Karley Sciortino

Karley Sciortino at home in New York. Photographed by Austin Hargrave.

Karley Sciortino, aka Slutever, is a sex and relationship writer based in New York. With the appetite of a libertine and the curiosity of a cultural anthropologist, the prolific 32-year-old explores all manner of between-the-sheets topics on her own blog, in a popular monthly Vogue.com column, Breathless, and in a Vice online video series.

Currently, she's wrapping up shooting an eponymous Viceland show, which premieres January 10th. She also has a book, which she describes as "part memoir, part slut manifesto," coming out February 6th and now available for pre-order. Somewhat miraculously, she found time to chat with us.

Hi Karley! Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you decide to make sex your beat?

I grew up in a Catholic family where sex was never really talked about and I think that when something is othered or made to feel forbidden it suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. When I was younger, I saw sex as a form of provocation. One of my favorite quotes is from Camille Paglia, a real icon of mine, about Madonna: “[Her] provocations were smolderingly sexy because she had a good Catholic girl’s keen sense of transgression. Subversion requires limits to violate.”

We have a hunch that Breathless is one of Vogue.com's more reliable traffic-drivers. Which columns, in particular, have gotten a lot of attention?

I’ve found that people respond the most when things get more vulnerable. So there was a column I wrote a couple years ago about going through a breakup and dealing with heartbreak and how bad it is to be dumped, how it can be identity-crushing in a way. And there was one about turning 30 and evaluating my life and having a foursome on my 30th birthday. And recently, I wrote about how being single in your 30s is different and how it changes your approach to dating. I always kind of gauge the overall reaction to my columns by the number of emails I get that are like, “Oh, that made me feel better!"

And the responses are mostly positive?

I feel like I don’t even get that many trolls. Seriously, I should have more trolls.

From the perils of dating someone with an Android to the art of sexting, your writing frequently addresses issues unique to sex and dating in the digital age. What sort of topics are you currently mulling over?

I want to write an article about how much my phone and social media have affected my relationships, fueling jealousies and disconnecting me from my partner. There’s the very real problem of feeling like other people have better relationships when I look at Instagram, essentially just because they’re better at doing their couple marketing and PR. But it can affect your self-esteem and how you view your own relationship.

In my new relationship, I’ve really tried to not engage with that. I also try not to use my phone on dates. It’s like, okay, for the next few hours we’re going to be together and not use our phones. It’s crazy how much more you connect and feel valued. You just feel like the other person is actually listening to you and hearing you.

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“Seriously, I should have more trolls.”
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How (if at all) has the internet been a good thing for sex and relationships?

When I became single a couple years ago, it was the first time I used dating apps. And it was really liberating to have access to different social circles that were outside of my own. We get in these routines of where we meet people. Like I meet people through my friends and through work. So it was interesting for me to go hang out with a podiatrist from Queens. I guess you could call it dating tourism, which could be bad, but if you’re both sort of opting into this mutual novelty of dating someone who is different from you, it can be really fun.

I think the web has also been a good thing for fetishists. The episode we’re shooting now is all about monster fantasies—like if you jerk off to “Game of Thrones.” These people are sexually attracted to things like werewolves and dragons. This week we’re going to visit a sex toy company called Bad Dragon. They make dragon dick dildos and they’re really popular with women. So that was just like, whoa, I did not know that. And thanks to the internet these people have found a community and now other people are monetizing it. So that’s kind of fun.

Is there a monster porn website?

I don’t know if there is a specific site. There’s just a ton of it online. A lot of it is anime or CGI. It sounds kind of weird at first but from talking to experts we’ve learned that this idea of beast and human is deeply ingrained in our culture—from Beauty & the Beast to Shrek to Greek mythology—and the message is really that love conquers all.

Are there any for-women porn sites you recommend?

I’ve always had a slight issue with the idea of “porn for women” because I never like it. Weirdly, it’s the one porn genre that doesn’t turn me on. I like that people are making porn with women in mind but feminist porn tends to have its own aesthetic, like post-Riot Grrrls with tattoos and a lot of kissing and romance.

I’ve talked to women in the porn industry and they’re like, you know, feminist porn doesn’t have to look a specific way. It can just be porn that’s made by women, where women are treated well on set and women’s bodies and desires and rights are respected.

But it doesn’t need to cater to a romantic fantasy…

Yeah exactly. I kind of resent the idea that porn for women is cheesy, sweet and romantic. Not every woman likes that.

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“I kind of resent the idea that porn for women is cheesy, sweet and romantic. Not every woman likes that.”

Going back to dating apps, did you meet your current partner on one?

That was through a more organic circle of friends and work-related stuff. But I have dated people that I’ve met through apps so I think they’re a valuable way to meet people. But I don’t think you can just be like, I’m on a dating app so I’m not going to leave my house. You have to try all the options.

If you invented one, what it would do?

I would want to give people incentive to meet more quickly. I sound like an old person but human interaction is really valuable—to be able to see someone’s facial expressions and hear their voice and smell them and all those things. So it would be that you’re only allowed to talk for a certain amount of time and then you either have to meet up or just never talk again.

Let’s talk more about social media. Occasionally, you've been known to post a provocative selfie (a recent Instagram photo of you wearing a cock ring necklace springs to mind). Is this just branding or is there a deeper message there?

Look, I’m media-savvy and I know that models are air-brushed but I still think it’s helpful and confidence-building to see women online who are taking images of their bodies that look more like mine—curvy and not super thin.

I also feel like there’s an element of humor that can go a long way when it comes to horrifically embarrassing sexy Instagram selfies. I could never be the kind of person who regularly posts them. But the images that I enjoy on social media are the ones where women are taking ownership of their bodies and there’s a strong body positivity message but there’s also a levity in them and they’re funny and self aware. The grist of body acceptance stuff can be a little aggressive and nasty and feminism-heavy.

What are your favorite social media accounts?

Hold on, let me look at my Instagram. Oh, I love Every Outfit on Sex & the City. They’re my favorite. I also like Richardson; it’s a sex-positive brand for sex workers.

What about on Twitter?

I like this girl Tilly Lawless; she’s a sex worker in Australia who promotes sex workers' rights. And Esther Perel; she’s a relationship and sex therapist and I really like to follow her commentary.

Do you listen to her couples therapy podcast?

Yeah I really like it. My favorite podcast actually is "Reply All." I also like this one called "Heavyweight," where this guy Jonathan Goldstein inserts himself into people’s lives who have gone through something in the past and helps them fix it. It can be really funny. And I bizarrely like Joe Rogan. I’m a big fan even though I know all his followers are 100% bros. I really identify with him for some reason.

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What else are you streaming these days?

I’ve been watching a lot of Jordan B Peterson’s YouTube channel. I also like the Netflix show "Easy." It has a really progressive take on modern relationships. The last couple months the production of this show has taken over my life so I haven’t been watching as many things.

Right, yes, we know you need to get back to shooting but before you go, we have to ask: what’s the kinkiest thing you’ve ever seen online?

Oh, well, there’s kink.com which really goes there when it comes to erotica. I’m actually not really into kink or BDSM myself but I do like when that stuff is approached in a thoughtful way.

I like this Periscope show “La Maison du Rouge” by two cool, smart NYC dominatrixes—Lucy SweetKill + Dia Dynasty. It's about expanding the BDSM experience, and the psychology behind fetish. They'll do things like bring on their slaves as guests and do these really playful interviews with them. It's really fun.

Keep up with Karley:

t : @Slutever
i: @karleyslutever

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