The Free Press has yet to raise a round that’s not family and friends, but it is not out of the question that they will. (Clarence Thomas bestie Harlan Crow and Palantir cofounder Joe Lonsdale have funded some of Weiss’s other projects.) Since the debate, I have heard a handful of deep-pocketed attendees around town rave about what they saw that night, saying that they’re eager to see more. In the meantime, Weiss is focused on building the subscriber base and investing income into growth.
“VC-funded media tends to be money in search of an idea, but what we are doing feels honest and real in a way that’s a relief,” Bowles said. She, for one, is not in the typical Silicon Valley more, better, faster, now, now, now grind. “All I ever wanted for us is a nice lifestyle business and a house in Montecito, maybe, but Bari wants a huge media company.”
As she stepped onstage in a skinny black suit and silver aviators to moderate the so-called clash, members of the audience cheered like it was the Eras Tour. Aside from random woots from the audience for Weiss or the four debaters (particularly Khachiyan and Grimes—basically the Taylor and Beyoncé of this crowd), the room was silent and entirely rapt, even though they were seemingly divided. When Weiss polled the audience by text before the debate, 56% of the audience said they believed the sexual revolution had failed.
Each side—Khachiyan and Perry arguing the affirmative and Grimes and Haider against—was given time for opening statements, rebuttals, questions from Weiss, followed by closing statements, though, for the most part, they all seemed to pretty much agree. Modern dating has created “digital harems” in which “high status men” have ultimate choice, Perry argued, leaving the rest of men emasculated and women free but directionless. At one point, Khachiyan, through a cloud of her own vape smoke, “low-key agreed with” a point from her counter that she was supposed to be rebutting. She’d opened with the notion that she could not “with a straight face” argue that the sexual revolution had failed, because the conceit “that we live in a society that men are in charge is funnier than anything Tim Dillon has ever said.” We still haven’t left the plantation, she added, of treating women as victims. “If revolution failed, it failed because it won.” The four debaters, all of whom have sons, seemed to agree with a set of facts: declining birth rates are a problem (“young women growing up post-sexual revolution grew up anti-natalist,” Khachiyan said, not used to caring about anyone other than themselves); porn is bad (Grimes advocated for more beautiful cinematography and better music); abortions shouldn’t be banned; mothers are undervalued (Grimes was disturbed at how women and children aren’t ushered to the front of airport security lines and made the case for free childcare in every workplace); and we should have listened to our grandmothers more. Ultimately, Grimes, who has three children with Elon Musk, concluded, none of this really mattered anyway. In a decade, we’re all going to have AI girlfriends anyway. “I hope living women still have a chance.”
By the end of the debate, another vote showed that the balance of opinion had flipped by a few percentage points. Biggie began to play again as everyone filed out and VIPs crammed in elevators to the afterparty on the hotel’s roof. “I’m going to tell her she needs to scale it,” one woman told her two friends as she stepped into a car waiting for her out front, near the hot dog cart. “This is exactly, exactly culture.”