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Are you cut out to be a sex writer?

Are you interested in sex? Do you enjoy the fact that humans have sex in different ways, with a number of different people, in a variety of interesting positions? If someone tells you about a cool new sex game or a fetish that’s new to you, is your first reaction to go ‘ooh, wow! That sounds interesting please tell me more’?

You might want to be a sex writer.

If any of the above things have made you recoil slightly, a frown of disgust on your face, or made you feel like you should hammer out a comment about how some people are just ‘sick’, ‘creepy’ or ‘gross’? Then I cannot stress this enough, but please:

do not become a sex writer. 

Disgusted sex writer of Tunbridge Wells

In the last week I have read a few articles about sex by people who seem not just uninterested in it but actively horrified by it. One was an article which… umm… ‘leant heavily’ on something I’d written for The Debrief, about all the varied requests that cam girls had heard. Compare and contrast, and let’s see if you can guess which quote came from my piece:

“Discussions with cam girls demonstrate neatly that sexuality is a more diverse and interesting thing than we could ever possibly imagine.”

“Perhaps the people with the best sense for what sort of sickos exist are cam girls.”

There is no prize for guessing. Read the original article here, please do not read the copy of it because I’m in the process of getting them to take it down.

Listen: I’m not holding myself up as the Queen of Fuck Writing. I write some good stuff and I write some shit stuff. I churn out thousands of words each week, for this blog, books, and a whole bunch of other people who pay me money for my words. Inevitably some of it will be so-so, and some will be downright bad.

BUT WHAT IS NOT INEVITABLE is that any of it will be sex-hating. Because I do not hate sex. I do not hate niche fetishes, or interesting quirks. I do not, granted, test out every single fetish I write about (although wouldn’t THAT make for a fun article?! I should pitch this), but just because I don’t personally get turned on by something doesn’t mean I have to stamp on it.

What you need in order to be a sex writer

There are two absolutely crucial things – in my opinion – that you need to be a good sex writer.

  1. An interest in sex
  2. The ability to empathise with people

That’s it – that’s the list. You don’t actually have to have fucked tonnes of people, or tried each and every sex toy on the market. You could be asexual, for instance, and still be an amazing sex writer. You could have only ever had very vanilla sex with one other person. All you need is, when people tell you about their sexual interests, to not be a fucking prick about it. 

Do you need to be a good writer? No. You do not even need to be that. In a world which is screaming for more content – content ALL THE TIME, NEW content, SHINY content, content shovelled into the faces of clicking consumers – you don’t even need to write good.

If I were responsible for hiring a new sex writer, given the choice between someone who was interested in sex but bad at writing and someone who was good at writing but didn’t give a fuck about sex, I would pick the former.

Any. Day. Of. The. Week.

It’s why I stress on the guest blog page that you don’t have to be fucking Shakespeare in order to contribute a guest blog. I can help you with the words: that’s my job. What I can’t do, though, is take someone who hates sex and pull from them an article that’s worthy of being spaffed out onto a sex blog.

This week I’ve read sex articles about:

  • why cunnilingus is gross
  • why threesomes are a bad idea and
  • why unusual fetishes as requested from cam workers are ‘creepy.’

Two out of those three were by people who purport to be sex writers. One of these three was in Playboy. PLAYBOY.

In all seriousness, on what planet do we think we should put up with this kind of stuff? You, as clicking consumers, deserve better than this. As a couple of people on Twitter pointed out, we wouldn’t put up with this in other topic areas:

So why do we put up with it in sex writing? We shouldn’t. Please do feed back to mainstream publications when they publish things like this, as well as when they publish articles that are good and written by people with the requisite empathy and understanding. I realise that by saying this I am opening myself up to some criticism if I write something that’s overly negative or critical. I am 100% happy with that because I know I’m not always great, and when I am Not Good Enough then I should be fucking told.

If you find sex gross then please – do not become a sex writer. I promise you I will not turn up at your house and insist you nod and smile while I give you a soliloquy on the joys of piss-play. In return, please assure me that you won’t show up in a sex article sneering at people who like anal or making someone else’s private joy the victim of your public disgust.

If you’re a reader then please demand better – from writers, editors, everybody, including me. At the very least request that any professional sex writer meets the absolute minimum standard:

they are not shocked by sex. 


  • Jessy says:

    As readers who love reading about sex, we want to know that the writer enjoys what he/she writes about; how in that writing he/she has felt; and I think when you put feeling to words- that’s a DAMN good article. :-) (and I’m talking about your articles)
    Just a quick question which had been in my mind and I would have e-mailed you. But this article is really a beginner’s step for a sex blog (which I really want to start ‘one day’) so here it is.

