Last week the fabulous Crista Anne appeared in the Philadelphia City Paper talking about her “Orgasm Quest” – a project based on her mission to recover the orgasms she has lost to her (otherwise satisfactory) antidepressants. Well this story has, as the kids say, gone viral and folks are talking about Crista Anne all over the place! It’s amazing- sex and depression is suddenly everywhere, this is basically my wet dream. In addition to the stories about the lovely lady behind Orgasm Quest, other folks have been inspired to come forward and speak about sex and depression as well (seriously, how awesome is this!). In light of the fact that this subject matter can be sensitive and so many new folks are coming at it, I (self-appointed “sex and depression lady”) have put together this handy list of 5 tips to keep in mind when writing about sexy time and mental health- because, it’s a whole other animal from what many of us are used to. Enjoy!
Check your snark at the door
Snark has infected the sex writing community like sniffles infects a preschool -It’s unpleasant, It’s everywhere and IT WILL NOT LEAVE. So many folks seem willing to sacrifice all else in the name of proving they are the most clever one in the room. Well, this is not the time for it. You sound rude, combative, flippant and not like someone who should be taken seriously. Readers who are searching for pieces on this topic are probably, you guessed it, dealing with depression and speaking to them, well, like a jerk is just inappropriate.
Don’t Play Doctor (you know what I mean!)
You’re probably not a doctor. Even if you are, you are not your reader’s doctor. You should at no point be doling out medical advice. You should not be offering diagnoses and the phrase “talk to your doctor” should come into play. And please, for the love of god, do not tell people which medications they should or should not be taking. I keep hearing “why don’t you just take______?” in relation to Orgasm Quest and, it’s incredibly inappropriate – this isn’t a one on one with a friend, this is the internet, you are now effectively making this suggestion to everyone who reads it. I don’t care what your logic is, just don’t do it.
I often tell my readers to advocate for their pleasure and to speak up if they feel their doctor isn’t listening. Hell, I even tell them to find a new doctor if they are unhappy but I never, EVER advise them to go against their doctor’s orders, because I’m a sex writer with a theatre degree – I am wildly unqualified for that. Recognize your limitations.
Remember, Every Body is Different
Your experience is not THE experience – what a drug did for you is not “what that drug does”. If you want to talk about your experience with a specific drug (it happens, I’ve done it) make it clear that it is your experience with that drug and everyone responds to things differently. Hell, my current drug has apparently given many people seizures when taken at the dosage I’m taking it at, those people are all over the internet screaming about the horrible danger. In the meantime, I’ve been chilling here for 3 years. We’re all different.
Likewise, don’t question someone else’s experience because yours was different. Some people can take certain drugs and have NO side effects while others will experience every single thing in the fine print. Saying “That drug doesn’t REALLY do that, I know because I took it” is invalidating to the people who are struggling with the effects of that drug. The only body you can speak of is your own.
Think “Beacon of Permission*”
Even if you are telling your story, it’s not just about you. When we talk about sex and depression we are standing at the intersection of two topics that for so many people are still taboo. Remember that for some you may be the first person they see speaking publicly about this and allow that to guide how you present yourself. For many, sex writers exist on a separate plane full of sexy sex so this is an awesome opportunity to let your readers know that even for us sex writer types, it doesn’t always work. If they see us taking off our sexy, sexy armor and being real, it can empower them to feel comfortable talking about their own struggles and that’s the real gift we can bring to the world.
Give Your Readers Something
One of my most popular pieces on this topic is “5 Ways to Stay Sex Positive When You’re Dealing With Depression.” Why did this piece hit such a nerve? Well it includes a couple of key things:
- Acknowledgement of an issue facing so many readers
- Simple, non-medical suggestions
- Links to resources
Everyone who shows up to read your piece on sex and depression is looking for something, be it an answer, a lifeline or just another person who’s going through what they are so make sure things are there for them.