Flo Perry, as part of the British Library exhibition, Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, Suffolk Library welcomes Flo Perry, author of How to Have Feminist Sex: A Fairly Graphic Guide Flo, I’ll hand it over to you to do an introduction So, please tell the people about yourself Thank you so much Yeah, I am an author and illustrator of How To Have Feminist Sex, which is all about taking control of your sex life and ridding it of the false beliefs that you’ve got of what it should be like from the patriarchy, basically, and maximising the joy in your sex life Awesome, and we’ll dig deeper into the book in a second, Flo, but I just wanted to say again thank you so much for joining us I’ve been like so excited to have this conversation with you I finished the book in like literally two days and was glued to it But just before we dive into the book, I mean, how you doing? How are you finding the current situation, lockdown? How are things for you, you know, as an artist, as a freelancer, as an illustrator? How are you finding things? Um… I mean, it’s awful (LAUGHS) Like the whole situation As a rich person, it’s not so bad But generally, yeah, it’s not fun I think that the pandemic puts like an immense amount of like extra pressure on every single relationship have Work wise, it hasn’t been too bad I’ve been very lucky But, like, just emotionally Yeah, it’s yeah… You know It’s been fine Pandemic wise, it’s been fine, but generally, you know in the grand scheme of lifetime, I prefer the non-pandemic life Yes. Yeah, I can agree Thank you so much And so, your book is called How To Have Feminist Sex Can you tell me and tell the people what is feminist sex? Feminist sex is just having the sex that you want to have and not the sex that you feel that you should have because what the patriarchy has told you is appropriate for women, basically, and it’s about maximising pleasure in your sex life Awesome And why did you want to write this book? Basically, I think that like we talked a lot I found like a lot of women who will identify as feminists and will talk a lot about feminism would still hold some quite like, I thought, backwards beliefs about sex and what it should be like I just felt like we weren’t having enough conversations around kind of joy and sex for women You have a lot of conversations around sex as a source of trauma for women, but I didn’t feel like we were having enough around how sex is a source of fun and joy and a right that everyone should have a great time, basically (LAUGHS) And who is this book for? Is there a particular target audience or, you know, young women When you wrote it, who did you have in mind? I definitely had probably young women in my mind, anyone who feels unsatisfied with their sex life, I think gets something from reading this book Or anyone that just likes thinking and talking about sex, which I think maybe is everyone You can see now why I read it in two days, right? Yeah! And that’s interesting because, you know, in doing my research into you I read an article where you said, “If I had read this book when I was 18, “it would have changed my life.” (CLATTER) And I felt exactly the same way when I was reading it I thought, “Oh, my goodness! If I had had this as a handbook when I was younger, “then I definitely wouldn’t have got myself “into some of the situations that I did.” So, tell me what was your experience like of navigating sex and relationships as a young woman, particularly a young LGBT woman? Yeah. I had a very unusual adolescent sex life, basically I came out as gay at 15, which was reasonably untraumatic, as far as coming out as gay goes And, yeah, I had a great time I had sex with women as a teenager, which was fantastic!
