I write for money (and for love, I suppose, but only if that love can be converted into dollars at some point). I like to think my writing covers a fairly wide range of subjects, whether it’s columns about pop culture or feminism, or sometimes scripts about the suspected impotence of King Henry VIII (it’s better than it sounds, I promise). Oh, and sex. I write a lot about sex. In print, for stage, for television - it’s a sexual word bonanza.
Still, I rarely call myself a “sex writer”. That term conjures up images of either Carrie Bradshaw (who, while fashion-forward, was much too sexually conservative for my tastes) or an earnest scribe tapping out dialogue for a porn film, anxiously trying to marry the motivations of character X with the penis of character Y.
I describe myself in my Twitter bio as a “professional bangthropologist”, a portmanteau about which I feel undue pride. In conversations with my parents-in-law, I make vague references to writing about “relationships” or “the dating scene” and then I ask them kindly to pass the gravy.
Yes, you read that correctly. I have parents-in-law. I, against all odds and much to the disappointment of my younger self, got married. Not only that but I did it in my 20s, like this took place 50 years ago and I needed to lock someone down before I aged out of the market. Said lockdown happened about eight months ago and, just quietly, it’s been pretty nice thus far.
So, where does that leave my career? Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on having one (and my partner plans on me having one too as he is also a writer and so two of our incomes only just cover life in London). But whereas once I could write freely about my flings (and longer-term affairs) with men and women - there were enough of them that identifying anyone from the stories required Sherlock-like attention- I now have the privacy of another person to protect.
For example, I’ve written extensively in the past about polyamory and, as such, readers who find out I am now married feel comfortable asking me probing questions about the rules of my relationship with my husband. I don’t answer them (and won’t, so stop @-ing me). On the one hand, it’s no one’s business but ours. On the other, I’ve made a career of confessional writing and a willingness to expose myself (yes, in more ways than one but that’s a whole other column). To cover up the peepholes now and expect people to still be interested in my work is, perhaps, unfair.
And this is something that everyone who considers themselves sex-positive and open has to deal with at some point, particularly women. My female friends and I have marched in Slut Walks, danced all night at Mardi Gras and generally lived our lives boldly and without sexual shame. Our way of conquering the absurd standards placed on female sexuality has been to take control of our bodies and the narratives that surround them. It has felt radical and exciting. But when, if ever, is the right time to close our curtains?
My partner is extremely supportive of my writing and has not ever attempted to dictate what I can and can not talk about. He laughs off suggestions that he would feel threatened by my sexuality or my public persona. But the question remains: isn’t it unfair to fold someone else’s life into your work? There may be no one right answer to that question but until I find one that suits us, I’ll keep my bangthropology abstract and my writing fictional... for the most part. At the very least, I’ll change a few names.