Arianne Cohen
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Arianne Cohen

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The best kept secret in music

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Arianne Cohen began collecting what she calls “sex diaries” in 2007 as an assignment from New York Magazine. Cohen asked people from all walks of life to chronicle their relationships and fantasies, as well as their physical sex lives. Her first subjects came from Craigslist ads and social networking in New York City.

Cohen explained on Think Out Loud, “When I was doing the diaries for New York Magazine I kept coming across the fact that what I was seeing was so wildly different from what I thought I would see. Our private lives are, by definition, private — you don’t know what your neighbors are doing.”

After a cover article in the magazine, the project continued online, expanding outside New York. Now the project has its own website and Cohen has compiled books of select diaries from Italy, England and, most recently, the United States.

The American version of The Sex Diaries Project is organized into chapters based on different kinds of relationships: dating, committed, polyamorous, etc. While the diaries are all anonymous, they’re bursting with personality. Cohen identifies the diaries with titles like “The Obedient Fundamentalist Military Wife Who Would Like More Sex, Please” and “The Gay Dad with a Hot New Boyfriend, and an Ex-Wife Who Hates His Guts.” The observations the diarists make about how they relate to their lovers and partners reveal a wide range of perspectives, desires and goals.

Cohen has read over 2,000 sex diaries since beginning her project. With all this detailed information, highlighting some of the most personal aspects in these individuals’ lives, has Cohen been able to identify some of the hallmarks of happy people?

“The happiest diarists are not necessarily the ones who have the best lives at the moment,” Cohen said. “They are the ones who are very clear on what their needs are, on what they need emotionally, on what they need sexually and on what they need in their daily lives. And they feel they’re on the path to getting them met.” - OPB


'No' is the first step on the path to 'yes.' I learned this asking 2000 people to keep 7-day anonymous diaries of their private lives for my new book The Sex Diaries Project: What We're Saying About What We're Doing.

Most people say no. They refuse, explaining that they're "normal" and "definitely not an exhibitionist." Or they politely explain that they're single and "not just boring, but really boring." And so I call back a few days later and point out that the project's objective is to capture actual people's private lives. And eventually they say yes.

Their ensuing diaries have blown open how I think about sex and relationships. - Huffington Post


Jan 27, 2012 6:44 AM EST

What the not-so-private sex diaries of 1,500 Americans can teach us about relationships, love—and ourselves. Jessica Bennett on the new book The Sex Diaries Project.



Arianne Cohen has learned a few things from poring over the sex diaries of 1,500 people.

For starters: relationships are a lot like careers. Sure, some of us work 9 to 5—but others stay home in pajamas all day, eating crackers in bed. It can get messy.

Second: men and women aren’t all that different. (In fact, Cohen had trouble telling their diaries apart.) Except, perhaps, when it comes to one topic: porn. Men watch it. A lot.

Lastly—but perhaps most important—it turns out that what we think we know about American relationships, and what we actually know, are two wildly different notions. And what’s really going on is a lot less conventional than we might have imagined.

“There’s so much variation in how people do relationships,” says Cohen, a former magazine editor whose new book, The Sex Diaries Project: What We’re Saying About What We’re Doing, hits shelves next week. “We live in a society where there’s this idea that you’re either in a long-term relationship or taking steps to get there. But if you read diaries, what you find is, that’s not what a lot of people are doing.”

So, what are they doing? Over the past five years, Cohen has learned more than she thought she ever wanted to know—first at New York, where she launched the magazine's popular sex diary feature, and later as an observer on her own, via the intimate online journals of hundreds of willing participants.

Cohen, 30, is quick to point out that The Sex Diaries Project is a collection, not a statistical survey—but either way, it's a fascinating window into what Americans are doing behind closed doors. And while it may be habit to define relationships in black and white—"married," "divorced," "single," "coupled"—the reality, we learn, is far more complex gradations of gray.

