Sex Heroes is an ongoing HuffPost Q&A series by Voices Editorial Director Noah Michelson that explores the lives and experiences of individuals who are challenging, and thereby changing, mainstream culture’s understanding of sex and sexuality.
When politicians make headlines for something related to sex, it’s most likely because they’ve found themselves in the middle of a tawdry scandal.
Noah Dyer wants to change all of that. A candidate currently running for governor in Arizona, he describes himself as a “socially responsible moderate” who “believes government transparency is a critical issue for 21st century voters.” He says he “has a unique willingness to be open with voters about political and personal matters,” and he’s not kidding.
In recent weeks, Dyer has garnered international attention for his unprecedented decision to include a remarkably transparent statement about his sex life on a page labeled “scandal and controversy” on his campaign website. The statement reads:
Noah has had both deep and casual sexual experiences with all kinds of women. He is an advocate of open relationships. He’s had group sex and sex with married women. He has sent and received intimate texts and pictures, and occasionally recorded video during sex. Noah has always been forthright with his partners. All of his relationships have been legal and consensual, never coercive, or abusive, and he condemns such behavior. Noah is unapologetic about his sexual choices, and wishes others the same safety and confidence as they express themselves.
Take a second and try to think of the last time you heard about a politician revealing he’s had group sex or that he’s into sexting. Let me guess: you’re having a hard time coming up with any other examples ― and that’s exactly the point. Dyer is breaking entirely new ground and the possibilities for furthering sex positivity in this country are nothing short of revolutionary if others choose to follow his lead.
I spoke with Dyer, who identifies as straight, late last week to learn more about why he decided to include the statement on his website, how potential voters are responding, what his friends and family think about the bold move and more.
The Huffington Post: What inspired you to be so radically and publicly transparent about your sex life?
Noah Dyer: I feel like voters around the country, but particularly in Arizona, feel disenfranchised with the political process because they feel like politicians are dishonest. Certainly that’s not true of every single politician, but I wanted to make a big statement that I wanted to be honest, I wanted to be transparent and I’m going to tell things to voters the way they are and not hold back. I think voters are tired of politicians deciding what they can and can’t hear. They want politicians who will give them information and let them make decisions for themselves.
Was any of this inspired by previous political sex scandals? Did you see those things happening and think, “I don’t want that to be me,” or was it more about your own personal decision to be honest in your approach to your sex life and sexuality?
More the latter. Most political scandals aren’t just sex — there’s some kind of illegal or otherwise troublesome activity taking place. I have’t done anything like that. But, I’ve always been open. Nobody would have to do deep opposition research to find this stuff. It’s all there on the internet. I didn’t want somebody to expose it as though I was embarrassed about any of it or as though they had to dig it up. So I figured consolidating it into a single handy-dandy reference was better than leaving it to the internet and journalists and my opposition or whomever else to put it all together.
Is the statement that’s currently featured on your site the first and only version? Or were there drafts involving varying degrees of openness that you considered before deciding to just address everything you’ve experienced and done?
I knew broadly that I was [going to be completely transparent]. I wanted to be open but everybody in my campaign was very concerned about it. They thought it might impact my campaign but they believed in my candidacy. So they were passionate about trying to lessen it. [The thing I always said to myself was], for example, if I had left out “sex with married women” but included everything else, then somebody else could have come later and said, “Noah Dyer says he’s open but the truth is he’s had sex with married women,” and I didn’t want to be open to anything like that. So, for me, the bar was nothing that can come after this should be a revelation. I want to own it completely and so that’s what I did. There’s no possibility of something else coming out now that would make it seem like I was holding back.
Do you feel like this is a big deal? Or do you think this is just the way it should be for all politicians?
I didn’t think it was as big of a deal as it has proven to be. I’ve gotten international coverage because of it — Stephen Colbert even poked some fun at me — but in no universe did I imagine that it would be that interesting to people that I “fessed up” to this. What I was hoping was that local media would see [the statement] and decide to cover the issues anyway or at least cover them in balance, but what I’ve been pleased about — and I think it’s fair — is that it’s not so much [my statement about the sex] that people are reporting on, or any of the things that I admit to there, it’s the fact that I was willing to own it early. That’s what I think the big story is and that’s why people are talking to me. It’s kind of funny that that’s our current political state: somebody talked about himself without holding back! [laughs] And I’m pleased to be recognized as a person who did that.
How do you feel about the way that Americans think about sex? I think the fact that your statement is getting a lot of attention says something about how we as a culture, even in 2017, approach it.
I’ll say two things: My campaign is not about substantially changing how people view sex. That’s not a core issue of my campaign. But there are some people in our society who are persecuted because of their sexuality — the LGBTQ community in particular. So, I think my openness about sex will make me a great advocate for those folks. And my personal view, which is not a political mission of mine, is that people just need to relax. I’ve actually found that most Arizonans — people have called me or come up to me and said, “My 70-year-old Christian grandpa who has voted Republican in all the last elections decided to hear about what you’re doing and didn’t care about the sex and said he’d consider voting for you.” So, I think that that’s true of Arizonans and that’s true of most people. Individually, people don’t think sex is that big of a deal but for some reason when it comes to public policy and the candidates that we vote for, we keep on voting for people who are less open than we are as individuals. I’m hoping to be representative of the fact that really no one cares.
Tell me more about what the response has been like. Have you heard from anyone who’s said they wouldn’t vote for you because of your statement?
An incredibly small amount — honestly like maybe two people out of one hundred [have said they wouldn’t vote for me because of it]. The vast majority of people have said, “Your strategy is refreshing… you’re a human and I want to vote for a candidate who’s human. I don’t need a candidate who’s perfect and your platform resonates with me.”
I’ve gotten a couple of messages that have been, “You’re a disgusting person and you need to repent” or whatever but it’s been overwhelmingly positive. There’s a [publication] I’ve never heard of before — a sports-related publication — and for whatever reason they thought I was interesting enough to cover politics in their sports journalism and they were very negative. Nobody from their outlet called me [for a comment] but because that story keyed it up in a negative way, the comments there were negative. While I’m certainly nothing like Trump in thinking that the media is the enemy of the people, I have seen how the media shapes perceptions, in that if you just look at stories and how they’re written, people largely tend to fall in line with the tone of the story itself.
So, with journalists who have been positive towards or interested in what I’m doing, people who read those pieces seem to follow that. For those who have written highly critical things of me, readers seem to follow that. And of course there are always trolls and contrarians and whatever else.
On a more personal level, what has the reaction from your family and friends been like?
They’re glad that I’m not handling the attention in a negative way. And of course not everybody in my life is running for office and so they’ve all looked for reassurance from me that I’m not going to hold other people in my life to the same level of transparency that I’m holding myself, but since I’m not, everybody is happy and excited for me.
How would you sum up your message to voters ― or anyone reading this interview? What do you want them to take away from your statement and the attention it’s received?
The first thing is that if you want honest and open-minded politicians, you have to vote for them and you have to vote for them exactly how and who they are. The second thing is that politicians who are open-minded about sex are also going to be bringing great solutions to the issues. I’m about changing education in Arizona, about a great stance on immigration, about handling our budget issues, about our handling corrections reform — all of these things. Who I am is what I’ve disclosed but what I’m going to do is bring great creative solutions that come from being open minded.
Is there a sex hero you think deserves to be covered on The Huffington Post? Send an email to Noah Michelson.