By Gigi Engle
I write about sex for a living. I speak openly about it on the internet. I teach classes online and in person. I cause serious stirs sometimes. International outrage, in fact! I fight off trolls on the reg (it’s a hot mess). My whole world is encompassed by human sexuality. I believe in teaching scientifically accurate, pleasure-based sex education. This is my reality.
I would not have it any other way.
Being a woman who writes and teaches about sex is still a hurdle most must overcome in the dating scene. As I peered at it from afar, it looked challenging to me. All my other sex writer friends told me dating apps were a nightmare, regaling me of stories of unsolicited dick pics and creepos thinking they were always game for sex, no matter what. (This is not the case and never will be the case, men of the world. So, enough already). I was grateful this wasn’t something I had to deal with. Until I did have to deal with it.
When I started my career as a sex writer, I was in a long-term relationship. For three years we grew together as my career blossomed. We grew together until we didn’t.
One job lead to another. I was laid off. My freelance career took off. I got a book deal. My partner left. I moved back to Chicago. I started teaching. I’m working on another book.
My career has catapulted into the next phase of realized gains while my love life has been recovering from a bullet wound to the brain.
So, what exactly happens when you’re a sex writer who was in a relationship and now is suddenly single?
Writing: More anecdotes, equally brash
My writing style has remained the same in many ways. It’s grown, certainly. I’ve become wiser about love and its limitations, the dangers of my own hubris and much, much more about sex in our society.
I couldn’t allow a breakup to take my voice from me. There are certainly more anecdotes now and more wildly adventurous material to work with as a single woman. That being said, there is a lot less consistency in my sexual experiences. You never know where and when you’ll meet someone - or if you won’t at all.
I’ll admit, being single has made it tempting to close myself off a bit. Writing about my breakup in any form took months. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it openly. Anytime I feel that nagging self-doubt in the back of head whispering, “Don’t write that. No one will date you.” I tell it to F the hell off.
When I was in a relationship, I felt impervious to criticism from all the angry, disgusting people of the internet because I had already won.
It’s a strange mix of feelings, some I’m not proud of - When I had a boyfriend it felt like I could do anything and say anything. At the time, I thought it was due to the understanding that he wasn’t going anywhere and supported me unconditionally (he didn’t in the end, obviously). I believed this was the case because it was what I was lead to perceive. It happens. We make promises we can’t keep.
It was a long fall, winter, and now spring of reflection. I think I subconsciously believed I’d proven to the world I was worthy of a man’s love. I wish this weren’t true, but I know it is.
This is the role women constantly battle against. We’re told we’re not important if we don’t have a man to love us. We can’t just stand on our own and be enough. As a sex writer, you’re harangued constantly. Hordes of men on the internet take every opportunity they can to tell you’re ugly, fat, stupid. They tell you you’re doomed to die alone, doomed to be barren forever, doomed to have a thousand cats and perish in a hole of sadness and red wine.
When you have the boyfriend, it’s easy to see these comments for what they are: Stupid. Utterly, utterly stupid as fuck.
Coupled up, I would take on any topic with a reckless abandon. I think my penchant for controversial material no doubt played a pivotal role in the crumbling of my relationship. For that, I am eternally grateful. If a few articles about anal sex, libido, and the clitoris are going to scare someone off, what are you even doing with that person?
I’m not slowing down now. It’s taken a long while, but I’m starting feel like myself again. I know who I am and what I stand for. I’m delighted that I am, in fact, enough. I am worthy on my own. I am beginning to see my life as whole with or without a romantic partner. I am my own greatest love. If I find someone, that’s just peachy. If I don’t, I’ll be OK. I will make a difference in this world whether or not I’m ever someone’s wife.
Whenever I have bad days, I remind myself of the importance of the work I do. Asking your partner to support your work and believe in you is bare minimum. I will not feel guilty for that.
Sex toys: More time, less people.
Part of my job is testing, reviewing, and recommending (and in some cases, warning against) new toys and products on the market. Being single has been a blessing and a curse in this regard. I have plenty of alone time and therefore, plenty of time to try new toys. The sharper edge has really come to light when I need someone to try toys with.
Using sex toys with someone takes a certain level of trust, especially with male partners. I don’t shy away from my vibrators during sex, but I haven’t found any consistent partners with whom I’d want to test out new toys. By the time I even consider this possibility, I’ve grown apathetic to the arrangement and have moved on to something else.
As a single woman with a lot on her plate, I don’t have much room for anyone who takes space in my life without paying rent. I’ve learned it’s rather hard to hold your attention on anyone when you’re heartbroken.
I have started to give more toys to friends for group feedback. It takes a village to raise a clitoris. This seems to work for all of us!
Moving on: More resilient, less compromising
Breakups suck. I’m not going to lie. But they make you more authentic. They force you to face the things for which you used your relationship to mask. When you love someone you think you can’t live without them. You think if they ever left, it might ruin you.
The truth is you’re resilient. You will and do get over people. You move on. You get better.
You begin to want more for yourself. Being a sex writer is a challenging job. It takes a thick skin and a willingness to be the face of a subject that is still taboo in a very public way. When this is your job, you need a partner who gets it and who loves you because of what you do, not in spite of it.
If you’re not going to love and support me and my all my blowjob articles, I’m not going to waste a sliver of my energy on you.