was not. How was I supposed to talk about it at all? It felt dishonest, or silly – and yet talking about it was hard to avoid – I was now different, and I found myself sitting at parties sipping on wine like an alien in human skin – and to be honest about what was most relevant, or to talk about philosophy (a common topic in my friend circles), the strange god was hard to avoid. I could feel the silliness of it whenever I tried, and if I tried too hard I started falling into intense spasmatic episodes where I experienced pleasure, pain, and ego death, which has occasionally embarrassed me in otherwise normal human conversations.

I sought out other people who I felt understood, though this isn’t quite the right way of saying it. Other people understanding was a concept that disappeared with the dissolution of my character. Maybe better is to say I sought a mirror in others – to be in the presence of another who, for whatever reason, induced divinityThis happened occasionally, and when it did my thoughts became a mantra: THEY KNOW, THEY KNOWTHEY KNOW – and then my experience of them as an other would break apart, because their knowing became my knowing and I felt myself expand to encompass them, and I would start crying or something equally confusing. This process occurred independently of [the frame of] them actually “knowing” – sometimes they would end up very confused, without having experienced anything special at all.

But in general, the conversion-to-story became a point of ongoing muddiness for me – I was trying to believe in my human character again, but now my character had this mystic spiritual journey backstory, and what was I supposed to do with it? Go around talking about consciousness until I started crying at people? Even alcohol had become psychedelic for me; it lowered my carefully cultivated inhibitions over the screaming divinity, and this which resulted in awkward things like me going to a party, drinking a beer, and then staring at my hands while going “whoah, man, they’re like… flesh claws.”

Over the years, without realizing it, the Mystic Spiritual Journey Backstory began to calcify – as in, it began to slip from a flexible framework I took as object into an indication of reality to which I was subject. This was marked by a few things:

  1. An increased interest in becoming a guru or spiritual teacher.
  2. A belief in the authority of existing gurus and spiritual teachers
  3. An insecurity around my identity as someone who had Been Somewhere

While previously the opinions of confident spiritual people had slid off my back, now they gained hold in me and moved me.

The Void was still within me, but it started to fade from an intense, ever-present vibration just behind my consciousness, into a warm memory flitting occasionally at my edges. I knew it was leaving, but I was even more confused – isn’t losing the Void exactly what I was aiming for? How much Void should I lose? How close should I be?

The answer might seem something like “Just find the balance that allows you to live your life,” sort of like “If you really like golfing and also family time, figure out what percentage of time spent maximizes everybody’s happiness”, but you must understand the kind of process happening here is totally different. This was not the weighing of two desires, this was reality deciding how self-aware to be. My character wanted self-preservation (and thus to not Know); the Void didn’t want anything at all. My character wanted balance; the Void was formless and absolute and utterly beyond desire. Only one side could do any figuring out about what balance even meant.

And so somewhere I knew that I was becoming Character again, and trying to go around teaching people some concrete, definable truth. Somewhere “else”, the world was without form, and void; and darkness was beneath me, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And the Character was perfect, ‘more advanced’ than the baby it had been, for it had engaged in successful forgetting.

This sense began around 3 years after I quit acid and lasted for about a year, but ended with a few more acid trips, which I’d gotten lax on taking at my ideal “twice a year” frequency. I eventually realized realized what had been occurring right behind my eyes, that a part of me had become vulnerable in its desire to be invulnerable. Without realizing it, I’d started to believe my own story, that I’d “been somewhere special”, that I really did have something other people didn’t. I didn’t know I believed this story. I thought I did – I would think things like “Ah, I notice I’m attached to the story where I know a lot of spiritual things, how interesting!” and then feel better about it, but in fact this “noticing the attachment” was, in me, a way of reassuring myself that I did in fact know enough spiritual things to notice the attachment! With true expert survival skills, this section of belief had dipped below the visibility line so that it would not be destroyed.

In this, I’d become crushed by my own attempt to control my reality, and with another maintenance dose of LSD I’d steeled myself to take, I found-


I saw a vision of myself climbing behind a lectern in front of a wide audience, who gazed at me as a guru with a Mystic Spiritual Journey Backstory – an image which had appealed to me greatly. But then I cleared my throat, turned to the blackboard and in a bright rainbow brush, painted the words I DON’T KNOW. “Do you understand?” I asked them all in between giggles. “I have nothing to teach you. I am an idiot. I am unenlightened. I am a child, I am the one who has come here to learn.”

