Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I know I've already blogged before about this book, but simply stated, not enough has been made of it. It's one of those books where long after you finish it, each story sticks with you, and makes you want to read it all over again for a second helping. Each piece is beautifully written and woven together.

The anthology is so satisfying, there is a little of this and a little of that, and a whole lot of Oh good, I'm normal.

For me, that's what this book does best - normalize sex. No easy feat, to be sure, and one I wouldn't even try to tackle. But Paula Derrow not only tackles it, she delivers -an anthology so full of heart and honesty that the reader feels better for having read it.

So obsessed with the book, I tracked down Paula and she granted me an interview. Paula Derrow is articles director at Self magazine and teaches writing for MediaBistro.com. She has worked for Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar and Lifetime Television. She has a degree in British history and literature from Harvard and lives in Manhattan. www.behindthedroomdoor.com

Please enjoy her wonderful answers!


INTERVIEW WITH PAULA DERROW, EDITOR OF BEHIND THE BEDROOM DOOR

Q: Did you always know you'd grow up and become a "sexpert," or was that accidental? And now that you ARE a "sexpert," do you have people telling you every little detail of their sex lives?

A: I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN SEX—NOT BECAUSE I WAS GETTING A LOT OF IT, BUT PROBABLY BECAUSE I WASN’T. I WAS ALWAYS THE PERSON STEERING THE CONVERSATION TOWARD SEX, AND IN COLLEGE, WHILE EVERYONE AROUND ME WAS BOFFING LIKE BUNNIES, I TRIED TO MAKE UP FOR THE FACT THAT I WASN’T GETTING ANY BY DOING MY THESIS ON D.H. LAWRENCE’S LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER. NOW THAT I’VE DONE THIS BOOK, MY INTEREST IS OBVIOUSLY MORE OUT THERE—AND I DO FEEL AS IF I’VE BECOME AN ACCIDENTAL SEXPERT, IN THAT PEOPLE NOW CONSTANTLY CONFESS THEIR SEXUAL FEELINGS TO ME. I’VE HAD A NEIGHBOR TELL ME THAT HE AND HIS WIFE HADN’T HAD SEX FOR A YEAR, A TECHNICIAN TAKING MY BLOOD AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE CONFESS THAT SHE’D HAD AN AFFAIR WITH A DOCTOR ON ANOTHER FLOOR, A BEAUTIFUL 45 YEAR OLD WOMAN TELL ME THAT SHE HAS NEVER HAD AN ORGASM WITH A MAN. PEOPLE ARE DYING TO TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF, AND I THINK THE BOOK OPENS THE DOOR TO THESE KINDS OF CONVERSATIONS AND CONFESSIONS.

Q: What is the most awkward thing someone has shared with you?

A: AT A BOOK SIGNING RECENTLY, AN AUDIENCE MEMBER, A MAN IN HIS LATE 60S, STARTED TELLING ME HOW HIS MOTHER WAS SEXUALLY ACTIVE INTO HER 90S, AND WAS ALWAYS COMPLAINING ABOUT BEING “TOO DRY” AND ASKING HER GROWN KIDS FOR HELP. SO OCCASIONALLY I FEEL LIKE “TMI!!!!” BUT MOSTLY, I FIND IT GRATIFYING THAT THIS BOOK SEEMS TO HAVE STRUCK A NERVE.

Q: What are the questions and/or confessionals that surprise you the most?

A: WHAT’S BEEN MOST SURPRISING TO ME IS THE RESPONSE I’M GETTING FROM SLIGHTLY OLDER WOMEN—IN THEIR 60S AND EARLY 70S. I THINK WOMEN THIS AGE ARE, FOR THE MOST PART, STILL VERY SEXUAL, BUT IN OUR SOCIETY, THEY ARE ALSO KIND OF INVISIBLE. WE DON’T THINK OF THEM AS SEXUAL, AND IT CERTAINLY ISN’T EASY TO FIND A PARTNER BUT THEY HAVE NEEDS, THEY ARE PASSIONATE, AND THEY ARE INTERESTED IN THIS SUBJECT. SO INSTEAD OF FEELING A BIT PUT OFF, WHICH IS WHAT I EXPECTED, THEY ASK ME ALL KINDS OF QUESTIONS, TELL ME ALL KINDS OF THINGS (AT ONE EVENT, A WOMAN WHO WAS CLOSE TO 70 STARTED TELLING ME THAT THEY NEEDED TO DESIGN A VIBRATOR FOR OLDER WOMEN’S ANATOMY—THAT THE MODELS AVAILABLE DIDN’T WORK WELL FOR HER). SO, I’D SAY THIS HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE.