(LAUGHING) Highly recommend that as an activity! And then I went to university I come from north London and I went to university in Durham, which was quite a cultural shock From coming from a very liberal place where being gay was cool to going to somewhere where all the young Tories in the country go Where being gay wasn’t so cool And purely because of like a supply and demand issue, I think, I met some very nice boys and I had sex with them So, I then came out as bisexual, basically, at age 18 I did the reverse coming out And then since then, I’ve had sex with men and women and I’m now happily in a lesbian relationship and have been four and a half years But I think yeah, it shaped my understanding of sex, the fact that I was a lesbian first, I think, definitely Mm, yeah. How is that? Can you talk about that a bit more? — Well, I — What informed you? I think that I just always knew that sex was meant to be fun for me and I didn’t have that kind of awful burden that a lot of straight women have that like sex might be painful and you’re doing this to secure the love of the man Which I think is like a message that a lot of heterosexual women are told, which is really damaging And, you know, you obviously had a very freeing and liberal relationship with sex as a young person, where did that come from? Because, you know, our generation sex education in school for me was literally like sticking a condom on a cucumber and like that was it So, where does that come from? And how was your sex education in school? Was there any sex education in school for you? My sex education in school was just a terrible as everyone else’s sex education in school I don’t think anyone really learns about sex from their school sex education! But I had like a great peer group for really accepting, and I met people who I could actually have sex with And I did a lot of like online Googling in like I was a member of like an early social network for gay kids And stuff like that and I think that all of that stuff was really powerful in making me feel pretty happy about being gay and about sex, basically And do you think, you know, that the climate is better now? Like are we more open about sex now? What do you think about that? No! (LAUGHS) I don’t really know why It’s why I wrote this book I think we still, like… you can see from watching Love Island that we still have these ideas that sex in heterosexual relationships is something that women give and men take And that there’s like a kind of pleasure gap where it’s thought that women don’t want it as much as men do And it’s like a limited resource for women and they shouldn’t give it out too easily or they’ll be thought of as a slut and no one will want to marry them Even though these ideas sound ancient when you put them like that, I think their effect is still felt by a lot of people Hm, and that’s really interesting what you said there about feeling like a slut and so many women do You know, why is it that women are so aware of their body count? Can you kind of talk a bit about the kind of virgin/whore complex and why we feel that so much? Yeah, I think that it’s just that it’s a narrative from our culture and our like our stories that we’ve told each other in Western culture that women who have sex too easily are damaged and unhappy and are just there for sex And good women who you want to marry haven’t had any sex and are virgins So you can either be a virgin or a whore and there’s just not much in between in the kind of like narrative of Western culture And that’s changing all the time, but I think our old fairy tales still have an effect on our psychology, basically, and the things that we believe Yeah for sure. And you talked there a bit about Western culture and one of the points that you make in the book, which I found really interesting and also helped me with my own body image is you know, the fact that a perfect body varies so much from culture to culture So I wondered whether you can talk about the points that you made in the book in terms of, you know, relationship with the body in Nigeria and in the Middle East and then in old, like, Britain as well, during the ’90s Can you expand a bit on that? Yeah, I basically just have a funny page to try and like show you how ridiculous the idea of a “perfect body” is,
where I travel through time and geography, saying that like in Nigeria, there’s the tribe which name I’ve forgotten I’m really sorry that like really idealises fat women and you have to like fatten up before your wedding day, rather than diet for your wedding day, like you do here And, you know, there’s been crazy beauty standards throughout time, like in the medieval times, people used to used to wax off their eyebrows so that they had a nice big forehead because that was thought of as like hot for like medieval babes Like, basically, throughout time I think the one thing that is constant is the “ideal body” is usually (WHISPERS) ..the body of a rich person And, like, now in this capitalist culture that we live in now, the body of a rich person tends to be someone who has time to go to SoulCycle and eat sashimi only for lunch, which is like very skinny Or, like, pay for butt implants or whatever So, like, the ideal body type is always changing, it’s fluxing and it’s just a sad, like, standard to try and live your life to I think, like, the most important message with body image that I learned and then, like, hopefully I say in the book is that you might Like, the myth that we all tell ourselves that you’ll be happier if you are thinner is just that, it’s a myth, there’s no proof of it Like you might not