Saturday, December 29, 2007

Death of a Sex Column Part 2

Stephanie: Happy New Year, dear readers!

Reader: Wait, I'm confused, why is the date December 29th? I've been looking at this blog every day since the 29th and I don't recall seeing this post. Am I out of my mind?

Stephanie: I don't know, are you? All I can say is that if you were out of your mind, you wouldn't understand when I tell you that the date of this post is figurative.

Reader: What do you mean? I thought this was a sex blog, not some stupid ass poetry site.

Stephanie: Well, my intention was to close the year with final reflections on my columnist career at the New York Press and start the new year as fresh as a virgin in a summer dress. So I typed in the title for a new post on December 29th, intending to go back and write the damn thing before midnight on December 31st, but I got sidetracked by a singing gig in a charming little expat town in Mexico, then flew to Puerto Vallarta for a week-long beach vacation, without my laptop. Now, two weeks after the dawn of the new year, I finally have the time to pen this post, but I'm keeping the original date for poetic reasons. I'm going to write it as if I wrote it before I ate twelve grapes when the latin band yelled "uno" at midnight on the playa. Of course, I could just post it as December 29th and keep my hands off the keyboard for once. But that's not my style. I don't want to mystify you and my other readers into thinking that I made a chronological mistake or that it takes me three weeks to finish a post. I just want you to know how important it is for me to wrap up past events appropriately, through symbolically-intentioned pretense.

Reader: I never notice the dates, but thanks for clarifying.

Stephanie: Thanks for reading...and by the way, as this is a poetic sex blog, I don't mind if you read some of it to your girlfriend as a romantic gesture on Valentine's Day.


"These things are short-lived," David Blum said after he told me he was discontinuing my column. "Once you're fifty, life changes." Uh...and you're telling me this because you think if you don't fire me now I'll still be writing this column in twenty years when I'm fifty? In lieu of pointing out the ludicrousness of his statement, I said, "When I'm fifty, I'm not going to stop having sex...I'm not going to live my life differently just because I've reached a certain age."

Later it occurred to me that while he was offering a trite explanation for his editorial decision, he was probably also projecting resentment about his sex life (which I imagine isn't column-worthy) as well as envy toward my lustful experiences. Just a hunch. Because he's probably over fifty, and I'm not even close.

When the first issue of the New York Press appeared on the street-corners sans "Lust Life", I picked up a copy. I was appalled that there was a new sex column called "Outside the Box" by Kelly Kreth. Why appalled? Number one, when I asked Blum if he was hiring a new sex columnist, he said, "Eventually" and that he didn't have anyone in mind. Number two, more egregiously, was that the new sex columnist had recently written a feature for the paper, and that the title of her new column was the original title of my final column, which was published as "When One Box Closes." Hmmm.

Although I am not one to dwell upon conspiracies in the publishing world, especially as I am relieved of the weekly deadlines and people tell me my writing has soared far above the conservative slosh that is now the New York Press, Ms. Kreth's new column still felt like a slap in the face. Frankly, I am not a fan of her columns. If I had to admire her for something, it would be her boldness in alluding to a poop fetish, but why Blum might consider this less offensive than my flowery descriptions of orgies is beyond me. Unless...well, I'll just say that the thought of Kreth gleefully shitting on Blum while he jerks off screaming, "Yes, yes! I'll give you a column!" has crossed my mind more than once.

Recently, I received this email from a West Coast reader:

You don't know me, so no need to try to recall having met anyone by the name of _____. I live across the country from you....

A friend of mine mentioned your column to me a while back and I read several Lust Life entries. I saw recently that your column has ended. I feel compelled to write to you, and I sense by the way that you write that I can be honest about getting down to why I feel that I want to reach out to you.

So, here goes- you are about my age, have many of the very same skills, and talents - although you are applying them in very different ways on a daily basis. I, too, am unmarried, without children, and lover of theater, writing, art, sensuality, creativity- so you may think that I would be thrilled to find your work. But, no, I (and here is the honesty),- I found myself judging you. And I am generally not a judgemental person, so my awareness popped up immediately- saying "Hey, _____, wtf? Pay attention here."

The judgement reflex did not come from the sex content of your column. Not that at all. It came from this knee-jerk place of being put-off by the amount of attention you call to your self and your work; thinking that you must have quite a hungry Ego. Whether there is truth there or not does not matter at all, what matters is that having any judgement at all is just a projection of my own Ego. Seeing your work- the open and active expression in writing, theater, sexuality - is nearly like seeing a person living a parallel life that a sublimated part of me would be living even more actively. Cheers to you Stephanie! I don't know you at all, but welcome the expression of your human experience, in all it's creative and sensual exploration.

