By Sabine Zetteler
Bold, boundary-breaking and wrapped in wipe-clean plastic, a new publication thrust its way into existence on Valentine's Day this year, promising to arouse, provoke, bemuse, move and surprise its readers. The Anonymous Sex Journal is exactly what it says on the cover: a collection of carnal confessions submitted by strangers. Conceived and compiled by Alex Tieghi-Walker, the new periodical asks the question "what's the most interesting thing that's ever happened to your genitals?" and then shares the answers with the world—all very discreetly, of course.
The pilot edition—naturally entitled Foreplay—is available now. We spoke to Alex about how it came about, what was going on in his mind, and his plans for the future of socially acceptable sexual confession.
What sparked the idea? And how long have you been flirting with it?
I like to collect and categorize peoples' experiences—the precursor to this project was a journal I set up with my friend, writer Rosa Rankin-Gee, called A Tale of Three Cities (an anthology of stories by artists and writers living in London, Paris and Berlin). The idea of creating a chronicle of sex came just before Christmas when a friend and I shared a number of our more peculiar sexual experiences and decided that everyone would have something to contribute to a project like this.
How did you get people to tell you about their sex lives?
It kind of snowballed. I set out my idea and sent it round a group of friends and people I've worked with in publishing and the arts, who then passed it on to others. I created a shared gmail account where users could log in and submit stories to me anonymously. I really stressed that anonymity was key—I didn't want to know who had submitted or what they had written. I haven't changed any of the entries, either in terms of grammar and spelling; I wanted the true voice of the writer to come through because the experiences and tone are so personal.
How many stories did you receive?
I got about 50, of which 21 made it to this first issue. This issue was really a tester—foreplay—just to see how people responded to the brief and to show how easy it is to share stories this way. The stories in this issue cover an array of experiences and emotions; future issues will have many more stories (submissions permitting).
Are your own sexual secrets in there?
Alas, you'll never know.
Why do you think showing off about sex is more acceptable in our culture than sharing more awkward experiences?
I think it's easy to boast about sex but it's harder to admit that it isn't always perfect, or isn't always as planned. There are embarrassing or awkward moments; there are also more touching and intimate instants that can sometimes go overlooked. I don't think us holding back is to do with inadequacy; it's more to do with people thinking others won't relate to those experiences. In actual fact nobody has a normal sex life—this journal is testament to that.
You're clearly an open-minded guy, but did any of the stories shock you?
I thought some were slightly odd, but the honesty with which the stories were written really made me understand how situations like those could happen. I think readers of the journal will relate to a lot of the stories. There is something in each one, or something similar at least, that I think has happened to most people.
How did Margot Bowman become involved?
Margot and I have been talking about collaborating for a while. I think she's an incredible artist and her work has a really intelligent undertone; she's very honest even though her work can sometimes seem whimsical or fantastical. She was the perfect person for this journal, I don't think illustrating it in any other way would have worked—she struck the perfect balance between humour and sentiment.
Will you stick together as the Journal grows?
Yes certainly. We're planning to introduce other artists, but Margot has been intrinsic to the development of the Journal and the ideas behind it.
Why does The Anonymous Sex Journal exist in print rather than online?
I think that holding this book creates more of a connection to the content. You need to feel the plastic of the cover, see the charming pictures and pink spunk splatters throughout the journal, peer deep into the margins and pages to really get a sense that this collection of stories is something you can relate to. It just wouldn't work online: it would be a collection of meaningless anecdotes that exist only for a second on your screen.
Are there any other ideas in the pipeline?
Oh yes—this is just the start of a much larger project. I'm planning a whole series of themed issues: jealousy, fantasy, cybersex, those incidents that didn't happen but nearly did—there are so many more stories to be shared...
You can sign up to receive the Anonymous Sex Journal by going to their website. Images courtesy of the Anonymous Sex Journal