On the 28th of October, I had a dream-come-true interview with sex-positive, body-positive icon Ruby Rare, who recently released a must-read book on sex education. Filled with wonderful naked people, fun, sexy things, and important anatomical realities, this book is the perfect beginner’s guide for anyone wanting to venture into the realm of sex (whether solo or partnered). Sex Ed: A Guide for Adults fills in the all the gaping holes our sex-ed curriculums left behind. Rare strikes the perfect balance between the plain, honest facts of sex and the playfulness that makes it so joyful. I’ve never been so excited for a Zoom call in my life—Sex Ed was exactly what my 2020 needed.
Lithium Magazine: So, I’m going to open with a big question: how and when did your sex-positive journey begin?
Ruby Rare: I’m not sure where I would say it properly began. I know where it professionally began. I wasn’t always like this as a teenager—like every teenager, I was horribly insecure and received terrible sex education.
I was 14 when Skins came out. I basically lived my life as a Skins character during my teenage years, and I had a really warped interpretation of my body and of what sex and relationships meant. That shifted when I was at university. I started to read a couple of blogs like Karley Sciortino’s Slutever, which was really influential.
I also started watching a lot of porn videos as though they were documentaries. I was curious about what was out there and wanted to absorb the culture of pornography—which is something I still care about very much.
My sex-positive journey also began when I came out to people and started venturing into non-monogamy. It was about recognizing that I didn’t have to stick to any of the rules. I realized that I could be a lot more playful.
Lithium: I know you spoke about the bi/pan distinction on your Instagram a little while ago—how did you figure out the distinction between the two?
Ruby: For me, there’s not a huge distinction. I think when any of these topics are new to someone it feels important to really define things. What tends to happen for lots of people, and has definitely happened for me, is that with the passing of time those things become more nuanced.
Over the years, I’ve relaxed into all parts of my identity. Now, if anyone wants to have a conversation with me about bi/pan stuff, about non-monogamy or whatever it is within the sex-positive world, I’ll gladly engage in that. It’s about knowing that different things have different meanings for all of us. And it’s kind of nice to let go of the pressure of, “Oh my God, I’ve got to define this perfectly to this person.” Because in reality, all of this terminology is constantly evolving.
When you start to question the importance of gender, [terminology] starts to matter a lot less. I still hold on to my identity as bisexual, but I tend to say “queer” more often because it’s nice and ambiguous. It changes with my mood. It changes with the people around me. I like that fluidity. I’m always changing—I’m an evolving person. I want my labels to reflect that.
Lithium: How has 2020 has influenced your relationship with your sexuality, especially while you were writing your book? Did lockdown affect your writing and thinking processes?
Ruby: The way we’ve been having conversations has shifted—conversations about anti-capitalism, racism, and environmentalism are now unavoidable. While it’s important to remember that sex positivity and sexual health exist within all of those conversations, sex positivity isn’t always the most important thing to be talking about.
This year I’ve also learned to slow down and to be kinder to myself. When people find sex and body positivity, there’s this innate desire to rush into it—to read everything and change everything about your life. It’s more helpful to let yourself pick things up as you go and be actively ready to listen, learn, read, and have conversations. You’ve got the rest of your life to build on all of these things. It’s a lifelong process.
Lithium: I also wanted to ask about wanking—a favorite lockdown activity for many. Do you incorporate solo sex into your routine or is it kind of as-and-when situation?
Ruby: There’s the convenience wank that I think lots of people find very familiar. But if there are times when I want to try something different or have more of a whole-body, really relaxing experience, then that’s something I tend to think about in advance. It’s about knowing what your body needs at different moments.
Lithium: That’s what I got from your book—you can have fun with it. Could you tell me what the writing process was like, and how you feel now that it’s been released?
Ruby: It’s very exciting! Still quite terrifying. Writing a book is not an easy feat—it’s really hard work and takes so much out of you. At the same time, it’s a really joyful process. There were four of us working on this: me, an illustrator, a wonderful editor, and a formatter. Having a relationship with all of them felt super important throughout the project. It felt really nice to put all of my knowledge somewhere, because a lot of this comes from the last five years of me working in sexual health.
Now I’m having to realize that everyone is going to read it, which is crazy, because I hadn’t really thought about that. But the more feedback I get, the more I remember why this was so important to me. My friend, who’s a sex therapist, sent me an email a couple of days ago saying that she’s recommended the book to a few of her clients. When someone who’s a clinical professional says they’re recommending my work in a therapy space, that really hits home and makes me proud of what I’ve done.
Follow Ruby on Instagram.
By Alice Garnett