Meet Iman Hariri-Kia, Upcoming Author and Bustle's Sex & Relationships Editor

Tell us about you & your role at Bustle!

I’m Bustle's Sex & Relationships editor, which means I oversee content related to sex, relationships, and dating, as well as sexuality, gender identity, sex education, sexual health, and consent. I manage a team of four staff writers, work with freelancers, and am now writing a monthly column called I CAN’T. DON’T HATE ME., where I offer my somewhat unhinged hot takes on sex and dating trends, free of charge.

So, we're kind of obsessed with the YouTube show you hosted about Sex (with no shame)... tell us more about it!

Thank you so much! I had a ton of fun working on No SHAME SEX ED, where I answered reader questions about sex without a hint of shame or judgment. What I loved the most about filming the show, other than getting to work with the talented crew and production team, was that I had the privilege of interviewing experts in whatever topic we were discussing every episode. It was very important for me to use the platform to elevate the voices of educators, especially those from marginalized communities and backgrounds, and to pay them for their labor. I left each taping having learned something new, and it was an incredibly gratifying and humbling experience.

What do you think are the biggest blockers for womxn when overcoming shame associated with sex and female pleasure?

A lack of information! The American sex education system is so flawed, with only 24 states mandating sex-ed be taught in schools, and of those 24, only 13 requiring said education to be medically accurate. Combine those stats with the fact that abstinence-only education was emphasized in schools until the Obama administration, and the lack of female pleasure-focused information in education and media, and you get women and non-binary folks growing up in the dark, afraid to talk to each other about their changing bodies and forced to do their own research in order to answer their questions and lean about their sexuality — which is where outlets like Bustle come in. Whenever I assign a story, I think about the person on the other end of the screen who desperately needs to read it. They don’t want to be talked down to, but rather, need to be met where they’re at. I am a true believer in normalizing taboo topics, and I think that if we talk enough of about sex and sexuality in our day-to-day, it will start to feel as mundane as brushing our teeth.

Of everything you've written – which article are you most proud of?

This question is always so tough for me to answer, mostly because I am very proud of all of the outlets I’ve written for. I also tend to get the most excited about whatever article I’ve last worked on, just because it’s fresh in my mind. But if I have to choose, I’ll go with one of my first ever features for Teen Vogue, What Being Hairy In America Taught Me About Western Beauty Standards. This story was technically a Beauty piece, but it’s truly about the first generation immigrant experience and the complexities American assimilation as a middle eastern woman. It was the very first piece I ever wrote to go viral, and it helped me connect with an audience of young, brown readers who have continued to follow and support work, and in many ways, launched my career. I'll be forever grateful.

You've spoken about consent before – which is something we're also incredibly passionate about at Diem... how do you recommend someone bring up this topic with a (prospective) sexual partner?

Consent education is another topic I feel extremely passionate about, and I’ve so been fortunate to have been entrusted by so many women to help tell their consent-related stories. When I was at Elite Daily, I also worked on two pieces — College Men Are Finally Asking For Consent, But Only because They’re Afraid Of Being “MeToo’d” and Men Share What They Don’t Understand About Consent & Experts Answer Their Questions — that really reinforced how much misinformation still exists about consent, how many unanswered questions people still have, and how much harm can be done when those questions aren’t openly addressed. So, my number one recommendation is to make active consent, aka checking in-consistently with a partner throughout any sexual interaction, a regular part of your sex life. As I mentioned earlier, I truly believe in normalizing topics through conversation. So, it might sound overly simplified, but having a regular conversation with your partner(s) about your intentions, boundaries, safe words, and triggers can lead to a healthier, hotter, and more fulfilling sexual relationship. These don’t have to be directly before sex, either. Make checking in a relationship must-have, instead of a chore you have to partake in whenever something is “wrong.” I also very much believe that the conversation around consent won’t fully evolve until the sex education system and the way we raise our children is transformed, but that’s a conversation for another day.

You just announced your book deal! Woo! Tell us about CLIQUEBAIT and when can we read it?!

I’m so excited to finally be able to talk about CLIQUEBAIT, my passion project and debut novel. The story is inspired by my own time in media, and follows the journey of a young middle eastern blogger and aspiring writer who gets an entry-level job working at a magazine she’s always adored, only to discover that the print and digital teams are at war with each other. As both sides attempt to use her as a spy, Noora navigates the decline of the publishing industry and the rise of digital media. It was also very important to me that the novel and its New York backdrop is told and depicted through a diverse lens that’s inclusive without being tokenizing. I’ve always been a huge fan of YA and new adult literature but struggled to find protagonists who looked like me or had families like mine. I’m so proud to be the author of a coming of age narrative with no white, cis, straight male characters, that instead chooses to center the stories of brown, Black, Asian American, queer, and non-binary people.

As you know, community is kinda our thing so –– how has your personal and professional community helped you navigate life choices?

Oh my god, I love this question. I’ve been so lucky to have been a part of so many different communities throughout my life, and they’ve each taught me so much.

Growing up middle eastern in New York City, I was so blessed to be a part of a rich Iranian American expat community that relocated in the tri-state area after revolution, which meant I’ve always been deeply aware of my cultural heritage and history, even at an age when my impulse was to suppress anything that set my identity apart from my peers.

Speaking of which, I also went to an all-girls school for 13 years. My experience being educated solely amongst strong-willed women has empowered me to remain steadfast in my values, vocal about opinions, and ever curious in my quest for knowledge. The friendships I made have lasted over two decades and counting.

Between spending all of my time as an adolescent surrounded by women and growing up in a female-dominated family (my mother and sister are both true examples of creative excellence), it should really come as no surprise that I now work in women’s media, creating content primarily for and by women and non-binary folks. I truly do think of the readers I’ve cultivated since entering the space as a community and I am so grateful that we found each other and continue to grow together.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention the community I’ve found within my industry, especially my two closest friends, Willa and Mel. They are both fiercely talented, diligent about their work, and passionate about leaving the world better than they found it. Their friendship has gotten me through both personal and professional heartbreak and has taught me so much about resilience and unconditional love and support. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

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