It happened a few times in the last few weeks.
I wrote deeply personal stories about my journey to becoming more sex-positive. Stories that took a lot of self-reflection and came from the bottom of my heart. And at first, things looked good.
The stories were chosen for further distribution, and the views started to reach the thousands. I was thrilled people were getting something from my words, that my messages were gaining momentum.
And then all of a sudden, it stopped. That momentum came to a halt — almost no one saw these posts (below) anymore.
I Had Sex With 16 Men In One Year. And Don’t You Dare Judge Me.
It took me a long time to not feel ashamed of my “number.”
Why Masturbating in Front of Him Is My Highest Goal
I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer.
What went wrong?
When I looked back at the stats from these pieces, I saw that someone from Medium had decided to take away the distribution tags.
It was as if they looked at the list of articles that were doing well on the site's homepage, saw headlines with the words “sex with 16 men” or “masturbating” front and center, and thought something like:
This doesn't belong on the front page of our site.
Despite the fact that Medium’s paying readers were commenting happily, clapping, and reading all the way through. Despite the fact that I put my blood sweat and tears into these articles. Despite comments on those articles such as:
“Oh my GOD this was beautiful, Sarah! Thanks so much for sharing this moment with us.”
“I thought this was beautifully and honestly written and I loved it. You said so many meaningful and insightful things and I love your outlook on life.”
“Beautiful and important article! This message isn’t heard enough especially for our age group. Thanks for writing this!”
The Medium Gods decided, no, this is clickbait. It doesn’t go well with our image. And they decided to stop exposing it to more people, even ones explicitly interested in sexuality across the platform.
Are personal sex stories clickbait?
Medium probably decided my articles were either erotica or clickbait, two grounds for disqualification from distribution. But these stories were not erotica because they were personal stories with a clear takeaway that did not have to do with turning on the reader.
What about clickbait? Medium says if you can answer yes to any of the following questions then your article is probably clickbait:
- Is the title trying to exploit a reader’s personal worries, insecurities, or emotional state?
- Is the title or story image more provocative than the content of the story merits?
- Is the title over-reaching or over-promising with hyperbolic claims or absolutes that are not verifiable?
- Is the title withholding important context; misleading the reader; or using cliches, gimmicks, or cheap language?
I don’t see how either of the headlines I wrote fall into these categories. Just because a title is sexually explicit does not mean it’s cheap or gimmicky.
It seems a lot of people have the impression that we sex writers are writing about sex because it’s a cheap shot. Because if we write about sex, then people will pay attention.
And it’s true, talking about these subjects can get people’s attention. There’s the old adage: “sex sells.”
But that’s not our purpose. Readers are not responding to these articles because they want to be titillated and scandalized.
Sex is important. Period.
Readers want to read stories about sex because sex is really fucking important.
It can make you feel whole, and it can make you feel horrible.
We need to have conversations about this topic, about the deep feelings that emerge during sex: the good, the bad, and the ugly. These articles help people understand important issues like the grey areas of consent better. They help people understand desire and rejection.
My stories give readers a glimpse into something you usually only find behind closed doors. They help people feel normal, comfortable in their own bodies, and less alone.
There’s a lack of intelligent, useful content about sex out there.
These headlines shock people because sex shocks people.
The words in these headlines are only perceived as shocking because we, as a society, are not talking about sex enough.
But do you know how we combat taboo subjects? Do you know how we make the perception of these words less shocking? By talking about them more and more. And the more people talk about sex, the less alone they will feel, and the happier they will ultimately be.
But don’t think this is a joke for us. Don’t think you’re not stopping people from getting content that will actually help them in a deep way.
We live in an age of chronic loneliness where suicide rates are skyrocketing.
Has anyone ever raped someone or committed suicide because they didn’t understand cryptocurrency? Has anyone taken out a gun and shot up a school because they didn’t know about the newest side hustle fad? No.
But they have done it because they hate themselves. Because they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. Because they don’t understand enough about their sexual self and their emotions.
Take this seriously before you take someone's ability to be seen away. You have a chance to really make a difference when it comes to normalizing sexuality. Don’t waste it.
This is real talk. Please listen.
When you think about it, underneath all those other topics we see on Medium, a roadmap to make more money or be more productive, a how-to on building an online course or becoming a better writer. Behind those desires to learn is a desire to feel loved in and out — something sex has the power to make you feel.
Sex is one of our most basic and ubiquitous urges. That is what’s motivates all those other topics you find worthy of distributing.
We sex writers are just getting straight to the point.
So Medium, I beg you to please not take our voices away. Do the right thing. Give us a platform. Help us — all of us — thrive.
Join the Sex Positive Medium Facebook group to discuss what we can do.