Grant Stoddard is an underdog of the sex-writing world. An accidental sex-pert, his sharp pen and self-deprecating style have kept fans rooting for him since 2001, when he launched a sex column at Nerve.com—despite his limited sexual experiences. Stoddard’s “I Did it For Science”, a gonzo-style hands-on account of his personal exploits, saw him tackle everything from attending an elite orgy to having sex with a sample Real Doll at the factory.
After departing Nerve in 2004, Stoddard went on to write for New York Magazine, GQ, Glamour, Vice, Black Book, Women’s Health and Men’s Health (where he is also a contributing editor). In 2007, Harper Perennial published his memoir, Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert. Shortly after the book’s debut, Paramount Vantage bought the motion picture rights, and in 2008 Stoddard signed a scripted pilot deal with 20th Century Fox Television. Here, he opens up about doing it for science and how he got his sex education.
Do you think it’s harder for men to write about their sexual experiences than it is for women?
We think there’s something gross about reading about a straight guy and his sexual experiences. The whole premise of “I Did it For Science” was that I was the least likely person for the job. I started interning at Nerve when they gave me the sex-writing job as a joke. I was vastly inexperienced. It was kind of like I was being forced to do it, but I think that made it palatable for readers to hear about a man’s sex life.
Who’d ever suspect that a guy who’d make a mold of his penis and fuck himself with it was inexperienced?
All of a sudden, I was dressing up like a baby, convincing a masseuse to give me a “happy ending,” getting fucked in the ass by a friend. I was like: “I wanna deal with normal sexual stuff, the stuff I am supposed to be doing with my youth!”
As a guy, what have you learned from exploring the vast rainbow of sexual experiences?
Women are given great sexual latitude to do a number of different things—bondage, kinks, even lots of different vanilla sex. Men are really sort of reduced to just wanting to fuck something, and that’s it. There’s a huge downside with what’s expected of you, and how you’re expected to behave in the bedroom. It’s very limiting.
It’s a double standard we hear about over and over.
There is also the double standard of consent. If you go on a date, and the girl doesn’t want to have sex with you it’s accepted. But if a guy is offered sex and he declines, it raises eyebrows. This happened to me once, and then it was all these questions: What’s wrong with him? Is he gay? The idea that I just simply wasn’t in the mood [wasn’t allowed.]
What about the male-female double standard regarding bisexuality?
Oh, yes, “You know, I wanna suck a dick. I don’t want to conform to a lifestyle or necessarily move to Chelsea. I just want to suck a big one.” If women [want to eat pussy], it’s cool, but for guys it’s, “Oh, so you’re gay?”
Maybe homophobia hasn’t gone away, but now it’s a personal thing? Like, “That’s okay for you, but NO, I am not gay!”
It’s very strange. My friends who are supposedly liberal and comfortable sexually cringe when it’s implied that they would be implicated in any [form of] gay sex.
What is your relationship to masculinity like?
Tenuous. I’ve lived in Manhattan for most of my adult life (although, he was born in England). [Masculinity is] not highly regarded as it would be elsewhere. I’ve definitely benefited from the fact that it’s not in vogue. I was actually playing with the idea of writing a book about how “un-masculine” I am. I just bought an apartment and I don’t know how to do anything. I’m looking at these ugly light fixtures now, and I have no idea how to change that. I’m gonna need some sort of tools. I have no tools. I have no hair on my chest.
Is there something you feel needs to be addressed about male sexuality, or changed?
I’m not exactly sure how you would go about instituting it, but the way that men use language. They talk about banging girls, finger banging or fucking. It’s something mechanical that sort of gets done. I hope for them it’s actually a little more complex than that, a little more considered. But anything other than some sort of Anglo-Saxon terms for what you do to a woman as a man is viewed as somehow weird, or creepy, or it makes you a sensualist.
Do you think that stems from our cultural insistence that men not use “flowery” language? We tend to view men as just thinking with their dicks.
To some extent, we do. I would agree with the sentiment that men are sexually oriented. What I disagree with is that it only manifests itself in one way. Sexually, we are forced into a box and not allowed to express ourselves in many more ways than society allows.
Growing up, where did you learn about sex?
My friend showed me this hardcore French pornography. I was nine years old. I’d never seen anything like it before. I was shocked. [He] was just like, “Yeah, everyone does that. Your mom and dad did last night!” Later, a friend found an illegal porn dealer—[it was] like crack. We’d meet him in the parking lot of a Home Depot. I’d spend my allowance—or morally support my friend if he spent his allowance—buying porn.
That’s a common thread: learning about sex through porn and friends, rather than in any sort of formalized sex education.
In Sex Ed, we had a gym teacher putting rubbers on bananas and stretching out dental dams. I couldn’t keep a straight face. I was so excited, I got thrown out. I got a report card with an annotation I had to sign saying I was too immature to be in a Sex Ed class.
You’ve come a long way, from getting thrown out of Sex Ed to writing a book about your sex life.
I feel like in writing about sex, I got to become myself. I’m glad that I did all this stuff. My penis: bringing good to the world.