Q: What have you learned through this experience?

A: I THINK I’VE LEARNED THAT, AS MUCH AS SOCIETY EMPHASIZES THAT ONLY THE YOUNG ARE SEXY AND HAVE A HOT SEX LIFE, THAT FOR WOMEN, SEX TENDS TO GET BETTER AS WE GET OLDER—IN OUR 30S, 40S, AND 50S. GOOD SEX HAS SO MUCH TO DO WITH A WOMAN’S CONFIDENCE, WHO HER PARTNER IS, AND THE BETTER SHE FEELS ABOUT HERSELF, THE BETTER THE SEX WILL BE. THE FACT THAT SEX IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING AND EVOLVING, OFTEN FOR THE BETTER, WAS MOST SUPRISING TO ME.

Q: Are men opening up to you, too, or just women?

A: MEN ARE OPENING UP TO ME AS MUCH AS WOMEN ARE, THOUGH I THINK THE IDEA OF THIS BOOK SCARES THEM, TOO. WHEN I MENTION THAT I DID A BOOK ABOUT WHAT WOMEN REALLY THINK ABOUT SEX, OFTEN THE RESPONSE IS: “I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!” BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID THAT IT’S GOING TO BE ALL ABOUT CRITICIZING MEN. (IT ISN’T.) WHICH TELLS ME THAT MEN HAVE THEIR SEXUAL INSECURITIES, TOO.

Q: How has this process affected your own dating/sex life?

A: WHILE I WAS DOING THE BOOK, I WAS ABLE TO TAKE 2 MONTHS OFF FROM MY MAGAZINE JOB AND SPEND IT IN ITALY (ROME), WORKING AND TRAVELING. I HAD JUST ENDED A FIVE YEAR TEMPESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP AND WAS FAIRLY WRUNG OUT; I’D KIND OF HAD IT WITH MEN. GOING TO ITALY WAS PERFECT, BECAUSE IT IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL, SENSUAL PLACE—THE LIGHT, THE FOOD, THE WARMTH OF THE PEOPLE, THE COLORS, THE WEATHER. SO I WAS ABLE TO APPRECIATE ALL THAT SENSUALITY WHILE I HEALED—I DIDN’T DATE AT ALL, BUT WAS ABLE TO GET BACK IN TOUCH WITH MY SENSUAL, HAPPIER SELF. WHEN I RETURNED FROM ROME, I STARTED DATING UP A STORM. TELLING GUYS THAT I WAS WORKING ON A SEX BOOK DEFINITELY GOT THEIR ATTENTION. AND THE NICEST PART IS THAT JUST BEFORE THE BOOK CAME OUT, I MET SOMEONE REALLY WONDERFUL. IT’S STILL IN THE BEGINNING PHASES, BUT IT’S GREAT TO BE ENJOYING THE EXCITEMENT OF A NEW RELATIONSHIP AT THE SAME TIME I’M TALKING TO CROWDS OF PEOPLE ABOUT LOVE AND SEX!

Q: Why do we need another sex book? How is this one different?

