My dream job: a sex writer


I am not a big believer in the dream job. For one thing, I don’t think people know their dream job. Because it’s a job description that has to cover eight hours a day of work. It’s hard to imagine something you’d love to do eight hours a day, much less fit into in a nice, neat job description.

And then there’s the be-careful-what-you-wish-for syndrome. Because it’s hard to know what you’d like to do for eight hours a day til you try it.

I used to think I wanted to be a sex writer. My master’s thesis from graduate school was about my sex life. But when I tried to support myself writing about sex, when I started pitching stories to Cosmo, I found that no one wanted to hire me; magazines hire people to write about officially important sex research. I wanted to write about me.

So I looked for that magic intersection of things I’m good at and things I like to do and things people will pay me for. And I ended up being a career writer. Fortunately, though, I was able to be a career writer writing about me.

Which is probably what I wanted to do all along. So this is a great argument for the advice I give all the time which is to shut up about not having your dream job and just take any job so you can learn about what people will pay you to do that you might like to do.

Still, I am very excited to tell you that finally, someone offered to pay me to write about my sex life. I had a great time, but surprise, I discovered that I couldn’t resist slipping in some career advice anyway. So I guess I have my dream job, right here. If there were such thing as a dream job.

Anyway, here’s the piece I wrote, for The Daily Beast.

54 replies
  1. Karen Burgess
    Karen Burgess says:

    Love the Beast column. Extremely funny! I know you don’t have a lot of insight into why people act the way they do… but still, why didn’t Congressman Weiner just say “Oops, caught me! Yes, that awesome bulge belongs to me. I’m such an idiot for flirting with these girls I don’t even know, but what the heck… I’m over 40 and want somebody to tell me I’m still hot. Luckily my wife knows I’m an idiot already, so get over it, already.” Sort of the Hugh Grant approach, rather than the Christopher Lee version…

  2. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I’m forcing myself to comment before I even read the whole post because what I want to comment on is both the headline (it made me snort “Of course!”), and the fact that I wanted to start this by writing “Hey, Pen!”, which is both an indication of my affection for you (although somewhat presumptuous, I know), but also a subconscious confirmation that you are, at your most base level in my world, a writer.
    And now I’ll read the post.

  3. Julie
    Julie says:

    a. You kind of are a sex writer.
    b. All writers are sex writers.
    c. Obligatory third thing. Oh, here’s something — a friend on twitter said his dream dinner party involved me, you, Sandra Tsing-Loh and his wife.

  4. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    I really, honestly believe, that if spouses and partners were as transparent as you are, there would be many more binding relationships and less tragic divorces. Because usually the LIES are more damaging and deceitful than the flaws and stupid judgment calls.

    That said, sometimes honesty doesn’t always cancel the crime. Like, if I said to my wife, “Darling… You know we’ve been married like, how many years? And like, we’ve both lost that lovin’ feeling. Right? And to keep our connection ALIVE and well, I sorta snatched a little snatch…at work, in the stairwell. Nothing personal you understand. It happened fast. You know, just sex. Good sex. But sex. And I don’t even remember his name. Did I tell you I’m experimenting? But I still love you. What’s for dinner?”

    Any marriage surviving THAT, was made in Heaven.


  5. Scott
    Scott says:

    Very much enjoyed your Daily Beast article, Penelope, though the negative tone of some of the comments was a bit disappointing. I think your perspective is quite refreshing, funny and alluring. It’s too bad there aren’t more out there like you.

  6. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    We all want to be appreciated for our beauty and courage to reveal ourselves. And we want others to trust us privately with their beauty and courageous self-revelation. There’s got to be a way to make money from this human need.

    How about an online service that provides customers with friends/followers who will exchange sexts with them? Unlike “live web cam” businesses, the pictures would be fake, but the writing would be tailored to the customer’s impressive accomplishments and physical attributes. And they won’t share your secrets with bloggers. All this would benefit the economy by creating jobs for sex writers.

    • rob
      rob says:

      I agree. I’ve been looking foe such a place where smart, thoughtful and intersting people can go for just that kind of recreation in a safe context.
      Id sign up.

      We shold start such a business.

    • rob
      rob says:

      I happen to be a business lawyer and could probably help.
      Anyone else interested?
      All we’d really need is a little seed money for some programming and web expertise and a self-sustaining but very affordable business model, age verificatin via credit card and the like.

      I’ll check back here later and see if this has caught on at all here.

  7. Twister
    Twister says:

    Wow, some of the comments on the beast article are HARSH.


