when writers write sex advice

On the same day that I read what I could of Backwards in High Heels, my cousin posted a link on Facebook to this GQ sex advice column.

Like Backwards in High Heels, it’s charmingly written. Examples: “While we finally, thankfully are reaching a point where fewer men seem to be confusing having a personality with having a moustache…” and “…it’s important to remember that you are a person and not a mid-priced chain restaurant.”

But like Backwards, it only meets one of my criteria. Remember my three criteria? Scientifically accurate, helpful, and well-written.

This problem – and it is a problem – is actually what drove me to start writing about sex in public (er, that is, writing in public about sex. Darn predication). The ubiquity of sex writing that neglects actual helpfulness or accuracy and focuses exclusively on entertainment just makes life harder for anyone whose job it is to untangle the sociopsychological knots that popular culture, including these columns, create in people’s sexualities.

People really, truly want to know how to be better lovers, understand what their partner wants, and how to be more attractive to their crush object. People are starving for this information. It’s why they read the columns, at least in part. I can’t be the only person who, at 18, read these kinds of things ravenously, only to be left bloated and disappointed. It’s like giving candy to a starving person: hell yes it will taste good and it might even make them feel full, but it won’t actually nourish them.

And it doesn’t. You can’t REALLY meet a guy in the grocery store, and you can’t really turn on any woman, at any time, with ANY fancy sex trick. If you want to know how to meet a guy or how to make a woman want you, don’t ask a journalist. They don’t know any more than you do. Why would they?

Then again, you can ask me but you won’t particularly like the answers because they are not entertaining; they involve you doing stuff you don’t want to do. What you really want to know is how to meet a man without having to sieve through dozens of people you’re not interested in, without having to depart your comfort zone, without risking rejection. And what you really want to know is how to turn on a woman with something that turns YOU on, rather than with empathy, consideration, and affection.

Helpful sex/relationship advice is the spinach of the sex advice world. Some people truly love it, but lots of people only eat it because they know they should. And still more people just avoid it altogether.

There are times when I want to be poetic, because striped through my love of science, like vanilla and anise salt water taffy, is my core belief in the beauty and glory of human sexuality. But EVERY time, I end up sacrificing precision for chewy prose, and every time, I get called on it.

Is it possible to marry absolute precision with beautiful language? I think so. Read Bill Bryson. Read Douglas Adams. Just because I haven’t found a way to do it doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It is my ultimate goal to tell you the exact truth, as science currently understands it, in a way that feeds your soul as it enriches your sexual functioning.

And that’s the only way I’ll ever make a dent in the glutinous edifice of mainstream popular writing about sex. I’ve thought about it and thought about it and I’m increasingly persuaded that the quality of the writing, the ENTERTAINMENT of the writing, is the cheese sauce that will make science palatable to folks. If it’s beautiful, people will believe it.