I have a subreddit! Last week I was unceremoniously shitcanned from r/SexPositive. I don’t know why, though my guesses are posting a lot and posting stuff that is contra to sex positivity for the sake of discussion. Though it seemed like a perfect place for sharing my links, I noticed that a lot of the comments to my posts were pretty negative, and I didn’t like that a lot of the sex stuff I’m interested in didn’t really fit there.
So, I’m rolling my own. I got a wild hair last year, back when my email list was ~700 subscribers, to try to make Sex and the State more of a thing. So I asked my subscribers to tell me where they’d want to hang out online to share links and discuss. Facebook beat out reddit, but not by much. I like Facebook and I’m there a lot. But since I no longer have access to a good subreddit, I’m starting with reddit to replace that resource. I also think for our subject matter the option of anonymity is nice. If you read this and want to participate, please set up an account. It’s easy and, again, you can be anon. We’re already having an interesting discussion on rape culture. Please do check out r/SexPositive. It’s still a good source of links. Just not as good as it was 😉
Bigger picture, since my failed attempt to make Sex and the State my full-time gig I’ve been wrestling with why I haven’t been able to make Sex and the State make me any money. The first problem is that I haven’t really tried anything other than banner ads and affiliate links, neither of which I have enough traffic to make profitable. I get about 7-10k pageviews per month. Not horrible for a site that doesn’t advertise and deals with sex but isn’t porn. But not enough to monetize traditionally. Also the sex content makes advertising a little trickier. I can’t use Adwords to monetize because I have sex content. And I don’t want to post up NSFW ads because I want my site to be safe for work. Also ads degrade the user experience 99% of the time.
Multiple people have suggested I set up a Patreon. Which is flattering as fuck. The biggest thing that’s stopping me is that I don’t want to be on the hook for anything. Like, I don’t want to promise people who’ve paid me I’ll do X, Y, or Z because, as we’ve discussed, I have zero grit. I get super excited about something, start it, make a bunch of plans, announce them to the world, then get distracted with another shiny object. That’s annoying when someone’s working for free. That’s intolerable when you’ve paid up in advance.
In the meantime I’ve been like, okay, you do internet marketing for a living, and have for a long time. Internet marketing is not rocket science. You are not especially stupid. Why can’t you make this work?
But it crystallized for me this weekend. Earlier in the week I was talking to my newest boyfriend about my life goals. It’s weird explaining who you are and want to be to someone new. It’s a good exercise.
He’s a writer too, but a much more successful one than me, despite being quite a bit younger (fuck him, right?). He’s got fewer pageviews and less name recognition than me. Fewer fans. Fewer haters. But pageviews and name recognition aren’t the point. I mean maybe it is for some people. It’s pretty much all I aspired to at first. But his writing has garnered him conversation with interesting people and high-quality professional opportunities, both of which he otherwise wouldn’t have.
He asked me what the point of my writing is, which I answered obliquely because that’s all I had. I said I wanted to help people feel less alone.
Around the same time my bestie linked me to Growing a Site from 0 to 10k Visitors a Month: Sarah Peterson Edition, to which I’m like, “Gah, I have that already” (some months). But I really try not to be that person so I started to read it. And of course it says “Step 1: Identify Your Exact Target Audience.” In marketing, the first step is always figure out who you’re talking to. I know this. I literally have been saying this at my day job. But here I am nearly three years into Sex and the State and I have no idea who reads me or why. I mean I have some idea. But it’s a pretty diverse crew. My plan was to just do me until I hit 10,000 subscribers and then poll their asses to see who they are but that’s dumb.
Then we got to what I needed to do next to help people feel less alone.
Well, between what I already know and what the article told me, I think I need to decide who I’m talking to. And like most writers of personal essays and political opinion, aka narcissists, I decided in the shower that I’m writing to myself. Specifically, I’m writing to my younger self.
I’m writing to someone who is extremely interested in sex, but not particularly comfortable with it. Who’s extremely interested in politics, because power imbalances make her profoundly uncomfortable.
But she’s not going to sign up for a Pegging 101 webinar, couldn’t finish The Ultimate Guide to Kink. She’s not interested in the nuts-and-bolts of the political process.
She is interested in sex and politics because she loves to think about big problems. She’s not practical. She’s pie-in-the-sky. She’s an idealist. She likes thinkpieces about anal play, but is bored by erotica. She thinks about politics when she watches porn and thinks about sex when she reads the news.
She wants to know what sex means more than she wants to know how to do it better. She wants a place to talk about the stuff she’s not supposed to talk about. She’s a contrarian. She isn’t super smart but she’s not super dumb. She has no time or patience for an idea that can’t be explained to someone who hasn’t read three books on the topic. She has a day job. She wants things presented clearly and simply, but she’s not going to tolerate being condescended to.
The first thing I did when I got on the internet as a child, after forums and chat rooms and AIM because that’s what my friends said I should do, was read blogs.
My favorite diarists were proto humor bloggers. Uncle Bob was a middle-aged married father and aspiring DJ in Alabama, and Genghis Jon loved music and liked writing angry letters to companies’ customer service departments. What I loved about them was that they were funny and raw and real.
I think that back then, what I wanted more than anything from what I read was for someone to be real with me. I wanted to feel like other people were ignorant and confused and hurt and insecure. I wanted a place where people could be all the things we’re supposed to pretend we’re not.
Which I guess answers why I still blog. In the age of Twitter and Facebook and Medium, why a rusty old WordPress? Because this is my place. This is where I feel comfortable being all the things I’m supposed to pretend I’m not.
I was thinking in terms of demographics in the shower. But anyone can be who I was. Who I still am. Any age, any gender, any location.
So that’s my “target audience.” Woo! Now I can work on Step 2: Find Out EXACTLY What Your Target Audience Wants.
I guess I can start here. You read me. Did I describe you well? If not, what did I get wrong? And what do you want?