A: WE LIVE IN A SEX SATURATED CULTURE, SO IT’S EASY TO THINK—OH, YET ANOTHER BOOK ON THIS SUBJECT? BUT IRONICALLY, I THINK THE FACT THAT WE’RE SURROUNDED BY SEX ON THE INTERNET AND ON HBO AND IN THE MOVIE THEATER HAS MADE IT TOUGHER TO TALK ABOUT SEX HONESTLY. I LOVED SEX AND THE CITY AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER NEW YORK CITY SINGLE WOMAN, BUT THAT SHOW MADE IT SEEM LIKE MOST SINGLE WOMEN IN THEIR LATE 30S AND 40S ARE GOING OUT WITH NEW MEN EVERY WEEK, HAVING AS MUCH SEX AS THEY CAN HANDLE. THAT’S NOT WHAT LIFE AND DATING AND SEX IS LIKE FOR MOST PEOPLE I KNOW. NOR IS IT GENERALLY ABOUT THREESOMES AND ORGIES AND SWINGS ON THE CEILING—THE KINDS OF THINGS THEY TEND TO FOCUS ON IN THE TIME OUT NEW YORK SEX ISSUE AND THE NY MAGAZINE SEX ISSUE. I THINK BEING SURROUNDED BY ALL THIS SENSATIONALIZED SEX HAS, IRONICALLY, MADE IT HARDER TO TALK ABOUT SEX HONESTLY—TO TALK ABOUT THE BORING PARTS, THE FRUSTRATING PARTS, THE ORDINARY PARTS, THE DRY SPELLS—THE STUFF YOU DON’T SEE ON TV OR IN THE MOVIES. I THINK OUR HYPER SEXUALIZED SOCIETY HAS MADE MANY OF US FEEL AS IF WE’RE NOT MEASURING UP, WHICH MAKES IT TOUGHER TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE’RE EXPERIENCING AND FEELING AND WORRYING ABOUT. I HOPE THAT THIS BOOK HELPS GET THE CONVERSATION GOING—AND IN DOING SO, REASSURES WOMEN THAT WHATEVER THEY EXPERIENCE, THEY ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL. THE BOOK CAPTURES THE ENORMOUS VARIETY OF OUR SEXUAL EXPERIENCES—I ALSO THINK WOMEN WILL FIND THAT REASSURING.

Q: The pieces evoke such empathy, no matter how similar or dissimilar the stories are to each of ours. How did you pull that off?

A: I TRIED TO MAKE SURE THAT EACH STORY EXPRESSED THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF SEX—OUR FEARS AND FEELINGS AND DESIRES. THAT’S WHY THE STORIES END UP BEING SO RELATABLE: BECAUSE EVEN IF YOU HAVE NEVER USED A STRAP ON OR SLEPT WITH A WOMAN OR HAD AN AFFAIR, YOU CAN CONNECT WITH THE EMOTIONS AND MOTIVATIONS THESE WOMEN EXPRESS.

Q: Does your book help shatter any myths, and if so, which ones?

A: DEFINITELY—1) THAT SEX IS FOR THE YOUNG. 2) THAT WOMEN ARE COMPLETELY OKAY WITH OUR CURRENT HOOK UP CULTURE. WHAT I’VE LEARNED IS THAT NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE WANT TO, IT’S VERY DIFFICULT FOR WOMEN TO COMPLETELY SEPARATE SEX AND EMOTION. 3) THAT MEN ARE THE ONES WHO HAVE THE REAL STRUGGLE WITH MONOGAMY; DOING THIS BOOK HELPED ME REALIZE THAT WOMEN STRUGGLE WITH OUR DESIRE FOR SECURITY VERSUS OUR DESIRE FOR PASSION AND NOVELTY JUST AS MUCH AS MEN DO—IT’S NOT EASY FOR US TO COMMIT OR BE MONOGAMOUS EITHER.

A: Whom did you intend to reach/help through this book?

Q: ALL THE “REGULAR” WOMEN OUT THERE WHO FEEL FORGOTTEN AND NOT REPRESENTED IN ALL THE DEPICTIONS OF SEX IN OUR CULTURE.

Q: My friend is giving this book to her daughter for her 21st birthday. I love that idea. I think this book makes a great book club selection, and really great conversations are likely to take place, that might not otherwise. Were you hoping to reach younger women before they become too jaded, and older women to help reassure them?

A: YES—FOR YOUNGER WOMEN, I WANTED THEM TO KNOW THAT THE BEST MAY BE AHEAD OF THEM. BUT TRULY, I WANTED ALL WOMEN TO FEEL REASSURED THAT WHATEVER THEY FEEL AND EXPERIENCE, THEY ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL. AND WE CAN ONLY KNOW THAT BY TALKING ABOUT OUR CONCERNS AND FEELINGS.

