Featured Image Credit: @yaelaris/Instagram
'I've never accepted it and it's never been resolved. It's still out there, and getting put back into stock. The Yael doll. And they still keep taking versions of me. And they even made the price higher. I feel so helpless. I'm trying to do many things in my life to gain as much control and confidence in what I do. But truthfully, that's something I don't know what to do about.'
Yael Cohen Aris had her identity stolen by a sex toy manufacturer in China. However, despite this breach of trust, abuse of her body, and violation of her sense of identity, the Israeli model and former Israel Defence Force software engineer is determined to keep using her social media platforms and OnlyFans.
From progressively building her online following, Yael hopes to raise awareness of the challenges she has faced on social media, keep breaking stigmas that many women face when they celebrate their appearances online, and continue to empower herself and other woman into loving themselves and their bodies.
Despite now having amassed more than one million followers on Instagram, Yael doesn't really recall how she got to such a successful point in her life.
'I don't know. I never really stop to think about it. A couple of years ago it started when I was a soldier. I opened an Instagram and found myself having this community,' she explained.
While saying that it was sort of 'easy' because she is simply 'trying to be [herself] and stay authentic', Yael also noted how she sometimes needs 'a break'.
'Sometimes I feel less motivated to use social media and need a break too. But in general I'm happy to have reached this point, having what I have,' she explained.
Yael reflected on men's disbelief that she used to work in the military, and how many often prejudge her from her social media posts, which so openly celebrate her body.
She said she has 'experienced it all [her] life', but that 'one of the reasons [she] use[s] social media is to change this wrong perception'. 'That women can have these titles but also want to take care of their looks and express themselves in certain ways,' she explained.
'Watch me. I don't do it for men. I don't want to sound like I'm generalising, and I'm sure there are men as well as women who suffer from judgement from society. People don't think people have layers. I wish people would have their eyes open more,' she said.
Reflecting on her move to OnlyFans, Yael said that while she thinks every user utilises the platform for 'different reasons', she is 'just happy that there's a place that can accept these things which aren't considered acceptable in other areas of life and places around the world, such as my country'.
'I never try to fit to some norm. I always have tried to question the norms and others about the norms they believe. So it's great for me to express myself a little differently via social media,' she explained.
However, despite the positive release and sense of authority that the model has found on the site, it has not come without its risks and pitfalls.
When I asked Yael about how she felt after her identity was stolen by a Chinese sex toy manufacturing company, she admitted, 'That is a really complicated question.'
She explained, 'It's taking something which should be natural, good and pure, and something which you are doing for you to express yourself. And taking your choice and control and doing something you don't know about and never consented to. To take it to that level is really wrong. I was pretty shocked.
'But yeah, there are risks when you expose yourself out there to the world, especially using social media. It's a risk, but nobody prepares you for it,' she warned.
Moreover, the incident has still yet to be resolved.
To this day, Yael noted how she is 'honestly still feeling very helpless in the situation' and still hopes one day to have found the right way to solve it.
'It's not legal, and I think there can be many laws and restrictions, but when someone wants to do something, they don't always care. They didn't stop and think about the person. It's a pretty ugly thing,' Yael stated.
Yael explained that when she first made the discovery, she took to Instagram to raise awareness, however she 'received some very defensive comments'. 'I'm pretty sure they were from people working there,' she said. 'They even put photos and links to my socials in the forum — I was my own promoter to the doll without even knowing that. They even changed some of the description to make me even less in control,' she explained.
'I still have all of it, and have saved everything in the hope I'll have the opportunity to find someone who can help.'
Having her identity stolen and the continued availability of the sex toy has made Yael 'realise there's a lot more risks and things which no one can prepare you for'.
She said, 'Getting into social media or the entertainment industry, where you expose your image, you have to take that into consideration. It really shook my world and my understanding that you can never have full control and you have to live with that. You don't have to be okay with it, but you have to know that it could happen and things could happen when you take steps in this type of work.'
Despite having her identity stolen and her use of social media abused, Yael still believes that such platforms are still a 'great place to have a voice and pursue your dreams, but there are many other risks'. 'You just need to be aware of it and about yourself — know what you can handle and what you can't,' she added.
'But I am happy with where I am. It happened and i would love to resolve it but I am happy where I am,' she reassured me.
'There's a different scale of how people like to express themselves and their sexuality, and how to feel confident. It's all fine and all okay. I was actually a little more confident when I was younger, which was seen as not acceptable but I thought, 'Why?' It's so natural and so pure. I was like 18 and 20, and it's still not seen as okay, but people need to understand that some feel confident with expressing their other sides, like their sexy side,' she said.
Yael clarified, 'I'm not encouraging young girls to be more provocative, but saying how you need to know your own truth. If you're not hurting anyone in the process then just be happy and just be yourself.'
I hate seeing girls claim to be “all for empowering women” but yet are so bothered by girls who do onlyfans&give their negative opinion. like you can’t pick and choose which ones you want to empower— Jess (@jayemsss) April 19, 2020
Broaching the topic of how her parents and family felt when she told them that she wanted to take this particular journey on social media and OnlyFans, she noted, 'They love me for me. As long as they know I'm a good person and not doing something wrong and am making myself happy.'
'I joined the army and it was very reasonable for me to take the tech job after, but I chose a different path. Those surrounding me were really shocked initially and they would've preferred me to stay as a programmer, but I said how I wanted to try something out and fulfil my dreams, and they saw I was in control and they've become more and more supportive with the time. If you take it more with the sexy thing, rather than expressing myself, they now understand that's the world. No one invented it today,' she said.
Moreover, Yael noted how OnlyFans has meant that she has gained more authority in being able to share images of her body and celebrate herself in such a way.
'I think the greatest thing, for OnlyFans and other social media, is that you can choose what you do and what you create. You can take control in general content and not have a manager controlling you to be something so you can really be yourself.'
While she explained that 'there's still a place where there's pressure on you to do things you don't always want', Yael said that 'to try and stay true to yourself is the bottom line'.
Yael hopes that her use of social media can not only help bust some of the stigmas that surround OnlyFans, but many other 'societal norms'. 'People need to be more chill, everyone has different desires, limits and dreams. Not just about body image, or how we express ourselves on Instagram or OnlyFans. We all have different views, and that's okay,' she said.
Yael has also recently launched a publication called HolyLand, which seeks to 'promote the freedom to express and take control on our body & sexuality', and is particularly aimed at women from her home country.
'My goal for HolyLand is not just making it a brand but a movement. To really take what I believe and bring this subject in a beautiful and light way and to approach as many people I can. In Israel, there's pressure to not express your sexuality. But there has been change all around the world, with people being more okay with people who are different.'
She concluded, 'I have a hunger to keep going and keep doing what I believe in.'
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