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Let's Write About Sex


Alex Cheves gained a following authoring candid articles about sex and HIV in national magazines and his blog, Love, Beastly. Now signed to a book deal, the gay journalist tells us what it’s like to share your innermost fears and fetishes with the world. 

When I originally pitched the book, I pitched it as a love letter to my parents, in a way. Sort of inviting them into a discussion of my sex life. Just because my relationship with them so starkly changed in more recent years, in a way I’ve had to really reexamine.

I’m 50 percent of the way through and I guess I may be getting a little bit of cold feet on that idea of involving my parents so much in it. But at its simplest, the book is an invitation into what I consider a sex-positive culture.

I want to be explicit: I’m not teaching about sex. [With] so much of my writing, I take the role of teacher and I can’t really do that in a book. I’m not a licensed sex educator. I probably will be at some point, but this is not a sex ed book. It’s personal essays on how I arrived at my sexuality and how it manifests now.

There are moments I’ve gotten shy. It’s one thing to write an article about fisting on the internet and to explain it, because there’s a level of distance when you’re teaching about sex that isn’t present when you’re writing about your own sex. The points that make me the most afraid to talk about, like my very extreme kinks like fisting, substance abuse and gay men, I have a really hard time talking about. I’m having to present things I know my parents don’t know about and I’m really shy about, which is really surprising to me.

My parents generally don’t read my work. After I wrote an article for The Advocate (a sister publication of Plus) called “Why I Didn’t Come Out as Poz on World AIDS Day,” that was when they decided to start reading. That was a big discussion. That’s how I came out as HIV-positive everywhere and that way of coming out, in hindsight, was a little cruel just because they were having to field questions from relatives at the same time they were learning this information themselves. They later sat on it and we discussed it. It was actually a really beautiful conversation — without necessarily saying sorry, they acknowledged they had created conditions where I couldn’t tell them my HIV status.

I found out from my sister that was when they decided to stop reading my writing, but they do know what I write about. They know I mostly write about sex. So since they know I have a book deal they safely assume it’s going to be about sex which means they’re probably not going to read it. But I hope they do.

I freak out about everything I do. But writing is cathartic when I do it. There’s a moment when you’re writing something, especially if it’s personal, you reach a sort of cadence where you know it’s good. Like, I know this is the right way to say it. I almost hold my breath and get a little dizzy and have to remind myself to breathe. I’ve been having a lot of those moments lately. I’m happy with what I’m writing; I just know when it comes time for the book to go out it’ll be a big deal, personally.

Cheves’s currently untitled book will be released in 2021 by Unbound Edition Press.

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Alex Cheves, as told to Neal Broverman