An Interview With Everyone’s Favorite Boyslut, Zachary Zane

What makes a sex educator succeed? Everyone is different, but there are some universal qualities most beloved educators bring to the table: a good sense of humor, a wealth of lived experiences, and the ability to make anyone comfortable talking about even the most stigmatized topics. Zachary Zane, sex educator, columnist, event host, and author of the new memoir and manifesto, BOYSLUT, has gained his audience by exceeding in these categories. Known for his raunchy, unapologetic, and insightful writing, everyone’s favorite Boyslut seeks to peel back the layers in his new and very serviceable book and explore coming of age, coming out as bisexual, and, well, coming a lot. Ahead of the BOYSLUT’s release, Zach and I talked over Zoom about his new work and the power of vulnerability, language, and community. 

Faye Odesser: For your readers familiar with your work on Instagram, your Men’s Health Column, or the BOYSLUT Zine, how does BOYSLUT the book compare? What was it like writing this long-form work – outside of the fast-paced social media culture and online censorship?

Zachary Zane: This is the most vulnerable I’ve ever been in writing. I think sometimes people misconstrue my openness with sexuality for vulnerability. For me, writing about my hairy butthole, or getting DP’d or whatever the fuck, is not that wild – it doesn’t feel like I’m necessarily being super open; it seems like I’m being sex-positive. And even on Instagram, you may notice I keep things like very sex-positive, kink-positive, and bisexuality-focused, but I’m not talking about breakups, per se. I’m not talking about my relationship with my family. I really don’t necessarily delve too much into my personal life beyond my sex life.

This book is really all of me. It's not just the raunchy sex that I have; it's my upbringing.

So this book is really all of me. It’s not just the raunchy sex that I have; it’s my upbringing. I talk about growing up with terrible OCD, which many people don’t know about, my relationship with my mom, people I’ve hurt along the way. That’s what really separates this. It’s also the fact that I had more than 1000 words to write, so I was able to go more in-depth with topics like sexual autonomy and risk. I needed those extra words for nuance, and I could really take my time and delve into the nitty gritty and get beyond basic entry points.

F: I love that. People are so unfamiliar with sex positivity, so when they hear it, they think the person talking is really sharing their whole life! But you’re right, there’s so much more to vulnerability than just someone’s sex life, and I loved all the details about how you became who you are. How long were you working on the book?

Z: COVID kind of threw a wrench into the process, but I started writing the proposal at the end of 2018. I was able to finish BOYSLUT during COVID because I was sitting around all day, literally just working out and writing because I had nothing else to do. I got in the best shape of my life and got a book deal! From the book being sold to the finished first draft, I had six or seven months, which is longer than most writers get.

F:  Wow. And it was during the pandemic where everyone’s thinking about everything… I’m sure that was a really interesting incubator for reflecting on these intimate details of your life.

I’m calling up family and asking, “What do you remember from this experience” and then trying to match the pieces up and making sure what I’m saying is accurate...

Z: Yeah, I learned so much through writing. Because you know, I’m calling up my mom; I’m calling up some past partners, I’m calling up family and asking, “What do you remember from this experience” and then trying to match the pieces up and making sure what I’m saying is accurate, because who knows what the fuck happened 20 years ago? You do your best. I think what matters is the impact and how we remember it. It was interesting hearing family members’ takes on things that I was maybe too young to understand or who saw it in a completely different way.

I wrote the book between the ages of 27 and 31, and it’s tough because I was evolving as a person as I wrote. And, already since then, there are things about myself that I’m changing and growing, and I’ve almost had some anxiety now being like, “Oh, God, I’m not sure how true that was when I analyzed that experience!” It doesn’t mean what I said was disingenuous or a lie. It was just like that at that time! 95% of the stuff I write I’m gonna agree with till I die – the overall message of reducing sexual shame won’t ever change. But there are small nuances I’m anxious about. At the end of the day, I know I did my best, and growing and changing doesn’t necessarily invalidate what I wrote at that moment in time.

F: Right, and maybe that’s the curse of being a sex educator who is so aware of everything. Did writing this book change your opinion on anything? Did it surprise you in any way?

When you’re not on the relationship escalator, you consider compatibility in different ways.

Z: It definitely made me recognize certain patterns of behavior that I have in my life. When you’re really thinking back to your life, starting when you were eight years old, you can see where you’ve kind of messed up in past relationships. There are certain issues that reveal themselves in polyamorous relationships that would be clearer in monogamy: when you’re not on the relationship escalator, you consider compatibility in different ways. I realized I can end up in relationships I don’t necessarily want to be in, and I have a harder time rejecting people than getting rejected, so I ended up writing a whole chapter on that universal experience of rejection; I wasn’t expecting to, but I realized as I was reflecting how important it was to me.

