ALIX FOX pushes the boundaries of sex in ways that you’d never imagine.
An award-winning podcast host, journalist, brand ambassador and educator, Alix manages to get the awkward British public to reveal intimate stories that are normally kept hidden behind bedroom doors and out of public conversation.
With a portfolio of work that includes everything from being an X-rated agony aunt on “The Modern Mann” show to a spokesperson for Durex and consultant for television productions, she says that she’s “got more slashes in her job description than you’d find at a Guns N’Roses tribute band convention”.
What unites it all is a fearless but gentle curiosity about the ways in which we connect with each other – a combination of talent and kindness that has most recently been recognised in her nomination in the 2017 Women of the Future Awards.
And why is she so compelling? Well, any encounter involving Alix is entertaining, joyful and often hilarious, but it’s never at the expense of sensitivity or accuracy. The result is a sparkling lightness of touch that yet manages to reveal deep personal and universal truths.
You have mastered the art of putting people at ease and getting them to confide in you honestly. How do you do it?
“I learnt a lot from working on “Close Encounters”, an aural documentary series where I was interviewing people about relationships and sex - everyone from a polyamorous couple who each date multiple other partners, to a guy talking about how having a small penis has affected his sense of masculinity.
“First of all, I realised that if I wanted someone to trust me and be vulnerable then I needed to tell them a personal story about me, to put us on the same platform, and make myself vulnerable too.
“But you have to be careful that in doing so you don’t accidentally speak too much and take up too much space.
“I’ve actually discovered that the best question that you can ask if you want to encourage someone to elaborate or give you more information about a point they’ve made is simply “how so?”. It’s so small, non-judgmental and gentle, and in the most minimal of ways conveys that you’re engaged and that you care; it gives interviewees the teeniest nudge to reveal more.
“I work with a brilliant producer called Matt Hill who’s helped coach me and improve my skills without ever making me feel disheartened when I muck things up or overwhelmed by the pressures of learning in the public eye; his own compassion, positivity and patience with me have underlined how much I aspire to conveying those qualities in my own approach to people.
“Another trick I’ve learned that helps people connect with your work is to identify a relevant ice-breaker that universally inspires intrigue. For me it’s telling people that I once interviewed a woman born with two vaginas. Everyone wants to know more! And once I’ve told that story, which is both funny and heart-wrenching, they almost always open up in exchange, and tell me something intimate.”
What do you enjoy about your work?
“It’s a huge privilege that people feel safe opening up to me; often I am the first person they’ve ever discussed certain experiences or feelings with, or told about their secret desires or identities. It is an honour to hold that space with other humans, and I take great pride in trying to make my conversations rewarding, cathartic and enriching to the lives of both interviewees and listeners or readers.
"Sex is frequently derided as a ‘soft’ subject – frivolous, risible, undeserving of serious contemplation and analysis – but when our sexual needs, inclinations, fears and backgrounds can have such fundamental influence upon how we relate to ourselves and others, I think these are matters we should be holding up to the light and respecting, not hiding away and belittling.
"I wouldn’t class it as ‘enjoyment’ as such, but my work has certainly helped me better understand myself too, in myriad ways. I recently got a medical diagnosis of a physical condition resulting from a sustained period of trauma I experienced as a younger person, which would have been a lot harder to understand and tougher to accept had I not had the advantage of speaking to related case studies as part of my career, and learning how abuse, psychological turmoil and intense stress can have extremely tangible, bodily effects upon people.
"On a lighter note, I definitely savour all the sex toys I’m sent to test! Not sure my neighbours enjoy the fact that my room frequently buzzes more than a rave in a beehive, mind you.
"I’m a big fan of my Doxy mains-powered wand vibrator, but it judders so powerfully I reckon the rest of my terrace feel like they’re flying a budget airline during severe turbulence every time I fire it up!”
You’ve got a huge amount on; is there any project that is particularly delighting you?
“Lord, I always seem to be juggling more balls than you’d find filling a giant’s bean bag. I often zoom by the seat of my pants, because I’ve found that it can be one of the best ways to travel: over-planning and being too strict in your expectations of where you believe your career ought to go can mean you inadvertently close yourself off to unexpected yet thrilling opportunities.
“At present, I’m excited because after contributing a chapter to a book for The Stylist [“Life Lessons from Remarkable Women”], Penguin have said they really liked my writing, and it’s opened the door to something that moves away from the more documentary-driven journalism I’ve been concentrating on lately.
“I thought they might want me to write a sex education manual, or produce some floggable-yet-pale facsimile of ‘How To Build A Girl’ when Caitlin Moran has already done it so well, but they’ve taken me up on a pitch for a much more unusual semi-fictional magic realism novel.
"Writing it is intoxicating. It feels like I’ve turned my soul into nitrous oxide and I’m huffing it until my head spins, then the spinning creates a storytelling zoetrope.
"Of course, it may turn out to be the biggest self-indulgent wank I’ve ever produced – even beyond the mains-powered JCB mega-vibrators.”
And how do your mornings start?
“Ha! Normally being nearly strangled by headphones! I’m single reluctantly single at the moment so I often sleep alone, and I like listening to ASMR YouTube videos to help me drop off at night… but it means when I wake up I’m in a chaotic cat’s cradle of wires.
“Once I’m up, I’m northern, so I have to start the day with Yorkshire Tea! I’ve tried herbal brews and lemon and hot water and all the rest, but to kick off my day, anything else in my cup just makes me feel like a mug. So I’ve bought a giant huggable catering pack of 1,500 Yorkshire teabags.
“And breakfast might be a big, indulgent bowl of porridge, with seeds sprinkled on it and a dollop of homemade apple and cinnamon compote. But I also get free toast and Nutella and fruit at my office, and you know, I feel like I’ve paid for them so I’d better have them! I’m the type who always takes home the mini soaps and tiddly single serve cartons of long-life milk they give you in hotels because as I see it, they’ve charged me for it... same mentality. I’m cheap. But heck, I’m also exceedingly cheerful, even early on Mondays.”
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