be happier if you were thinner You might actually be happier if you ate that piece of cake And you might not be more attractive or more lovable to your soulmate if you are thinner You might be less lovable, who knows? So you should just have the body that you have now and accept it, and think, “OK, well, I’m just going to live my life “as though this is body that I’ll be living the rest of my life in.” And not strive to live for some future you who has like magically got like a bigger arse or whatever you want (LAUGHS) Because it might not happen and there’s no point living in the future for something that might not happen Definitely going to have a piece of cake after we’ve finished conversation today! Eat the cake, ladies! That’s why I absolutely admire your book so much Like the illustrations are so gorgeous It’s not just what you’ve written in the book, the illustrations, you know, they’re figures of all shapes and sizes of you know, women, men, LGBTQI, ages, races, clothed and unclothed I just wondered if you could talk a bit about, you know, how body image, which is a super strong theme through the book, can really affect people in relationships? And maybe talk a bit about your own personal experiences, because you seem to have, you know I mean, everyone has a kind of love-hate relationship with their body, but you seem to be in quite a kind of strong place, and I wonder how (LAUGHING) Maybe not, I mean, we all have days, don’t we? It’s ebbs and flows But I wonder whether you can kind of talk a bit about maybe how body image has affected any of your relationships in the past I know for me when I’ve particularly been feeling down about my body, I haven’t wanted to engage in sex, purely because of the way I feel I look But I could have just chucked my clothes off and been like, “Hey!” And enjoyed it, right? So I just wondered if you could talk a bit about that Sorry. I know that was a super-loaded question SALLY: Or maybe three questions in one Yeah, I think that, basically, it’s a huge Like, body image is a huge reason why couples don’t have sex because it’s not sexy to feel unconfident and hide yourself and try and like keep your top on during sex This is not sexy for anyone Also, it doesn’t make you feel sexy if you think that you are disgusting in some way Which is what like our body image like if we have bad body image that it boils down to the fact that we are disgusted at ourselves And that is not an easy place to come from if you want to have sex I think that letting go of that is really tricky and there’s no magic answer and you just have to practise it You just have to practice being like, “This person loves my body for what it is right now, “and I’m just going to believe them that it’s good enough as it is.” And I think that, yeah, it is definitely tricky I am better at it now than I ever have been But that is, like, yeah, it’s through having a great relationship where I feel like, you know, if I was thinner we wouldn’t be having better sex (LAUGHS) And And, you know, yeah learning that like, it doesn’t matter if you suddenly go up a jeans size or two during a pandemic Like, some people find that really sexy!
So, you know, just like the desire that we’re shown is so narrow — like the kind of front page of PornHub desire — and like that’s not everyone’s type And trying to live up to that is like it’s just no way to live your life I think, yeah, that’s so helpful That’s such a helpful tip, kind of just reminding yourself that, like, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder And some people like Some people like, you know, all these different kind of looks and body sizes and really it’s just kind of accepting yourself Which is, you know, it can be a difficult journey and there are better days and worse days But thank you so much You’ve shared a couple of tips I wondered if you had any more like, you know, a handful of tips maybe for someone, for people out there who may be struggling with their body image You know, tips that they can kind of practise every day I think most people find something sexually attractive or someone sexually attractive that is not thought of as, like, “the cultural norm” If you’re the kind of girl who’s, like, “Wow! I actually really love back hair “Like it’s so manly and sexy “when you just see it like poking out of the top of the T-shirt.” Then I think you should extend that feeling that you have that this thing that a lot of men spend a lot of time trying to wax off is what you like in them to yourself Realise that maybe you feel uncomfortable about, like, your cellulitey arse, but for some people that is the ideal And the ideal that we’re showing again and again and again, is literally because that is the ideal that’s easiest to sell because that’s how rich people look now Because that’s the body that takes the most money to cultivate And, like, you know cellulite is free so no one’s trying to sell it to you (LAUGHING) ..but that doesn’t mean it’s any less attractive! And, you know, you mentioned porn, actually, and I wanted to talk to you a bit about that I mean, do you think that the porn industry has a lot to answer for? Yes. Yeah, I do I think it has. I’m really glad that I grew up pre-internet porn Just I didn’t really, but I grew up like, you know, before most people had their own laptop or iPad or before you could get porn on your phone You know, I didn’t see internet porn until like my sexuality was well on the way to being set in stone So I don’t feel like it influenced me that much But, yeah, I feel like porn, it I mean, I don’t think it’s all evil but it definitely has something