Best Sex Writing 2006

Book by Cleis Press Inc.

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A peek into the erotic lives of a few men and women

Anyone who is a regular reader of sexuality blogs would probably enjoy this book. Like the best sex blogs, it offers into the thoughts and experiences of individual men and women grappling with the role that sex plays in their lives.
Published:
Pros:
Honest, intelligent, brave writing about various aspects of sex and sexuality.
Cons:
A bit uneven. Some stories with graphic descriptions that I would have preferred not to read.
Rating by reviewer:
3
useful review
“Best Sex Writing of 2006” proclaims on the back cover that this collection of the best nonfiction sex writing of the year is “like a candy store for the curious and dirty-minded.” After reading this collection of the editor's choices for best nonfiction sex writing of that year, I decided that the candy store metaphor was apt. The essays, articles, recollections, tributes, and diatribes that make up this collection can each be considered a different variety of candy. I found some of the pieces delicious while others, like my least favorite kind of candy, left a bad taste in my mouth. I also found that this was not a book that I wanted to read all in one sitting – that kind of candy overdose would leave me light-headed and a bit queasy. My point here is that while I do believe this book is worth getting and reading, I would suggest that the reader approach it as she would approach a large box of candy. Don't try to eat it all at once, and don't expect to love every piece you try.

The pieces in here are far-ranging, and the juxtaposition of these widely varying subjects and tones sometimes made the book feel uneven. But that mishmash, pastiche nature is also what makes the book special, because I found myself beginning each new essay with the same feeling I have in unwrapping a truffle whose contents are a mystery.

Reading this book didn't make me feel aroused the way that reading erotica or watching porn can make me feel aroused. Rather, it was intellectually stimulating and, at times, life-affirming. The introduction promises that “integrity, self-knowledge, and the ecstasy of transcending the self to touch the Universal” can be found within this book's selections. While not every piece was a gem, a few did live up to that bold claim (see “Experience” for a description of my favorites).
Experience
First, a warning: some of these pieces are sad and graphic in ways that can be the opposite of arousing. I’m thinking in particular of the piece describing Max Hardcore’s pornographic videos, which I wish I had not read. “The Pole Test,” about the relationship between black strippers and their fathers, was fascinating but heartbreaking reading. “Man-hunting with the High School Dream Girls,” about high school girls in New York City who date much older men, was also troubling.

However, I found most of the pieces intriguing rather than disturbing. Tristan Taormino’s “Ode to Ass” includes such gems of lines as “What other hole do you know that is associated with Freudian pathology, puritanical repression, and homophobia? That’s one busy orifice.” And Paul Festa’s piece about auditioning for “Shortbus” was fascinating to read after having watched the movie.

There were a few pieces that I loved and that made the book worth the price of admission for me. One was Virginia Vitzthum’s “Good Fences Make Good Affairs,” an account of a relationship that existed on the purely sexual level and that didn’t involve emotional or verbal connections. The author’s description of how she came to decide that she wanted such a relationship ring true. She writes, “Josh taught me the meaning of the expression ‘fuck her brains out.’ It had always sounded so hostile, but now I understood the appeal of jettisoning some ego that way.” She also explores her decision to leave this relationship (“Happy though my orifices were, I needed more receptors filled”). Reading this, I felt like someone had given words to an experience that I had been unable to articulate on my own.

The other piece that knocked me over (in a very good way) was “A Porn Valley Story” by Susannah Breslin. This story, an account of the author’s experience in the adult industry of San Fernando Valley and her eventual departure from the industry, is beautifully written and comes across as being neither anti-porn nor pro-porn – it is more an attempt to understand why we need porn and what we use it for. This essay reads like poetry at times (e.g., “She was the human condition, the situation in which we are all eternally embattled, trying to decide who we are while the whole world hides from us”), and I wanted to reread as soon as I had come to the last page.

Overall, the few pieces of pure deliciousness that I found here made my trip to this candy store well worth my while.
This product was provided free of charge to the reviewer. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.
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Comments
  • Victoria
    Victoria  
    I love the way you describe this book - your review is moving in its own way. I really enjoy your writing style and perceptions.
  • Oggins
    Oggins  
    Sounds like an interesting read and thanks for the review. Did you gain any information or new techniques from reading it?
  • Viktor Vysheslav Malkin
    Viktor Vysheslav Malkin  
    Nice review! Big smile
  • Chris15461
    Chris15461  
    ty for the review
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