And it felt true. It felt deeply true, not in like a cool ironic sense of tricking you into being taught or anything, I mean like I legitimately do not know, and any role I take on as a teacher is a ticklish joke, a hilarious roleplay.

I began to inhabit a greater comfort with holding multiple roles at once – that of authority or submission. And it felt comfortable, because I ceased being attached to any role at all.

I realized that I didn’t really want to teach, which I’d understood as imparting knowledge from me to others. I realized I yearned to find the divinity in others, divinity that they already held but might be hidden from both of us like a puzzle, and solving the puzzle together with another seemed delightful.

Did this realization hold over time? Yes and no. My journey has turned cyclical, like kneaded bread with layers that grow smaller and folded. I do not hold full knowledge of myself; the answer is a wall, the question is the path.

I relate to all of it very differently depending on the day. I have been learning how to handle identity shifts with more grace. I often find ways I solidified around a belief beneath my awareness. I’m sure there are many more I haven’t noticed.

I don’t know how I feel about “finding balance,” but the swing of my pendulum seems to be getting shorter.

I’ve also learned that I’m definitely not a mystical guru. For one, I think being a mystical guru would be super cool, which is in itself very uncool. I am anxious, I want your approval, I am insecure, disdainful, afraid; I am a failure, I am confused, I am evil, I am loveless, I am lonely, I am fragile – all things proper gurus seem to be more appropriately enlightened about. I am tremblingly human, with a fat sense of self in a very real-feeling character that claws at the world in awkward attempts at self preservation.

I am not where you are going, I am not what you want to be; I am a student, unwise, behind you on the path; I just slipped over the event horizon to end up right back where I started, and all I got was this lousy [infinite sense of delight]. Don’t listen to me, I cannot speak. Don’t look to me, there’s nothing to see. I stand here knowing less than you. Place me where you want me; you are the arbiter of truth, for what can you say of me that is not true?

Side Effects Of Preferred Pronouns

I’m starting to dislike using preferred pronouns for nonbinary and genderqueer people. This is a really controversial thing to say my social circles, where many nonbinary and genderqueer people are my friends.

To be clear, I still use preferred pronouns. I like doing things that make other people happy, especially if they care about it more than I do. Please don’t interpret my feelings as an excuse to refuse preferred pronouns just to make a point – you don’t have to agree with someone to be kind to them. The feelings of nonbinary and genderqueer people are valid, and my discomfort does not mean we should take them less seriously.

But whenever I use a preferred pronoun, it feels a bit like I’m playing a game of pretend. If an AFAB (assigned female at birth) person asks me to use ‘they,’ I do my best to treat them like they don’t belong to either gender… but my brain does not play along. It sits on my shoulder like a child. “She’s a woman,” it says. “She’s a woman and you’re pretending she’s not.” I tell my shoulder brain to shut up, but it does not shut up. And so despite what I want to feel, my actual experience around nonbinary people is that I am actually talking to a woman, but I (and everyone around me) are pretending that we’re not.

I don’t mind collective pretending. We do it a lot – pretend to care about the cashier’s day, or that the homeless guy doesn’t exist – but I can’t think of any collective pretend that also includes this amount of fear of acknowledging the fact that we’re playing pretend. I am actively afraid to say this is how I feel – not just due to potential social rejection from the group, but from making the nonbinary person in question feel bad. I don’t want either of those things.

I notice that I’m starting to resent this. I would like to be able to talk about the sense of pretending. There’s a way in which very raw and deep intimacy with someone can only happen without any pretend, and because of this I feel greater difficulty in achieving intimacy with nonbinary and genderqueer people, because I feel actively afraid of revealing that they are registering as a regular ol’ woman (or man) to me.

The sense of pretend seems to come with the presentation of the person. My brain doesn’t feel like we’re pretending when talking to a passing trans person. It gets confused when talking to a nearly-passing trans person before settling on some sense close to ‘no specified gender’ or ‘alternates genders.’

I feel less bad using preferred pronouns with trans people specifically, even if they’re non-passing, because they seem to recognize my shoulder brain is real and they’re actively trying to trick it. I like that. It makes me feel like I could bring this up with them and it would be okay.

But nonbinary people tend to ignore the shoulder brain. AFAB people mostly tend to shave a side of their head and wear baggy pants, and AMAB people will do something like dye their hair blue and wear one earring, and these things do not help my shoulder brain stop screaming ‘THAT’S A WOMAN’ or ‘THAT’S A MAN’ into my ear.

