The last seven days have seen a major shake up in the conjoined worlds of sex writing and sex blogging. There’s been so much of a shake up that it warrants a bullet pointed list.
*A week ago today, Tristan Taormino was fired from her Village Voice column Pucker Up, which she’s been writing for the past nine years.
*Always Aroused Girl announced on Monday that she was parting ways with sex toy retailer Eden Fantasys, where she was helping to develop their social media and blogging initiatives.
*Today Gawker chopped 19 people from their payroll, perhaps most notably Jonno, who has edited Fleshbot for just shy of five years. The site won’t go dark though – nor will it be left in unfamiliar hands, as my pal Lux Alptraum will be stepping up to bat as editor.
*On the left coast, Melissa Gira’s insightful Sex Trade column and other writing for Valleywag has been axed.
*And though the shutdown of the print edition of Playgirl (where Jamye Waxman was a columnist for many years) isn’t recent news, today editor-in-chief Nicole Caldwell sent around her final farewell – it’s her last day with the magazine.
Am I missing someone? So much change it’s almost hard to keep track of.
This means that my new history column at Eden Fantasys is done, as is my Fashion Police column at Fleshbot. And let’s not forget the losses of the past month and change: the termination of my Village Voice sexuality blog Naked City in mid-August and the demise of Regina Lynn‘s Wired Sex Drive column the same month, plus the end of her stint doing sex news for Playboy Radio.
Wow. Though there’s been debate lately about the extent to which sex industry jobs are recession proof – there was a short piece in New York magazine last week saying that strippers and escorts have been staying afloat – it’s pretty clear that while maybe money can be made doing sex in a recession (though I also hear that sex workers are feeling the pinch), cash can’t be made writing about it.
There’s been a flurry of talk on Twitter about “let’s start a site together!” for those of us who’ve been cast off by our various employers. It’s unfortunate that these voices won’t be present in the places we’re accustomed to reading them, but I really don’t think banding together to write on a new site (presumably for free while we wait for magical non-existent funding to sprinkle down on us) will do any of us any good.
If the sex-writing bubble is bursting, that isn’t entirely a bad thing – and I say this even as a victim of what’s been going on. I like reading and hearing lots of perspectives on sexuality, and delivering real information about sexuality is real work. But writing about sex also has a really low bar for entry – you just have to have sex, or think about it, and be unashamed of putting it out there.
Certainly, the glut of sex blogs that people write for free is affecting the market for those of us who want to be paid for our sex writing. Certainly a lot of what my career is today is the direct result of maintaining a blog (though, ahem, I’m not so good at keeping it consistent these days), and I don’t make money from this blog at all.
I would be sad if the above people’s voices disappeared from the internet – but I also don’t think professionals should work for nothing, and I don’t really see a clear path to piles of money for this smart bunch of writers. Compulsively producing more and more content isn’t the answer, and that’s what’s been going on with blogs for the past few years – Gawker publishes posts every fifteen minutes during weekday work hours. There is no reason for there to be that much content – its compulsive, its stressful, it reduces the quality and the impact of the work.
Susannah Breslin has been sounding death knells for the sex blog for a while, and this is something I’ve been pushed to mull over an awful lot since losing my Naked City blogging gig last month and embarking on the wild ride of seeking out gainful employment with a broader vision to the future and serving my communities. I think that ultimately writing, especially on the internet, can’t just be about writing.
Sometimes, when I am described by others as a “writer,” I find it odd. Yes, I write and it’s my primary mode of communicating to the world, but I don’t think of myself as a writer. That’s not the sum total of what I do. Writing and other forms of media are tools for expression – I am an activist, an advocate, some might say I’m a force of nature. Writer doesn’t even begin to sum it up. I don’t think writing and blogging about sex are over – but I think writing is a piece of the puzzle, a necessary and important skill, but not a singular identity.
I want to see these folks I so admire, many of whom I’ve worked with and who are my peers and my inspiration, rise from the ashes. But I don’t want to just see another round of blogs founded, columns assigned. I think there has to be more than that – it has to be about culture, not just words and pageviews and links.