The perils of being a sex columnist

Violet‘s new sex columnist Bea Hannay-Young bares all on her career of kink and misconceptions

Bea Hannay-Young

Bea tried Tinder. It was a total nightmareDenis Bocquet

I love my job, but comparing the recent trajectory of my life to that of my column, I think I might not entirely be suited to it.

I’ve recently come to the depressing realisation (I get those a lot) that I might, in fact, be quite boring. I’m not really that funny either – you’d agree if you met me in person. All I want is to have really good sex with someone who really likes me – hardly headline news.

The more I talk to other people about sex, the more crushingly aware I become about just how not-kinky I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried kink and it’s okay. Okay in the way you order Coca-Cola and they give you a Pepsi, but you’re British so you’re too polite to send it back.

I would describe most of these experiences as somewhere between ‘tolerable’ and ‘mildly amusing’ – not words I’d like to use reviewing some esoteric European play at the ADC, let alone my sex life.

“The thought of being given an orgasm literally lying down has an attraction that knows no bounds”

When I stopped practising kink, all that really changed was that I saved a lot on lube and wet wipes, and walking became a significantly more comfortable activity. I can honestly say I don’t miss it much, which makes me poorly placed to write entertaining lists about all the things that have been in my various orifices and when and why.

I have no qualms about liking missionary best (more on that another day). I’m quite lazy to be honest, and the thought of being given an orgasm literally lying down has an attraction that knows no bounds.

As if that were not enough, I am most definitely not single. In fact, I’m probably about as close to happily married as a twenty-something (I’ve always wanted to call myself that) ardent feminist can get.

Last weekend, for example, instead of cruising LoveHoney for some new implement to put up my butt and exploiting Tinder dates for free food, I played Articulate for about four hours. Then my boyfriend and I got in bed at 8.30pm and I ate so many dumplings that I looked like a sweaty, constipated version of Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement.

Life for me doesn’t get much better than having someone who loves me enough to rub my giant food baby. While my sex life isn’t quite at the ‘lights off, socks on’ level of monogamy, it’s certainly less Sex and the City, and more Snuggles in a Small Rural Village.

The closest I’ve gotten to dating in the past year is covering my friend’s RAG blind date forms with innuendo and little penises (a move we can all agree was subtle, charming, and radically original).

Comparisons with Cosmo are more than a little offensiveThe Brandery

I tried Tinder once, many moons ago, and it was a total nightmare – two years on and I’m still recovering. As an aggressive introvert and all-round idle and anxious person (a potent combination), there is no hell fresher than having not only to put on a bra, but then emerge lacquered in barbecue-sauce from my loving duvet cave, wash, and make conversation with a stranger past 8pm in an evening. 

The worst part of writing a sex column has been fending off other people’s unfounded presuppositions. One time at a Formal, I introduced myself and was met with such disdain you would have thought I was passing around herpes like a party favour, or that I was wearing nothing but a thong and nipple plasters under my gown (I probably should have known that guy was a tool, though: he went to Trinity.)

“Some people seem to think I’m just a dumb bimbo with big breasts and a vibrator (only half wrong)”

I get a lot of the regular ‘slut’, ‘whore’, and ‘slag’ jibes thrown around, which don’t bother me that much. For the most part, I’m surprised someone would think a 20-year-old woman at university being sexually active would warrant a comment.

My personal favourite reaction was this one time someone commented anonymously on a piece of mine, “Look at me and my great sex life”, as though it were mighty surprising that a sex columnist might be writing about (a) something personal, and (b) sex. Worse, far worse, was my mother discovering my work. Screams, shame, threats of eternal damnation – all were preferable to the glowing pride with which I was met. My mother is now not only aware of my deviant practices, but so enamoured with my sharing of them that she decided to share the link with my family and her entire office. From what I understand Debbie from accounting is a particular fan. Thanks, Mum.

Some people tell me I must be on the fast track to write for Cosmo, which I find more than a little offensive. I did not get myself £48,000 in debt and waste three years of my life parsing Late Egyptian grammar only to provide the literary world with peak male-entitlement corkers like ‘Work to please your man by eating a donut off his penis!’ and ‘Can you vajazzle and be a feminist?’ (as though that were really the most pressing question we have to struggle with in the movement for liberation of women and non-binary people).

The problem is some people don’t seem to think that I might actually have opinions about anything else – I’m just a dumb bimbo with big breasts and a vibrator (only half wrong). Let’s all take a moment to hope that any future employers aren’t of the same mind when they go for a quick google and discover that my name autocompletes to ‘Bea Hannay-Young, Anal Sex’.

It’s a risk I’m prepared to take – I think my career as a sex columnist was determined from the day a friend of mine in high school told me that she didn’t need to use a condom because she could just “punch herself in the stomach after sex and it would kill the baby”.

I had another acquaintance who used a crisp packet as a condom – long story short, it was salt and vinegar flavour, and little bits of crisp got stuck in his meatus. You can’t make this shit up.

The sexual education the vast majority of us have received, be that through pornography, school lessons, or behind the bike sheds (as an aside, did anyone’s school actually have bike sheds? Mine didn’t) clearly has failed us.

I don’t see writing a sex column so much as handing out advice as trying to undo all the crap that we’ve forcibly ingested about anything from STDs to conception and virginity. For the most part, I can’t actually solve your problems – the most I can do is offer friendly and non-judgemental advice and maybe reassure you through a semi-comedic medium that all the disgusting stuff that happens in sex is pretty damn normal, because sex is gross.

With that in mind I’d like to add that honestly some of the stories I’ve heard regarding genitalia require the guidance of a licensed medical professional, not a 20-year-old blabbermouth who can’t even remember to wash her hair more than once a week. Regardless, I might not be the columnist that anybody wants (sorry about that), but it certainly looks like I’m the one that is needed right now. You all can thank me later