I wrote this essay about roommates for the current issue of the beautiful interiors magazine, Apartamento. The photos are of me in mi apartamento, taken by Sandy Kim.

When I moved to New York in the summer of 2010 I didn’t have any friends. I couldn’t afford my own apartment, so I made the novice mistake of moving in with a random stranger I met on Craigslist. You hear horror stories about Craigslist roommates–OCD, junkies, money scammers, rapists–but still, I thought, How bad could it be?

Mike was in his mid thirties with a big beer belly, permanent armpit stains, and the general attitude and appearance of a someone who hasn’t gotten a blow-job in over a decade. He would burp and fart so loud that it would wake me from my sleep almost every night. To add to his cliched ‘bad roommate’ persona, he was a hoarder. Every available space of the apartment was crammed with dusty knickknacks, books with titles like Why We Get Fat, light-up Santa Clause statues that no longer lit up–the list goes on. The weirdest thing, though, was that for the most part Mike refused to speak to me, instead choosing to communicate solely through passive aggressive notes he would write in washable marker on the bathroom mirror. Things like, “DID SOMEONE USE MY COMB!?” (And by “someone” I assume he meant me, as we were the only two people living in the house.) I became so terrified of the awkwardness of running into him in the hallway that if I knew he was home, instead of going to the bathroom, I would pee into a plastic cup and throw it out the window. I only ever saw him clean once; I came home late one night to find him on all fours, manically scrubbed the bathtub with bleach. I was convinced he’d killed someone.

That apartment only cost me $420 a month–that’s pretty insane, even for Bushwick–but still, it wasn’t worth it. I needed to get out. So when my friend Amelia split up with her girlfriend and offered to let me live in a section of her living room for a small portion of the rent, I gladly accepted. Sure, I wouldn’t have a “real” room, and instead of actual walls my living space would be defined by sheets slung over a makeshift clothes rail, but still, it would be better than peeing out the window.

It’s a unique form of intimacy that arises, living so closely with someone like we do. In New York, unless you’re loaded, you generally have to resign to living in a glorified shoebox. Having a roommate becomes like being in a relationship, except without the fucking.

Because of the open-plan layout of our house, there is essentially zero privacy. When I’m in my bed and Amelia is in hers, we can hear each other breathing. We hear every phone call the other makes–the lies we tell our moms, the excuses we make to our bosses. When Amelia has sex, I can literally hear the sound of her fingers entering her lover’s vagina. Last night, I heard the girl in her bed whisper, “You fuck me better than my husband.” I miss nothing. And Amelia, in turn, has been witness to the many times I’ve screamed and cried and came and puked. We split the price of toilet paper, we pull clumps of each other’s hair out of the drain, we make salads, we share boxes of tampons. Once, when the guy I was sleeping with refused to go down on me (he claimed that my vagina at the time tasted “potent” and that the smell of my cunt “put him off”), Amelia offered to lick my fingers after they’d been inside me to judge how mine compared to the plethora of vaginas she’d previously sampled. “How thoughtful!,” I replied. Really, what more could you ask of a roommate than that?

Hands On

Drawings by Kate Merry

For the latest issue of Twin magazine I wrote an essay based on a new book about masturbation titled With the Hand. To be honest the books isn’t that great, so I don’t recommend you run out and buy it. Instead just read my article, which is essentially just me rambling about touching myself.

With the Hand: A History of Masturbation is a new book by the Dutch urologist and sexologist, Mels Van Driel. The book explores subject of masturbation, looking at its place in history, religion, art, culture and beyond. The gist of the book is that masturbation is one of the last taboos, which is silly since practically everyone does it, and in order to create a more sex positive society we need to abandon the shame-fest and start embracing our love of self-love. So basically, according to Van Driel, we need to stop associating masturbation with feelings of embarrassment, guilt and loneliness, and start having conversations about fingering ourselves at dinner parties.

I frequently write about masturbation, porn and fantasy on this blog (despite my mom’s constant instance that doing so will prevent be from ever getting a “real job”). At this point, it’s no secret that penetrative sex on its own doesn’t feel that good (AKA good at all) for most girls, so masturbation (both on its own and with a partner) is key, because for lots of us it’s the only way we’re actually going to cum. So naturally I agree with Van Driel when he says that masturbation is, you know, “important.” In the book’s introduction he writes, “Perhaps I might be able to put paid to the taboo on masturbation. Or at least put paid to all kinds of nonsense about masturbation.” In light of this, I’ve chosen four topics from With the Hand that specifically interest me, elaborated on them a bit, and also shared some of my own jerk-off stories. Enjoy!