    I chalk it up to fear of female sexuality (She’s a MOTHER!? Doing WHAT?!?)

    I think sexting is kind of lame, but if I was in a lame kind of mood I would totally do it. Spur of the moment sexual decisions can be exciting in their own right, and those people have no right to judge you based on a 1)clearly consensual, 2)barely even sexual, 3)private, act.

    Those comments….uhg…why do I keep breaking my rule to never read the comments section???

  8. sophie
    sophie says:

    Did NOT love the Beast piece. Though well written and timely, I couldn’t help but wonder what the Farmer thinks of it. Or Penelope’s kids, because certainly her oldest is old enough to be reading online. I’m not even so concerned about what they think of it, but how it affects them.

    Two or three posts ago, Penelope writes about how in love she is with the Farmer, how wonderful their life is going and how happy the kids are on the farm. Then today, she brings up past relationships, sexting, and the importance of the right nude picture. (Who cares how much TIME that takes an already busy woman away from things that are really important, right?) I can’t help wondering if Penelope purposely sabotages the good things in her life, all for the sake of a good story.

    Sexting may be the going thing these days. And not just for kids. But the harm it causes innocent people still doesn’t make it acceptable. The fact that Penelope puts writing success and her audience’s attentions before her husband and kids is a little concerning. But then, I guess that’s what Wiener was doing as well.

    • Don
      Don says:

      I have to agree with Sophie. I know Penelope blames a lot of her strange activity on Asperger’s Syndrome, but after a certain point, some behavior is simply narcissistic, selfish, and destructive, and one can only blame so much on one’s disorder.

  9. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I always look forward to reading your articles. The Daily Beast article was no exception. I either learn something new or something I already believe in is further reinforced. The latter holds true in this case with the following sentence from the article – “When you act in a trusting way – like trusting the recipient of the photo to handle it with care and respect – you benefit because being a generally trusting person is an emotionally sound thing to do; people who are trusting are better judges of character.” I’ve knowingly left myself open to be burned … and been burned but I manage to recover somehow. It has happened in the past and will happen in the future. My preference is to be myself and be vulnerable. Of course, there are rules and guidelines to follow and yet I must manage to live with myself in the best way I know how.
    I think I know why I never had a dream job or that there was ever a dream job to begin with. It’s more about a dream team for me. A team of people that would be a delight to work with regardless of the job.

  10. Jeffrey Lovingood
    Jeffrey Lovingood says:

    I like the idea of your article, but I was a let down.

    People have this idea that they have to be lucky to find something they can happily do for a job/career. Ask most people who love what they do for a living and they will say something to the effect of, “I’ve known since I was a child that I wanted to be a…” or “I always did … so it makes sense that I now do …”

    Let me tell you that when I first heard someone say that statement as a child, I was jealous because they had a goal, something to look forward to, something to work toward. As a high school student getting asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was more jealous because I had arrived at a life benchmark and I had no goal. As a 35-year-old who was still floundering in job after job, receiving promotions to management in each different industry without a modicum of job satisfaction, I was beyond jealous, and vowed to find a way to take luck out of the equation.

    I finally found my dream job working in sports as an operations manager for a baseball team. I got this job because I had made a conscious decision to work in the industry and it fit my interests. Soon I found out that starting out in sports is a young person’s gig because the 100-hour work weeks were unbearable for me as a husband and father.

    Having worked in what I thought was my dream career opened my eyes to the fact that the evaluation my interests and skill set had nothing to do with luck. Now I have a business that helps high school students and young adults take the luck out of finding something they can do for a career by helping them evaluate their own interests and skill.

    Sure, there is always some amount of luck required to really succeed, but Lady Luck favors the prepared. And I am preparing young adults by simplifying the onerous “What are you going to do with your life?” problem, and showing them how they can make luck work for them through networking, mentors, and – most importantly – hard work that is focused on a goal.

  11. Brad
    Brad says:

    The post clearly implies that Penelope is currently a single, dating person. And 40 years old. Both of which are false.

  12. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    Nope. Sorry. Can’t go for this.
    Penelope, it doesn’t seem like you-at-your-best.
    It seems shallow, the titillating sex (writer).

    One of the comments mentions how well you know human
    nature. Your gift is that you have tilted psychology on
    an angle and you (perhaps because of your Aspergers), see
    things that people do–social customs, the dance of relationships–from a new angle. This is refreshing and
    creative. Sex is only a small part of human nature/behavior.