to answer for The big thing, I think, is that it’s created a beauty standard for vaginas that, like, we didn’t used to have It used to be that just like if you saw a vulva it was either your own or you were having sex with it And now like people see hundreds of vulvas before they ever come actually face-to-face with one And so there’s this false beauty standard of a certain type of perfectly pink, bald, like small inner labia vulva is thought of as like the one to have And it just shows you that that is just like, you know, this is a new thing that’s happened in the last 30 years Before, like, people were not concerned about this kind of thing and whatever vulva you got in front of your face you were happy with it! Because it belonged to the person that you wanted to have sex with! And I think the fact that women feel bad about how their vulva looks now it breaks my heart And if you’ve ever felt self-conscious about your vulva, I just want to give you a big hug and tell you that it’s beautiful Thank you, Flo And, you know, you mentioned earlier, you know female pleasure is, like, mostly deprioritised in our society As you said, we’re either pleasuring the man or like trying to make a baby, basically, So, how can women take back control and put their desires first? I think it’s just all about talking and thinking and prioritising and dedicating time in your life doing that If you say to yourself: OK, I am going to spend my spare thoughts over the next week really figuring out what I want from sex and not what I think what type of sex will get me a husband
or will make my boyfriend happy I’m going to think about the kind of sex that I want And if you masturbate a lot and then really think about what it was that you were masturbating about and have what I like to call “conscious wanks” (BOTH LAUGH) where you don’t use porn, you just use what comes to your mind You think: OK, what is it that I really want? “What really makes me come?” And you spend time thinking about that and then you do the scary thing of talking about that with the person you’re having sex with Saying, “These are the things that turn me on “This is what I need to be wooed by you to want to have more sex.” And you start like having a dialogue about sex within your relationship where sex isn’t something that’s just taken for granted or like assumed that both parties are on the same page with it It’s something that you’re constantly having an evolving conversation about And that’s really hard and awkward if you’re not used to doing it I have no easy answer for how to make that less hard or awkward for you, other than just as soon as you do it, it will be less scary I think that’s it, isn’t it? And I think people are still You know, understandably as well People still find that really hard, sometimes even talking to their partner, who they may be the closest person to in their life There’s still this kind of resistance to talking openly about sex Yeah, totally, like people I did a gig at the WI just before lockdown, which was great, in Manchester, And I said that thing I said something and I said… What did I say? (LAUGHS) I was, like, “OK, go home tonight “If you do one thing, go home tonight and talk to your partner “about what it was that you were masturbating about at 14.” And this one woman on the front row went And I was just, like, “Yes, you! You are the person needs to go home “and talk to your partner about what you were masturbating about when you were 14.” I think a key to a happy sex life is trying to incorporate whatever that was or the feelings you were having A lot of our fantasies — I talk about this a lot — a lot of our fantasies are just scenarios we’ve created for certain feelings that turn us on So, like, you might fantasise about like having sex with an alien And that is, I’m afraid, not possible But what are the feelings that you’re experiencing when you’re having sex with the alien? Like, is the alien thinking of you as the most beautiful creature on the planet? Or is the alien thinking of you as a disgusting worthless little human slug? That’s the difference and if you can work that out, then you can, you know, tell your partner “I want to feel like a beautiful human princess” or “a disgusting dirty human slug” and whichever one of those turns you on is the secret to a happy sex life You should have had a page dedicated to just purely alien sex in the book, right? I mean, it’s not that far off what I do have And you mentioned earlier Love Island I’m a huge fan of Love Island, too And, oh, it’s so easy to just get addicted to it But I was reading that, you know, you’re a big fan of Love Island and you were so shocked at the islanders’ attitudes to sex that you decided to give each of them a free copy of your book to help change their mindset So, I just wondered if you could kind of give some examples of what you saw on the show? Because I think that’s why people are just so hooked by Love Island, because you’re seeing on the screen in real time, scenarios that you or your friends or your sister or cousins or whoever may have had in their own lives I think that’s why people are kind of so hooked on it So, what did you see on the show that just kind of like made you scream at the screen? Yeah, I think, like they play a lot of games where they talk about their past sexual behaviour And the men have always slept with like ten times more people than the women have And people’s characters are based on like this number, “body count” that they have or like things that they’ve done And people like assume that a man that slept with a lot of women feels a certain way or like vice versa And then, like, the actual sex is like It’s definitely thought of as something the man will always say yes to and the woman is like trying to hold back And then they have this kind of like hierarchy of sex So they’re like, “Oh, yeah, we did bits, but like we didn’t have actual sex.” As though penetrative sex is like at the top and other types of sex are like inferior or not as important in some way And I think all of that just has like It needs to go in the bin, basically