To answer if it changed my perspective on things: I realized that we don’t have good definitions of bisexuality and pansexuality. As I was trying to break things down, I saw how it could be too inclusive or too exclusive, depending on the situation. I have straight guy friends who identify as straight; they date AFAB non-binary people who are very high-femme. So they’ve spoken to me about this. And they’re smart dudes, right? They’re like, “Hey, I want to respect my partner’s non-binary identity, but I’m not interested in cis men or trans men. And honestly, I’m not into non-binary people who present as more masculine, but I’m attracted to femininity, and I want to respect this partner’s sexuality, so my saying I’m straight could be invalidating of their sexuality. But at the same time, me saying bi doesn’t seem accurate”, so that’s a way where it’s almost too inclusionary. And then obviously, people think that bisexuality is exclusionary of trans people or non-binary people, which I go through painstaking efforts to clarify that this is not true. You guys! Please, for the love of God, stop saying this! I can’t handle it anymore! I think this speaks to how complex and nuanced attractions are, how complex and nuanced gender is. So that was one thing I struggled with while writing the book.

F: You write this book and generally conduct your work with such a wonderful openness/candidness that makes people feel incredibly at ease (and I know that’s part of your mission!) Are there people, phrases, ideas that have nurtured this skill or that you come back to when you’re being especially vulnerable– to empower yourself and keep yourself on the path of honesty?

Z:  A lot of my honesty and vulnerability, and openness initially came from trying to find a bisexual community. When I came out, I was looking for other people who were also honest. I started sharing my experiences and being true to myself. There were so many other people who would then come out to me – as bi or attracted to multiple or all genders; maybe they don’t use the label because there’s so much stigma associated with it. So, I shared great connections with people, and I got a lot of positive reinforcement for being true to myself.

So then I was like, “maybe I can be honest and open about some other stuff!” Of course, often, it’s not met with open arms, right? And that’s tough: when you get rejected, or you get called a pervert, or whatever it is. I’m better now at brushing it off, and I still struggle, but because I’ve seen how being open has helped people and nurtured conversations, I’m encouraged to continue on that path.

F: After this book comes out, I’m sure there will be even more people moved by your words who look up to you. Do you have thoughts on being a bisexual role model, or is there another term you’d prefer?

When it comes to bisexuality, I feel very confident and strong. I know what the fuck I'm talking about!

Z:  When it comes to bisexuality, I feel very confident and strong. I know what the fuck I’m talking about! I feel very comfortable being a voice for bisexuality, as I’ve been so far. And yeah, of course, you hear words like ‘role model,’ and you’re a little taken aback before remembering that it doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. I struggle with that, being a perfectionist, especially as a sex expert, and thinking that if I struggle with an aspect of my relationship that it invalidates my ability to help other people in any capacity. So I give myself grace, I remember I’m human, and hopefully I can just inspire people.

I’m really passionate about this. I’m lucky. And that’s why I also love writing and love what I do. I remember how challenging it was being closeted. All things considered, I had it pretty easy – I grew up in a queer-affirming household, I have gay uncles on both sides of my family, and I still struggled coming out and I still struggled with my sexual identity. And I know it’s a lot harder for other people. So whatever I can do to help other bi people in particular –  of course, I want to help everyone – but specifically my community and bi people, I want to help them embrace who they are, find their community, find their people, love themselves.

F: I love that! A lot of my work has always dealt with destigmatizing things, being open, and unpacking shame, especially around sexuality. The reason I was so curious about your vulnerability is because people often assume I’m confident because I’m open about things when really I’m just talking about my experiences because I need to process them, and I know other people have gone through similar things and respond positively. They feel less alone, and we can all move forward. Can you talk more about the community aspect of your writing and having that knowledge that your work affects people in such, honestly, life-changing ways?

Have I changed the lives of a thousand people, a hundred people, ten people, one? What makes it worth it?

ZZ: As I get ready for BOYSLUT to come out, I’m trying to figure out what constitutes success. Have I changed the lives of a thousand people, a hundred people, ten people, one? What makes it worth it? I receive a lot of hate and flack for what I do – although I’m sure as a woman on the internet, you probably experience more than I do – but all things considered, I get a lot of shit! I write a queer sex column for Men’s Health magazine! You get people writing in with a lot of feelings. You know, people telling you to kill yourself. But I love hearing positive feedback from people. It really does motivate me to keep writing when I’m feeling frustrated or feeling like my message is falling on deaf ears when I receive messages like, “Hey, you helped me come out as bi,” or, “You saved my marriage, I’ve been poly, I’ve been slutty”, or “I was going to commit suicide before I read your work because I felt like the only bi guy in the world and I felt so alone.” When I remember those messages, it makes a difference.

That’s also why I’m excited for my readings across the US, my little book tour. Tours don’t get many sales, but I’ve told my team how important it is for me because I’m going to receive hate and flack for the book. I need to meet people who say, “Hey, I’ve read your book, or I’ve been reading your work. You changed my life. You helped me embrace who I am.” I’m doing it for my mental health; it’s important to help me continue.

F: You know, one of the things that’s always really interested me about your work is not only how you talk about vulnerability but how you also talk about healthy masculinity. Obviously, you’re not the only man doing sex education…. But the percentage of cis men in the sex education field is really small. I’m curious how that motivates and informs your work.

There’s these ideas about masculinity where men have to be hard and horny all the time; they have no problems with sex... And that's not the case.