    Then there is your ability to write with complete candor.
    Another extraordinary gift. Gifts may or may not turn into
    paying jobs, but you want to develop them anyway–something YOU have said over and over.

    Look at the one part of the Daily Beast story: that you took 1000 photos till you had one that would do for your purposes.
    To me that is not a great ROI. If, on the other hand, hundreds of people read each of your blog entries and 200-400 reply . . . that IS a good ROI.

    In your blogs, you have written career advice and you have written about 9/11. You have written about the farm and the Farmer and your garden and decorating the farm-house. You have written about the kids, the ex-, the tractor going to Madison for the Capitol-chaos protests this past winter.
    I believe that you have touched upon many items of universal appeal–as much or more appeal than the sulfur match of sex.

    In other words, I don’t believe that steamy, flirty, quick-flaring sex is any more interesting.

    Maybe this is just Penelope, trying to stir things up again.
    Maybe this and the post just prior (fleeing from the law) is a reflection of some boredom in your life. Sorry. That was arm-chair psychologizing.

    I think you should speak up for the steady (and sometimes boring, which may actually be a side effect) life on the farm with the Farmer as your mate. The garden. The boys’ explorations and mini-business ventures. Goats. Melissa riding shot-gun. Etc.

    Pace yourself. It doesn’t have to be nonstop stim. Not for us, your readers, and not for yourself and your family.

  13. M
    M says:

    The harshness of the comments section on the Daily Beast site is quite comical because you are correct in that the vast majority of people with access to a cell phone and who feel they look good send nude photos of themselves to people they are in a relationship with. It is clear in this case that the judgement is all about jealously… Rock on with your honesty P!

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      Really? Do you have data on that? Because I feel good about myself and am in a relationship and cannot imagine why I’d want to do that.

      • M
        M says:

        If you are away from your partner for the night/week/etc, why wouldn’t you want to send a picture of your hot self to them? “Sexting” lets you create that intimacy with them that you can’t because you are not physically in each other’s company….

  14. LLPirate
    LLPirate says:

    The older I get the more I am shocked by how much everyone wants to sensor things. I mean are we supposed to just stop being sexual when we get older? This seems so lame to me. Loved the article and I found the comments to be so off. I’m sure the Farmer is secure enough to be just fine with this piece. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t.

  15. Rob
    Rob says:

    I love that Daily Beast article – it is how I found this site (yesterday!). Love it.
    I feel like there is so much here I have in common and can relate to.

    And I feel the same way (about wanting to write not only about my own sexual adventures, but about everything else too). I don’t have aspergers (or autism), but something similar, so the stories I have to tell are similarly pretty amusing most of the time.

    I’d post them here or submit them for review some time if able.

    I tried emailing Penelope yesterday, but don’t know if it got through (and in any case, know she probably gets a TON of email to triage).

  16. Rob
    Rob says:

    Oh, and I read the abstract of Penalope’s Master’s Thesis. I hope the full document is on line (or on Lexis or something). It reads like a scene out of my own life, but in reverse. It sounds hillarious and poignant – my two favorite things.

  17. Rob
    Rob says:

    I agree with M and Penelope and so many others. It is exceedingly common.

    The data points are mounting (pun possibly intended)….

  18. terri
    terri says:

    I admire the competitive spirit you adopted in getting the very BEST photo to send through the stratosphere. Although I think you fibbed when you said it took an hour. As a former pro volleyball player (two nursing babies or not), you probably got the finished product in half that time.

  19. Rob
    Rob says:

    Terri and Penelope,

    I’m going to have to agree with Terri here. I am NOT a former beach volleyball player (former soccer and basketball and not professionally), but I have seen a few of you ladies who are pro beach volleyballers. And I doubt there were a lot of “bad” pictures at all.

    Besides, I contend again that it is the confidence, which I think stems as much from intelligence and simple joie de vivre, that make people sexually attractive (or not) as much or more so than the visual aesthetic itself. The idea of someone asking you to sign a book while stark naked in a locker room – by itself is sexy.

    Not that I have anything against visuals. I’m not saying that both of you shouldn’t post your pics somewhere on the Internet. I’m not saying that at all.

  20. awiz8
    awiz8 says:

    Personally, I think Penelope’s nezt sex article is going to be about sex in an all womens prison ward.

  21. Jim
    Jim says:

    Only 30 comments, Pen – it appears that you are either losing your following or that narcissism and sex have stopped selling. “I am the smartest woman that most men have met”, “I have a hot body”, etc. – your arrogance is just incredible. What’s next, now that the shark has been completely jumped?

