What you don’t know won’t hurt you … until it does!
Reader’s Note: This post continues discussing The Rise of the Amateur Sex Industry (2021 January 4). Readers may like to read this post first before continuing.
You may remember the spate of news back in September occasioned by this article in the New York Post, which was subsequently picked up by many media outlets all over the world, and led to a few online interviews and TV appearances and so on, as well as quite a bit of chatter all over the internet, including in certain blogs in this general part of it. I had not been aware that Rollo Tomassi of “The Rational Male” had actually interviewed the ex-husband in question a few months ago live on YouTube, and I recently reviewed this video, because the sheer craziness of the situation on its face is inherently interesting to attempt to understand.
After watching that interview (which I would recommend that you all watch), I was sufficiently concerned and, frankly, disturbed that I proceeded to review the woman in question’s Instagram posts, where much of the drama was played out (as you will see below), over the course of the marriage to try to piece together how things happened, in light of what the ex-husband relates in the interview, and the version of events summarized in September’s press articles.
That review revealed a truly disturbing train wreck in slow motion that, honestly, is quite chilling in that, while specific mistakes were made by the now ex-husband at various points in the process, could easily happen to any man. It provides therefore a useful, if deeply and profoundly saddening, cautionary tale for men in these challenging times.
Because of that, I am going to relate what I learned, as concisely as possible (it will be a bit long, the chronology covers a number of years) in an effort to convey the gravity of the tale. I will not be using the couple’s actual names, but referring to them as H and W (regardless of their marital status at any point in the tale) – their identities are easily available on the internet, but there is no reason to repeat them here, or to otherwise personalize this to an even greater degree than it already has been. For us, standing as we do at some remove from the events in question, both in time and in space, the main interest should be the cautionary aspects of the tale, and its warning(s) for all of us, and not the prurient or personal elements of it. I will be using (general and, in some cases, approximate) dates, based on the postings that appear in Instagram and the dates referenced in the press articles and Rollo’s interview of H, because the dates are relevant for the tenor of the tale, in terms of the timing of how things happened and the overall pacing of events.
This is a continuation of the series of posts by Jack and me which address the rise of the amateur online sex industry, and the takeaways, learnings and reflections that arise from this troubling new development as well as the broader implications for men. Previous posts in the series have introduced the topic generally, and have addressed some of the specific details of the emerging phenomenon and broader social implications. Further posts following this one will address some takeaways from the specific situation detailed in this post, and the spiritual aspect of these developments, particularly from the point of view of this type of activity providing apart of an ersatz spirituality to replace traditional forms of religious expression.
Before I get into the chronology of events, I want to deal preliminarily with a couple of anticipated objections right off the bat.
The first is the “what business of this is yours” objection. The answer to that is that W made it our business when she made her life story public by actively publicizing it in the NY Post and several other media outlets, and by maintaining her entire history in the open and in public on Instagram. There is no “snooping” of any kind taking place here, the information is all very public and this appears to be very much by W’s design based on what she chooses to very publicly share.
The second is “what business of this is yours” in a different way – that is, why is this relevant? Isn’t this just gawking and gossiping? No, it isn’t gawking and gossiping. The information is public. It’s relevant because the story it tells is a cautionary one that could happen to anyone, and in particular to any man, in this culture if he doesn’t recognize certain patterns, is unaware of the emergence of an entirely new set of risk parameters, or downplays the importance of certain lines being crossed. Although the story seems extreme when looked at from the “endgame” perspective, the more one examines it, the more clear the critical transition points become, and the easier it is to see how these are warning signs of problems, even if the outcome in a “blowup” scenario may, in many cases, be different in the details from what happened with H and W.
I won’t be posting pictures of H or W here, or direct links to W’s sites (the NY Post article link is above, as is Rollo’s interview with H), because Google is actually, you know, a thing in 2021, and I don’t think W deserves any more free traffic to her very well trafficked sites – at least not from here.
