By Tim Parks
When English born Grant Stoddard planted his feet on American soil in the pursuit of what he thought was true love, he had no idea the course his life would take; eventually landing a gig as a go to guy sex columnist, which he parlayed into becoming a first time author with his book, Working Stiff, an account of his misadventures as an accidental sexpert.
And it all began with a whim, as he explained to me, during our phone conversation.
“I met a girl at university, we were just platonic, friends, but I realized I really liked her, but only after she’d gone back to New Jersey.” Stoddard recanted. “And then I did something kind of foolish, and turned up in New Jersey practically unannounced. And we just kind of said, ‘how ‘bout it?’ And luckily, she had a lapse of judgment and said, ‘ok.’”
When that situation dissolved itself, Stoddard found himself a stranger in a strange land, and on the verge of being an English import that was about to become an American export, by way of deport.
“I was actually homeless, essentially, and living in the East Village. I was about to be deported,” he said.
Little did Stoddard know that by entering an X rated online trivia contest with a twist, how that twist would ultimately prove to be one of fate.
“I won a competition and the prize was to have sex with this writer, Lisa Carver, who wrote a column about her sex life called ‘The Lisa Diaries’ for Nerve.com. And she’d been writing it for some years and she had recently just gotten married.” Stoddard explained. “And as a consequence her column had gotten rather uneventful, so she decided to do something to spice it up. And one of the things she did was to stage a trivia competition in a chat room that she hosted. So, she had this competition and the prize was to go to New Hampshire and have sex with her. And the whole reason for this was so she’d have some new, fun material to write about.
“I was very inexperienced in the ways of sex, and I found myself at this woman’s house and it turned into this big orgy situation. And, the next day, after I told her my big sob story, she suggested I apply to Nerve.com, because they had an intern position.”
Stoddard’s desperate measures tactic to stay in America paid off, as he did become an intern at Nerve.com, which eventually led to him taking on the moniker of columnist for the website.
“I there for about six months, earning five dollars an hour, and one of the editors said, ‘Hey! Are you the guy that Lisa wrote about who won the competition? Because he was from England and his name was Grant.’ And I said I was that guy. And she asked, ‘Well, would you do anything?’ And I said, ‘Well, if there’s money in it, probably I will.’” Stoddard detailed.
“Regardless of me having no experience in writing, she said, ‘Why don’t you do this (write the column) and do something wacky.’ And then somebody else came up with the idea of putting it into a science format; and that kind of gave me an alibi, like I didn’t really want to do these things, but I was doing them in the name of science.”
And his do-anything-on-a-dare ways became a necessity for his column “I Did it for Science,” which has literally put Stoddard into unusual positions for the sake of his art and for “science.”
“I suppose the craziest thing, it didn’t actually end up being printed for the column, there’s a fetish called “sploshing,” which is where you throw food on somebody, or have food thrown on you for sexual gratification. And I heard about this gentleman that liked that. So, me and this other guy went to his house under the auspices of throwing food on him, and him getting off on it and me writing about the experience.” Stoddard recounted. “But what it actually was in reality, that was a component of it; he did want food thrown on him.
“But, he wanted his house broken into and him beaten up inside it, then he wanted to be roughed up, kind of sexually violated, and then get food thrown on him, which was kind of a far cry from the original concept. I wasn’t expecting that experience. I thought we were just going to go up to someone’s house and throw pudding at him, but it turned out to be a lot more hardcore than that.”
And he would draw the line at what he is not willing to do on a dare for his column.
“There’s only been one thing so far ever.” He said. “I was actually stranded in The Central Valley, I was there just outside of Yosemite, ostensibly doing some writing for about three or four months, and I was going stir crazy. And, I didn’t want the column to end, but there’s a lack of stuff to be doing when you are all on your own, and the nearest metropolis is Fresno and it’s an hour away. I was kind of out in the boonies, I was actually living on a cattle ranch; so, my editor asked if I would entertain the idea of going down and trying to fuck one of the cows. And, it was there that I drew the line.”
Stoddard’s column became the basis for his book, Working Stiff, and laying himself bare on the pages and detailing his sexcapades for public consumption has held this surprising connotation for Stoddard.
“I found it extremely difficult, I was kind of sexually invisible growing up, and I think that gave me a fair quotient of self loathing, especially seeing myself in a sexual way, seeing myself that way was difficult; I’d been like the least likely person to ever have sex ever in my high school. So, it was a surreal experience writing about it for the edification for others.”
The experience of having his first book published has had some pros and cons, as far as reality versus fantasy are concerned for Stoddard.
“I suppose in my mind when people say book launch I’ve imagined a rocket taking off. But it’s really more drawn out, like it happens by inches almost; it’s more of a trickle.” Stoddard explained. “It’s certainly been thrilling to see it in the bookstores, like Barnes and Noble and all of that. It seems very surreal, especially when I get MySpace messages from people in the middle of the country, saying I just picked up a copy of your book in Butte, Montana or something. It blows my mind to think it’s available in places like that, and only then when I think of it in those terms, do I realize that I’ve been extremely lucky.”
Stoddard is lucky indeed, as the film rights for Working Stiff have been picked up by Paramount Vantage, which means that Stoddard’s exploits could be coming soon to a theater near you.
This interview was first published in March 2007.