For this installment of my Women’s Empowerment Series, I had the honor to interview Amanda Chatel, Sex and relationships writer and sexual educator. From her inspiring voice on Bustle to her fierce one on her Facebook page, Chatel embodies empowerment and gives strength to those who endure pain silently. Chatel’s brilliant analysis, no-nonsense approach, and honest self-reflection makes her one of our prized voices in American society.
Your career is so fascinating and inspiring. Tell us about your career trajectory?
I basically jumped head first into the water. I had been an office manager at a few different companies when I first moved to New York, fearing to put myself and my writing out there, but when the recession hit and I was cut to part-time, I quit and started pursuing freelance writing full-time. Since then I’ve worked for several different outlets. I’ve always been fortunate enough that in many cases, editors have reached out to me to write for them. Something that’s quite a feat and definitely took awhile to accomplish.
When I got an email from Glamour back in 2015 asking if I was interested in writing for them, I thought someone was pulling my leg.
But while I have bylines at Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Mic, and other places, Bustle is my ride-or-die at the moment. I have my editor Michelle Toglia to thank for that.
What got you interested in the industry?
I had always wanted to write. I wrote my first poem, about balloons of all things, when I was little – maybe five or six. I also used to write plays for the neighborhood kids to perform and I’ve been writing short stories my whole life. I never set out to write about sex, but when a site needed someone to cover a blowjob class at Babeland, I took it. Things went from there. I think writing about sex and female sexuality has, in many ways, made me a better woman and a more empathetic person.
When you realize how complicated human sexuality is, you have a greater appreciation for humanity as a whole.
You empower women with all that you do! What amazing projects can we expect to see next?
Well, I don’t plan on giving up the sex and relationships writing thing any time soon. So there’s that. I also just finished a memoir, so that’s my focus right now – getting it out there and finding a great team of women with whom I can work and who have the same vision for it that I do.
What inspired the book?
To get straight to the point: My life. While I don’t have enough of an ego to say my life has been extraordinary in any way, I’ve definitely had my fair share of drama. It’s about my marriage to an older French man, who cheated on me with a girl 27 years his junior.
Then, to add insult to injury, this 21-year-old mistress sent me a poem about her love for my husband and how I was standing in the way of her happiness with him. No joke.
How did you handle that?
I responded by sending him horse shit – something that went viral for a hot minute, because I wrote an article about what I had done. I didn’t think, for one second, that something so, to be honest, crass and petty would actually be newsworthy. From there, the memoir is about all the absurd things I did to try to recover from the humiliation of such a loss, but with an awareness of all the absurdity involved. I know it’s not exactly novel to write about being cheated on and then running off “to find yourself,” so I wanted to tackle that cliché in a way that was more realistic, more raw, more intimate, more honest.
How did you turn this into an empowering experience?
I think it’s insulting for a privileged woman to run off to, say, India to “find herself,” especially since we never really lose ourselves, no matter how devastating an experience is; we simply temporarily misplace pieces of ourselves.
I want the memoir to be equally heartbreaking and laughable; to let the readers know, that I get it; I’m right there with them experiencing the dozens of emotions that follow after you’ve been betrayed and, for lack of a better word, thrown away by someone you love.
As Anatole France wrote, “It is human nature to think wisely and act in an absurd fashion.” This quote, in addition to the lived experience of it all, inspired the memoir.
You have over 22K followers on your social networks. How do you manage trolls and haters with all of your success?
I’m sort of a hot head, so I used to respond and lash out. But I don’t have the time anymore.
You get to a point where you realize to engage with those people reduces you to their level and that’s a level where I don’t want to be.
If the first sentence is one of hate and negativity, and trolls usually don’t waste their time and get straight to the point, I delete and block, and never look back. I won’t even waste my time reading them. Simply, I’m all out f*cks for those people.
What advice would you offer to those interested in getting in the industry?
Network, network, network. Even if you’re shy, get out there and go to events where you’ll get a chance to meet other writers. I wouldn’t be where I am without the network of amazing female writers I have in my life.
What would you tell your younger self?
“Grow a damn backbone, Chatel.” I spent far too much time scared to pursue writing because I feared rejection.
But rejection is just part of the game.
If I had actually thrown my fears to the side and pursued writing in my 20s, instead of waiting until my early 30s, things would be different now. While I don’t regret any decision I’ve made in my life, even the dumb ones, I do wish that I had the backbone then that I have now.