notes towards a book review

Posted on December 28, 2008

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I am reading and enjoying a prepublication copy of Best Sex Writing 2009 which I have agreed to review on Amazon. These are notes on the first ten chapters for that eventual review. BSW 2009 is an anthology of articles about sex; while a few articles refer to sexual encounters they are not erotic. These articles will not arouse you but they will engage your intellect and present a panoramic portrait of sex in America in the middle years of the first decade of the 21st century.

BSW 2009 opens with “One Rape, Please (to Go)” by Tracy Egan. Ms Egan explains that in order for her to reach orgasm her lovers must follow specific instructions or it won’t happen. This puts her in control of her coupling and for that reason her most frequent masturbatory fantasy is being raped. She decides to hire a male prostitute thinking that way she could safely act out this fantasy. She hires a young man for this purpose through an escort service and finds his performance disappointing. My first thought was that she might have had better luck by joining a BDSM club and hooking up with a Dom, but then again she only wanted to try this once, and with an employee of an escort service there is some accountability. My next thought was that if she stayed with any one partner long enough to develop a rapport she would not have to repeat her instructions every time.

The next article, “Searching for Normal” asks “Do Dating Websites for People with STIs Liberate or Quarantine?” The answer is that people who have recently been diagnosed with an STI will likely find a community, a sense of belonging and acceptance at such websites while those who have lived with the diagnosis for a number of years do not consider it their most important attribute and are more likely to frequent dating websites for the general population. “Father Knows Best” describes another subculture, evangelical teenage girls who have sworn chastity oaths and the ceremonies known as Father Daughter Balls (a cross between a prom and a wedding reception) at which their fathers pledge to guard and guide them until they wed at which time paternal authority is transfered to their husbands. It is a fascinating portrait of a patriarchal, conformist and risk averse lifestyle.

In “An Open Letter to The Bush Administration” professional dominatrix Mistress Morgana Maye complains that the Bush administration’s conduct in Iraq (such as the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib) has given torture and humiliation a bad name which has adversely affected her business. She combines deadpan straight forward prose with an undertone of irony that hits just the right note. In “The Pleasure of Unpleasure” erotic fiction writer Kristina Lloyd explains why she finds pain, submission, and humiliation freeing. In the words of her fictional character Kate, “I’m coming to realize that I want this not because I’m worthless and I must suffer. It’s because I’m human and life’s tough. Letting go is so powerful. Surrender transforms me. I adore oblivion.” Lloyd admits that Kate is “conflicted about her sexuality. I think this is true of a lot of people whose kinks are on the dark side, and I think this okay…for plenty of people, suffering and degradation is intensely erotic. It’s the pleasure of unpleasure, of being split between yes and no.” For better or worse Lloyd confirms the suspicion held by many that people who are into BDSM are somehow emotionally damaged. Brian Alexander reports on The American Psychiatric Association’s attempts to confirm or refute that suspicion in “What’s Normal Sex?” He reminds us that oral sex and masturbation were once considered deviant.

In “Unleash The Beast” an author who writes under the pseudonym Josephine Thomas describes how an extramarital affair was good for her self-esteem and actually improved her and her husband’s marital sex. To the question “Is Cybersex Cheating?” Violet Blue answers that it depends on each couple’s Terms of Service. She suggests that couples cyber together as a team with strangers in distant locations whom they will never meet in real life.

In “Sex Offenders!!” Kelly Davis corrects the misconceptions underlying residential restriction–namely that most sex offenders are actually less likely to reoffend than the general prison population and that the disorders that lead to sex crimes are in fact treatable. Residential restriction and compulsory wearing of GPS devices are very expensive, don’t work, and divert funding for what does work, Davis asserts, namely educating children to identify and avoid inappropriate adult behavior and providing therapy to offenders.

In Iraq in an attempt not to offend local sensibilities our government has banned the possession of sexually explicit printed materials, DVDs and sex toys by men and women serving in the military and civilian contractors according to Tom Johansmeyer’s “War Games: No WMDs but Military Police Find ‘Dangerous’ Dildos in Iraq.” It turns out that plain plastic vibrators are acceptable, but dildos that resemble male genitals are not. MPs are supposed to provide several hours advance notice before a raid and each service member or contractor is supposed to witness the search of his or her belongings. A raid that failed to comply with those guidelines turned up pornography in men’s barracks and dildos in women’s barracks. The pornography and adult products industry, which has been very supportive of the troops, is especially upset that Americans serving in dangerous conditions cannot use their products to relieve stress.

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