Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to share a series of interviews with some of the sex educators and writers I admire who have been kind enough to agree to let me interview them. First up is the lovely and extremely talented Kate Sloan, blogger, journalist and one half of the hi-fucking-larious The Dildorks podcast.
Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?
Sure! My name’s Kate Sloan and I’m a sex blogger, sex journalist, and sex podcaster. (A whole lotta sex things!) I blog 2-3 times a week over at Girly Juice about sex, kink, relationships, style, and mental health. I write for various other outlets about those topics too (most recently: Glamour, Teen Vogue, and Kinkly). I’m also a producer and co-host of a show called The Dildorks; it’s a weekly podcast for sex nerds that I do with my best friend Bex.
What first made you want to write about sex?
I’ve honestly been fascinated by sex for as long as I can remember – to the point that I’ve had therapists think it’s weird and ask me “Why?!” I can remember writing erotica from about age 9, and researching sex and masturbation from my earliest days on the internet. I’ve just always found it an intriguing topic, socioculturally and psychologically. Sex is so much of what drives us and makes us tick as humans!
When I started Girly Juice, a lot of people asked me why I had chosen to focus my blog on sex – and my honest answer is that I couldn’t think of anything else I’d truly be able to write about forever. Now I’m more than five years into writing the blog and I’m nowhere near running out of ideas. Sex is endlessly interesting to me!
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a professional sex writer? How does one ‘make it’ in this field?
I went to journalism school, but that’s definitely not a necessary step for writers. I was fortunate in that my school, Ryerson University, was super supportive of my sex-journalism ambitions. My entrance essay, for example, was about a Grant Stoddard piece on massage-parlor handjobs and my final project was about kink and mental health. Yay for permissive institutions!
I started my blog 6 months before beginning that program, and then my 4 years at Ryerson honed my writing skills and also taught me how to do things like pitch stories, research properly, and do interviews. Throughout my time there, I pitched a lot and wrote about sex for various publications, mostly Canadian ones like Herizons magazine and the Plaid Zebra. Around the time I graduated last year, my career really started to take off, with my blog getting more attention and my pitches getting accepted at bigger outlets.
The reason I say J-school isn’t a vital step is that success in writing is really more about your skill, your portfolio, and your connections, in my experience. If you build up a great body of work, learn how to write good pitches, and can submit well-written copy on time, that’ll take you a long way, even if you have no academic credentials in the field.
What does “a day in the life of a sex journalist” look like for you?
Right now I have a part-time “dayjob” doing social media for a marketing company in the adult industry, and I do that work first thing in the morning because it’s time-sensitive. I get up at 8AM and spend about 2-3 hours in bed writing tweets about porn, phone sex, and cam shows. It’s pretty rad.
At that point, I get dressed and put makeup on. (I like to feel cute when I write; it improves the end result, I think.) I head out to a local café with my laptop, grab coffee and a muffin, and settle into a window seat. Writing at coffee shops helps focus me, because I’ve gone there with the specific intention of getting work done (plus I live with a rock band, so sometimes it’s too loud to write at my house!). I’ll work on whatever creative stuff needs to get done that day: writing or outlining a blog post, editing a podcast episode, putting together a pitch.
After a couple hours at the café, I come home and have lunch, usually while listening to a goofy McElroy brothers podcast. After lunch, I get a bit more dayjob work done, and/or work on administrative tasks (I find my capacity for creativity fades in the afternoon) like answering emails, scheduling tweets, and planning my editorial calendar. If I’m working on a journalistic piece, sometimes I do phone interviews with sources in the afternoon.
In the evening, I typically read articles online, catch up on my fave TV shows (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, and The Bold Type!), smoke weed and/or jerk off, ‘cause I’m classy like that. Sometimes I go see my boyfriend or a friend, or go to an improv show.
What’s the best thing about being a sex writer, in your opinion? The worst?
The best thing is that I get to write about what authentically fascinates me. I get to chase that exciting feeling of “WHAT?!” and “OMG!” and “HOW THE FUCK?!” all the damn time. I pitch stories on whatever sexual phenomena are capturing my attention at any given moment, and I blog about whatever the hell I want, even sometimes stuff that isn’t strictly related to sex. My work honestly thrills me every day, even when I secretly wish I could be sleeping instead of writing. Few people get to be as excited by their work as I am!
The worst thing is that people don’t always take you seriously. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain to people that my blog is actually a serious endeavor and a major source of income for me, rather than just an embarrassing dalliance I’m doing while I look for better work. However, for every person I meet who’s judgmental of what I do, I meet at least five people who think it’s awesome, so whatever. Fuck the h8erz.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve ever written?
