I'm Tired of "Sex Tourist" Journalism

Can people who actually like sex be the ones to write stories about sex please?
Publish date:
May 1, 2012

At xoJane, home of "I'll Try Anything Once," we're certainly not immune to sexual adventuring for the sake of a story.

Still, stories like this one on the Liberty Inn here in NYC, part of a series "exploring the seedy world of by-the-hour sex hotels," leave a worse taste in my mouth than if I'd just given 10 seedy, by-the-hour blowjobs.

You read this kind of thing a lot: straight-laced, ostensibly sexually "normal" reporter walks visits a covention, sex club, place of sex work, fetish location, etc., and teehees his or her way through the experience of observing people doing something (haha!) sexual.

In this case, the reporter just finds evidence of potential sex to laugh at, like the fact that the television plays porn and omg you can order room service, gross! "Gross," pretty much sums up the author's attitude toward the place, along with "Shivers" and her insistence that no way is she gonna use the toilet!

Which, fine, you don't have to have sex in a by-the-hour hotel. But is it really so crazy and disgusting that lots of people do? Some of them probably even look sort of like, not gross. (Could just be wishful thinking on my part, though, since I've been to The Liberty Inn more than a handful of times, but I don't remember any mouthbreathing troglodytes waiting in the lobby.)

I'm just kind of over stories that amount to the judgmental observer's taunting guide to sexy sex stuff. From now on, here are my ground rules for how these kinds of stories should be done.

First of all, participation is part of the experience. If you go to a sex club to sit around and take notes, you have not been to a sex club. Wouldn't you rather read a story from someone who went to a sex club for its intended purpose, rather than sitting around and laughing at people?

Second, go more than once. I can't tell you how many times I have read things like "An old man sits in the corner, displaying his saggy gentials..." as if that's a descriptive feature of the club. Actually, that old man with the saggy genitals doesn't always sit there, and another night there may be a sexy blond with big tits in his spot instead. Sex events and scenes are only as good as the people who show up, so they're by nature hit and miss. Attend several times for an accurate picture.

Third, have a respectful attitude toward the mostly nice, normal people who enjoy the activity you are researching. They're not another species. They just like to fuck, maybe a little differently than you do.

And lastly, can we try to make sure that the people who write about sex actually like sex, or at least are not openly hostile to it? A working knowledge of various kinds of sexualities and an at least college-level maturity on the topic would be a good start.

On the topic of the Liberty Inn, at least one person agrees with me. The only comment on the post so far is this one:

"Sounds like a fun time to me. These types of hotels are pretty common in Japan. I don’t see why the Liberty Inn should be such a novelty; frankly, I wish they weren’t. Try heaping your self-righteous indignation and cynical derision on something that deserves it, instead of on people and places who are honest enough to admit that humans have biological urges — and that those urges are okay."