Today I’m delighted to be interviewing the amazing Gabrielle Alexa Noel, a sex writer and journalist who has written some of the best stuff on bisexuality, feminism, race and consent that I’ve read in years. She’s an absolute force to be reckoned with in the sex writing world, and I’m so grateful to her for giving up her time to answer some questions for us! – Amy x
Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?
I’m a writer who primarily focuses on sex and bisexuality. I also host events on sex education and other sexuality topics and make videos on feminist topics!
What made you want to start writing about sex? What’s your background and how did you break in to the industry?
I didn’t set out to write about sex but when I started unlearning certain misconceptions about bisexuality and female sexuality, I was able to heal a shame that I hadn’t realized I was carrying. When we stigmatize sex and sexuality, we stigmatize biology, we stigmatize identities. I wanted to destigmatize those topics.
I started off as an intern at Galore. After almost a year, I left to start freelancing. I pitched myself at different publications and committed myself to doing research on sex/sexuality. And now I write for a number of sex positive publications.
What is the most challenging thing about writing about sex for a living?
I guess the stigma — just writing about it has made people suggest that I had an unstable childhood. Specifically when I talk about sexual assault, I face a lot of digital harassment. People don’t see digital harassment as real or problematic so I try to highlight it on my platform. It’s not just people calling someone “ugly”, it’s people telling me I deserve to be raped or that I am a disrespect to all rape victims. It can be damaging.
What about the most rewarding thing?
So many people tell me that my writing has helped them unlearn myths about themselves. That’s my favorite part! I want to be the person I wish I’d had access to growing up.
What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?
I guess people think that talking about sex/sexuality is largely about getting attention. First of all, everyone looks for and receives attention, women are just the ones who are primarily shamed for it. And also, I don’t care who is looking at me as a sexual being. I’m more concerned about destigmatizing sexuality for people assigned female at birth.
You’ve written a lot of amazing and intense things about topics such as race, queerness, consent and sexual assault. Why do you think it’s important that such things get talked about?
These topics are important because there are so many misconceptions! I run into so much biphobia because bisexuality is an identity people don’t understand. Women are also policed and stigmatized for our sexuality. Sex negativity, then, becomes a tool for social control. And of course, when you consider the way people of color are hypersexualized and fetishized, you can see the importance of discussing race in terms of sexuality.
What’s something you’d really love to write on but haven’t yet?
I want to write about my favorite TV shows SO BADLY but nobody ever commissions me for those pieces! People love for writers to talk about their marginalization but it’d be cool to just talk about Bob’s Burgers.
What’s your dream byline?
The New Yorker maybe? Playboy? This answer changes weekly! I want new bylines wherever I can connect with people I can help.
What’s your favourite piece that you’ve ever written and why?
These are hard questions! I just wrote about how internalized biphobia ruined my first Tinder date and it was published on the Tinder website. So many people have reached out to say that it was an important read for them. But most importantly, it was a healing experience for me. Some of my best writing often is. Before that, I wrote about coming out to my family for Hello Giggles, and that was also was both difficult and soothing. But I always have a soft spot for my Elle piece about being bisexual because that was essentially how I came out to a lot of my peers.
Who inspires you personally and professionally?
For some people this is a weird list. I love Erica Lust’s committment to feminist porn and revamping the porn industry. I love people like Ericka Hart and Rachel Cargle, who are speaking on topics of race and sexuality. I love Shan Boodram’s work in sex education. I love Lindy West. I just love people who are doing work in intersectional feminism on some level.
Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?
I love all sex educators, oh my god! Haha. Again, I love Shan Boodram, but I’m also digging Eva from What’s My Body Doing, Stevie Boebi, my friend Elyse from SX Noir, and Cameron from Sex Ed in Color.
What’s something you used to believe about sex relationships that you don’t believe any more?
I stopped believing that the only “real” kind of sex is penetration. Most women don’t even orgasm from penetration and people of all gender identities/sexualities have sex in a variety of ways. I classify sex now in terms of sexual pleasure. And I include masturbation, or solo sex, in that definition.
And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?
Of course I like coffee! It’s part of the whole writer shtick. I like it light and sweet.