What I learned while freelancing at Cosmopolitan.
"So is it accurate to say that 'doing this causes the spongy tissue in his penis to rub against the prostate'?"
"Great. We have a quote from you on this as, 'Pressing on those nerves will have a domino effect. It primes his entire body, making every sensation down to his orgasm feel more intense.' Can we attribute that to you?"
"OK, so you are saying that is more of a description of direct prostate stimulation, rather than indirect, and that this technique doesn't have as strong of an effect?"
"So it's more about getting the penis to sink into the pelvis."
"Wonderful. And can I verify that your title is staff sexologist at goodvibes.com?"
"Thanks so much for your time."
At first, these calls filled me with a mix of titillation and humiliation. I was gathering my war stories in the publishing trenches and I secretly relished the shock value of casually deadpanning at parties, "I fact-check sex stories at Cosmo." It seemed to fit the mold of some New York City bad girl I'd never actually be.
But the novelty of checking sex tips quickly wore off. My email was eventually filled with one-liners from higher-up editors like, "Due to length and fact-check issues, we're going to cut the fact about the increase in size of the testicles during orgasm." Mind-blowing orgasms quickly seemed as boring as corporate-speak about mergers and acquisitions. I certainly wasn't learning anything about sex. All the advice seemed to be variations on earlier articles and ran together in my mind as I dissected the endless lists of tips and tricks.
After 18 months of sporadic assignments, I was given a new fact-checking task I hadn't done before. I had to verify with "real guys" their romantic and sexual experiences about turn-ons. Instead of doctors with books to sell, I had to call and email men whom writers had interviewed to confirm things like how hot it was when a girlfriend had dressed up in a nurse's costume. Since I had a list of their real names and email addresses before pseudonyms were added to the actual article, I could hardly stop myself from doing some light cyber stalking. Who were these people? It all felt so sleazy and personal and delightfully voyeuristic. However, it also made the whole process feel unabashedly creepy. When it actually came down to it, I really didn't want to talk to these random men and confirm their actual bedroom escapades. Gross.
I had to track one guy down about his story of how sweet it was when his girlfriend brought him soup when he was sick. I read him the one-line blurb.
"Well, I wouldn't exactly say she was my girlfriend," he replied with a scoff.
"Um, OK," I stammered. "Perhaps 'the girl you were dating' would be more accurate?"
"Ha, well, I guess you could call her that. Hey, also, can you add in a part about what we did after she brought the soup?"
"Um. What do you mean, add something?" I asked, perplexed.
"How about something like, 'She brought me soup and it gave me the strength to be a man with her all night long'?"
I breathed into my stammering silence. "Um, well. No. I can't add that," I said diplomatically. "You aren't writing the story, and neither am I. I'm just trying to confirm if this original quote about the soup is accurate."
"Really? You can't add that?" He asked with indignation. "You know, my mother is going to read this. I want it to look good!" He said with no trace of irony.
As soon as I extricated myself from the phone, I couldn't resist Googling this Romeo who wanted to impress his mother with his tales of sexual prowess in Cosmo. His MySpace profile made him appear to be a meathead from New Jersey.
Shortly after that week wrapped up, I decided that maybe my time as a freelance fact-checker should come to a close. It wasn't calling Jersey-based stallions that prompted my decision, but the fact that I'd gotten away from the kind of work I came to New York to do. Even so, I'll always remember 13 creative ways to use a feather boa.
Katherine Goldstein is the Innovations Editor at Slate, involved in site-wide innovations related to social media, traffic, and new editorial technology.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.