Freelance writer analyzes sex in new book

“My hope is for young people who feel anxious about their sex lives or relationships in one way or another to realize that they’re not alone, they’re not abnormal,” Hills said. Photo by Ben Haines.

If you’re a member of Generation Y, what book do you think best addresses sex and relationship norms on a broad-scale cultural level for people your age?  Can you even think of one?

That was the dilemma for Rachel Hills, 29, an Australian-born, England-based freelance journalist, blogger and graduate of the University of Sydney.  She is touring North America conducting research for her upcoming book, “The Sex Myth.”

Her travels brought her to Western Carolina University on Wednesday, March 14.

Hills’ book will focus on sex and identity among Generation Y, specifically people aged 16 to 35 in English-speaking countries.  It will present a mixture of accessible academic theory, popular culture and plenty of interviews.

Hills is currently traveling through the United States and Canada interviewing people for the book.  She previously conducted Skype interviews with several Americans around the country and then mapped out her trip based on whom she wanted to meet and interview in person.

“One of the things that’s been really heartening for me is the response from people who want to be involved,” she said.  “I’ve had far more volunteers than would be humanly possible for me to interview.”

Hills has interviewed about 120 people so far in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K.  She plans to interview between 150 and 200 people.

Hills has written for publications such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue, making her no stranger to the topic of sex and relationships.  Though currently residing in London, the Sydney native does most of her freelance writing for Australian and American publications.

A renowned feminist, Hills cites “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf and “The Whole Woman” by Germaine Greer as two of her inspirations growing up.  “My personal experience made sense in a broader social, political and cultural context,” she said of those books.

“I realized in my mid-twenties that there was no book out there that covered sex from a socio-cultural perspective,” Hills continued.  “There were ones that covered it from a feminist perspective or a queer theory perspective but none that incorporated all people whether they’re straight, gay, men or women.”

Hills hopes that “The Sex Myth” will fill that void for young people today, helping them understand how their approach to sex and relationships is shaped by society and culture.  “I want to make the book that my 23-year-old self would have appreciated having,” she said.

“My hope is for young people who feel anxious about their sex lives or relationships in one way or another to realize that they’re not alone, they’re not abnormal,” Hills said.

“The Sex Myth” will be released in the second half of 2013 by Simon & Schuster.

Born to write

Rachel Hills grew up in suburban Sydney, Australia, a city of 4 million people.  She displayed a passion for writing and journalism from a young age.

“When I was in fifth grade,” she reminisced, “I temporarily started up a farce newspaper for my friends about what was going on in our class of 30 people.”

At 16, Hills created her own website and decided to pursue journalism professionally.  After high school, she attended the University of Sydney, majoring in communications, English and gender studies. While in college, Hills wrote for both of the campus newspapers and worked as an editor for the university magazine, The Union Recorder.  She published her first piece in a major newspaper just before her 23rd birthday.

Today, at 29, Hills has written over 200 feature articles, essays, reviews and opinion pieces for magazines, newspapers and websites in Australia, the U.S. and the United Kingdom, according to her website.  Her blog, Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, was named Australia’s Best Feminist Blog by Weekend Australian Magazine in 2009 and earned Hills a nomination for Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Female Award in 2010.

After two days in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill research triangle, Hills spent Wednesday, March 14 at WCU as a special guest speaker at a discussion workshop on gender and society.  The session was hosted by associate professor of sociology Heather Laine Talley’s feminist theory group as part of WCU’s 11th annual Gender Conference.

Hills only had one day to spend in Western North Carolina.  She flew out of Asheville to New York City the next morning to continue her tour of research across the country.

Want to get in touch with Rachel Hills?  Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @rachelhills.