Previously called #NHS4lefties, Anarcho Agony Aunts is a live-streamed relationship advice show featuring awkward questions and the hosts’ self-deprecating answers, all under the umbrella of radical feminism and anti-fascism. Hosts Rowan and Marijam are attempting to reclaim space from the alt-right in giving people (mostly men) a space to ask tricky questions in a judgment-free zone. Alex Pouget interviews the self-styled experts on how this project came to be and why is it important to talk about sex on the left.
What is Anarcho Agony Aunts?
R: Anarcho Agony Aunts (AAA) is a sex and dating advice show. So far we’ve done three live-streamed sessions where people submit questions about love, lust and relationships anonymously via Twitter and we answer them live on air. We wanted for it to be cosy and comfy, for us, and for the viewer, so we drink and sometimes smoke and just have a chat about people’s problems and try to like, come up with useful advice. We don’t discuss the questions beforehand so the conversations you see us having are totally spontaneous. That’s why we went with livestream, to make it as authentic and raw as possible. If we fuck up, you see us fuck up and I think that’s like … humanising, or something.
Why did you start the show?
M: I think one of us saw a video on YouTube where Jordan Peterson, a renowned right-wing commentator, was giving relationship advice to a couple on a talk show and we were like ‘no way we’re giving away that space to him, no way.’ How behind is the left when talking about emotions if people like him step in that place? No, thank you! The fact that *we* should do it was first it was just drunken pub chats, but the idea kept coming back. I was getting some more equipment for the Left Left Up show I do on gaming & politics and since we now had the hardware we figured we should definitely try and see if there’s interest, at least. The questions started pouring in very quickly!
What’s been the reaction?
R: Overwhelmingly positive! We’ve been really touched both by the amount of people who have reached out and submitted such thoughtful and vulnerable questions and also by the people who have watched and sent us messages of support. People seem to agree with us that it’s a necessary project and filling a vacuum, especially now, and also seem to really enjoy and engage with the way we do it – in terms of our living room vibe and that we answer the questions with honest, and sometimes embarrassing, recollections of our own dating and romance histories. I think people like it because it’s genuine. And a lot of people like it because they just find it funny. Also the fact that me and Marijam have like totally different tastes [laughs], I think is reassuring – there is a spectrum and there’s no single answer to anything, to what girls are into. We wanna show that. And people seem to like that.
Why is it a politically significant project?
M: Like we mentioned, it’s worrying when the right-wing is better at addressing the issues of alienation and loneliness. Some single men then cluster into internet-based movements like Involuntary Celibacy and Proud Boys etc. We think it is important for a left to have a response to that, a resource where men that are struggling to find a partner could go to ask, and receive an empathetic answer. The left can be so dismissive of such themes as nothing is as important as The Struggle, but how can one healthily involve themselves in political activism, if they’re having to hide a heart-break, for instance? Antifascism needs to be part of our everyday, and this is one tactic in attempting to broaden that discourse.
What have been your fears?
R: Hmmm, we are very cautious of being misconstrued or that our, like, frank honesty in answering questions might seem normative so we caveat a lot – like, before we say something potentially controversial we emphasise that we are doing this project from a feminist point of view, but that our views are only our own. We want to offer a place where it’s not scary to ask tricky or potentially “problematic” questions, but we also don’t wanna speak for or over anyone else.
What’s the toughest question you received?
R: We had a question about sex work that we weren’t qualified to answer so that was tricky, logistically. Aside from that so many of the questions are so heartfelt and, like, subjective – it’s tough to provide a definitive “answer”, but we just try to approach them from our personal perspectives and opinions and hope that helps.
What’s the question you had most fun answering?
M: All questions involving BDSM and stuff were quite fun. For me, the most important, was the one we did as the last one of the last episode – what was the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your past relationships? Tune in to watch our teary answers!
Where does the Anarcho Agony Aunts project go next?
R: Netflix special? [laughing]
M: We’ve been invited to do a couple of panel discussions / AAA live. We said we’ll agree only if we can drink on stage. [laughing]
Watch past episodes of AAA via YouTube or Twitter (#NHS4lefties – pre-rebrand) and submit anonymous questions for future episodes via curiouscat.me/marijamdid. And stay tuned for their upcoming IRL shows and also for a potential column right here in Freedom.