A: How did you choose which pieces/authors to include? Did you assign topics based on the authors, or did they submit ideas and you edited the book accordingly? There is such a nice balance, I'm wondering how you achieved that?

Q: I TURNED TO WRITERS I USE AT SELF, FOUND WRITERS THROUGH AGENTS AND OTHER WRITERS I KNOW, AND JUST CALLED UP PEOPLE WHOSE BOOKS AND ARTICLES I LIKED. I KNEW THAT I WANTED A WIDE RANGE OF AGES, THAT I WANTED RACIAL AND SEXUAL DIVERSITY, AND THAT I WANTED STORIES THAT KIND OF OVERCAME CONVENTIONAL EXPECTATIONS ABOUT SEX. IN SOME CASES, I WOULD COME TO A WRITER WITH AN IDEA (IF I KNEW THEY HAD HAD DIFFICULTY GETTING PREGNANT, FOR INSTANCE, I MIGHT ASK FOR A STORY ABOUT HOW SEX WAS AFFECTED BY THAT.) BUT MANY TIMES, I WOULD TELL THE WRITERS ABOUT THE THEME OF THE BOOK, AND WE WOULD JUST START TALKING, AND THE ESSAY WOULD ARISE OUT OF THAT. THAT SAID, I DID HAVE A FEW THEMES I STARTED WITH: SEX WITH A MUCH OLDER/YOUNGER MAN; INFIDELITY; ETC.

Q: I was struck by the honesty of the women, the bravery, the ability to just lay it out there and possibly be judged. How did you get the women to open up like that, and do any of them regret it?

A: SOME OF THE WRITERS ENDED UP DROPPING OUT DUE TO PRESSURE FROM SPOUSES; OTHER COUPLES ENDED UP IN COUNSELING; I DO THINK FOR SOME OF THE WRITERS, PUTTING THESE PERSONAL STORIES ON THE PAGE WAS A DIFFICULT THING—FOR THEM AND FOR THEIR PARTNER. BUT I TRIED TO PUSH THE WRITERS AND ENCOURAGE THEM BY EMPHASIZING THAT THE POINT OF THE BOOK WAS NOT VOYEURISM OR SEX FOR SEX’S SAKE, BUT THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF SEX. I WANTED THE WRITERS TO WRITE FROM THE HEART—AND I THINK KEEPING THE FOCUS ON THAT HELPED THEM FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE DOING.


To order yours today, click here.

To read another interview on Betty Confidential, click here

14 comments:

Suzy said...

GREAT interview...
Do more!

Love,
Suzy

Jenny said...

Fun interview, Carrie - I agree the essays were great.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Wonderful interview Carrie! I will be ordering this one!

kario said...

I'm on it - consider me sold!

She ought to be paying you a commission, BTW.

Lori said...

This sounds like a great book. And Paula sounds like a very cool person!

jesswilson said...

what a fabulous interview! thanks so much for sharing this. i MUST, i WILL get the book!

the kicker ...

BUT TRULY, I WANTED ALL WOMEN TO FEEL REASSURED THAT WHATEVER THEY FEEL AND EXPERIENCE, THEY ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL. AND WE CAN ONLY KNOW THAT BY TALKING ABOUT OUR CONCERNS AND FEELINGS.

i think i love her

Wanda said...

This is a terrific interview. I'm putting the book in my "gotta have" list.

Laurie Harper said...

This is a great idea, well done. Way to go. Thank you for making the time to do this.

Stacy Quarty said...

I just got my copy last week!

Amber said...

awesome! Thanks for this.

:)

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

You asked such insightful questions in this interview. Definitely enjoyed reading it!

Deb Shucka said...

Thank you, Carrie. This was amazing. You have a knack for this, an ought to follow the path.

Me said...

I think I'm going to have to seek this out next time I'm in the bookstore.

She said...

Awesome interview! You totally rock, tracking her down like that!

I learned a lot! : )