I’ve been writing about sex for 15 years, but one thing I’m not and would never claim to be is a sexpert. I’m a woman who’s out about being bisexual, kinky and sometimes slutty. I’ve penned erotica about bukkake, lap dancing, professional submission, Monica Lewinsky and French fries, among many other topics. I’ve written first person accounts of age play, pegging, threesomes, blowjobs, drunk sex, BDSM and owning two Hitachi Magic Wand vibrators.
Even though the first definition for sexpert listed at Dictonary.com is “a person who professes a knowledge of sexual matters,” something I would qualify for, their final “informal” definition is the one I think most people would think of first: “A sex expert, esp a therapist who treats persons complaining of sexual dysfunction.” That is the one that I am especially careful not to call myself.
But when I got an email from DatingAdvice.com applauding me for being one of their Top 15 Sexperts of 2015, I was flattered, but frustrated. Here’s the thing: I love writing about sex, and probably will always do it in some form. There are highs and lows, and stereotypes aplenty that come with adding “sex columnist” to your resume (you can read more about that in the title essay in my ebook Sex & Cupcakes), but in the end, I find it worth it precisely because I get to be entirely myself.
Yes, some of my work is journalism, where I consult experts on, say, dirty talk or swinging or lube, but even there, my voice is my own imperfect, un-expert, still figuring things out voice. There are plenty of amazing, smart, talented and dedicated sex educators out there who rightly deserve the title of sexpert.
What I hope to offer readers is something else: amateur honesty. I want to bare my soul, whether it’s in the form of erotica, where I can be playful with my words, taking something that may or may not have happened and using it to turn on people’s minds and bodies, or in nonfiction, where I can explore topics that many people are probably curious about but may not know who to ask about.
I want to play a role in the sex positive community, but I believe my role is as an encourager, a welcome, a teacher of erotic writing and an exhibitionist on the page, rather than someone qualified to give expert advice. I still have plenty of strong opinions and I don’t shy away from sharing them, but for me, one of the freedoms of the platform I do have is that I don’t have to pretend to have all the answers.
I’m far more of a student of sex than I will ever be a teacher of it, and one of the things I love most about my job is that I get to learn more all the time. I get to ask questions, and those answers are often ones I apply to my own personal life. For instance, I recently interviewed Cooper Beckett of the Life on the Swingset podcast about swinging. I’m not a swinger, but one thing I took away from writing about him is that it’s okay to have fantasies about someone other than my partner. Yes, I knew that intellectually, but having someone else state it so plainly and openly helped me come to terms with that aspect of my life.
I don’t ever want to hold myself up as a sexpert because I don’t have the answers about my own life, let alone anyone else’s. I struggle with aspects of my sexuality, which is ever changing. When I wrote about my experience with playing “mommy” as part of an age play interaction with a guy I’d met on OkCupid, I worried that I’d be insulting age players because I had no real clue what I was doing.
Even in my chosen field of erotica writing, which I do feel comfortable teaching classes on, I don’t know everything. I do my best to respond to questions students ask, and connect them with those who do have far more knowledge about, say, erotic science fiction, or self-publishing, than I do.
One of my strengths, I believe, as a writer, is that I do share my truths, even when they’re challenging ones, or sad ones, or when I don’t come off especially well. Yes, I’ve read a boyfriend’s email. I’ve cheated. I’ve cyber-stalked. I’ve been passive-aggressive. I am not the world’s best orgasm haver.
But here’s why I love what I do: I don’t have to be an expert in order to get people to think about sex in new, and hopefully helpful, ways. Please note that I didn’t say to “change their minds” or get them to agree with me; I don’t want to bludgeon people with my words so that they simply parrot mine back to me. I’d rather work to create a space where people offer up something genuine of themselves (note: this doesn’t mean dick pics), where sex isn’t treated solely as a private matter but something that affects every aspect of our lives and culture.
I was incredibly moved to see that erotica author Oleander Plume was so moved by Sex & Cupcakes that she got her 19-year-old daughter Quinn to read it and posted a dialogue the two had about sex, one so detailed and honest I wish I’d been able to have those conversations with my mother when I was 19! I learned so much from what they had to say, especially Quinn, though the fact that her sex education was so dismal and focused on abstinence is a sad commentary on where sex ed is going:
I hate that it’s okay for men to brag about their sexual conquests, but women looked down on for doing the same, then we’re hammered with articles about “what’s your number (of sex partners)” and “how many is too many?” Sex Ed teaches us not to have sex, but then every media ad has a half-naked woman or something over-sexualized. The mixed signals are confusing to teens, especially the younger ones.
One of the reasons I want to remove myself from the sexpert title is because I want to encourage each of us to be experts about our own sexuality, and, if they so desire, in turn, share that information, as Oleander and Quinn are doing, with the world. No, not everyone wants to share their sex lives, but for those who do, their stories are fascinating not because they know everything there is to know about a given sexual topic, but because they are individuals.
I’ve always said that when sex and erotica writing got boring to me, I’d quit and find something new. But they are each still exciting because I uncover different approaches, experiences, fetishes, that I’d never considered before. So many of the things we take for granted — for example, that bigger is better, especially when it comes to cocks and boobs, that thin is in, the more sex and orgasms, the better — are not shared by everyone. Your celebrity crush object, even if it’s, say, Brad Pitt, might leave another person cold. Those less noticed, less splashy, sometimes sensationalized corners of the sex world are the ones that continue to fascinate me. So while I want to encourage the sexperts of the world to keep on doing what they’re doing and creating more space in our culture for factual, judgment free information about sex, I also want to applaud anyone who’s brave enough to share their sexual thoughts, fantasies, dreams and questions, whether it’s with one other person or millions of them.