And finally, guys. Please do yourselves, H and everyone else a favor and do not go off to W’s Instagram and peruse it. I’m not being facetious, but serious. It’s not good. It’s corrupting. I spent most of my time there on the old posts trying to get a sense of how things used to be for H and W and then watching things unravel as I scrolled up and through the years towards the present day, but there is a lot of corrupting pornesque trash I needed to scroll through in the recent posts to get there, and even doing that is corrupting. Just don’t go there. I go into enough detail here for you to understand what you need about that place – it’s best avoided in order to avoid the near occasion of sin and the related temptation.
Setting the Stage
According to H, H and W were both Christians in their 20s teaching abroad after college in Korea when they met. H had graduated from a large secular university, but was raised “mainstream” Christian, while W, who is biracial (Asian/white) had attended a small Christian college, and her parents were mainstream baptists (not fundamentalists), with an Asian influence from one parent as well. Neither were N=0 at the time they met, and from what H says to Rollo and what W has said elsewhere, their Ns seem to have been fairly average for the period in which they were of that age range — neither higher nor lower than average. They met in a group context and eventually paired off, and then were engaged in a number of months and married later that year, in 2009. W was 25 and H was 28 at the time, so somewhat “ahead of schedule” according to the “average age at first marriage”, but still a few years post -college for W.
H and W proceeded to live a conventional married life for a number of years. They had three kids, in 2010, 2013 and 2016, lived a suburban lifestyle, attended a Christian megachurch in Minnesota and, by all appearances, were an average young Midwestern Christian family. They struggled at times financially, as young couples sometimes do, but nevertheless lived a seemingly satisfying and decent life for a number of years.
The Curtain Opens
W’s Instagram begins in the summer of 2014 (W=30), six and a half years ago, and five years into the marriage, or “M+5“. When the curtain opens, what we see is simply a typical personal Instagram feed of someone who is a suburban wife and mother in her early 30s, with two small kids. The photos are mostly of her small kids, with a few interspersed here and there of H and W, of food and rooms in the home, events and trips with friends and family. All bog standard normal American family life for a young family with small children. Quite endearing actually – while H and W were not a “beautiful people” Hollywood-style couple, they were an attractive young couple, if frazzled as is the case for young parents, and the whole impression is of a typical, yet loving, hectic family life.
This general trend continues for several years, with only a few small, barely noticeable changes taking place here and there. This starts, albeit very slowly at first, in 2015 (M+6, W=31). 2015 starts with an endearing New Year’s evening post of a young couple that looks settled, happy, and very much in love. A change of W’s hairstyle from long and traditional to a shorter, more contemporary/sexy bob style cut, is notable in the middle of the year, but otherwise the IG continues to be fairly typical for a suburban wife and mother of 2 young kids – that is, the pictures are mostly of kids and home, with a few of H and W smattered in.
In 2016 (M+7, W=32) some more significant changes begin to filter into the Instagram feed, where we see W getting her first tattoo, and another post that is a preview of coming attractions of sorts, where W talks about touring a mansion in California and openly envying the luxurious lifestyle of people with money who live in Southern California. But otherwise it’s still mostly posts featuring kids, family events and home. Notably, in the fall of 2016, W begins to give occasional lectures at the megachurch she and H were attending at the time – H explains in his interview that W was never a pastor at the church, and never had an official position, but she did preach and provide pastoral assistance to women in the church for a time from late 2016 to the events of 2017, which we will turn to next. The Instagram posts around this time reflect W’s excitement at the opportunity to command an audience, something that H discusses at some length in his Rollo interview. But still, during this period there still seems to be a lot of genuine closeness and love between H and W, sincerely expressed in several posts.
The Year Things Really Started to Change
In 2017 (M+8, W=33) things begin to change much more noticeably. Several things start changing more or less about the same time, and it begins to show up in W’s IG posts.
One is that W is speaking and preaching before audiences more at her church. W’s posts about this in the summer of 2017 are interesting in that they reveal her clear excitement at playing the role of an inspirational speaker before an audience and, more generally, holding an audience’s attention. She clearly is very energized by it, and loves the energy. 2017 also sees W begin a graduate course in some kind of self-help/motivational/preaching area at a seminary.
