Get Candid With Karley: Unpacking Sex & Relationships
Queen of kink, Vogue Sex & Relationships columnist, and creator of “Slutever”, it’s safe to say Karley Sciortino knows a thing or two about seduction. As the latest in our Browns Residency series, Karley will be hosting a live Q&A on our YouTube channel to answer all your burning questions, but not before she answers ours...
How did you begin your career as a sexpert? The moment you realised you had a passion for, er, passion?
Well, I grew up in a conservative Catholic family where I was told not to have sex before marriage. (Yes, I’m a slutty Catholic girl—how unoriginal.) I was pretty much raised on the Madonna/ whore complex, so when I grew up to be a rebellious and horny teenager, female sexuality immediately became an interesting topic to me—it felt dangerous in an exciting way.
When I was 21, I started my blog, Slutever. At the time I was living in a squat hostel in South East London, with about 12 other so-called “aspiring artists.” At the beginning the blog was mainly just over-sharey rants about the people I drunkenly slept with, but eventually it became more of an exploration of sexuality.
A big shift came when I moved to New York at twenty-four and began assisting a dominatrix. (So basically I’d get paid to just watch her whip people, and occasionally she’d be like “hand me that dildo” and I’d be like “OK.” It was a tough job.) It was during that time that I became more interested in the psychology surrounding sex, desire, fantasies, etc., and then it all kind of snowballed from there.
You’re a guru when it comes to sex and relationships. How did you acquire your knowledge and who do YOU look to for advice and guidance?
Most of what I know I’ve learned through curiosity and experience. Luckily, I have always been—for lack of a better term—pretty “slutty,” so that’s been great research! And I love talking to people about sex and relationships—I think it tells you so much about a person.
In terms of my personal gurus, I love Esther Perel, the world-renowned sex and relationship therapist. Her book Mating in Captivity was really important to me. It examines the paradoxical relationship between domesticity and sexual desire—basically, it talks about how you can sustain desire in a long-term relationship. And I love Camille Paglia, whose radically pro-sex, street-smart brand of feminism has had a huge impact on the way I think about all of this stuff.
What are the most common issues you hear people complain about as regards sex and relationships?
I think a lot of people find passivity in their partners annoying. Like: “Why hasn’t she called me?” or “why doesn’t he just ask me out already?”, etc. And I get it—that’s annoying—but I think the takeaway is that we need to get better at putting ourselves out there, rather than complaining about how other people suck at it.
Of course, it’s vulnerable to ask someone out, or to be the first person to DM, or whatever. But I think it’s a really brave and sexy thing to be able to do. If this all sounds terrifying, just think of yourself as an actor, acting like someone who’s confident enough to ask someone out. (Also, actors have to deal with a lot of rejection, so it all makes total sense.)
What’s the one thing you think EVERYBODY should know?
No matter how weird you think you are, there’s always someone weirder than you... which is comforting!
Let’s talk fashion. What would you wear on a first date and why?
I’ve always felt that it’s important to make a good first fashion impression. As a general rule, I think it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed—on dates, and in life. (And what is life if not one giant date?) So, I’ve always made a real effort on first dates. It feels good when someone else dresses up for me—it makes me feel special, like the other person cared enough to make the effort, so I want to offer the same. Also, an outfit can be strategic. Personally, I flirt better in lace, I’m more forward in a power suit, and I’m just better at sex when I'm wearing extremely complicated underwear.
What does “dressing sexy” mean to you?
This may be a cheesy or clichéd answer, but I truly believe that people look the sexiest when they feel the best in what they’re wearing. Of course, there is the traditional, “little strappy dress” version of sexy. As our God Cher Horowitz said: “Sometimes you have to show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex.” But this doesn’t work for everyone, and the least sexy thing is to be inauthentic, or wear something to adhere to some dumb, reductive idea of attractiveness, or masculinity, or femininity.
What’s a question around sex and relationships that you still don’t have the answer to?
Oh my god—most of them! Here’s one: Why is feeling jealous the worst feeling in the world, and how the hell do I rid it from my life forever?
What’s the most common mistake you see people making in their sex and dating lives?
There’s one mistake that I think that almost all of us make, and that I’ve made a zillion times. That is: to try to adapt to a version of yourself that you think the other person wants. I’ve done the extreme, psycho version, like “You like bangs?! OK I’ll cut bangs!!” But it also happens in a million tiny ways, from adapting our sexual preferences to what movies we chose to see, etc. It’s like constantly wearing a personality Spanx or something. But over time this causes resentment, and prevents you from being close with your partner, which clearly isn’t a great recipe for intimacy.
What’s the secret to a happy sex life?
I think the secret is to be honest about what you want, and not to judge your partner(s) when they’re honest with you. There’s so much judgement and shame around sex—like I said, I grew up Catholic, so I’m an expert! What I’ve come to learn over the years is that the greatest sexual experiences happen when all parties involved create a sexual environment where they can be open and vulnerable without the other person being like “Ugh, you’re into spanking—that’s kinda weird!” That doesn’t mean you have to be down for whatever the other person wants—or vice versa—but it means being accepting of the other person, which is really anybody really wants in life.
On Thursday 10th December at 18:00GMT Karley hosted a live Q&A event on our YouTube channel, answering all of your most intimate questions on self-discovery and relationships.