And I haven’t even got on to like how they all have like these unattainable bodies and the only people they put on Love Island look a certain way I mean that’s a whole nother level of messed up Yeah, a whole nother conversation. Well! But that’s really interesting, though, what you said there You know, in terms of like the hierarchy of sex and how like penetrative sex is kind of like the endpoint and like that’s the end goal but lesbians have been having Like lesbian sex, you know, is what people would call oral sex But for lesbians and bisexual people, that is sex, right? So that’s really interesting, that kind of hierarchy that you mention Yeah, I mean like lesbians can have penetrative have sex as well in, like, a variety of different technologically advanced ways! But the difference is that it’s not like… It’s not like a hierarchy I think Whether you have oral sex or just mutual masturbation or you know, penetrative sex or you use a toy or not, it’s all just sex that just depends what you’re in the mood for and one type of sex isn’t more intimate or more precious than any other type And you can easily see why that like value system has evolved because obviously there’s only one type of sex that gets you pregnant But… (LAUGHS) ..we don’t need to have this value system any more because most people use contraception for 99.9% of the times that they will have sex in their lives And so the idea that sex is mainly something to get you pregnant is you know, backwards, basically And, you know, in the book you Like, the book covers so many different areas — you know, trust, orgasms, consent, body image, pubic hair, nudes, porn, ghosting, virginity Is a lot of the book based on your own experiences, or did you draw inspiration from friends and other people in your life as well? I read a lot of like actual researchy type books when I was writing my book, and I talked to a lot of people about sex Basically, I’ve been talking to people about sex my whole life, because I think it’s the most interesting thing! So, yeah, it was all based on lots of different areas where I have gathered knowledge about sex and things that I think we don’t talk about enough, basically What kind of books did you read for your research? I’m just thinking about kind of other resources that people can look into if they want to go away after they’ve seen this interview Because I know at the back of your book as well, you have like further reading and listening, so if there are any other resources you can share, that would be great I think the one book you should read if you liked my book and you want more is Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski It is an incredible, kind of more scientific, more in-depth look into how female sexuality has been formed, basically, and the effect that it has on our lives And reading it, every page I was like, “Oh, my God! How does this woman know me? And it’s great if you’re gay, straight, whatever Yeah, it’s an incredible book about what it’s like to be born with a vagina, basically Awesome and what I really loved as well, in the foreword of your book, you address it to “lovers past and future” They aren’t always our go-to when we’re kind of trying to drum up happy memories, but past relationships can really show us some awesome things about ourselves and the other person Has writing this book helped you in your current relationship? And also maybe helped you process your past relationships as well? Yeah, definitely. I think that writing it gave me like a key to know what I want in my future relationships and what went wrong in my past relationships with sex Yeah, in a big way I think that too often we think of all relationships that end as failures When, like, you know we can visit Thailand and not necessarily want to move there for our whole life, but still see it as a very worthwhile visit to Thailand But like I wish we saw relationships in the same way You can spend some time with someone and maybe they weren’t right for you for your whole life, but can still learn something from them and appreciate the good times that you did have with them And yeah, I’ve learned Basically, I’ve learned a lot about sexual compatibility and that that is something that I want to prioritise in my relationships And I’m very glad to say that it’s going very well at the moment!
