Craving attention

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It’s hard to approach Kerry Cohen’s Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity without expecting something at least halfway salacious, and Cohen happily delivers. However, the book also travels far beyond the realms of dishy gossip to deliver an intimate portrait of one woman’s search for self-acceptance. The Vanguard talked (or e-mailed, rather) with Cohen this past week about Loose Girl, hate mail and why this author chooses to reside in the Land of Ports.

Sarah Hutchins: Is the girl on the cover a picture of you? Kerry Cohen: No. It’s a stock photo. I love that photo, though, because it could be me, or you, or any girl. I love that she isn’t immediately stunningly beautiful, or rather, you can tell that she doesn’t think she’s beautiful, and yet she is.

SH: Based on your experiences, do you have any advice that you’d like to share to young women that are searching for love through sex?KC: Probably the most important thing to know is that if you are craving attention, love, being chosen, desired, to be made worthwhile, et cetera, et cetera–all the many unfulfilling reasons we might use sex–you will most likely always crave this thing. You will never ever get it from sex. You will never ever get it anywhere. It’s simply how you feel. It’s a part of being you. This notion was freeing for me. If nothing was ever going to make me feel chosen or worthwhile, then I could stop running. I could stop chasing it.

SH: What type of responses have you received about Loose Girl so far? Has anyone written you to thank you for changing their life?KC: I receive e-mails daily that genuinely change my life. I can’t adequately express what it means to me to get these messages–people sharing their stories with me, what the book has meant to them, how they felt about it. I’ve made a point to respond to each and every one, and I hope to always be able to do so. I want to be available to my readers in a way that goes beyond the book.

And then, I’ve also received some pretty hefty anger. People are pissed, and they are always women. Lots of them don’t like that I suggest they can’t have lots of happy sex (which I don’t, of course). Lots of them don’t like that I don’t really change at the end (because I didn’t). Lots of them don’t like that I only had sex with 40-some-odd boys and got a book contract for it. Lots are just pissed that I think I have anything to say.

I think most of these women are triggered by the subject matter and are projecting that on to me. Some might really just hate the book for legitimate reasons. I can’t control how people are going to receive it. In some ways, putting Loose Girl into the world was the ultimate act of intimacy for me, the thing I struggle to do elsewhere in my life. And just like in real life, sometimes being vulnerable pays off; sometimes you get hurt. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there for me.

SH: What is the number one thing that you want readers to take away from your memoir?KC: Connection. I found reading and writing simultaneously when I was a senior in high school. One of my English teachers had us read stories by women. I was so moved to know that there were others out there who felt the things I did. It was the beginning of a path that ultimately changed my life. I’d be honored to think I could be a part of that cycle for another woman.

SH: Finally, what is your favorite thing about Portland?KC: The down-to-earth people who choose to live here. No question.

For an extended version of The Daily Vanguard’s interview with Kerry Cohen visit http://blogs.dailyvanguard.com/.

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