October 9th, 2008

Maybe you’ve heard: within the last few weeks, just about everybody I admire in the sex writing world has gotten laid off from an important gig thanks to our crappy economy. Audacia Ray, previously the head of the now dead Naked City blog, details the carnage at her blog Waking Vixen. In addition to Dacia getting axed, by my own employer Village Voice Media, beloved fellow Voice writer Tristan Taormino had her print column canceled due to budget cutbacks. At the same time Regina Lynn, who recently ended her Sex Drive column at Wired News, was told to pack her bags from Playboy Radio, and Melissa Gira was sacked at Valleywag.

What the heck is going on? Not to jinx myself, but it’s as if Lux Alptraum, Violet Blue, and myself were the only sex writers left with jobs. If my editors are reading this, thank you for letting me keep my columns: Click Me at VillageVoice.com and The Clickable Clit at SF Weekly. Oh, and Heroine Sheik. Thanks for that, too.

I’m definitely not the first one to ponder what this will mean for the future of sex writing. Others in the business seem to feel we’re seeing the end of the sex bubble, that now the internet will be moving on. While that may be true for sex blogging, I’d hate to think that sex as a topic could really ever be old news. My hope, instead, is that with so many amazing minds freed up from their writing obligations, we’ll start to see lots of creative new projects. Looking back, we’ll think, thank goodness for the economic crisis, because without it we sex writers would never have started… Well, you can fill in the blank. The point is that, while I’m thrilled to still have my jobs, I know those mentioned above will go on to wonderful things. Would you expect anything less?

Update: read Tracy Clark-Flory’s piece on Salon about sex writing. Also read Dacia’s blog post, which rounds up the second layer of echo chamber chat on the subject.

Tags: sex writing

10 Responses to “The future of sex writing: gloomy or hopeful?”

  1. Duoae Says:

    With no money, people can’t afford to pay for sex or sexual experiences. They just do it for free ;)

    Sorry to hear about all the lay-offs. It’s crap when you see your industry falling apart through no fault of its own.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    They do it for free, or they write about it for free. That’s one of the things some of my fellow sex writers seem bummed about: that so many non-professional sex bloggers have cropped up there doesn’t seem to be a reason to keep paying the professional ones.

  3. Duoae Says:

    Isn’t that kinda like saying that there shouldn’t be proper games journalists because there are so many people blogging about video games anyway?

    Seems like a silly argument on the part of those executives/decision makers.

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Agreed, especially as someone who *is* a professional sex writer *and* a professional games journalist. I firmly believe we’re trained — and paid — for a reason :).

  5. Woodstock Says:

    I’m sure you saw this, but Violet Blue’s latest column at sfgate is about this, also (and the concept of “sex sells” in general).

  6. eric_c Says:

    wow, i don’t really follow sex bloggers/blogs, but this is alarming! it’s really sad to hear that talented writers in the field are losing their jobs.

    i wonder when we’ll start to seeing widespread firings/lay-offs with gaming blogs.

  7. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Indeed, Woodstock, but thanks for pointing it out. There should be a follow up article at Salon soon re: Violet’s piece and my commentary.

    Eric, I hope you’re wrong, but it sounds like gaming might be in a similar boat. The difference is that game writers work for game-related publications, whereas sex writers tend to work for more mainstream outlets.

  8. The end of sexpertise | Sexerati Says:

    [...] gig: it’s another thing to watch that layoff turn up in a trend piece. And another. And another. My editor and I used to joke, it takes three to make a trend, but two in a recession. Well, now [...]

  9. Waking Vixen » Blog Archive » Commerce, Activism, and the Frivolous World of Sex Says:

    [...] Ruberg (the only person left writing about sex for the Village Voice) chimes on with The future of sex writing: gloomy or hopeful? She’s hopeful that those of us who’ve been laid off will be creating new and [...]

  10. Rachael Webster Says:

    Honestly – and with all due respect to these writers, each fantastic on her own terms – the urban alt-weekly sex beat is tired, and I’m surprised it ever employed so many people. At its worst, it’s diaristic indulgence where the writer has to run around getting laid on deadline to chronicle her latest sexploits for readers who don’t get enough titillation from the classifieds. If the writer makes it out of the bedroom, the beat turns into the sexual styles page or nightclub scene – but as “journalism,” it’s often a snooze: “Person x practices fetish y. Let’s all applaud.”

    I don’t care to read about sex-positive sex sites any more than I’d spend an afternoon reading about feel-good organic farms or cub scouts cleaning up vacant lots. Yes, it’s great that abbywinters.com treats its models with respect. Must everybody write a feature about it? And kudos to you Bonnie for being one of the last sex crits standing, but it’s a little ironic – for all your gifts, you make cybersex sound like the dreariest, least sexy thing imaginable. Second Life sounds even worse than my local meat markets.

    Yes, I’m overgeneralizing. Yes, all of these writers have written great work. Regina Lynn has opened my mind and my eyes many, many times. But we need a little more “fetishistic man bites dog.” I’m with Sarah Hepola: we need to write about sex as a challenge. I hate to point to a man when so many women are losing their jobs, but Dan Savage has stayed engaging for years because he prints stories from other people – and they usually don’t know what they’re doing. There’s a reason the forbidden pleasures hold up: they’re more fun to sink your teeth into.

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