    Can a virgin start a sex blog? Who loves sex btw. :-)

    • Girl on the net says:

      OMG that’s a brilliant question, and I think the answer is ‘hell yes.’ Basically, I think we (and I too, frequently) focus a lot on the act of ‘actual sex’ itself and as a result we don’t talk nearly enough about people’s sexual lives outside of the actual fucks they’re having. My rules above are kind of ‘here’s the basic stuff you need to be a sex writer’ but I reckon if you want to start a sex blog, and you want it to be really good, then you need something unique that only you can offer: sex blog from a virgin? I’ve never heard of another one, so HELL YES. Go for it. I had a guest series here fairly recently from Mary, a 24-year-old virgin who wrote about losing her virginity: It was a really popular series of guest blogs.

      I’ve got a bit of a guide on starting a sex blog here: but if you want to start one and you have any questions, please do get in touch! Ooh, also if you do start a guest blog you should come to Eroticon 2016 – it’s an amazing conference for sex writers.

      • Jessy says:

        Thank you so much. You’ve actually inspired me to begin the work. I’m sure as HELL I’ll be messaging you for advice.

        I’m hoping I’ll be in the guest blog ‘one day.’ *fingers crossed*
        For Eroticon, I’m really interested but I live a whole continent away, so chances are really low. Thanks for the links too. :-)

    • Jillian Boyd says:

      Yes! When I started blogging about sex, I was a virgin – all I wanted was a place to talk openly about sex because I was curious and let down by sex education in school.

  • RichardP says:

    But sex is so icky and gross. It’s all about girls and their cooties. Plus who likes being naked it’s so embarrassing. And while I’m on the topic does anyone actually like boobs, I mean their just so fleshy and squidgy. And don’t even get me started on faces, they’re just so facey and wrong.
    Actually people are just gross. Thats why I like sterile bubbles they’re just so wonderfully clean.

  • seasideslut says:

    I’m often bemused about why the Guardian repeatedly asks Zoe Williams to write about sex – she is amazingly naive and you can almost hear her clutching her pearls in alarm.

    • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

      At least the Guardian does have a regular sex columnist, Pamela Stephenson, who is more open-minded, though her advice tends towards the generic and banal.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Really? I’ve never got that from Zoe although – full disclosure – I’ve met her for an interview, around the time the new UK porn laws came in, and I really liked her. She struck me as genuinely fascinated, and we got into a really in-depth chat about consensual pain and sexual freedoms. Appreciate this might have skewed my opinion, but I think she’s a good person to write sex stuff: curious, but never taking it for granted that the average reader will know all the issues in-depth.

    • Azkyroth says:

      To see the look on her face?

  • <3 this. It's easy to be open-minded. Them: "I love (this kinky thing)." You: "Cool." No other response required.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    I don’t really understand how someone could be interested in sex enough to write about it, but also find it gross and icky. That seems like the sign of some unresolved issues to me. (To be serious, I know that some people actually do find sex disturbing due to traumatic experiences, but such people are generally aware of it and don’t write silly things about sex being icky in general.)

    I don’t know how someone could make a career writing about sex, but not find the diversity and complexity of it endlessly fascinating.

    I expect at least some of these ‘ew, gross’ articles you talk about aren’t even expressing an entirely genuine response, they’re at least as much about the writer signalling that they’re a Good Person who has the right rind of sex and isn’t one of Those People. Sigh.

    • Girl on the net says:

      I think you’re right, and I think it’s part of a vicious cycle that’s going to be tricky to break. People see certain sex written about as ‘eww’, thus they say ‘eww’, so more people think it’s ‘eww’, so the next person who writes an article accepts it’s ‘eww’ by default, etc etc. I think it’s going to take a long time to break this cycle, but I think more awesome and accepting sex articles can go a really long way towards changing things. Another thing along these lines, I think, is the issue of extremely gendered writing and sex tips. I am not by any means good at this, but I do usually try, when I’m writing ‘fun sex positions’ or what have you, not to assume a straight/cis couple. It’s incredibly tricky, though, partly because you have to write a bit for search and search terms are, of course, influenced by expectations etc etc. Blergh. Anyway. I’m a bit hungover so am just waffling, but basically yes – I think you’re right about the signaling and it’s rubbish.

  • I loved this article so hard I think I pulled something. The amount of negativity I’ve seen about some perfectly harmless interests completely boggles my brain. I think some people write about sex for the wrong reasons. You nailed it with interest and empathy.

  • Burce says:

    I am somewhat taken aback by your insistence that writing ability is irrelevant to becoming a sex writer. I have been a semi-pro (write articles/book reviews by request, but not for pay) for several decades, on the basis of my perceived excellence as a writer. But I’m one of those people who think about sex ‘once a day’ (from awakening to going to sleep).