Another significant change at this point is that the proportion of IG posts that feature pictures of W alone steadily increases during 2017. The IG stream no longer is as focused on kids and home life, and has a lot more photos of W alone, taking selfies and, as the year progresses, doing professional photo shoots. In late 2017, W posts the first professionally shot photos on her Instagram. These are all normal posed pictures, fully clothed, not sexual in nature and so on, but nevertheless it is the first rubicon that is crossed – namely going to the trouble to hire a professional photographer and a professional makeup artist (both of whom are mentioned in the post itself), and sharing this on Instagram.
During the course of the year, more selfies of W alone appear as well, and again while these are not sexual in nature or revealing, they are notable in that these kinds of selfies simply did not appear, at all, in W’s Instagram feed prior to 2017 – in that sense they are a change, for H and especially for W.
From my perspective, it appears likely that during this period, W was beginning to enjoy attention and compliments on her appearance on Instagram, and that this likely drives the posting of more selfies and mirror pictures of W in her feed. It’s also clear that W is getting more noticeably “Instagram attractive” (i.e., for selfie photos) during this time. She is changing, slightly but notably, in her physical appearance through gym work, she is wearing more alluring, “popping” makeup (particularly following her professional shoot), and overall she is looking noticeably more visually attractive in her normal selfie pictures in 2017 than she did on her Instagram feed previously. Something seems to have changed inside W during this period, and it is expressing itself in her appearance, as reflected on her Instagram in the pictures she is choosing to make and to share, and being reflected back at W in the reactions to these from her followers and viewers. Both of these — the making/sharing and the reactions – are working to change W over the course of this period, it seems to me.
Also during 2017, we see the text in W’s Instagram posts significantly change. Where previously it had been the normal kind of thing one sees in personal family Instagram feeds, the text now starts to feature, in some posts, motivational self-help claptrap about pursuing one’s dreams at all cost, rising and thriving, having it all without sacrifice and so on.
There is a new ideology that is clearly coming into play here. We know from W’s own admission and from what H confirms to Rollo, that it’s in 2017 that W says she discovered that she was LGBT (bisexual) after attending a play which contained portrayals of LGBT relationships (presumably one between women). We also know that during the 2016-17 period, W was being influenced by writers such as Glennon Doyle (the suburban Christian mom and published writer who very publicly left her husband to marry USAW soccer star Abby Wambach), who actually shows up in W’s feed a few times during this time. W appears to have seen her realization of her own sexual orientation as a turning point of her life, and H seems to agree that it was, in that after her self discovery, she began to adopt a new way of relating to the world, a new worldview. I will discuss what I think this is in my subsequent post next week regarding my own ideas about what we can “take away” from the tale of H and W.
Changes Accelerate and Spread
As we move into 2018 (M+9, W=34), the pace of change in W becomes dramatically faster, and it is clearly reflected in her Instagram.
By the middle of 2018, W is posting text in her feed about how she is becoming who she was always meant to be, and not doing what everyone else expected her to do, and so on. The proportion of posts that are selfies and/or posed shots of W steadily increases over the course of 2018 until, by year’s end, 80%+ of the posts are selfies or posed shots of W, and this in an Instagram feed that was, only a year or so earlier, comprised 70% of photos the couple’s children and only 10-20% of pictures of W and H. The “preaching and public speaking” posts from 2017 disappear entirely — as we know from H’s interview with Rollo, at this time, H and W stopped attending church in the wake of W’s discovery of her bisexuality, something H now appears to rue, although in hindsight, as far as I can weigh things from reviewing the Instagram feed, a different decision on that issue almost certainly would not have made a significant difference in the eventual outcome by this stage of the proceedings.
