Jessica Cutler was a bored, envelope-tossing, congressional staffer for former Republican Senator Mike DeWine — until the online diary about her sex adventures got some unexpected notoriety. Her stories about adventures with the political elite snared a few pious policy-makers, including her apparent S&M fuck pal, Robert Steinbuch, DeWine's former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Naturally, she was canned from her job, accompanied by media fireworks.
Did Ms. Cutler crawl away, hide under the bed, enroll in a 10-day rehab, or issue a non-denial denial? Hardly. She wrote a scintillating novelization of her experience — the bawdy, smart, and hilarious The Washingtonienne — and posed for Playboy.
Jessica retired her online diary — also called The Washingtonienne — after blogger Wonkette revealed her identity. But she continues to blog at JessicaCutlerOnline.com while contemplating her next novel and jumping out of the occasional cake.
Jessica and I talked about the hypocrisy of Capitol Hill's Christian conservatives, the differences between prostitution and getting paid for sex, and which drugs are best for getting it on.
For a free month's subscription to "In Bed With Susie Bright," click here. The full audio version of this interview can be found here.
SUSIE BRIGHT: It seems like you found yourself writing a novel because you were forced to. I mean, you had your little private life, and your girlfriends, and you were gossiping like anybody else would with their friends. And then all of the sudden, your secret blog got outed! So you kind of had to write a book to say your piece, or to set the record straight.
JESSICA CUTLER: Yes. I think that was totally the situation, you know? And not a lot of people understand that. The longest thing I'd ever written prior to that was like a 5,000-word article for a magazine.
SB: About what?
JC: Shoes. It's so clichÃ©d — a "Sex and the City" type thing. Whatever. I didn't like writing. That's why I quit a job at a magazine and ended up working in D.C.
The thing is... my life wasn't perfect, but I was really happy! You know, I was dating lots of guys and just living my life. We were talking among friends, you know, and at the time, we just thought, "Oh, we're using up all our minutes on our cellphones, and... I don't want to email this to you because it has our IP addresses and you never know."
SB: So when you blogged the gossip, you were actually trying to be more private.
JC: Yeah! And I thought, worst-case scenario, if this ever gets back to me, I will delete it, I'll deny that I wrote it, and it will be bygones! (Laughs)
SB: Well apparently you learned your lesson in D.C. — just deny and shred!
JC: (Laughs) But then I thought taking responsibility was the right thing to do. It's better than lying about it. I remember the first couple of days when all this came out, after I left my job, I went on the Internet and there was all this speculation over who was writing it. And they were suggesting other people in my office, and people in other offices. I felt bad, you know?
So I started getting phone calls from reporters, and they have my unlisted number. I figured, they must know. How did they get my number? So I figured that whoever knew it was me was emailing reporters. It really freaked me out. I was a journalist in college, so I know what it's like to be a young reporter. If you hear about this girl who could be another Monica — that's sort of what everyone's hoping for. If you find out her address and where she lives, what are you gonna do? You're gonna go to her house!
Other people were telling me, "You probably better call these people back before someone shows up at your apartment." And that was something I didn't want. So I thought I handled it the best I could.
SB: Well, it's interesting when you say, "the best you could." Because you have this air about you, especially in person, where you're self-deprecating. And everything I'd heard about you before I read your book made me think that you were sort of like a deer — a sexy deer — caught in the headlights.
But when I started reading your book, I thought, "My god. She can write! Her timing is incredible. She has acute observational skills. She can Write with a capital W." This book just flies. And then I thought, well, okayâ€¦ maybe it's ghostwritten and this is just a creation of a scandal. But then I went to your blog, and there was that same voice again. And there was your wit and your authority. You have so much authority in your writing...
SB: You do! If only people could see the look on your face. It's all squished up, like you're sayingâ€¦ "What?!"
JC: Well, I think when you read a lot of criticism, you start to see yourself through their eyes. But I'm proud of the book. I think a lot of people just try to diminish any kind of accomplishment. You know, 'cause it always goes back toâ€¦ "Well, she was a hooker."
SB: You've gotten all the stigma and criticism of being a sex worker without the paycheck.