Yikes, hard question! I’m proud of a lot of my print work and fancy research-heavy journalism, but I think the piece of mine I honestly love most is a blog post called “You’re Vanilla. I’m Not. But I Love You.” It was sort of the culmination of an enormously difficult unrequited love I endured, and how that got tangled up with kink and depression and self-worth. Writing is often cathartic for me, but I think that piece, especially, helped me get over that intense love by processing all these moments and details I hadn’t talked much about or known what to do with. I think sometimes organizing your thoughts into a cohesive narrative can help you understand them better, and thereby understand yourself better.
Who inspires you, professionally and personally?
Some of my favorite writers, sex-focused and otherwise: Alana Massey, Rachel Rabbit White, Caitlin Moran, Allison Moon, Tina Horn, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jillian Keenan, Katie Forsythe, Brandon Taylor, Rachel Syme, Helena Fitzgerald, Alexandra Franzen, Gala Darling, Epiphora, Esmé Wang, Sean Michaels, Clementine Morrigan, and C. Brian Smith. Woof, that’s a lot!
Other people who inspire me: my mom. My best friend, Bex. My other blogger friends (the incredibly brave Lilly, of Dangerous Lilly, and Sarah, of Formidable Femme, come to mind immediately). Revolutionary kink educators like Mollena Williams and Princess Kali. The ladies of The Blogcademy. Musical theatre composers Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown. My friend Brent “Brentalfloss” Black, a fellow creative weirdo. Artists whose music has changed my life, like Regina Spektor, Nellie McKay, Nathan Stocker and (gulp) Nick Jonas. All the ex-partners who have made me into the specific sexual eccentric I am today.
If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take one vibrating toy, one dildo, one anal toy, and one miscellaneous sexy item of your choice, what would your picks be?
Vibrator: the We-Vibe Tango. Can’t live without it. (Does this island have outlets?)
Dildo: the Fucking Sculptures Double Trouble, with which I would like to be buried someday.
Anal toy: the medium Njoy Pure Plug, simply the most perfect plug that has ever graced my butt.
Miscellaneous sexy item: my Lexan paddle from the now-defunct KinkMachineWorks. I love being spanked (and occasionally spanking people) and this is probably my favorite tool for the job.
What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?
(Content warning for fatphobia and toxic thoughts about weight, y’all.)
I used to think a chubby, not-conventionally-attractive-lookin’ lady like me was unloveable, or undeserving of good sex, or incapable of attracting people.
That is bullshit. I cannot overstate how much that is utter bullshit. True story: in 2014, I worked hard and lost a fair amount of weight, because I fundamentally believed I would not be able to find love (or good sex) unless I did that. And I literally had NO SEX and went on NO DATES while I was at that weight, because frankly I wasn’t confident at all and wasn’t pursuing people. It wasn’t until I gained back all the weight, and then some, that people started being openly interested in me again. Since then, my sex life has been absolutely hoppin’, and that has nothing to do with weight and everything to do with confidence and self-love.
What’s the best sex advice you ever got?
My grandmother – a very wise woman – used to tell me all the time, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” I don’t think she ever expressed this in a sexual context, but it’s fantastic sex advice nonetheless. As a meek, anxious submissive, I’ve wasted a lot of time silently hoping someone would do [x thing] to me, instead of just asking for [x thing]. It’s silly. If someone likes you and likes having sex with you, they’d probably also like making your fantasy come true, so you might as well ask!
What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?
Gosh, there’s so many! One that particularly bugs me is the idea that women are fundamentally different from men – an alien species, a foreign entity. There’s so much discourse out there along the lines of “What do women like?” and “How do you get a woman to ___?” and it’s all based on the dangerous myth that women are a monolith who all respond identically to stimulus, like a horde of robots. We’re just people, who each have unique desires and preferences and motivations, like people do!
What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?
“So do you just, like, get paid to masturbate?”
I review sex toys on my blog, but toy-testing is honestly about 2% of the work I put into running my biz. I’m not gonna lie, my line of work is pretty sweet, but no, I do not “get paid to masturbate”! (Well, except when people pay me for cam shows, but even then, a lot of what I’m getting paid for is emotional labor, not my own pleasure.)
And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink,” do you like coffee? If so, how do you take it?
Love it! My fave is an Americano with soy milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Or a hazelnut soy latte. Or, in summer, an iced peppermint latte. Or just inject caffeine directly into my veins; that’s fine too.
Thank you so much to Kate for taking the time to speak to me! Don’t forget to check out her work. Upcoming interviews include Cooper S Beckett and Kayla Lords, so watch this space…
Words and featured image copyright Kate Sloan, 2017.