  22. Miss SJ Albany
    Miss SJ Albany says:

    “I worried that as I get older, I get more quirky and more saggy, and it's a bad combination for dating.” – BEST line ever!

    Loved this piece!! I don’t usually comment on other people’s opinions but it is just so very odd to me when people say you should be spending your time with the farmer or the children or you’re wasting time taking nude pictures or blah blah blah … who are these women who spend so much fucking time with their kids??? I mean it is after all still YOUR time, right? I love my son more than the air I breathe but does that mean as a mother I am not allowed to spend my time as I see fit, to waste an hour affirming I am beautiful and sexy, to sext, to do whatever I want really. I think it’s such a dangerous trap that women fall into, assuming that if there is freetime to be had it should be spent on people other than oneself as if doing something that makes you happy isn’t somehow a good enough use of time? my .02

  23. rob
    rob says:

    Ah Jim, what if it’s true. I really don’t know about the intelligence part because frankly I haven’t read the website enough yet (though early indications are promising).

    As to the hot body, unless Pen has more pics on the site, I can’t speak to that either.

    But please Jim, right now, off the top of your head, name the last general time in your life you actually have a recollection of seeing a fat, ugly beach volleyball girl.

    Ok, give it a rest. Good night.

    Naturally, I am hopeful that Penelope’s next book is illustrated with the middle section(s) of pictures like almost all biographical works are required to have for the last 80 years.

  24. Brooke Farmer
    Brooke Farmer says:

    If people would pay me to write about sex (or just about myself) I would be very happy indeed. I am pretty sure this makes me (and probably you too) at least a little narcissistic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

  25. rob
    rob says:

    Don’t you think all humans have certain points in their personality that fall definitely on the spectrum of narcissism (and other made-up psychological words from fables about princes who fall in love with their reflections in a stream).

    That is all that human consciousness describes in one way of telling it, yes?

    • Brooke Farmer
      Brooke Farmer says:

      I absolutely think that everyone exists in varying degrees of narcism. And I don’t see it as a fault, really. It is a part of human nature that is easier to face if you embrace it (hence me calling myself narcissistic).

  26. Liz
    Liz says:

    I like this idea. I think you’d be good at it. And I think there’s a market opening up for sex for non-20-something women. Looking forward to seeing what you… there is nothing I can think of to finish this sentence that doesn’t sound suddenly rather double entendre-ish, but I uh, wish you well in this endeavor =)

  27. Sasana
    Sasana says:

    “Because it’s a job description that has to cover eight hours a day of work. It’s hard to imagine something you’d love to do eight hours a day, much less fit into in a nice, neat job description.”

    That is so weird. Why eight hours? I am in my dream job, and I work sometimes 2, sometimes 12 hours a day, depending on how badly something needs done and how energized I am.

    Why are people only allowed to have 8 hour a day dream jobs?

  28. Jane
    Jane says:

    Awesome writing in the Daily Beast.

    There’s a great advice in there that wasn’t particularly well spelled out as a piece of advice, but makes a lot of sense.

    It is way safer to send someone a naked picture on paper, as a print. First, you control the quality of the picture and can look as good as … well, you. Second, sharing isn’t nearly as easy as with digital pics, and infinitely more typo-proof. And third, you have better control of the quality of what’s being shared if you send the print, rather than digital.

  29. umar imtiaz
    umar imtiaz says:

    Awesome post in the daily beast.there is a great advice in your article as it gives some sense.
    well the thing is doing eight work job is not much complicated but you must take interest in that job.i have seen people doing differnet jobs with a lot of time but the thing is they are very sincere and humble with their work.And energeticness is also very essential in this part.

  30. Sabrina
    Sabrina says:

    I also thought about having this as my “dream job” once upon a time. If an individual wants to share their personal sexual experiences, I think that one of the best ways to do that would be to create their own blog. That way they can monetize it to make money and be in complete control.

  31. Sean Henry
    Sean Henry says:

    I agree with you. I don’t think a dream job really exists. A dream job to me is just that, a job you dream about having. A job that you believe you want. I’ve had many jobs that I thought I want to make a career of. After spending time in each of them I found out that I either really sucked at them. Like when I was a tried to be a cook, big disaster there. Or if I didn’t suck at it I hated it. I think you can only find a job that you are good at and you don’t hate. Even my job now I can’t say is my dream job but I’m good at it and I make enough to support my life style.

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