JC: I know! It's not fair! (Laughs)
SB: It's more like you were a party girl. Maybe you're still a party girl. You enjoyed going out and having all the usual fun, whether it meant drugs, dancing, great sex, bad sex, crazy adventures.
And then just having the fun of talking about it the next day — but you weren't charging by the hour!
JC: (Laughs) I know. That is one of those things that just doesn't go away. And it's like a big sticking point for people
SB: I want to know what your own response is to that, Jessica. Because I've also been characterized as a full-time pro. And I have not run my life as a prostitution business. Not because I think it's wrong, but it's just not my life story.
So I find when I get that sort of attitude from someone, I get kind of feisty. In many respects, I identify with whores. If I'm around other whores, I feel like part of the crew. Because we'd have some things in common, in terms of our life experience, in the way people perceive us. And I can identify with a lot of their values â€“ their sense of the reality of what really goes on with sex that people don't like to talk about. I wonder if you feel the same way, or if you just want to be as far as possible from anyone thinking you have anything to do with it.
JC: The latter is totally not the case. When I start to feel defensive, my attitude is sort of like, if people are calling me a whore, "Well, what's wrong with being a whore?" You know? I mean, I think girls who are sex workers — and men, all sex workers — they see another side of humanity and sexuality. People who've never worked in the sex industry — people who've never done it — don't know the half of it.
I've heard girls I know who escort say, "I think every woman should do this, because you find out a lot. You learn a lot about men." They tell me, "You don't even know. You wrote a book and even you don't know the half of it." And I'm like... "Yes, I want to know all about it..."
I really don't know what the hang-up is about that. I don't know why people really seem to dislike prostitutes. I don't understand that attitude at all.
SB: Are you more confrontational than you were when you first started working in D.C.? I ask because you worked for a lot of conservative guys that haveâ€¦ like, piggy opinions about how women should stay at home with their legs crossed. And god forbid they have an abortion. You know, the attitude that America would be better if women were basically barefoot and pregnant.
You worked for some really famous so-called Christian conservatives. [Ed: Jessica worked for Senator Mike DeWine (R) - Ohio, who was defeated in the 2006 election.] And the way you describe D.C. political life, it's just as hypocritical and full of shit as everyone imagines it to be.
JC: Oh yeah. I mean, the platform the Senator I worked for had... he was a Christian conservative.
SB: And was he really? Do you think these people have a grain of sincerity?
JC: The way it is, each Senator is a figurehead. And you have the staffers doing the work. But you know, likeâ€¦ from hanging out with them and partying with them and stuff, like — I wasn't the only girl in my office that had an abortion.
I went there not knowing anyone, you know? I'm not the daughter of any contributors and didn't know anyone who had anything to do with Capitol Hill. I just went in there for my interview. I would have worked for anybody, you know?
SB: You were a whore!
JC: Yes, I was! (Laughs) Ideologically, yes!
It was sort of like I just took whatever, because you need names on your resume. And they didn't ask me what I thought about anything. They didn't ask me, "Have you had abortions? What do you think about that? What are your views on this or that? You're single. Are you sleeping around?" It didn't matterâ€¦ then.
And even when I started working there, people knew I was dating around. They knew I was seeing someone in my office, and that we had, you knowâ€¦ non-vanilla sex. And none of it was a problem until it got out.
SB: There's a part of your book that doesn't get as much attention, but was riveting to me. It actually created both a lot of tension in the storyline, a sense of suspense — and also, I hate to admit this to you, but it brought out the mommy in me.
It wasn't your sexual activities. But I found myself thinking: "Jessica, don't keep drinking! Jessica — Jessie, you're getting too high! That's the fifth night in a row! You've been a wreck in the morning! Oh, this poor little baby. I'm just all worried about her." And then I would think to myself, "God, you are such a mom."
And it was actually quite interesting to read a female narrator being so blasÃ© and straightforward about being high and saying what she likes about being high. Because, of course, male novelists do this constantly, and they don't provoke such a protective reaction. If it's Ernest Hemingway or Bret Easton Ellis or whoever, you know, they drink every night, they're always loaded out of their minds, and everybody still sort of expects that they'll work it out in the end. But when a young woman talks about it, even I start to worry.
