This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Spend any time reading about sex online, and you'll come across Girl on the Net. Every month, 100,000 people visit her blog for takes on topics like strap-on double-penetration; why tall women won't date short men; the idea of porn addiction; first time anal sex; fashion in tits; and knife play.
GOTN has built her career around telling stories about the many varied ways in which humans can fuck, but as her anonymous online persona grew, life changed behind the scenes. She fell in love, suffered a mental health breakdown, and had to re-examine who she really was, behind the mask of GOTN.
It's this side of life that GOTN explores in her new book, How a Bad Girl Fell in Love. We caught up for a chat.
VICE: A strong theme in your writing is your rebuttal of society's ideas about how sexuality is gendered—the idea that men like sex and women like cuddles, or that enjoying sex makes you a slut. Lots of these stereotypes are internalized. How much of our sexual preferences do you think we learn through social conditioning?
GOTN: I think the interesting thing is that, at the moment, we don't really know. So much of what we're educated to believe feeds back into the things we want to study. So we might study attitudes to the ideal partner, but so much of that research—and how we interpret the results—will be grounded in what we think we know already. People who start from an evolutionary standpoint will say, "Research tells us that men want this, and women want that." But do we really understand how much of that is nature, and how much is nurture?
If we agree that at least some of our sexual habits and preferences are learned, does that mean there's scope to consciously expand and change?
That's a really difficult one. I don't want to stray into the territory of saying you can actively shape your sexual desire, because if you go too far down that line, you end up with people thinking gay conversion therapy is a legitimate thing. But what I do think is that not only can we explore why we have a particular fetish or kink, but we have a responsibility to examine it.
I'm really into BDSM and being submissive, and before I started the blog, I would have just said, "Well, my cunt wants what my cunt wants." Now I'd be more likely to say, "Yes, this is a thing I'm sexually drawn to, and I'm not going to be ashamed of that, but I can ask why." There are probably lots of societal and cultural things that play into why I find these particular things hot—early influences, things I saw when I was young that triggered them in my mind. I wouldn't say that everybody can and should shape their own desires, but we can all explore our own desires, and it makes things far more interesting.
You write honestly about how it's possible to have great sex with someone you don't like. It's not true that being in love always equals great sex. But even outside religious circles, this idea upsets people. We still think of sex as sacred, don't we?
Yes. It's this idea that sex is either a cementing of love or spark toward love. It's all wrapped up in this belief that love is the ultimate goal—that hetero, monogamous love is this shining bubble, the ideal we should all be reaching for.
I agree. Hence people's deep unease about commercial sex.
There's a knee-jerk reaction. As soon as sex comes into a conversation, people are nervous of it. I think sex work in particular challenges people. The idea that sex work is work is so radical because we've been taught ever since we're born that our genitals are precious. Men probably not so much, but for women, it's all tied up in notions or purity and virginity, which are in turn tied up in control.
You seem very patient with the endless stream of dick pics you're sent, but from your book, what seemed more alarming was men not getting their scariness. The guy who messaged you, "LOL I'm not a rapist," and then, "Don't make me send you flowers." Would you say you've had a chilling insight into the cis male psyche?
I might not use the word "chilling," but before I started the blog, I would have said there are lots of guys who don't really understand feminism, but when we tell them, they'll get it. But actually, there are so many men who are, I would say, the good guys—they're on our side and genuinely give a shit about the issues, but they're so unwilling to see themselves as potentially "bad." One of the things that struck me is that nobody thinks he or she is the bad guy.
I mean, I don't think that I'm the bad guy! I've done some things and said some things on my blog that I look back on now and think, That was awful. But at the time, I didn't know I was the bad guy. With more extreme stuff I get sent, though, the really aggressive stuff, that is just really shitty behavior. As a general rule, I try not to talk about it too much. I feel like the more I talk about it, the more I'll get.
Your blog's intimate, but your book is revealing in a different way. What were the hardest parts to write?
Any time I talk about mental health stuff, it's really difficult because I want to convey the horror—I've genuinely had moments when I don't want to be alive any longer—but at same time not leave people with that. I don't want to just drop that in people's laps. I want to be able to say, "This is shit, but here are positives that came out of it," and that's really difficult to do, particularly if I'm in a shitty place.
Do you think the tide of bad sex advice is turning, or are there as many dodgy "sexperts" as ever?
I want to be super positive about this because, in my circle, there are so many brilliant sex experts, but every now and then, I stumble across an article written in a popular UK newspaper and think, Shit, I really live in a bubble of sex positivity and good advice, the kind of advice that understands people have very different experiences and sexuality. You still get, "Five things not to do during a threesome," or those really prescriptive things in the mainstream press, but I think we're getting better because our experience is getting broader and, as our world gets bigger, we have more information to reject those kinds of articles.
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