Review: Writing Sex

Press Room Contributor Mike Day reviews Friday’s panel, Writing Sex, with Kate Iselin, Emma Marie Jones and Hugo Atherton Gray

The post-lunch ‘Writing Sex’ panel begins with host, Kate Iselin, asking the other panellists whether they get concerned about being pigeonholed, mentioning the  ‘Tinder Girl’ label that’s sometimes inflicted on her. Emma Marie Jones replies that she writes about a lot of different stuff, and does resent the idea of fitting into a TV character archetype, like a Carrie Bradshaw or Lena Dunham. Hugo Atherton Gray, a writer for Future of Sex Magazine, admits he represents more technical, “almost medical” angle on sex writing, but that this doesn’t deter the ‘pervy’ (mostly male) assumptions that he ‘spends all day wanking’. He also explains the term ‘teledildonics’, which refers to sex toys that operate via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Kate and Emma briefly discuss how for more confessional writers there is a struggle between readers making assumptions about them based on their openness and the idea that the more personal they are the more their stories will resonate.

In response to a question about the continuing taboo of discussing sex and sex toys, Hugo asserts that people have always had an enduring fascination with sex, and that one of the great benefits of the Internet is that it allows people to share and find stories involving sex. Kate says that even though this allows people to feel less alone there has been a pushback against Tinder and online dating, questioning who benefits from a “classical” kind of 1950s dating – basically rich white men. Emma adds that the Internet changes the way we connect in general, and that you can “give people any medium and they will eventually use it for sex”.

When it comes to intimacy in relation to sex writing the panellists agree that stories that utilise new technology broaden the definition of intimacy, particularly allowing women more fulfilling sexual experiences. Emma shares a story about the reaction of past lovers to an essay of hers about dick pics: “Is that her response to my dick pics?” and Kate discusses a reader of her work, turned twitter crush, turned (one) date. The panel also agree that their writing does not reduce intimacy in their real life, even though for Emma her partners can often read her inner thoughts about them.

The first audience question is about the failing of sex education and the benefits of blog based education. Emma responds that as an editor for Spook she finds it important to prioritise realistic sex writing. Perhaps the most interesting questioning is about the consent required to write about partners, and Kate insists, “I want to tell my story”. As long as she avoids assumptions and focuses on truth, her Tinder blog remains ethical. In her monthly sex diary (found on Scum Mag) Emma talks about how she uses pseudonyms for people, but for partners rather than just one-night stands, she also asks permission. Finally, the panel finds that sex writing has a strong and positive relationship with both Internet culture and the advancement of sexual freedoms.