Emily Witt is a journalist who published her first full-length book, Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love, in 2017. When Emily Witt found herself single and in her thirties, she decided to investigate the status of sex and sexuality in contemporary society. Taking herself to San Francisco, she participated in orgasmic meditation and the filming of a graphic pornographic sex scene, as well as delving into the depths of the internet.
Roman Road Journal took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about what she learnt along the way.
Roman Road Journal Editorial: Please will you introduce yourself for our readers?
Emily Witt: My name is Emily Witt and I’m a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. I am a nonfiction writer, and I would describe my work as a mix of essay, journalism, and memoir.
RRJ: In your book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love, you embark on a solitary exploration of contemporary sex and sexuality in all its guises. What was your biggest revelation about sexuality today?
EW: I came to understand that people are experiencing structural change as personal romantic failure, and I hope the book can shift that perspective.
RRJ: The internet changes constantly, and websites and dating apps come and go with almost alarming speed. Are there any recent technological developments that affect how we think about sex that you would have included in your book if they had been available at the time?
EW: As I write in the book, I’m less interested in technology than I am in social arrangements. If I were writing now I would try to find some baby commune where unmarried people are co-parenting their children together, children that perhaps they conceived with friends or using donated genetic material. That seems more futuristic to me than virtual reality porn.
RRJ: In your career as a journalist, you’ve written for some of the most respected publications around. How do you think your background in journalism affected your writing style and subject-matter when it came to writing a book?
EW: My dad is a journalist and the rules and ethics and best practices of journalism are things that were talked about at the dinner table when I was growing up, and my brother is also a journalist. Our mom is a book indexer. The journalistic process is almost the innate way in which I go about satisfying my curiosity about something. As soon as I’m interested in a subject I start wondering if I can write a story about it, or start calling people to ask if I can interview them.
When I write in the first person, journalism serves almost as an alibi, an excuse to go visit a subculture or a community where it might otherwise be weird to just show up as an all-purpose seeker. Journalism gives me a rationale for going to places where I would otherwise feel uncomfortable going and sitting in a corner and being this creepy person taking notes.
I learned writing Future Sex that I could use journalism for the purpose of self-inquiry. In the United States we have a strong tradition of first-person reported non-fiction, especially beginning with the work of the New Journalists in the mid-1960s, as gathered in Tom Wolfe’s 1973 anthology The New Journalism, which included stories from Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Michael Herr and others. I like journalism but I don’t want to write like a newspaper reporter. I use journalistic strategies but I expand the form to allow for doubt, self-consciousness, description, irony, metaphorical language, a first-person point of view, and other things that you’re supposed to avoid when you’re just writing for a newspaper.
Future Sex by Emily Witt is out now (Faber & Faber, £12.99)