Those Letters from Johns
Yesterday, I tweeted some links to a project that I did a decade ago: Letters from Johns. Started on a whim (n.b.: everything interesting I’ve ever done was started on what amounted to a whim), the year-long project featured anonymous letters men wrote me about why they’d paid for sex. On Twitter, I mentioned a few that had stuck with me: “My entire life I have been trapped inside a body that I hate,” “You can, in fact, buy intimacy by the hour, even if one half of it is feigned,” “I keep a coded diary, in case it's discovered.”
What had the project revealed? What struck me as I looked through the letters a decade later was that it had provided a rarely-seen window into male vulnerability. Ten years later, men are still expected to present themselves as a cardboard cutout of masculinity. These letters showed what was hidden.
You can read more about The Letters Project, which includes Letters from Johns, Letters from Working Girls, Letters from Men Who Watch Pornography, Letters from Men Who Go to Strip Clubs, and Letters from Cheaters, and the press coverage that five-year project got here. You can read an email from a john about why he wrote me a letter here: “You were my Studs [Terkel].” And if you want to write me an email about why you’ve paid for sex, you can do so at susannahbreslin @ gmail. Who knows? Maybe I’ll relaunch the project to find out what’s changed, if anything.
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