On an unseasonably warm recent night, I gathered five prominent young sex columnists at EN Japanese Brasserie to discuss their careers, love lives, and boyfriends. But what started out as a roundtable quickly turned into The Jessica Cutler Show.
Cutler, 27, the former Capitol Hill aide who detailed her many Beltway conquests on the now-defunct Washingtonienne blog (and in her subsequent Hyperion novel of the same name), regaled us with tales of cocaine use, the antidepressant she’s on, her reasons for posing nude for Playboy, the seven men she’s dating, and the man who’s suing her for invading his privacy. When it came time for a group photo, Cutler opened her flasher-style trench coat and bared her left breast.
Shameless? Absolutely. But who can blame Cutler for wanting attention? It’s a lot tougher to get than when I started out as a sex columnist nine years ago, writing in the New York Press about my attempts to find a sideburned, artistic guy south of 14th Street who’d stay for breakfast.
Six seasons of Sex and the City, one Paris Hilton sex tape, one Jenna Jameson autobiography, and one anal-sex memoir later, the boudoir diarist is now a staple of every publication save the supermarket circular. On college campuses, student newspapers are rife with the musings of (mostly female) authors who’ve only recently lost their virginity yet write about their limited exploits with the explicitness of Howard Stern and the delicacy of Jimmy Kimmel. One of the more intelligent essayists, the Columbia Spectator’s Miriam Datskovsky, isn’t even old enough to drink (although that didn’t stop her from stealing a few sips at our dinner).
Sex columns aren’t always about great sex or great writing, but the single-girl blog can be a brilliant career move for those willing to reveal absolutely everything. “I get diarrhea more than a normal person,” writes insanely popular Greek Tragedy blogger Stephanie Klein, 30, on a page called 100 Things About Me, where readers can also learn she wet her bed until the sixth grade (No. 1), can’t find Montana on a map (No. 12), lets her dog lick her privates (No. 88), climaxes from intercourse (No. 92), and so on. Klein blogged her way into a two-book deal with Judith Regan, a contract to write an NBC pilot, and a spot at our table.
So much has been said about sex that the surest way for a young writer to distinguish herself, it seems, is to divulge things no reasonable reader would want to know. But is the widespread availability of too much information changing sex itself? To help hash it out, we also invited Rachel Kramer Bussel, 30, author of the Village Voice’s “Lusty Lady” column, a regular contributor to Penthouse Variations, and editor of a recent spanking anthology; and Elise Nersesian, 26, whose “Sexier Sex” column for Redbook magazine was an attempt to lure younger gals to the gingerbread-scented glossy. (Since our roundtable, she’s defected to Penthouse magazine as well.) Over Japanese cocktails, we got progressively drunker (and cattier), but like nice girls, everyone exchanged phone numbers at the end.
Amy Sohn: So how did you get started?
Jessica Cutler: I was writing e-mails to my friends from my Senate account when I was working as a staff assistant. I didn’t want to be writing from that address, so I just said, Why don’t I just keep a blog? That was in May of 2004. I only wrote thirteen entries, but someone sent the link to a gossip Website in D.C., Wonkette, and then I came back from lunch and everybody in my office was reading it. It was in the Washington Post and the New York Post, and then I got calls from literary agents.
Rachel Kramer Bussel: After college, I moved here to go to NYU Law School, and that’s when I started writing stories. I got asked to work at Penthouse Variations, which is my main job. I was writing a bit for the Village Voice, and they asked me to write a column there a year ago. I also write a column at Penthouse about what girls talk about when guys aren’t around.
Cutler: We laugh about your wieners all day long.
Stephanie Klein: Like all great things, it started with a breakup. I read through my journals, and I realized I was putting so much energy into guys. I said, You know what? I’m going to stop dating, take myself off Match.com, and write every day, so I started the blog in January 2004. I also decided to invest my energy in photography. One day, I went to a party and Ivana Trump was there along with a bunch of other celebrities. I got a lot of shots and put them up on my site. Some of the other blogs linked to me, and it caught the attention of the Independent in London. They called me and they were like, “We loved your blog. We’re pissing ourselves over here and we want to feature you, yeah?” And I’m like, “Yeah!” So they ran this story and then the CEO of this publishing house from London came over here and offered me a deal. I ended up refusing that deal, getting an agent here, and writing a book proposal for Straight Up & Dirty.