At the same time, the images in the Instagram feed are getting more openly alluring and sexier. In part it’s because W’s clothing is changing – in the direction of sexier, tighter clothes, bare midriffs, short shorts, very high heels, and much more sexual makeup, with heavy eye makeup in particular – none of which was common prior to 2017, or further back in time even present at all, on her Instagram. The texts in her posts during this period are typically about “letting go of the past, living in the present, following your dreams”, and she describes herself as a “series of miracles unfolding”, with such texts typically attached to alluring photos. All of these things are gradual escalations of things that were already happening in 2017, which is why taken individually they were likely unremarkable given what 2017 had brought. But taken together they reveal a rather swift transformation taking place inside W during the second half of 2017 and into, and through, 2018.
2019: Rushing Towards the Cliff’s Edge
But if 2018 was the year of swift underlying transitions, 2019 (M+10, W=35) was the year of clearly crossing unmistakable lines again and again.
The first such crossing happens in early 2019 when W, apparently preparing for a beach vacation with H, posts a picture of herself trying on a bikini top in a dressing room mirror, otherwise wearing skin-tight jeans, high heel boots, and a lot of makeup. It’s the first picture in her feed where this much skin is showing in an alluring way, and the adjoining text is quite telling: “when you find a swimsuit top that makes you feel adorable and badass at the same time”. It’s quickly followed in the Instagram feed by several pictures in said bathing suit on said trip – the first so revealing pictures ever on W’s Instagram feed. This happens during the winter months of 2019. These are not posed sexual pictures, to be sure, but beach photos on the vacation; nevertheless, the second main rubicon has now been crossed – that of sharing truly revealing photos on Instagram, where most of W’s body is made available for permanent viewing by anyone on the internet.
Developments accelerate to near breakneck speed after this rather significant line is crossed. H relates in his interview with Rollo that as the following months of 2019 were unfolding in real time, he felt like he was experiencing PTSD, like the walls were pressing in on him. W is moving to places she clearly wants to go, and she seems to have a clear plan, direction, focus, and goals, and H seems to be only peripherally in them, to the extent he doesn’t get in the way. There isn’t direct animosity of any kind directed toward H personally, or the marriage, in her feed as far as I can see — it’s more the case that W has some very specific ideas about what she wants to do, and intends to do these, regardless of anything else in her life. W’s internal train seems to have already left the station for a new destination, so to speak, and it doesn’t take very long for the next line to be crossed.
That happens when, in the summer of 2019, just a few months after the beach trip, W posts professional shots of herself in lingerie, and pro makeup, while displaying herself on a bed. The lingerie appears vaguely bridal, and her wedding band is featured prominently. This is followed a few days later with the following text adjacent to another shot in the same outfit:
“I didn’t know what I wanted for the longest time. … [But I learned that actually] I wanted to be rich! I wanted to serve the masses! I wanted to make a difference in the world! I wanted to feel sexy AF in my body! I wanted to be the kind of leader the world hadn’t seen yet!”.
A few days later, we find a sexy b/w professional shot of W in very provocative clothes, with the following text attached:
“Girls are taught from a young age to fear/hate/mistrust their bodies, whether it’s from society, religion, family. And I think I know why. The patriarchy knows how powerful a woman is in all her glory. When she sees her body as her powerful vessel, her emotions as sacred, her intuition as divine, she becomes unstoppable. And when a woman becomes unstoppable, there’s nothing she can’t be, do, or have. And that goes against the very nature and message of patriarchy (#sorrynotsorry).”
And again a few days later, next to another professional white lingerie shot:
“I decide to have it right now. And I make it happen. This is what it means to operate at the level of cause in life. I decide how my life goes. I decide what I want. I decide what I am worthy of. I decide what I am capable of. And I go out and make that happen.”
During this time, H tells us in his Rollo interview, life was basically living hell for H. Things which started in what he thought was a harmless way had now escalated to the point where his wife’s Instagram feed, which had for years featured mostly pics of small kids and family events and get togethers, had “progressed” to the point where his wife was posting, on an almost daily basis, exclusively material consisting of clothed-yet-nevertheless-borderline-pornographic pictures of herself, alongside bromides about female sexual expression as empowerment, patriarchy, finding what she really wants, chasing her dreams and the like. The pressure becomes too much at some point, and he confronts W.