I truly apologize if this email is entirely unwelcome in your life, or oversteps a boundary; and you may be inclined to think something along the lines of, "Fuck off, person I've never met. :)" But, really, if I were in New York, I would come see a show, and say hello.

I am not writing you to tell you that I judged you as my point. I am writing to thank you for doing your work, and for the gift of seeing how quickly the mind can judge someone that is in fact expressing a repressed reflection of Self.

I am grateful for this message. Immediately I thought of Blum and his comment "Once you're fifty, life changes." Looking at the situation from a place of detachment, with the understanding that regardless of other influences (Manhattan Media, advertising, demographics etc.), he was quick to judge in my writing what I perceive as repressed reflections of himself. Whether or not this is true is unimportant. What matters is that I was able to turn this rejection into something positive--the death of my column wasn't about me or my writing; it was about the personal issues of editors at the New York Press and how desperately they are trying to stay connected to alt-weekly life support. Then I looked closely at these people I've never met and thought, "Blum may be an asshole, but he had legitimate reasons for discontinuing my column" and "Kelly Kreth may have poop fetish, but that doesn't make her a horrible person". Although I don't care to discover their redeeming qualities, I am glad that one reader's honesty helped me remember that I am sometimes as quick to judge as the next editor or columnist or lover or human being. In my writing I strive to be open to understanding ways of being and thinking that are not my own, even though I may criticize them.

And now, dear readers, I'm going to argue that I wrote some great columns at the New York Press. I'm grateful for the opportunity to write every week for paid publication. My writing has blossomed along with my lust for words, sex, love, and life. I am glad that the column ended when it did, because in spite of my anger about how it ended, I was ready for a change. No more weekly deadlines (for now) means more time to work on other projects (books, films etc.) and focus on other areas of my life (relationships, pleasure, spirituality). I'm not getting paid for the blog, but I have no word-count, no editors, no deadlines...which means more freedom and that's what Lust Life is about: freedom to live and love as I choose.

Thank you for reading. Here are some thoughts from fans, which I couldn't have written better myself.

Letters Sent to New York Press

No More Lust
Recently, I discovered that Stephanie Sellars column, “Lust Life” was being cancelled by you. How sad! I’m sure other readers as well as myself will miss reading Ms. Sellars column, which mixed both sophistication and sex so well. The NYPress will never be the same again. My condolences.
—Chris C.

Missing Writers Wanted
Congratulations on making a vanilla paper! I have been a reader of the paper for four years and have even given the new New York Press a chance, but this is enough. You think you have done something worthwhile? Where is Dr. Dot (an NYC Dear Abbey), the “Rental Dementia” guy who gave New Yorkers insight into apartment hunting, Ed Koch (a good read half the time) and the sexy girl Stephanie Sellars who always had something important to say about sex, NYC and relationships?

So glad the color escort services are out of the paper but we needed all the columns that I listed above. I was an advertiser in the old New York Press, but my dollars will not be spent with you now that you have destroyed the excellent journalism and fine paper to rival the advertising rag called the Voice. So, no flowers, no hearse, no tombstone = just tears. RIP.
—John Stevens, Manhattan

The Hookup: In Bad Taste (posted by Trishatchill)

Taste is a funny word. It insinuates that there is some sort of value in one person’s opinion over another’s. New York Press editor David Blum fired sex writer Stephanie Sellars, despite her column being a huge success, and said it was “a matter of taste.” To read the full article, click here:

Emails from Fans

"I wish I could say that I'm surprised, but it seems that this guy has
SOMETHING against all forms of sex!!! A real prurient asshole. I do intend to write a letter, since really they'll be nothing worth reading the NYP for so long as he continues to excise every form of sex. I've book-marked your new blog page."

"Ciao stephanie, i think that you should be proud that they fired you. the paper was becoming a piece of shit and you cannot write for such bastards ... !! Brava! Go on
on your writing without them."

"I can't believe this Stephanie.....I loved your pieces....just read the burning man piece......awesome.!!!!!!! sorry to hear the news....NY PRESS is crazy ....."

"I'm sooooo sorry to hear this! When we caught wind of the paper being
bought up by conservative shit-kickers, Adam and I worried they
wouldn't keep you on. But their rejection is just a testament to how
balls-out your writing is. And you've got a great attitude - just
keep working on that book and fuck anyone who can't handle your style!"

"First of all, wanted to write you to tell you that Lust
Life was the first thing I'd turn to every time I picked up the NYPress. Loved reading about your trysts and adventures. Secondly, wanted to write to tell you I haven't read or picked up the NYPress since I got your e-mail, saying the article was canceled. Really loved the work you were doing and the NYPress is nuts to not realize what an asset they had."

"At least you got to write a final column! That is the one thing I
found totally unforgivable about my firing, cause I never would've
ended on the note I did. I'm sure many more things will be headed your
way." Rachel Kramer Bussel