When speaking about pornography, Van Driel says, “It is almost inevitable that the free availability of sexually explicit material will have a marked impact on the sexual morals of the growing internet generation.” He then goes on to talk about the research of Jochen Peter, who studies the effects of internet porn on young people through the University of Amsterdam. Peter says “…those who watch internet porn are less secure and less content with their sex lives,” adding “those who make frequent use of porn are more inclined to see women as sex objects.” Though I believe both of those things to be easily plausible, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and tell you a reason why porn made my sex life (and just my life in general) way better.

When I was a teenager I hated my body. Nothing new there. I had curves before everyone else had curves, and my big hips and butt and boobs made me feel gigantic and un-cute in halter dresses. I spent most of my 8th grade end-of-year pool party crying in the bathroom, and the majority of my first few years of sexual exploration was done with the light off. Then I started watching internet porn. I soon realized that the girls I most enjoyed watching get fucked were not skinny girls. I was way more turned on watching girls with big hips and butts and boobs, because all the bouncing and jiggling made everything more sexy and exciting. So essentially my teenage internet porn addiction helped me develop sexual confidence and a better body image. (P.S. It also taught me lots of other valuable life lessons, like how to deep-throat and never to get a lower back tattoo, but that’s another story.)


In one section of the book, Van Driel talks about 36 year old man from Sweden who was arrested for masturbating onto women’s bike saddles. His conclusion: “men masturbate in the oddest places.” Well, that’s true, but so do girls. Why is he leaving us out? We masturbate in weird places too! It’s actually easier for girls to guerrilla masturbate because when we do it there’s no mess afterward, so we can be really sly about it. We do it under our coats on long car rides. We do it in public restrooms like homeless people while you’re waiting outside, thinking that we’re just peeing. Sometimes we even do it lying in bed next to you, with the blanket draped loosely over our knees and abdomen, and you don’t have any idea. Get a clue!


According to Van Driel, “A celebrated sexologist once claimed in an interview that not only did between 90 and 100 percent of adolescent boys masturbate, but that there was also widespread mutual exploration and horseplay, with a marked competitive element: who’s got the biggest one, who can shoot first and furthest?” He then goes on to tell a story about a colleague who played the infamous ‘soggy biscuit’ game as an teenager, where everyone jerks-off onto a biscuit and the last one to cum has to eat it. Hot. However, the book doesn’t talk much about teenage girls circle-jerking, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my story with you.

When I was about thirteen my five best girlfriends I used to refer to fingering ourselves as “M&M”. The code word meant we could talk about it around boys, or in the hallways between classes, and no one would have any idea. (“Oh my god I ate M&Ms for two hours last night while watching Titanic,” etc.) Then on the weekends, at our regular sleepovers, all five of us would get into our respective sleeping bags, turn the lights off, put on a CD (‘N SYNC featured heavily), and all masturbate simultaneously. Afterward we would sit around and talk about who we were thinking about–whether it was Chris from science class or Jonathan Taylor Thomas or whoever. Particular fantasies were rarely discussed; the specific person seemed more important to us at the time. I’m don’t remember how exactly the ritual began, but we did it as many as 15 or 20 times. It never seemed weird or like a big deal at the time, and having “our secret” made us feel closer. And I’ve since talked to other girls with similar stories. I like to think of it as an underground, teen girl cult, sexual initiation type thing.


In the Sex Aids chapter of With the Hand, Van Driel discusses everything from vibrators to blow up dolls to the specific pleasures that come from inserting a chicken bone into one’s butthole. Fantasy plays a smaller role in the chapter, but if you as me our imaginations are the greatest sex toys we could ever ask for. I mean, duh, in a fantasy everything is perfect; there are no disappointments, no limp dicks, no bad kissers. And fantasies can be as irrational and fucked up as you want–making out with your brother, getting sexy with a seven year old, etc–and it doesn’t matter because they are not real.

As I’ve made clear, I am in no way anti-porn. I love porn, but it can make us lazy. We watch it because it allows us to cum with minimal thought and effort (although realistically it aways takes like 20 minutes to find the video you want so the process always turns out to be more effort than you planned), when really we all have an endless catalogue of pornography in our brains. This might sound depressing, but some of the best sex of my life has been in my head. Woody Allen got it right: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”