Desert Island bookstore in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is something of an anomaly—an impromptu second home and community hub for the curious, the artsy, and the self proclaimed weirdoes in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Specializing in graphic novels and small artist books, I recently popped in to kill some time and ruffle a few pages before meeting up with a friend.
Scanning the display tables, my eyes lasered in on a colorfully designed book jacket featuring a voluptuous, half-naked young woman seductively licking a popsicle with one of the funniest come-hither looks I had ever seen. What was supposed to be a 10-minute detour quickly turned into an hour or so of intense concentration and muffled laughter as I attempted, in one sitting, to read and then re-read all of Gina Wynbrandt’s gorgeous, hilarious, and delightfully cringe-worthy new graphic memoir, Someone Please Have Sex With Me (2dcloud, 2016).
The book is the culmination of several years' worth of work by the 24-year-old Chicago native, and features a compilation of comics with names like “Big Pussy” and “I’m Funnier Than Your Girlfriend, And I Have Fewer Sexual Limits: Let Me Make My Case.” And despite the “clickbait worthy title” (the author’s own words), it is a fascinating and irreverent take on what it’s really like to be an unconventional woman with real physical needs in a world where highly prescribed expectations of femininity and sexuality are still too prevalent.
The book tackles themes of yearning, sexual frustration, low self-esteem, mental illness, and, ultimately, self-acceptance, and it reads like a fusion of Ghost World and the brilliant Bust comic Unloveable, with a little Judd Apatow and American Pie thrown in for good measure. Inside, you’ll find Wynbrandt’s fantasies of enlisting Sailor Moon and Kim Kardashian to teach her the ways of female power, her pain upon discovering that her favorite YA novels lied to her, conflicted fantasies of running off with a much younger pop star, and the utter devastation of being a woman of unique proportions attempting to find love on Tinder.
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As Wynbrandt told me by phone last week, her new book can also be humorously summed up as “horny 20-something woman goes to extreme lengths to feel human connection.”
But beyond the book's cheekiness, there’s also a level of earnestness to Someone Please Have Sex With Me. “I guess I’m always frustrated with guys,” she told me. “I’m learning a little bit more now how to act in adult relationships, but for most of my life I’d just be like, ‘Do they just not know that I want to have sex? Is that not clear?' I just thought, ‘What if I just wrote the most explicit possible I’m-DTF-story, would that change my situation?’ So it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s taken from an earnest plea of 'please have sex with me.'"
Raised on teen sex comedies and books like Gossip Girl, during her sexual maturation, Wynbrandt felt like she’d been misled. “I thought guys should be trying to have sex with me all the time just because I’m a woman,” she said with a laugh. “I [also] had this fairytale notion that, one day, some guy was going to see me and say, “I’m going to change her life and teach her how special she is—but with my dick!” This disconnect led to her to think she was somehow failing at an important milestone. “I felt I wasn’t being a woman correctly because there weren’t men actively trying to have sex with me.”
“I grew up reading so many male cartoonists tell the [same] story of, ‘I’m a nerdy geeky guy that doesn’t understand women and I’m sad and horny and alone,” she continued, “but there weren't any like that from the point of view from a woman. So that’s another reason why I felt it was necessary to put that out there [with my book]."
Wynbrandt's creative style has traditionally been to choose one issue she’s internally wrestling with and work through it in the form of a short zine or graphic text. This book is the fruition of several years of this intense, and often embarrassing, method of self-exploration.
“Writing it was definitely for selfish reasons. It was therapeutic to get it out there,” she said. “It wasn’t really till after I finished it that I talked to some other girls who approached me and told me they related […], and now it makes me feel really good. I would have loved if someone else had done something like this before me [so I could have realized], “oh, I’m not alone if this other girl feels similarly.”
Wynbrandt’s book feels so fresh, in part, because it provides a very real, and very rarely told, narrative of a woman’s growing pains and awkward sexual coming-of-age juxtaposed with Hollywood’s distorted messages.
A riot of hormones and impulsive urges, with age, Wynbrandt has come to have a more nuanced view of both male and female sexuality. “Now that I’m older I’m realizing that there is no prince charming that comes up to you and is like, ‘I’m hot and want to do you.’ I see men more as humans and not just wish fulfillment. I spent a lot of time objectifying men and [then realizing], “oh, I guess you also have to be a nice person and not crazy.” If there is any justice in the world, this will also hopefully be the title of her forthcoming sequel.
Laura Feinstein is the Head of Social Stories at Fusion. Formerly, she held staff roles as the East Coast Editor of GOOD Magazine and the EIC of The Creators Project at VICE, and has contributed to The Guardian, T/The New York Times, Paper Magazine and many others. She specializes in the niche, the esoteric and the un-boring.