The marriage predictably imploded in the following period. H describes it as being a case of him having blown things up, because they could not agree on a basis to continue. From my vantage point, it seems to me that W had a clear vision of what she wanted to do: she wanted to make a lot of money (there are numerous Instagram posts where she talks about how much she loves money, how much she wants to be rich and live a rich lifestyle and so on), and she wanted to monetize her sex appeal to do it, as well as running a life coaching gig on the side featuring the kind of snake oil empowerment nonsense that had been running alongside her posts in Instagram for the past several months of 2019. Although H also doesn’t discuss this in his interview, my own impression of W’s Instagram is that she may have been open to staying married but it would only be on her terms, and it would in no way, shape or form be permitted to interfere, impede, limit or restrict anything she wanted to do, either personally, or to make money, based on what she determined herself that she wished to do, in order to satisfy her desires and follow her dreams.
Obviously that is no basis for a marriage, so the couple decided to separate and then, later on in 2020, divorce. H does say in his Rollo interview that subsequently W has told H that she doesn’t think that the marriage could have lasted in any case, because they simply wanted different things, and things that were not compatible. I think it’s more the case that W wants things that are not compatible with any kind of marriage, at least not to 90%+ of people who are interested in marrying at all (there are always outliers who have strange arrangements). W moved out of the house and relocated from the Southwest, where the family was then living, to Southern California.
After this, the changes in W’s life, at least as reflected in her Instagram, have seemingly continued to accelerate. In October 2019, W started an OnlyFans page. In late 2019, a month or two after the separation, the latest (I do not assume the final) rubicon is crossed: a particularly poignant, and for her husband painful, I am sure, post from November of 2019 features W’s first nude Instagram post (her forbidden-on-Instagram parts are covered by the pose and her arms, but she’s in the buff), alongside a picture of her from 2009, alone in a wedding dress. The accompanying text remarks how this is her first professional shoot (i.e., where she was paid to shoot it, as a model), which is taking place roughly ten years after her first in life professional photo shoot (presumably for her own wedding pictures), and waxes poetic about how grateful she is for having developed and grown and evolved since that time, and how she feels “way more confident, free, and embodied” and about how “the true [W] finally emerged from all the layers that were placed on her all those years.”
W’s Instagram after this point becomes racier and eventually raunchier seemingly by the day. As I note in the cautionary words at the outset of this post, I am not a social media person, and I do not peruse Instagram and Twitter on a regular basis – I dip into them when someone links me to this or that, but I do not review them regularly and so while I am generally familiar with what they feature, I do not have detailed knowledge of how far they have generally gone, and so I was rather shocked by some of the content I was scrolling past in the recent posts from 2020 (M=over, W=36) on the Instagram feed. Suffice to say, as far as I can tell, the images on her Instagram appear to be the same as that of any woman who works in the porn/sex industry. Unless one scrolls down, a lot, like I did to learn what happened historically in her former marriage, one would never know that this woman used to be a bog standard normal Christian, suburban wife and mother, and only a few years ago this same feed was filled with typical cellphone pics of kids and cakes and family outings and the like.
And then it dawned on me, as I was reflecting on the takeaways for the rest of us regarding this shocking and disturbing story.
What if the line between one and the other – that is, between normal Christian suburban wives and mothers, on the one hand, and women who slide into the world of electronically disintermediated amateur sex work, on the other – is really much thinner, and much more porous, than we dare to think?
As I note at the outset, in the interests of space, and of readers’ time, the takeaways from this unfortunate tale will be taken up in a subsequent post in this series to be published in the coming days. Pending that post, let me say before closing that I think that this terribly sad story is humbling in many ways, precisely because of the sheer normality and averageness of the main players. It really is something that could happen to anyone in today’s cultural climate and atmosphere, with the changes technology is making available to everyone, and the very new challenges this poses due to the new opportunities that are being made available for various kinds of mischief.
At this stage, and again before getting into the takeaways post, I think it’s appropriate to offer prayers for H, W and their young children in the wake of the events described above that God may grant his gifts of repentance, humility and strength to everyone all around.