(BOTH LAUGHING) And how are LGBT people explored in your book? I mean not like Like, obviously, I am LGBT I was sleeping with women for most of writing the book And I mainly slept with them my whole life And now I only sleep with one woman for all of my life But it’s not like It’s not that different, basically Like, it’s two people trying to have sex with each other and what genitals both of those people have affects the physical side of it but, you know, a lot of the psychological stuff is applicable to whoever you’re having sex with And that’s the kind of side I go into more of in the book If you have body image issues, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight It’s going to affect the sex you’re going to have If you have experienced sexual trauma, if you have difficulty communicating what you want from sex, if you feel like you have mismatched sex drives — all of these problems can crop up in queer or straight relationships So, I used queer relationships as examples throughout my book, but nothing is like specifically for the queers or for the straights It’s all very applicable to both of them I’m just going to check that my phone recording is still recording Yeah, it is. OK, good I was just wondering as well, if you could touch on a bit, because in the book you talk about ghosting, which is like this real kind of like modern phenomenon within like kind of dating now Can you talk a bit about what ghosting is and kind of how you approach it in the book, too? Yeah, ghosting is when someone doesn’t want to see you any more And instead of being polite and telling you that they don’t want to see you any more, they just stop texting you And they don’t reply to your texts And they just vanish off the face of the Earth to you And it’s really horrible because it doesn’t give people clean closure It doesn’t give people like a clean chance to be angry and then move on It gives… I mean, I’ve been ghosted and what it feels like is like, you know, you wait four hours and you think, “They’re having a busy day “They haven’t texted me back That’s strange “They’re not usually this busy. Oh, well.” Then it gets to 12 hours and you’re like, “Oh, my God! What’s happened to them? “Have they died? Have they lost their phone? “Is this it? Are they ghosting me?” And then it makes you feel mad It makes you feel like a crazy person It doesn’t give you like the closure that you want and like you kind of get left with this crumb of hope that maybe it was all like an accident and they’ll pop up again one day And it’s cowardly, I think I think if you don’t like someone you owe them the like the courtesy of dumping them, basically, so that I think it comes from a fear of being hated People think, “Well, I’ll just ghost them and then they won’t hate me “and I can just leave.” Rather than if you dump someone you might receive a text in reply which is like “Fuck you!” And I think that, basically, you shouldn’t be scared of being hated Like, your ex has a right to hate you, even if it’s for no reason at all other than the fact that like they wanted you and you didn’t want them And you should give them the dignity of being dumped Yeah, and by which point that you dump someone, it’s no longer your business how they feel about you And whether they hate you is kind of irrelevant now, But, yeah, I could have like a whole conversation about ghosting and like how it’s so toxic But that kind of leads on nicely because I wanted to talk to you a bit about online dating as well But before you go into it, I just want to read a bit of your introduction into your book — If that’s OK with you — Yeah. Sure “Hi. I’m Flo. I’ve written a book about sex and feminism “My qualifications include being an emotionally well-adjusted slag “and having really boring boobs “I’m extremely bisexual “I say extremely because I fancy nearly all humans over five eight “and some short ones, too “I live in east London with two housemates and a terrible cat “I’ve had long-term relationships with both men and women “I’m currently on Hing, Tinder and Feeld, “so it’s a miracle that I get anything else done.” And of course now you’re in a committed relationship because the book came out in 2019, right? But at the time of writing it, you were, you know on Tinder and Feeld I just wondered what your experiences of online dating have been like and kind of the pros and cons of it as well
Yeah, I met my current girlfriend about two weeks after handing in the final draft my book So, that bio was like instantly out of date as soon as it was printed! But, yeah, I really liked online dating I had a really good time of it I think it’s not for everyone I was definitely like quite evangelical about it as I was doing it I was like, “This is the future! I love it.” But I realise now that it is not for everyone But what I really liked about it is that it I felt like it gave me agency over meeting people in a way that I didn’t feel like the previous time I was single, when I wasn’t online dating Because I’m freelance, so like I have a lot of time on my own in the flat doing nothing And like it felt great to be able to utilise that time for swiping, instead of having to like wait for a party that like, maybe not even anyone you would fancy would be there And having all your hopes on one Saturday night three weeks in the future where you think maybe there’ll be some single people there It felt so much better to just be able to be like, “I want to meet someone this week, and I can do that.” And that’s what I really liked about app dating, basically Yeah. No, definitely. I mean I Before I joined… I’m now off Tinder But I did join Tinder and before I joined Tinder, I was kind of a bit like, “I’m not going to do online dating “It’s really kind of superficial.” And then I joined it and actually it did make me feel quite empowered because of what you said, right? You’re able to make It’s essentially like a marketplace And you make those decisions kind of based on how you feel and whether you like the look of that person But yeah, anyway, that’s cool I just wanted to kind of hear your experiences of online dating because there’s so many great stories and there’s also so many horror stories But it’s just kind of what works for you, I guess So, I just want to go into a bit about your background and kind of, you know, your work as an illustrator So, you’re the daughter of Grayson Perry and Philippa Perry, and I wondered