Exclusive: Karley Sciortino Wants You to Have Imperfect Sex
I had felt something of a kinship with Karley Sciortino before she had even arrived for our interview, suitcases in tow for a Memorial Day weekend on Fire Island. "I hope I’m not being too much of a bag lady," she says as we tumble into an elevator, adjusting her square-framed glasses. She speaks frankly and matter of factly, a characteristic that serves her well in the multitude of intimate interviews conducted for her sex and dating website Slutever. Perhaps it’s because of her career as a dating expert with a weekly column in Vogue, or perhaps it’s because of her polished, fashion-forward appearance, but she inevitably reminds me of Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw, a comparison I was hesitant to bring up but one that she readily admired.
When I gave her a book recommendation—Foucault’s A History of Sexuality—that she had just so happened to purchase shortly before our meeting, I knew our kinship wasn’t imagined. We discussed the beginnings of her rapidly expanding website that serves as a safe haven for anyone seeking answers to their sexual queries everywhere. It was a project that began as a labor of love, a place where she could gradually hone her writing skills. Now it has become a full-blown multi-media platform for all things sex, love, and dating, co-edited with New York Times writer Erika Allen. But by interview’s end, we had delved far deeper than Karley’s website, touching into a rundown of the waves of feminism, the repression inherent in American sexuality, and why Sex and the City surprisingly still packs a punch.
So when did you first get serious about writing?
I didn’t really get serious until 2009, but I had started writing long before–the first incarnation of it wasn’t really a sex blog. At the time I was 21, and I was sort of starting my writing career thinking about it, and I wanted a place to just start practicing my writing. And when I first started writing blogs weren’t even a thing. At the time I was living in London in this squatted commune situation, there were like 14 of us living in an abandoned hostel and it was just such a weird time. And I at least had the foresight to realize ‘this is a weird situation.’ There were 14 kids in their late teens and early 20’s doing nothing but partying and taking drugs and hanging out with artists who don’t make any art. It was this crazy breeding ground for things to happen, like homeless Romanian families coming to stay with us, or some weird orgy in the living room. And I thought that someone should be documenting all this stuff because it’s so strange.
And this gradually transformed into a blog about sex lives?
So I started writing a blog as a written documentation of what was happening in my life. And naturally there was some sex stuff on it. I feel open and curious about sexuality, I don’t have any qualms talking about it. So a lot happened to be sex stories, but it wasn’t a sex blog. It wasn’t until I moved to New York in 2010 and I started getting more interested in the BDSM scene and I assisted this dominatrix and I became interested in the people in that world. And like fetishists and sex workers and stuff and that’s when I started getting traction and it streamlined into a sex blog. I never intended for it to be a sex blog and when it became that organically, just because of the people I would follow around.
Do you ever find it challenging to discuss your intimate details in such a public way?
I’ve found that talking to people in a really open honest way allows people to be more honest and open with you. It would be hard to go in as a total outsider to try to ask someone intimate questions about their life. I hope they feel open with me because I share those same details about my life with them. It sets a precedent. What I try to do is to create this space that’s self-aware where people can talk about sex and sexuality in a way that is non-judgmental. It would be hypocritical if I wasn’t as forthright with them. And I hope that comes across in my interviews.
Are you frustrated towards the more repressed aspects of American sexuality? What would you like to change?
The main thing I hope to change is the shame around sexuality, especially for young women. And that constant feeling that everything has to be perfect. And if I could change one more thing, it would be that sex always has to be sexy and every date has to be perfect. We’re a culture that has these images of sex where everything is so idealized. We see in movies where sex is always so hot and the girls are always so perfect. And I just want to get across that sex can be funny and awkward and imperfect, and that it’s okay. And I want that for men too. Men feel like they’re expected to know what to do. They have that pressure to feel competent without ever being able to just ask. Sex isn’t always this super perfect, seamless thing.
How did your blog expand into the platform that it is today? When did you decide it was time to bring in other voices?
I used to write it by myself, but now I’m pulling in all of these other opinions. So rather it being just my opinion, readers can get opinions from a variety of people, not just me but a sex researcher or a lesbian comedian. It’s nice to get more of a niche expert on certain subjects, and I knew that the blog would benefit from having additional voices. I can’t be the voice of the doctor, or the prostitute, or the porn star; those are interesting points of view that I just can’t do. I created this platform, and I want to give voice to people who have interesting personal stories in that umbrella of sex and dating. And it would be stupid to just use my voice. I want it to grow and expand, and this feels like the most obvious way.
I get the sense that you’re part of a collective making New York-based feminine art and starting feminine discourse. Do you feel the sense that you’re part of a movement?
I do get that sense. I see that around friends like Petra Collins who is always surrounded by that atmosphere. I actually contributed to her recent book. It’s a group of young women joined together under this like-mindedness about sexuality, art, and feminism. Not everyone is doing the same thing, but it’s more about female empowerment and being together. It’s about breaking those stereotypes where women are catty and competitive and don’t support each other. All these girls and I understand that we’re stronger together than separately, and it feels like a really great support system. I really like this new wave of feminism. It feels very pro-sex, pro-body confidence, and pro-individuality.
Do you think those qualities you just mentioned are what make this fourth wave of feminism unique? What do you think is being discussed now that hasn’t been before?
This wave, more than ever, is about individuality. It’s about embracing your femininity while being strong. There’s so much more space to be yourself and own it. There’s so much more freedom. It’s not about what you look like, it’s about what you say. Confidence makes you hot.
Maybe it’s because you now have a column in Vogue, but I can’t help but draw comparisons to you being a modern Carrie Bradshaw. Do you think ‘Sex and the City’ is completely dated or still relevant?
I totally admire that comparison, and I still think that it’s so relevant. It’s insane to me that it started 20 years ago. Samantha is still one of the most progressive female characters who has ever been on TV. There is a real lack of slutty role models in media, especially ones her age. We demonize promiscuous women so quickly, but Samantha completely subverts those notions. And they maintain the idea of women sticking together and looking out for each other, as well as using sexuality and beauty as these weapons of strength.
Why do you think people are so radical in their judgment of sex?
I have no idea to be honest. Fear, I guess. Our parents’ generations were so puritanical in their attitudes toward sex and somehow it’s lingering. It’s so annoying. The oppression of religious institutions has an affect too, which is why so many millennials are being driven away from it in hordes. But that said, even the behavior of fringe sexual behaviors is starting to become more open. You could even say that 50 Shades of Grey opened the world up to light BDSM despite the other problems it raised. Social change takes a while, and we’re coming from a time where sexuality, especially female sexuality, is so stigmatized. It just takes time.
Portrait taken by Mark Peckmezian, Polaroids taken by Tyrone Lebon
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