Arianne Cohen began collecting what she calls “sex diaries” in 2007 as an assignment from New York Magazine. Cohen 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.
Cohen explained on Think Out Loud, “When I was doing the diaries for New York Magazine I kept coming across the fact that what I was seeing was so wildly different from what I thought I would see. Our private lives are, by definition, private — you don’t know what your neighbors are doing.”
After a cover article in the magazine, the project continued online, expanding outside New York. Now 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.
Cohen has read over 2,000 sex diaries since beginning her project. With all this detailed information, highlighting some of the most personal aspects in these individuals’ lives, has Cohen been able to identify some of the hallmarks of happy people?
“The happiest diarists are not necessarily the ones who have the best lives at the moment,” Cohen said. “They are the ones who are very clear on what their needs are, on what they need emotionally, on what they need sexually and on what they need in their daily lives. And they feel they’re on the path to getting them met.”
Listen to the whole conversation with Arianne Cohen on Think Out Loud.