12 September 2020
When I was 16, I wrote my first personal essay about sexuality and desire. I posted it onto my MySpace blog and spent the next few days anxiously fretting about who might have read it, judged me harshly for it and then vowed never to speak to me again. There were actually zero repercussions. So I wrote another. And another. And then another.
In the 15 years that have elapsed since then, I’ve started (and then canned) countless blogs as a creative outlet to process my thoughts and feelings. I’ve always been drawn to memoir and autofiction – what can I say, I like to keep my inner narcissist happy.
So, earlier on in the Summer, when British Vogue commissioned me to write a couple of piece on my specialist topic of sexuality I relished the opportunity give myself space to be vulnerable and write my own truth.
Since my last blog post, I’ve been manically busy, putting my critical thinking skills to work, writing about sexuality (obviously), representation, inclusion and race for a range of publications. Here are some highlights.
The devastatingly brilliant BBC/HBO drama I May Destroy You spotlights the creative and sexual landscape of millennial Black Brits like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Watching Michaela Coel’s genius unfold before us is giving me life. Like Coel herself, and her charming assortment of lead characters, I’m also a British-Ghanaian. It is so, so, so affirming to finally see a portrayal of London that represents my experiences within the creative circuit, where Black Brits aren’t just relegated to the tired stories of gritty estate life struggles. Yes, the show’s main theme is sexual assault but it also deals with the universal issues of friendship, trauma, survival, consent, masculinity, internalised homophobia, and race, with knowing humour and incredible nuance.
I’m sure it’s obvious that my Kayleigh Daniels character, and all of her conquests, inhabit the many of the same fictional spaces as Coel’s. This has been extraordinarily validating. Read my take on what we can learn about contemporary Black British sexuality from the show.
Michaela Coel, I salute you. After my sisters and my mother, she is the woman I root for most in the world.
At the very end of June, I chatted about erotica with Laura and Rachel, the erudite and hilarious hosts of outré podcast ‘Girls on Porn’. Since its launch in mid-2019, the girls entertain tens of thousands of listeners each week by reviewing beautiful indie porn and roasting heinous free porn. I joined them to discuss the fanny flutters I get when I read Anais Nin, the tragically unsexy writing found in passages nominated for the annual ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ awards, and my very own Kayleigh Daniels Dated project. Listen back to our raucous conversation, wherever you get your podcasts.
In July, I led dozens of people through my four-part online workshop series ‘Developing sexual expression and understanding intimacy’ which I devised during lockdown.
Here’s what a few people said about the workshops they joined:
“I just wanted to thank you for an amazing workshop. You have such a wonderfully inclusive approach and you got me doing something I’d never done before. You’re such a good teacher.” – ‘Writing Romance’ participant
“The use of current material made it relatable, fresh and pointed to the reality of the topics currently being discussed widely at present.” – ‘Cultivating Consent Culture’ participant
“What I am very happy about is that from your workshop my partner and I had an hour-long chat about sex etc. It was really important and something we were both too scared to talk about. So the workshop was a massive success for us.” – ‘Improving Intimacy’ participant
“When I joined Almaz’s workshop, I felt welcomed into an environment where people were able to speak about sexual intimacy openly, honestly and with positivity. Just being present for that was a positive experience for me, let alone some of the unexpected things I learned about sex toys, indie porn sites and affiliate links!” – ‘Improving Intimacy – Part II’ participant
I’m open for group bookings for birthday parties and hen-dos etc, so do just drop me an email if interested in arranging something.
Then things turned very serious indeed. British Vogue commissioned me to cover the UK release of Clemency. Director Chinonye Chukwu is the first black female director to win the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film festival, for her film, Clemency’. Its UK release coincides with forceful and unyielding demands to defund the highly militarised US police force, which in turn were catalysed by the Black Lives Matter uprisings in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers.
I chatted to Chinonye via Zoom (she in LA, me in London) about her thoughts on the indie film industry, the racial tensions within that, prison abolition, and mental health.
Read the full interview by clicking the image below.
And then, in an wonderfully unexpected turn of events, it was announced that I was of the five finalists up for ‘Journalist of the Year’ in the Sexual Health Awards 2020. Thank you to everyone who voted for me – the winner will be announced during Sexual Heath Week, which will run from 14–18 September.
Until next time, then. In the meantime, send any commissions my way: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my archive – almazohene.com/journalism to make sure you don’t miss any of my features.
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