Are today’s women so focused on perfectly arranging their bedrooms that they have forgotten how to have sex in them? At New York magazine’s The Cut, Lauren Sandler takes a spin around the world of female lifestyle blogs and determines that “the Internet’s most ostentatiously blissful women—the curators of domesticity on Pinterest, Tumblr, and thousands of female-driven blogs—occupy a sexless aspirational world.” Online, “so-called ‘food porn’ or ‘shelter porn’ is as close as we get to corporeal abandon,” she writes. And our sex lives are suffering offline, too. Sander links this chaste domestic blogging trend to a recent study that says that 1 in 4 American women experience sexual dysfunction.
This is, at first glance, a niche issue: Why can’t a well-to-do lady find tips on decorating her living room and lubricating herself for sex, all in the same URL? I’m not terribly enamored of the advanced consumerism these lifestyle blogs promote, so I’m not too worried that women’s sex lives have not yet been commercialized to the level of our bedroom furniture. Thrift this Danish bedside table to house your designer dildos! Shave up for this vintage-inspired Vajazzling tutorial! Page through a photoset of what my husband’s packing beneath those ironic long johns!
But I see Sandler’s point. Legacy women’s magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan—and their digital counterparts, like xoJane and HelloGiggles—still serve up sex tips alongside exercise routines, skin creams, and the occasional foreign affairs dispatch. But with a few exceptions, the world of individual ladyblogging tends to separate women into “sexy” and “chaste.” Filing a journalistic report on anal sex for Cosmo is one thing. Aligning your personal confessional blog with assholes is quite another.
But women’s lifestyle blogs are not, as Sandler claims, sexless. They’re just segregated. While there are few dildo recommendations integrated into décor and recipe-centered blogs like A Beautiful Mess, you can find hundreds of them at Hey Epiphora, the online outpost of a woman who exhaustively reviews sex toys for a female audience. In many ways, Epiphora is a typical “lifestyle” blogger; she’s just a sexually focused one. When she’s not reviewing the latest $100-plus vibrator, she files confessional blog entries like “My Vagina Is A Black Hole,” an account of how she got comfortable using penetrative toys, and “The Two Weeks of My Sex Life I Lost to Zoloft,” a discussion of how antidepressants can affect a woman’s sex drive. Her blog does not, however, include recipes for the food she prepares in between test drives.
I bet Epiphora eats. But she doesn’t blog her lunches, for the same reason a recipe blogger doesn’t file dispatches on pegging: That’s not her job. Sandler is concerned that “swapping out lingerie for an apron has become a symptom of an online world where ‘lifestyle’ is something to be perfectly arranged and presented rather than lived.” She’s right about one thing: Running a lifestyle blog requires a lot more than just “living.” For many of these women, maintaining a blog dedicated to food, décor, crafting, or any other domestic arena is a full-time job. Immaculately decorating a home, photographing it, writing about it, and building an audience for that material requires a serious set of skills. Writing about sex and relationships requires another. The Internet thrives on intimate confessions, but it also rewards experts and organizes itself by niches. Online success requires these writers to become masters of their domain. Viewing lifestyle blogging as just a natural extension of women’s lives devalues the work these women are doing, whether they’re firing up a stove or a vibrator.
The real problem here is not that furniture bloggers don’t write about sex or that sex bloggers don’t write about pillowcases. The problem is the assumption that if a woman does not blog her sex life, she is “sexless.” (Are technology bloggers considered “sexless” if they don’t discuss penetration while showing off their shiny new toys?) The flip side is that when a woman does write about sex—like Epiphora does—she’s seen as slutty, obsessed, or oversexed. (Mainstream stigma is the reason Epiphora remains anonymous.) Actually, she’s just skilled and experienced in reviewing sex toys. She shouldn’t have to blog about the furniture to be seen as a full woman.
And maybe furniture bloggers should stick to what they do best, too. Here’s Sandler’s own stab at sexing up the lifestyle genre:
I hardly mean to excoriate home cooking or filling your home with pleasing things: I am typing at a Danish modern desk, perched on an Eames-style shell chair, with a Moroccan stew simmering in a Le Creuset dutch oven on my stove. But my laundry is piled on a rocking chair in the corner, and when my husband gets home from a weeklong work trip tonight, God help the Dwell Studio Chinoiserie bedding.
Oooh, a rocking chair? Crazy.