And the way you write about it, it's often hilarious — your drug adventures had me rolling on the floor! I couldn't believe all the nutty shit you did. But I also found myself saying to myself, "I wonder what's gonna happen?" Actually, if it had ended up with you saying, "And now I am a good AA member and all this is over" — I don't know if I would have liked that. That would've been too neat.
Anyway, I want to get your opinions about what drugs are the most fun, as far as sex is concerned. And where you're at in terms of the peril of being high all the time.
JC: Obviously drugs are a distraction fromâ€¦ you know, real sex, and the way intimacy is when you're sober. But if you really don't want to deal with that, you will have a lot of drunk sex, high sex. It's fun, but it's not real. I mean, I don't do this frequently. I would say the last time I, you know... (laughs) got high and had sex was last week. And I woke up the next morning and thought, "That was sloppy!"
SB: But why is it attractive?
JC: If you're doing this with someone, and you're really not secure with them, or you're worrying what they think — if you're both messed up, you're not thinking about it so much.
SB: Have you given any thought to your next book?
JC: Well, I have meetings with editors and they just want to hear about my life. I tell them, and they say, "Oh you have enough material for three books." But I don't want to do that. So I have some outlines. I think it'll sorta be chick lit.
SB: Well, I'm going to jump in and give you some advice. Fuck the chick lit notion, because it's already over. You have acute powers of observation, and you've seen into some interesting lives. Your candor comes out when you write.
I just interviewed someone who was talking about how she studies the Victorian Age. And she told me that in those days, best friends would write each other's biography. I thought that was fascinating. Like, what if I had to write another friend's memoir...
JC: Oh, I would love to do that! I've met so many girls who just blow me out of the water. You know?
And I've met girls who had really sad stories. Like, "If I wrote a novel, you could defâ€¦" But the thing is — they're too scatterbrained or too troubled to actually get around to it. And people are always saying, "Well, you should write it for them!" But then I'd feel like I'm stealing her stories...
SB: Well, when you're a writer, you become a story stealer.
JC: I hate people like that! I mean (laughs), there was a book kind of written about me. I left things out of my book, out of respect for the author, and then she wrote about them! And I was likeâ€¦ ohhh!
I was kind of surprised that she did that. And I wonder if her husband knows the scenes are real. He probably doesn't. [Ed: Maybe he does now!] Or maybe he knows and he doesn't care. But if I'd put it in my book, she might be suing me! (Laughs)
SB: Well, I think the fertility of your blog is probably going to show you the way. Every time I turn to it, you get me screaming or you get me giggling about something.
JC: It's supposed to be fun. In a way, I wish I never took the original blog down.
SB: You could always resurrect it.
JC: But I'm being kind of sued over that. (Laughs)
SB: Nothing would be happening if they didn't perceive you as someone with deep pockets to go after.
JC: I so don't. Actually, I filed for bankruptcy yesterday.
SB: Oh! Why?
SB: Congratulations, Miss Cutler!
JC: Yes. I am officially broke. Kind of a relief. You know...
SB: Well, not to be a target.
JC: There's that.
But with a blog — I mean, what happens when someone's offended by something someone's posted. Usually, there might be some email exchange, or some blog war...you know, if someone writes an attack on you, you can respond to it, if you want to acknowledge it at all.
It's mostly really silly. Especially someone calling you ugly or slutty. Okay — how many times do I have to go through this? Okay, I'm an ugly slut. And you're not? "You're better than me, you're so much smarter, you have a better blog..." What else do I have to say?
SB: Well, I'll just clear it up for our audience. Jessica Cutler is a talented writer. She is not ugly — she is so not-ugly. She is bankrupt, however. She's very pretty, very bankrupt... And she's slutty in all the good ways that so many of our slut-positive friends like to be.
JC: Sluts are the nicest people in the world. They're people pleasers!
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“And then all of the sudden, your secret blog got outed!”
Repeat after me, children: If you put it on the Internet, it isn’t a secret. How difficult is this to understand?!