like were you destined to make a career out of art and creativity? Or did you kind of find yourself interested in other things? I mean, it all depends if you believe in predeterminism or not Personally, I don’t So I don’t think I was destined to be an artist when I was born! I actually did a chemistry degree, which was a bad rebellion I think I should have tried drugs and alcohol first it would have taken less of a toll on my general well-being But, yeah, so I really fell into it by accident Yeah, I did a chemistry degree and during which time I found it intensely boring Which chemistry is — I don’t know if you’ve heard that! It’s really boring! So I did student journalism in my spare time and during Basically, I got a job at BuzzFeed through drawing, through doing student journalism At BuzzFeed, I was like, “I can kind of draw” just because I was like a child who drew and they were very nice and cultivated my talent and put it on their website and through that I basically made that my career And tell me a bit about your work at BuzzFeed, because I know that you had — I think it was around that 2015 — you had this like a satirical piece that went like insanely viral Can you can you talk a bit about what that was and why it was so popular? Not to blow my own trumpet, but I did write so many viral articles I’m not exactly sure of the one you’re referring to! Are you talking about the lesbian sex one? — That’s the one, yeah — Yeah Yeah, that was the first Illustrated thing I did that went really viral It was basically just a stupid joke like making fun of straight people for not knowing how lesbians have sex And I think lots of straight people clicked on it hoping to find out how lesbians have sex and then were disappointed And the lesbians that clicked on it, I think were quite amused And so, yeah, it did pretty well What kind of things were in the piece? I think I made an animated gif that showed two people sword fighting with dildos (SALLY LAUGHS) I remember animating some flames for burning bras That was quite fun And your BuzzFeed post led to you being approached — by I think it was Sophie Elkan — Yeah Wanting you to illustrate her book What was that book and is that where your illustrations really took off?
I mean, obviously, you had, you know, huge traction at BuzzFeed But is that kind of where your illustrations really kind of your illustration work really became cemented? Well, yeah, she offered me the job and I took it and I really enjoy doing it I was like, “This is great. Like I can earn money without going into an office “And this has only taken me ten days “and I’ve earned what I normally do in two months — this is amazing!” So yeah, I made the conscious decision to hopefully work less I mean, I wasn’t really working very hard at BuzzFeed but I am incredibly lazy And I quit my job The company went, basically, bust two months later So in terms of redundancy payments, that was a terrible decision for me But… (LAUGHS) Yeah, it was a great decision! I really enjoyed being my own boss and drawing stuff, basically Yeah, and where does the inspiration for your illustrations come from? Because all just kind of have a little flick through your Oh, that’s not working too much, is it, with my background? — I’ll take a few pictures — I’ll do it, if you like I’ll take you with me. Look, I’ve got a whole stack of them just here Yeah. My illustrations Do-bi-do-bi-do! There they are! Lovely! Yeah, where do the illustrations come from? I think the words around them, usually I like drawing naked people I like drawing bodies I like drawing the kind of bodies you don’t see represented very much in the media I just think it’s fun. So that’s where my inspiration comes from — Was that a good answer? — Yeah, totally Did you watch a lot of… You may still I still do. Do you watch a lot of cartoons and stuff or…? Yeah, totally. I’m a big animated fan I did try to learn to animate They sent me on a week’s course at BuzzFeed and I came back, and I was like, “You know what, guys? It’s too hard. I can’t do it.” And what I love about your illustrations in the book is that they kind of They do take they take this kind of seriousness away from these quite big conversations And I don’t know what my question was there, but that was kind of just a statement (FLO LAUGHS) I think, basically, what I’m trying to say is that the topics can be quite serious and for some people really intimidating How can we kind of change the way we approach those conversations to kind of approach them in a more light-hearted way, rather than them kind of feeling really quite intense and serious? I think people should be basically less afraid of getting stuff wrong I think that if someone gets something wrong, you shouldn’t shame them about it and you shouldn’t jump down their throat and we should get all more comfortable with like politely disagreeing, basically And yeah, like lower the stakes and just have these conversations as casually as you can and work them into everyday life And just going back to body image What is… I just wondered what your kind of view was of like the Instagram generation, or social media in general, really Like what’s your view of it? What’s your own relationship like with particularly Instagram, I think? I think that social media can kind of equally be a force for harm and good Like on one hand, we are consuming more images than ever before and more advertising that is influencing how we think about ourselves and what we should be aiming for in life, which is bad But on the other hand, there isn’t it like an “editor” in charge of what we’re seeing any more, and we can decide more of our own part of the kind of bodies that we want to see And something I recommend in the book and that really actually changed my life was following a more diverse range of bodies on Instagram and seeking out women who had a double chin like me, like didn’t have a flat stomach, were fatter than me, looked like me, and following them and seeing that they were beautiful and like were celebrating their bodies and seeing that confidence every day
