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Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality Paperback – October 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Original edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425219364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425219362
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

True crime writer Suzy Spencer (Wasted) tries a new subject in her latest book: alternative sexual lifestyles. While setting out to research other people's sex lives, Spencer ultimately turns her book into a memoir, chronicling her coming to terms with her own long-held views on sex—and her long-dormant libido. The interviews with swingers, dominatrices, cross-dressers, and more scattered throughout provide fascinating, human faces to the stereotypical leather, whips, and nonmainstream sexual practices. But while Spencer's personal journey ought to be interesting—someone of her sexual inexperience and Southern Baptist upbringing learning the most intimate details of others' kinky lifestyles—she fails to offer the strong personal anecdotes that would make the reader understand Spencer's background and her internal struggle about sex. As a result, her personal reactions to interviewees feel like unwelcome distractions from the juicier stuff. Short on research citations outside of her own interviews, and equally short on Spencer's own life and feelings, this sex book succeeds neither as a serious examination of sexual lifestyles nor as a memoir. (Oct.)

Review

"Although Spencer fondly refers to her interview subjects as 'my sex freaks,' it's her personal journey that really shows just what lovable freaks we all are -- whether it's our taste for leather or our fear of intimacy." -- Salon.com

"The book started out as a journalistic endeavor but evolved into a memoir, a bold decision for Ms. Spencer, a born-again Christian who nearly went to seminary." -- The New York Times

"Spencer is, first and foremost, a true crime writer, which means Secret Sex Lives doesn't shy from ripped-from-the-headlines steamy details of the swingers clubs she visits and phone sex lines on which she listens in, but her poignant analysis makes this memoir a go-to for anyone who likes a little self-reflection in her summer reads." -- Bustle.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Suzy Spencer is the author of "Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality," a memoir about her journalistic research into Americans' sex practices.

"Secret Sex Lives" has been featured on Katie Couric's talk show, "Katie," was a "Publishers Weekly" fall 2012 editors' pick, was featured twice at the 2012 Texas Book Festival, was named one of the 10 Most Provocative Books of 2012 by Tampa's "Creative Loafing," and was a finalist for the 2013 Writers' League of Texas Book Award, nonfiction category.

"Spencer (Wages of Sin, 2010) engagingly steers readers through the wonderful world of contemporary sexuality," Kirkus Reviews said about "Secret Sex Lives."

"Her conversations and experiences are at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times gut-wrenching, and readers will walk away from 'Secret Sex Lives' with a new take on sexual activities and social strictures," said the Texas Book Festival.

Suzy is also the author of four true crime books: "Wasted," a New York Times bestseller and Violet Crown Book Award finalist; "Wages of Sin," which was featured on ID network's "Deadly Sins" in 2013; "Breaking Point" the story of Andrea Yates, which was a Book of the Month Club, Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild and Mystery Guild selection; and "The Fortune Hunter," which was called "riveting" and "blockbuster" by the Globe.

Suzy holds a Master's of Professional Writing and a Master's of Business Administration, both from the University of Southern California. She has appeared on "Katie," "Good Morning America," "ABC World News," "Primetime" "Dateline NBC," Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Court TV, Oxygen, the E! Channel, and Investigation Discovery.

Follow Suzy on Twitter @spencerwriter. And like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SuzySpencer.Author.

Customer Reviews

All in all, its a very unique and delightful book.
Shakir Hassan
The last person you would expect to write a book like this.
Roxanne I
So I now have a new favorite author....Suzy Spencer.
MamaJoye

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on October 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
I purchased and read "Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality" half expecting it to be a somewhat clinical accounting of alternative sex practices in America, with perhaps some tabloid style shock value thrown in. What I found instead was a well written and riveting account of several people's journey of self discovery and exploration into their own sexuality, which at its core is actually more about acceptance and intimacy than the sex act itself.

The compassion and empathy that the author feels for her sources comes through as they share their stories with her one by one and she finds herself questioning her own choices and past relationships. The honesty and openness with which the author approaches this subject and in turn discusses her own struggles was refreshing and poignant, and I found the book and the people in it lingering with me long after I finished reading it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lausten Austin on October 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Call me Ishmael." "I've always hated touch." Opening lines from two wanderers who narrate their stories in riveting detail--and both sets of words are statements of unease. In her bold new book "Secret Sex Lives," bestselling author Suzy Spencer turns from true crime to sex. This book takes the reader on a journey to the thinly-covered world of "secret sex" in America. In the process of winding through the labyrinth of Internet-aided hookups, BDSM (bondage/domination/submission/masochism) groups, swing clubs, and other modern methods of exchanging lust, Suzy comes to terms with her own sexuality and how her Southern Baptist upbringing is still affecting her. This sensitive writer who states that she hadn't had sex for ten years would hardly seem to be an appropriate choice to pen such a book. But the ever-tightening conflict between her fear of being touched and her innate desire for it draws the reader into her psyche. Her inner monologue sounds loud and clear when she interviews people like Al, a practitioner of the BDSM lifestyle who says that she is "sending out sexual vibes" at the end of an interview--then gives her a hug that is too "binding" for her comfort. When she talks at length with Dusty, a wealthy rancher who wears pink lingerie. Or when "Coyote," a man she comes to trust more than most of the others tells her more and more about his meetups and reveals that he's had sex with men. Then he starts describing his ideal woman and Suzy realizes he's talking about her. Or when one of the women she discovers, whose comforting presence is like "fingertips on her arm," tells her about her abundant liaisons--which drives Suzy into a flurry of looking up the diseases her new friend may be exposing herself to. Then there's Rex who asks her if she wants to listen in on his phone sex.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susan J. Cobb on October 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
I am in awe of the courage it took to write this book, and moved by the level of compassion the author demonstrates in her treatment of the subject. It's a book that NEEDED to be written, and Suzy Spencer deserves five stars just for taking on the task. I have to admit, I had to stop reading it about three-quarters of the way through and take a break. Well, Suzy had to do the same while researching it. There is nothing more draining than witnessing futile behavior patterns that fail to satisfy fully. I felt exhausted reading about Dusty, Coyote, Jessica, and others seeking a deeper sense of connection through ultimately shallow, repetitive acts that led no where but back to more of the same.

But what isn't futile is the sense of love -- deep, unconditional, truly caring love -- that pervades Suzy's examination of her subjects. Above all, she sees them as deeply human, flawed but worthy. In fact, she bathes them with a more effusive affection than when turning the lens on herself and her own hang-ups. And that's why I say this book needed to be written. Every last one of us longs for a loving response to what we say or do, no matter how outrageous what we say or do might be. That type of response is rare. Seeing it in operation in Secret Sex Lives is an inspiration, no matter how disturbing the imagery that calls it forth. I'm going to hazard a guess that the author's opening statement, "I've always hated touch," is true only because she feels so keenly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brooke Warner on July 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Those who pick up Secret Sex Lives hoping for a titillating read won't be disappointed---but as you'll discover, it's much, much more than that. In this memoir/investigative journalism hybrid, Suzy Spencer paints a riveting, no-holds-barred portrait of the non-"vanilla" among us--including swingers, BDSMers, casual encounter-ers, and more--and gives an unflinchingly honest glimpse behind the curtain regarding her own complicated relationship with physical intimacy. The reader can't help but be carried along with Spencer as she finds herself both fascinated with and repelled by the lifestyles of the people she interviews, seesawing between judging her subjects and become more personally invested in their lives than journalistic ethics allow. In many ways, this book is a wild read--but ultimately, it's Spencer's sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking journey of personal discovery that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.
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