“They're wildly inaccurate,” Cohen says of most common notions about American relationships. “And they don't in any way correspond to what people are actually doing.”

We meet a 37-year-old mom from California who has a bundle of suitors and a Jewish fetish; an outdoorsy 31-year-old Oregonian who is obsessed with oral sex; and an asexual filmmaker who doesn’t know he’s asexual.

Throughout the book's nearly 300 pages, we meet a 37-year-old mom from California who has a bundle of suitors and a Jewish fetish; an outdoorsy 31-year-old Oregonian who is obsessed with oral sex; and an asexual filmmaker who doesn’t know he’s asexual. We are introduced to a 27-year-old grad student who cheats on his girlfriend with transsexuals he meets in the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist and an 80-year-old San Francisco grandmother who, as Cohen puts it, “is perfectly content taking her morning coffee with a side of solitude.”

“To me, it's too much work,” the 80-year-old woman says of dating at her age. “I’m a different generation. The women stay home and take care of family and the man. Heck no. If a man asked me for a cup of coffee, I'd say, ‘Well, there's the kitchen.’”

There are racier diaries, too—complete with a minute-by-minute staccato of one sexual fantasy after the next. (Each diary entry is time-stamped, so we can see exactly how frequently sex is on the brain.) Yet while it’s the sex that sells it—obviously—the text is as much sharp analysis as it is short-form erotica, with Cohen as an effective guide.

In all, we meet 39 diarists, divided up into three sections: soloists, for whom singlehood is a choice (and blessing); partnered couples, who come in varying shapes and sizes; and polys, people (and partners) who may have started out monogamous, but have come to the conclusion that one person simply can't fulfill every need.

Cohen may have come to this topic by fluke—her previous book was a celebration of tall people—but she has managed to own it, dissecting each diary, categorizing and subcategorizing them, and pulling out meaning from each.

In The Sex Diaries Project, we see clearly how sex—for at least one partnered 20-something—can distort real feelings, flooding logic with the warmth of a postcoital glow. “This relationship is so unique!” one man writes of his girlfriend. “I forget how special our bond is.”

We learn that guys watch a lot (a lot) of porn. One man says it’s given him a false sense of average penis size. Another says it’s caused him to view his wife as a “hole for my personal pleasure.” (Yikes.) - The Daily Beast


Arianne's feature piece on how ayahuasca changed her world. - ELLE Magazine


After reading 2000 sex diaries for her book, author Arianne Cohen says not everyone's idea of sex is the same. - CNN


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

The Sex Diaries Project on Campus

What’s really going on behind closed doors on your campus?

Arianne Cohen spent six years collecting 3,500 anonymous seven-day sex diaries from people all over North America and the world – including college towns.

In The Sex Diaries Project On Campus, she takes you on a tantalizing tour through the sometimes shocking, always entertaining real diaries of college students, creating a compelling portrait of sex and sexuality on campus today that will forever change how you look at relationships.

Local students are encouraged to keep their own anonymous online sex diaries before Arianne’s visit – diaries that will be incorporated into a unique and captivating talk that is specific to your campus.

Each of these sex diaries is fascinating and thought provoking as the writers share their sexual and romantic fantasies and realities. But there’s more to these stories than sex.

Arianne’s talk explores the diversity of how students relate to each other sexually and shows how and why the definition of a relationship can vary so broadly from person to person. She also discusses the latest in STDs and the many ways to have safe sex.

About Arianne Cohen

Arianne Cohen collects sex diaries from around the globe and partners with publishers, producers, and museums to share them with the world. She is the author of The Sex Diaries Project: What We’re Saying About What We’re Doing, two additional versions using Italian and UK diaries, and is developing a college book. She graduated from Harvard magna cum laude with a degree in women’s studies. Her work appears regularly in publications such as The New York Times, the Guardian, Elle, and Marie Claire, among many others, and she is executive producing a reality TV series based on the project. She has spoken at venues ranging from Harvard to TED.