casually chips away at your own internal “you could never be fat and happy” voice And makes you realise, “Oh, look! All of these people look fat and happy “So I guess I could be, too.” I think that’s like a real powerful self-hypnosis tool! So, yeah, like basically social media is as good a power as good as you want to make it And I will mention that the algorithms don’t tend to favour these people who don’t look like skinny white chicks, basically So you have to, like. unfollow the people who make you feel bad about your body and start following people who make you feel good — who look like you and are beautiful and are happy about it, basically And I think that can change your life Yeah, totally. I was listening to an interview with someone whose name I can’t remember now! It’s on the tip of my tongue But basically she was saying that the algorithms with Instagram So, you know, you’ll have like naked or half-naked skinny kind of models And then, you know, if a plus-size woman posts a naked or half-naked picture, then Instagram will just be like, “Take it down. This isn’t our criteria.” I don’t know whether you remember, also, there was like a viral photo I think it was about two or three years ago, maybe even be longer than that Where there was a girl laying on her side, she had like grey joggers on — and you could see her period blood — Mm, I remember that, yeah And it was like totally taken down And it’s just… Yeah. It’s just kind of, I think as you say, curating your feed, so that there are… You’re seeing things that kind of are in line with yourself and empower you, however you look So, what do you want to achieve with this book? Like, what do you want the reader to take away? I think I just want people to think and talk about sex more, to not assume that like their beliefs that they were fed during school or childhood from their parents, our government, like the church, our schools, your peers are necessarily the right one was to hold And actually, like, we should challenge our own beliefs about things and think, “OK. Why did I think that? “Let me examine that and if that’s still a belief I want to keep “or do I think that maybe there’s like a better option for me out there?” And I think we should do that in all areas of our life, but I think especially our sex life it’s important to do that with And I want people to have these conversations as well I want people to talk about sex in a more casual and open way with each other And just some really kind of quick-fire general, like generalised questions I mean, do you think women are treated equally in society today? No, of course not! (OTH LAUGH) Who do you think has the power to change inequality in society? That is a really interesting question Generally, the rich people — they have the power Like, if you’re rich you can choose if you want to be a management consultant or you want to be an activist or you want to be a corporate lawyer for the big dogs, or you want to be a lawyer for the little man If you’re rich you have that choice And, yeah, if the rich all voted in line with the kind of interests of those more disadvantaged than them, and they used their media outlets not just to spew lies! Looking at you, Rupert Murdoch! (BOTH LAUGH) Sure he’s gonna listen to this(!) — Yeah, then — We’ll tag him in it! Yeah! (LAUGHS) Then Yeah, those are the people who have the power to change society And how do you think we can challenge inequality, day to day? Day to day I mean, if you, like me, are just a little schmuck, then it’s very difficult! We have limited power and I think the first thing is accepting that and be like, “It’s not all on us!” The idea that like it’s all on the individual consumer to change the world is like an idea pushed onto us by big corporations and powerful people so that they look less bad Like the term “carbon footprint” was invented by BP to shift the blame of climate change on to the individual And so accepting that we are not that powerful, I think, is the first thing And then the other things we can do are
analyse the media we are consuming and think, “OK. What in this is a lie? And who is benefiting from this lie?” And, like, “Should I believe this “or is this someone just trying to funnel money away from me and towards them?” And like talk about these things To your racist uncle and your centrist dad and be like, “Please you’re believing lies. Here’s the truth, Dad!” Which is hard to do that But that’s all we can do And of course vote Awesome. And what are you working on currently? Have you got anything in the pipeline or have you got any future projects that you want to mention? — Secret projects! — Hey! Secret SALLY: Oh, I love that! And where can where can people find you? Where can people get the book? Tell us all your socials Tell us how we can connect with you, Flo You can find my book Here it is again on any place which sells books You can find me on Flo Perry Flo Perry? That is me! On Twitter @FloPerry, and Instagram @FloPerryDraws Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us today — I’ve loved our conversation — Me, too. Thank you for having me, Sally — Here’s to feminist sex! — Woo!