Editor's note: Because Sarah Mirk is a former Mercury employee, we weren't confident we could write an unbiased review of her new book. Instead, we asked our sex columnist Bri Pruett to chat with Sarah about their areas of mutual expertise.
SARAH MIRK'S NEW BOOK Sex from Scratch is all about creating the relationship you want. The Bitch Magazine web editor and former Mercury writer interviews writers, academics, and relationship pioneers about how their less-traditional relationships work. It's not some antiquated, Dr. Phil, Men are from Mars, Women are from the Kitchen garbage—Sex from Scratch illustrates working models of couples and families with gentle guidelines for getting exactly what you want. I asked Mirk about writing the book, dating in Portland, and what her version of OKCupid would look like... SexFromScratchSingles.com? Maybe? I'd be trolling that thing in a heartbeat.
MERCURY: Did the people you interviewed for the book typically have happy love lives? How did you choose those people?
SARAH MIRK: They're all people I admire, mostly writers who have written things about relationships and sexuality that really resonated with me. The great thing about being a journalist is it's just an excuse to be curious about people, so I got to email these people I've always been impressed by and say, "Hi, can I just talk to you for a few hours?" They haven't all had happy love lives, but they all seem to really understand themselves and love themselves and have thought a lot about their relationships and what's important.
In the book, you discuss the importance of knowing what you want so you don't fall into a relationship just because of societal expectations, etc. Is that easier in progressive Portland?
I think it's easier to build the type of relationships you want anywhere that you have a good community who appreciates you. We have a pretty narrow definition of what a "successful" relationship looks like: marriage, kids, monogamy. People chafe under pressure to squeeze their desires into that image all the time, and I think it's a lot easier to do the brave work of loving who you want, how you want, when you have support.
How do you figure out what you want from a relationship?
I think the best way to figure out what you want in relationships is to actually sit down and think about it. I know that sounds absurdly obvious, but a lot of the time, we just sort of go with the flow. If you're dating someone who's cute and smart and nice, everything should be perfect, right? I know I trick myself into avoiding what I actually want and need because it seems like everything should be fine.
Where does one meet hetero-dude feminists? Seriously, I need to meet one.
Reddit. Just kidding. I've met lots of great guys through getting involved in stuff I care about—I go to a lot of events, I volunteer, I support my friends' creative projects, and I'm always meeting smart new people.
If you started your own dating website, what profile information would be mandatory?
I would want some questions that get at privilege. Maybe, "Do you agree that white privilege exists?" and if you say no, you're banned from the site. Just an idea. Also, "What art is on your bedroom walls?" I'm always worried I'm going to go home with someone and find out that their apartment is all Scarface posters.