The Mile High Club - erotic fiction by Cleis Press Inc. - review by Jenny Swallows

The Mile High Club

Book by Cleis Press Inc.

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Up In The Air

The ultimate book about the Mile High Club is still waiting to be written. But this does get up there occasionally.
great stories, well written and (mostly) planned
can get a little samey - don't read in one sitting
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
Around one-third of the way through The Mile High Club, editor Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology of “plane sex stories,:” one of the characters snarls the following into her journal.

"Sex on planes is stupid. These people think they’re so cool for joining ‘the Mile High Club’... they’re just dumb conformists who want to do it because they read about it in a magazine...."

Neither is she far wrong. So many of today’s sexual highs and fantasies attain that status because they have become shorthand badges for some form of social oneupmanship, no more or less meaningless than those bumper stickers proclaiming your offspring to be an honor student. Yes, very nice. Now please, go away.

The characters in The Mike High Club are not, for the most part, dumb conformists. Rather, the nineteen stories that comprise the collection go out of their way to avoid conforming to any of the expectations that are normally associated with high altitude humping. Or with erotic books in general. There’s the female flight instructor who arranges a mid-air gay fling between her two most promising pupils (Vanessa Vaughn’s “Bermuda Triangle”). There’s the movie fan who encounters her slash starlet idol in a mid-flight ladies room (Sommer Marsden’s “The Scream Queen”) and another locked lavatory liaison between man and fruit in Craig J Sorensen’s “Top Banana.” And, best of all, there is the compulsive aerial masturbator who taunts temptation in Donna George Storey’s “Nasty Little Habit,” a tale that is both the most unusual in the book, and the most archetypal.

Think of the Mile High Club and what is the first image that comes to mind? A furtive coupling in a cramped bathroom, hands on the sink and one foot on the bowl, while you both hope the turbulence doesn’t pitch you pants-less through the loosely locked door. And yes, The Mile High Club does, as we’ve already seen, have its fair share of smallest room smooches. But if we imagine editor Bussel asked her contributors to avoid the standard cliches of the theme, then she simply opened the door for her authors to concoct a new one. Or, as Elizabeth Coldwell puts it in “Game In The Sky,” “joining the Mile High Club in the toilets is a little predictable.... So I thought we’d play a little game instead.” And full marks for the ingenious deployment of some unexpected sex toys.


Without casting a single aspersion on the quality of the storytelling - which, with just a handful of exceptions, is excellent - how many heroines do we really need to meet, all wriggling in their airplane seat while a friend, relative, stranger or crew member expertly manipulates them to an aerial orgasm?

The set ups are entertaining, and the pay offs work as well... the opening tale, “34B,” packs a twist of an ending that your mind will keep returning to long after you’ve finished the book. But - and this is the question that haunts this book - does masturbation really count as sex, even if it is being done with a stranger? And, if it does, that means every guy who has ever jerked off in the restroom after one glimpse too many of the stewardess’s suspender belt is automatically a member of the Mile High Club.

Which, in turn, takes us back to the jaundiced journaling with which we opened this review, and which ironically kicks off the most stultifyingly hidebound tale in the entire anthology, Matt Conklin’s “Wild Child.” If hackneyed macho fantasies were converted to bonus air miles, this story would be flying for centuries. As it is, it runs into terminal turbulence from the moment its protagonist opens his mouth, and we can only be thankful that editor Bussell then regains the controls and we complete the rest of the journey with just a couple more air pockets to watch for.

There are exceptions (and I'll leave you to seek them out for yourselves) and there are surprises (ditto). And if we were reviewing an actual airline, I'd have to admit that the seats are generally comfortable, and there’s plenty of leg room for when you want to spread them wide. The flight crew are obliging, and some are downright delightful. But though the drinks are dispensed with charm and generosity, the menu is ultimately a let down. They promised red meat and a delicious fish course, but all they ultimately delivered was finger food.

And, although you get to your destination with a warm glow in your tummy, and a handful of memories to hang onto when you’re horny, the real prize is still just out of your reach. Because this is not a book about joining the Mile High Club. It’s a book about not having read the right magazines.
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This review was edited by
  • TheSlyFox TheSlyFox
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  • faust
    nice review
  • Blooddragon
  • svalentine;)
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