Z: I talk about this in the book, how men, by and large, have been left out of the sex positivity movement. The sex positivity movement has dovetailed with the feminist movement, and so it’s been focused more on women, which is so empowering and incredible. But men have just not been a part of this conversation. That’s for a couple reasons: obviously, men are less likely to talk about these types of things. There’s these ideas about masculinity where men have to be hard and horny all the time; they have no problems with sex, they just want to fuck everything, there’s no problems with them whatsoever. And that’s not the case, but if that is the case, there’s also multiple challenges with wanting to fuck everything too. Men are just less likely to be more emotional and vulnerable and talk about their insecurities, and to seek help, to seek guidance, to seek advice. And, yeah, it’s important to include men in this conversation if you ever plan on having sex with or simply interacting with a man ever again. So I really hope to bring them in and to be like, hey, men are hurting as well. I don’t want to take away from all the shit that mankind has done, and the patriarchy has done, toxic masculinity has done. I’m not trying to invalidate that or take away from that. But men also need help, too. And I think if we help men, that will help everyone.

F: It’s so true. And in fact, by leaving them out of the conversation, it’s actually more likely to end up in them doing more harm. There’s confusion and fear that just translates into macho attitudes!

On another note, since this interview is for Spectrum Boutique, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if there were any sex toys you were loving.

I love a good vibrating butt plug; that is my go-to.

Z: It’s so funny; because of what I do, I’ve gotten at least 500 free sex toys in my life, if not 1000. No joke! But I have some staples. I love a good vibrating butt plug; that is my go-to. That is what brings me the most joy in life. I pop one of those bad boys, and when I’m penetrating my partner if I’m getting head, and I come like a motherfucker – the prostate stimulation will do that for you. And also, if I’m struggling to come, I like literally just stick a finger up in there.

F: I think you’ve written about that in depth at some point in this book.

Z: I have! It’s true! For vibrating butt plugs, B-Vibe is honestly one of my staples. They have a cock ring that connects to the prostate massager, so it’s just one toy, and it keeps you hard. I just got the VIM from Fun Factory, it’s their newest wand, and it solves a lot of issues people have had in the past with wands. It’s significantly less loud and significantly lighter. It’s also easier to grip, and it has a flexible neck, so that way, you’re not going to pop it off the way you kind of do with some wands. There’s also this new clit sucker from Love Honey, which is called the Mon Ami – it’s their affordable line, and I actually have it right here [*he runs to the other side of the room to retrieve it*]. My partners have seemed to really love it and said they can’t tell the difference between that toy and more expensive ones.

F: Okay, so you go into this deeply and beautifully in BOYSLUT, but for the Spectrum readers who haven’t read it yet, can you talk about what uplifting bisexual people means to you as a bisexual person and friend/family/lover to queer community at large?

Z:  I think, first and foremost, what I’m very interested in right now is creating more physical bisexual spaces. Creating spaces for other people and surrounding yourself with other bisexual people honestly is an incredible feeling. To know that everyone around you is bi, not even for the sake of sex, just for the sake of your identity and community and family, is beautiful. Just seeing people, even if they give a peck on the cheek to a man and then a peck on the cheek to a woman, is validating and affirming.

If you are a friend, or family member, and lover of the queer community at large…I don’t want to sound like a dick., but I don’t think it’s super hard to be an ally.

If you are a friend, or family member, and lover of the queer community at large…I don’t want to sound like a dick., but I don’t  think it’s super hard to be an ally. You know what I mean? Like, I see all these “10 best ways to be an ally” pieces, and I’m like, just love us, support us, believe us, and treat us with respect! But especially since there’s still plenty of gay and straight people who don’t believe bisexuality is real, like, first and foremost, just believe us. That’s the base level, and from there, we can start getting to a place of support and acceptance.

F: Yeah, that’s very powerful. I feel like most of this interview has focused a lot on language and visibility. And that’s a huge aspect of your book. Are there any other aspects you want to cover in this interview, or any last thoughts?

Z: Outside of insisting that my parents do not read this book? Hm. My hope is really that this gets into the hands of the people who need it the most. I went through a lot of effort to make sure that this is not a bisexual book, this is not a polyamorous book, this is not a kink book. If you’re vanilla, monogamous, and straight, you can still learn a ton about yourself and just culture and lifestyle at large from this book. I want this to be as helpful to as many people as possible.

You can purchase BOYSLUT here at Spectrum, follow Zachary Zane at @zacharyzane_  on Instagram or Twitter, and see him at a BiSlut event or on his book tour in LA, SF, NY, Chicago, and Boston. He writes the “Sexplain It”column at Men’s Health and “Navigating Non-Monogamy” column at Cosmo and runs a digital zine, also called BOYSLUT, with nonfiction erotica, that you can read here.

You can reach Faye (FKA Em) at @fayefayerevenge on Instagram and read the rest of her work about stigma, sexuality, and sex tech on her website or in publications including Spectrum Journal, Vice, Nox Shop, Salty, Teen Vogue, and more. She’s currently researching the long-term effects of SESTA–FOSTA on internet communities and working in fashion and visual storytelling.

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