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[Image description: Text ‘She Dares To Say Season 2 Announcement’ on navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]
I’m saying goodbye to these personal essays and am inviting you to stick with me as I launch Season 2 of ‘She Dares To Say’ next month.
Because there are all kinds of people in this emailing list – most beloved friends, family members, professional contacts, ex-lovers and current crushes, along with hundreds of people who just connected with my work and have stayed with me on this journey – each month when release day comes around I feel a maelstrom of complex emotions bubble up.
For me, the act of writing is a means to make sense of the things I feel as I make my way through the world. I try to be receptive to changes in my emotional state and be open to processing the things that come up for me as I try to express myself on the page.
I grapple with both fear and shame as each sentence tumbles out. It is often emotionally exhausting work and can leave me feeling like a singular, raw and pulsing nerve-ending, overly sensitive to feedback/criticism (Aside: my agent schedules reassurance meetings with me ahead of sending extensive book feedback, which enables me to frame all of the comments in a positive light).
I can find myself resenting the conceptual act of reading, since the consumption of words, in and of itself, doesn’t require any interpersonal reciprocation – there isn’t an immediate or automatic mechanism whereby the reader can acknowledge the sheer amount of emotional effort that goes into excavating the self.
So, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a lovely message in response to the first essay, ‘#01: My New Approach To Dating’, back in January 2021, when a friend WhatsApped me: “Hey I’m just about to go to bed but I read your blog ❤️❤️ so brave and wonderful”.
And then when ‘#02: Emotional wounds and literary clout’ dropped in February, a handful of you reached out:
“Just read ‘Emotional wounds and literary clout’. Amazing. Beautiful. What a fucking great start to my day.”
“Hey Almaz, can I just say I was hanging onto every single word of this. Your writing is simply a gift. Sending you love and hope that you are managing some good quality self-care whilst embarking on this incredible project […]”
“I read your newsletter and thought it was really powerful. Like really, wow. All the feelings of systemic doubt. I think so many people will resonate and also appreciate your transparency […]”
“I’m sending a very warm hug after reading this week’s She Dares To Say. Your words made me want to tell you how much your work has inspired me in the past […] I hope that this new year for you comes with the continuation of knowing your worth, knowing your abilities and knowing what a gift your writing is for all of us in the world.”
It was so wonderful and encouraging to read all of your responses that I went on to create a folder on my desktop called ‘NICE COMMENTS ABOUT MY WORK’, where I started saving all your messages. Whenever I’m spiralling down into self-doubt I read a couple – such as “She Dares To Say is so good! Very insightful and interesting, I’m a major fan”, sent in response to ‘#06: The Coloniality Chronicles – Part Two’ or “I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your newsletter and being part of the community that you’ve been building. Your writing is so clear, so honest, so personal and vulnerable and yet so wise – it’s just a pleasure to read […]” in response to ‘#12: Deconstructing my writing process’ – and immediately perk up.
However, there is one aspect of sending my writing out via a platform such as one like this, that I find difficult to navigate. Substack crunches all of the data automatically and the stats reporting means I can see exactly which email addresses engage with each mailout, and how often. Some of the people who receive these mailouts are folks who haven’t necessarily earned the right to receive the gift of my authenticity; maybe this is due to having a complicated personal relationship or maybe they are someone who has wilfully misunderstood me/my work. My vulnerability hangover is always the worst when the stats reveal that it’s those particular email addresses that have accessed my authentic self many times over by re-reading and re-reading these essays. Without ever having to reciprocate.
It can be an extremely disconcerting feeling, but one I'll need to get used to since my book is part memoir...
So, to give myself a break from what can sometimes feel like unlimited public access to my psyche, I’m changing the format of these mailouts.
As many of you know, I’ve been conducting independent research for my book via an anonymous online sexuality survey, and have been inviting survey participants to expand on their answers in video-call follow-up interviews.
Over the past year, I’ve interviewed dozens of diverse subjects – many of them from marginalised groups – and I’m so excited to announce that, with all interviewees’ permission, I’ll be publishing audio extracts, along with accompanying verbatim transcripts from some of those chats.
To have so many folks entrusting me with their stories, many of which had never, ever been spoken out loud before, has been the absolute best thing about my book-writing journey. Creating a safe and nurturing space for interviewees to share their stories in their own time, and in their own unique mode of expression, are two of the most important aspects of building trust with subjects. And, as the stories in the series show, so many of my interviewees felt comfortable enough to share their stories with fearlessness, generosity, power and truth. Thank you!
So do remember to check your inboxes on Wednesday 2 February for the launch of She Dares To Say Season 2. Here’s a teaser:
“The audio recording (above) and transcript (below) are the final seven minutes of the two-part chat I had with ‘B’, who’s a queer, Greek (Caucasian), woman (cis), who, at the time of interview in June 2021, was 32, partnered, and living in London.
We’d already had a meandering conversation which addressed queerness, patriarchy and pleasure politics, and the extract I’m sharing here picks up a thread that directly references question 14 of my sexuality survey: “Is there anything you can remember that sparked your sexual / intimate desires, e.g. a certain person / a film / a song / an advert?”
Almaz – 23:46mins
Let’s just go back to… you said… the question is talking about “is there anything that you can remember that sparked your desires, e.g. a certain person, a film or a song? Roughly, at what age were you when this happened, and how did it feel?” And you’ve said five or six, so I just wondering whether you can remember exactly what it was?
‘B’ – 24:17mins
I remember very vaguely there was this comic, a series of comics, by a specific artist. And there was…
It’s so funny to describe. But there was a prisoner.
The sexuality survey is still open, so in the meantime please do fill in/share it as all of the responses are helping me make connections between the ways in which we’ve been socialised and our relationship to sexuality.
[Image description: White speech box with black border shadows. Black text ‘As part of my research for my book, I’m running an anonymous online sexuality survey’. Dark orange text ‘bit.ly/ao_sexsurvey’. Black text ‘Anyone over 18 can fill it in, wherever you are in the world.’ Picture of coloured rectangles placed at angles with black border shadows. White text ‘Do you have guilt or shame around desire, sex or pleasure? Why/why not? Do you support compulsory sex and relationships education?’ on top rectangle]
NB. I’ve also taken the survey myself and made the answers available here, along with the anonymised answers of four other participants.
[Image description: Text ‘PRODUCED BY’ on navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke]
I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative Copywriter, Freelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Available for commissions. Info via almazohene.com/contact-faqs.
Edited and Proofed by Poppy Beale-Collins, a writer and editor. People who would like to work with Poppy should get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘She Dares to Say’ is an email newsletter by Almaz Ohene, a Creative Copywriter, Freelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
Follow Almaz on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
If you enjoy this content and would like to support please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’.
If you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to also send a contribution via PayPal.