I realize this might sound like I’m expecting other people to change for my benefit, but this is not at all what I mean. Nobody is obligated to make me feel any particular way. They can do and feel and present however they want, and it’s none of my business – you do you, man.

But it sort of becomes my business when they’re asking me to change my behavior and thoughts. They would like me to view them as nonbinary, to use their preferred pronoun. And I’m happy to try! But no matter how hard I try, the sense of pretend remains consistent. And them asking me to change something I cannot change is frustrating.

This leads to fear of being honest with most people who ask me to use preferred pronouns, and I feel sad about that.

Messages and Dreams

When I was a child, adults often didn’t treat me well. They didn’t seem to care about my feelings, would do things that made me really sad, and generally dismissed my experience of the world as less important, because I was a child – a fact they reminded me of constantly. I didn’t know how to communicate to them how much this hurt me.

But this was seriously confusing to me, because they’d been children once, right? And they talked about their bad childhoods sometimes, which meant they had once been in my position. I realized all the children had grown up into adults, then turned around and stopped caring about children’s feelings, because they’d forgotten what it was like to be a child. This terrified me, mainly because I knew I would one day become an adult too. Would I grow up and forget? Would I do this exact thing to the next generation of children?

So I packaged a ‘mental message’ for my future self – a set of impressions that I would remember regularly as the years went on, and preserve over time in as close to its original form as I could manage. The message went something like this: “You don’t remember what it’s like to be a child, but I’m telling you, take the experience of children seriously. Don’t underestimate how real and important this is. Don’t forget me.”

I’m an adult now, and I’ve mostly forgotten. I’m not around kids very much and my memories are fuzzy – but that message sent from my childhood is still vivid in my mind.

During the year I took a lot of acid, there were a few months near the end where I lucid dreamed constantly. I’m not sure how much of this was due to the acid, or how much was due to the fact my sleep schedule was like a baby’s – I slept and woke randomly, whenever I felt like it, usually sleeping roughly three times in a 24 hour cycle. For me, naps increase my lucid dream chances, so this was perfect.

I started to do experiments in my dreams. I found trying to influence my environment increased my chances of waking up. I tried practicing meditation, which was strange and psychedelic. I once took off my glasses and tried to fix my vision with sheer willpower, which did not work. I tried practicing piano, reading books and memorizing the poetry inside them, or remembering tunes to dream songs, some of which worked. I tested the passage of time by checking to see if songs played in the real world while I was sleeping sounded the correct speed in my dream, or if they were sped up or slowed down (they played at the correct speed).

I tried having conversations with people, often about the fact I was lucid dreaming. I once entered a dark bedroom with two twin beds, and a woman was sitting on one of them. I asked her if she was conscious, and she replied, “You mean, are you imagining me or am I imagining you?”

I started trying to find a mentor – a character I imagined I would regularly go find when I dreamed and ask them questions. Once I found a possible mentor, but realized I couldn’t think of any questions, after which I woke up and memorized a list of questions to return with. Often people would refuse to answer my questions, or laugh at me and keep walking.

In one dream, I became lucid on a strange beach with warped angles, and saw a huge stone sculpture set knee-deep in the ocean, surrounded by a circle of rocks. I waded up to him and began asking him my questions – things like “what is the meaning of all this,” or “why am I dreaming,” or “what is this place,” or “what am I searching for”, etc.

But instead of answering me, after each question he would simply point to the ocean, the sky, the rocks. And I felt sheepish, like I’d known that something like observing sensation was the answer all along. I realized I already knew these answers, that I already knew what it meant to be at peace, so why had I been asking him anything at all?

But as soon as this thought crossed my mind, he pointed behind him, and I saw a massive, unholy tidal wave on the horizon that was certainly going to kill me, and my body surged with adrenaline and I started to run.

And he spoke: “You feel fear. You are not at peace.” After this, I woke up.

I don’t remember my dreams very well – they are out of focus and constantly shifting, and my experiences in my dreams have been surreal and loose, like a book I read a long time ago.

But I have ‘mental messages’, sent to myself from my dreams in exactly the same way my child-self sent my adult-self messages. The messages say “You don’t remember what it’s like to be in a dream, but I’m telling you, take the dream experience seriously. Don’t underestimate how real and important this is. I can feel pain, cold, hunger, joy. I am looking around at the room and it is the same. Do not forget this.”

Freaks me out a little bit, man.