Arianne Cohen began collecting what she calls “sex diaries” in 2007 as an assignment from New York Magazine. She asked people from all walks of life to chronicle their relationships and fantasies as well as their physical sex lives. Her first subjects came from Craigslist ads and social networking in New York City. After a cover article in the magazine, the project continued online, expanding outside New York. Now, more than 2,000 sex diaries later, the project has its own website and Cohen has compiled books of select diaries from Italy, England and, most recently, the United States.
The American version of The Sex Diaries Project is organized into chapters based on different kinds of relationships: dating, committed, polyamorous, etc. While the diaries are all anonymous, they’re bursting with personality. Cohen identifies the diaries with titles like “The Obedient Fundamentalist Military Wife Who Would Like More Sex, Please” and “The Gay Dad with a Hot New Boyfriend, and an Ex-Wife Who Hates His Guts.” The observations the diarists make about how they relate to their lovers and partners reveal a wide range of perspectives, desires and goals. While Cohen says it’s not necessarily representative of American relationships and sexuality, it is very illuminating to read about people’s private lives. As she puts it in her introduction,
This book has more in common with the first-person narrative work of Anna Deveare Smith and Studs Turkel than, say, the sexual survey work of Alfred Kinsey.
If you’d like to see Arianne Cohen in person, she’ll be reading at Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland at 7:30pm on Wednesday, February 8.
Have you ever intentionally chronicled your relationships and/or your sex life? What did you learn? Would you participate in a project like this? Why or why not?