    I have never written a sex article, but I have had some protracted e-mail dialogs with women on match-maker sites, as well as with some of the more erudite ‘sex workers’ who have e-mail addresses.

    So if I write an ‘article’ about that which occupies my mind, and my experiences over the years (decades, I must admit), to whom should I attempt to market my creations?


    • Girl on the net says:

      Depends on the article. Realistically, any interesting enough sex topic would get picked up somewhere. Sorry that’s a really vague answer, but your question is very broad. Almost any media outlet will take pitches for sex topics – where you should pitch depends on what you’re pitching. If you give me more detail I can give you some suggestions.

  • I Just Wanna Be God says:

    Completely agree. Is there anything you would draw a line at being disgusted by? Off the top of my head, perhaps when others are harmed against their will? In fantasy or just in reality? That’s completely not meant to be a loaded question, that’s a genuine interest to find if such a line does exist and if it should and where it should be.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Sure I draw a line: nothing that violates consent, nothing I’m not personally turned on by (lots falls under this I think), nothing I’m not in the mood for. Fantasy is a different kettle of fish – I can fantasise about things I’d abhor in real life, perhaps, because in my head it’s safe to explore things.

  • Azkyroth says:

    In return, please assure me that you won’t show up in a sex article sneering at people who like anal

    That reminds me. Anal and pubic hair removal in particular get a lot of Squick-Wrapped-In-The-Flag-Of-Feminism attacks. I wish people wouldn’t do that. >.>

  • I’ve always found that the easiest thing to do with “stuff” I don’t like is just don’t write about it full stop; don’t even draw attention toward the fact you have a negative opinion about it. The old adage of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is probably even more apt when it comes to sex writing.

    I’m open minded but there are certain sex things that just aren’t to my taste. I know this, but I also know that my “yuck” is someone else’s “yum”, and possibly vice versa. I’ll happily write about things I like. The characters in my stories are kind of limited in that they only tend to indulge in activities that I myself indulge in. There’s a practical reason for this though, I’m not going to show my ignorance and have my characters attempt something that I know fuck all about.

    That’s not to say that I won’t talk about what I dislike. I think it’s important, particularly when it comes to the sex you are having with someone else that you know what you both like, what you both dislike, where the common ground is, where the boundaries are and which of those boundaries are absolute and which may, possibly, be subject to varying degrees of flexibility.

    So yes, in certain contexts, it is absolutely right to speak out about what you don’t like. Using your blog/column/platform as the alter of sexual rightness to preach the one true way to fuck is, however, counter-productive in anyone who claims to be even remotely sex positive.

    That said, it’s a “free internet” and these people have as much right to share their opinions as we have ours. I employ a very simple form of filtering. If I don’t like what someone writes, I don’t read it. One of the drawbacks of online communication (Twitter is particularly bad because of the character limits) is that it is not a very good forum for reasoned discussion. We have to rely only on the words on the screen and how we interpret them with no clue as to the original intent and meaning of the person who wrote the words. We don’t have the benefit of being able to look at the writer’s non-verbal communication for clues as to their actual meaning.

    I’m in danger of pontificating again, so I’ll shut up now…


    • Girl on the net says:

      I don’t think you’re pontificating, and I totally agree that it’s important to talk about things we don’t personally like. Not just from a sexual communication perspective, but I think it can also be really positive from a general education perspective. It’s important for sex writers and bloggers to talk about things that don’t specifically turn them on, because it can be a tool to help others work out what does turn them on, and also to change the narrative a bit from the old ‘anything not vanilla is a bit eww.’ Which is why I’m ‘hmm’ing at this:

      “That said, it’s a “free internet” and these people have as much right to share their opinions as we have ours… If I don’t like what someone writes, I don’t read it. ”

      I agree that people have the right to say stuff like this – of course they do. But I also think editors have a responsibility to consider the way in which the content they put out helps to shape that narrative. For years we’ve been sold a whole bunch of crap when it comes to sex and relationships, and thanks to sme great editors and writers and readers demanding better, the overall sexual discourse is way freer and more interesting than it was fifty years ago – or even twenty, come to mention it. If we just go ‘ah, I don’t like it so I won’t read it’ then the change from a prudish/shaming sexual discourse will be far slower. I’m not saying everyone has to call out *every* bullshit article they see (that would be knackering!) but I do think it’s important that some of us actively challenge this stuff. It’s a bit like the people who get upset when they’re ‘no-platformed’ for their shitty views: they shout about free speech like ‘oh I should be ALLOWED to say this thing’, which they are, it’s just that we are no longer forced to listen to it, because there are much better things to listen to instead =)

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