This is one of the last few stops on the month-long blog tour for “Best Sex Writing 2012.” I picked the date late in the month because…and here I’m being completely honest…I was worried I wouldn’t be able to slog through it. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not big on reading non-fiction. I read two or three non-fiction books in a year, and, even then, those are usually part of a class list or for my book group. The last time I picked up a similar anthology, I was so disturbed by the first article I read, I had to put it down. I decided to join the blog tour for this particular book as a curative measure for that experience as much as any other reason. Well, that and the fact that I have this impulsive need to raise my virtual hand whenever I see something of interest go by on my twitter feed. Given my history with non-fiction, I wanted to have as much time as possible to get through the book and meet the obligation of posting for the tour in a timely matter. I got my free PDF via the editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel, in the beginning of February and started to read it right away.
I don’t know what I was worried about. From the moment I picked up the book, I was engaged. Sure, there’s a warning that this is “not a one-handed read,” but I find there are hardly any non-fiction books that would be. I took a couple of weeks to read it so that I could let each piece have some private space in my head rather than plow through it in a couple of evenings–which would be entirely possible as it is that engaging. The articles and essays cover a wide range of topics, and there’s something in the book for everyone. Even if you look at the table of contents and think, “Wow, I’m not sure I really want to read about that,” you might be surprised that you’re not only reading it, but nodding along in agreement. The fact I “had” to read the book meant I read things like “Adrian’s Penis: Care and Handling” by Adrian Colesberry in spite of the fact that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to have much to do with Adrian’s penis. If I had skipped that little piece based solely on the title, I would have missed out on one of the most delightful reads in the book. I still don’t want much to do with his high-maintenance member, but his style and wit are fun and shouldn’t be missed.
While some stories wanted me to jump up and write an angry letter to my senators and congresspeople, others had me chortling with subversive delight. (I read a lot when sitting with my children as they do their homework. E-readers are handy that way.) There is a nice balance of the serious and the humorous without anything being trite or hyped up. Bussel also did a fine job selecting stories that didn’t get much focus or attention but should have.
Just a couple of highlights that I find particularly meaningful to me….
In her essay Why Lying about Monogamy Matters, Susie Bright says, “When young adults, past puberty, remain sexually inexperienced with their peers, it is because of dysfunction, not virtue.” As the mother of a teen-aged girl, I am always happy to see sex-positive messages geared toward youth. I am weary of the finger wagging, anti-sex messages that populate the mainstream media outlets, and would like to see Bright’s message that sex is normal on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It’s not likely to happen any time soon, but a girl can dream.
In the midst of the recent PayPal scandal (there’s some fodder for next year’s compilation), a lot of people have come down hard on transgressive erotica–even other erotica writers. I’m not sure if this stems from the fear is that by condoning transgressive erotica, their own work will come under scrutiny, or just from a generalized sense of ‘eeuw.‘ However, in spite of all that has been written about the why’s and why not’s of reading, writing, or enjoying erotica that involves rape, bestiality, or incest–or whatever it is that seems to send a lot of people squiggling away–I haven’t been able to mold my thoughts into an ‘elevator summary’ of the argument. Not until, that is, I read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s essay, Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy:The Truth About Kinky Sexting. In it she says, “The point of fantasies is that they come from somewhere that isn’t always logical or rational.” It’s sort of a “well, duh!” moment, but I’ve spent too much time trying to rationalize or put some sort of logic to fantasy. I’ve struggled in explaining to my daughter why it’s okay for her to be confused about the fact she is a strong, confident young woman who harbors tendencies toward male ravishment in her fantasy life. The cognitive dissonance is resolved when no longer being forced into a rationality. It’s time to just give in and let the fantasies be what they are and stop over thinking them.