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Best Sex Writing 2009 Paperback – January 6, 2009
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
"..provocative answers and even more provocative questions about the role of sexuality in our lives...If you're the type who thinks the brain is the most important sex organ, you'll definitely want to read on--and you won't be disappointed."-Clean Sheets
"Everything here is well-written and could pass for a piece found in a magazine like The New Yorker"-AVN
A fun, nimble book that never loses its sense of humor about itself.” Salon
Interesting and thought-provoking. Like a whole issue of The New Yorker if The New Yorker gave any attention to sex.” Kevin Killian, author of The Wild Creatures
From the Inside Flap
Introduction: Sex is Everywhere
One Rape, Please (to Go) Tracie Egan
Searching for Normal: Do Dating Websites for People with STIs Liberate or Quarantine? Lynn Harris
Father Knows Best Amanda Robb
An Open Letter to the Bush Administration Mistress Morgana Maye
The Pleasure of Unpleasure Kristina Lloyd
What's "Normal" Sex? Brian Alexander
Unleash the Beast "Josephine Thomas"
Is Cybersex Cheating? Violet Blue
Sex Offenders!! Kelly Davis
War Games: No WMDs but Military Police Find "Dangerous" Dildos in Iraq Tom Johansmeyer
In Defense of Casual Sex Tracy Clark-Flory
Soulgasm Dagmar Herzog
Sexual Problems: A Common Side Effect of Combat-Related PTSD Don Vaughn
Penises I Have Known Daphne Merkin
Sex Is the Most Stressful Thing in the Universe Dan Vebber
Silver-Balling Stacey D'Erasmo
Sex Dolls for the Twenty-First Century David Levy
Dear John Susannah Breslin
Oldest Profession 2.0: A New Generation of Local "Providers" and "Hobbyists" Create a Virtual Red-Light District Keegan Hamilton
How "Swingers" Might Save Hollywood from a Federal Pornography Statute Alan Levy
Why Bathroom Sex Is Hot James Hannaham
Kids and Comstockery, Back (and Forward) in the Day Debbie Nathan
The Immaculate Orgasm: Who Needs Genitals? Mary Roach
Introduction: Sex Is Everywhere
Sex is everywherein our bedrooms, classrooms, courtrooms, and offices, as well as on our TV and movie screens, streets, and newspapers. This was a big year for sex, from prostitution (Eliot Spitzer, Ashley Dupré, Deborah Jeane Palfrey) to teen pregnancy (Jamie Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin) and beyond.
You don't have to look far to find sex, but you do have to get a bit bolder when looking for writing and thinking about sex that doesn't play to the lowest common denominator. The essays and articles here explore the big, bad (and good) world of sex in many forms, from online personals sites (for those with STIs) to impassioned arguments for casual sex (and bathroom sexæsometimes one and the same, sometimes not), as well as affairs, purity balls, penises, cybersex, and more.
As I said earlier, sex is everywhereincluding on the battlefields of Iraq. We may think of sex and war as mutually exclusive terrains, but as Don Vaughn's story about sexual dysfunction and combat-related PTSD and Tom Johansmeyer's "War Games,"which looks at one contractor's and two female soldiers' penalization for possessing porn and dildos, respectivelymake clear, the two are intricately linked. In fact, there's no area of our lives where sex doesn't play a role, even (or perhaps, especially) religion. In "Soulgasm," an excerpt from Dagmar Herzog's excellent book Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics, she looks at what Christian sex educators are saying about sex (from oral to anal to vibrators), and their advice may very well surprise you.
Our current mores and rules about sex didn't spring up out of nowhere, as Debbie Nathan shows in her exploration of early twentieth-century vice czar Anthony Comstock.
The personal stories here are ones I think may best illuminate how complex, individualistic, confusing and profound sex can be. In "One Rape, Please (to Go)," Tracie Egan boldly starts out, "I blame my recurring rape fantasy on the fact that I'm a feminist." If that's not enough to keep you reading, I'll give you a clue as to what happens next: she hires a man to pretend to rape her, but what she gets in return is not quite what she bargained for. Similarly, in Dan Vebber's "Sex Is the Most Stressful Thing in the Universe," the goal of finally having sex becomes exalted to the point of mania, with a little help from his overly neurotic girlfriend.
I'd like to give special thanks to Miriam Axel-Lute and the Sex Positive Journalism Awards (aka, the Sexies). Their project was launched in order "to recognize the times when journalists stick to the standards of their craft in the face of such challenges and produce good, informative journalism that spreads accurate sexual information, stays fair in covering highly charged topics, and celebrates healthy sexuality as a positive force in people's lives." "War Games" by Tom Johansmeyer, was one of their runner-ups for Sex-Themed Publications, and all of their winners are worth reading (see sexies.org).
There were many extraordinary pieces I was not able to include in this book. Please visit the book's blog for links to some of these pieces and to read more about the latest in sex.
With Best Sex Writing 2008, many people said they'd expected something far juicer from the racy cover. If you're looking for the latest jerk-off material, please check Cleis Press's website for their many fine erotica offerings; this is not one of those books, though some of these stories may titillate you or spark your erotic imagination. I always recall that the brain is the biggest sex organ. Learning about sex can inspire us to be better, more knowledgeable and more empathetic lovers, family members, and citizens.
I hope this book will open your mind and make you think about your own sexuality, as well as your neighbors', politicians', and best friends'. It's given me plenty of food for thought and I'm grateful that sex continues to challenge us to think, explore and appreciate its many nuances.
Rachel Kramer Bussel
Top customer reviews
The contents speak volumes (hah!). There are pieces on virginity, chastity and military regulations of sex toys. There are deeply heartfelt pieces on love and abuse, where the pain and intensity of the author emerge in well crafted writing. A piece on sex offenders is written by one of the victims, who avoids falling prey to hysterical reactions despite her own difficult past. There is a piece by a man who remained a chaste virgin, even to himself, until he was out of college. There is a remarkable spectrum of pieces that speak not just to sex, but something a lot deeper, a lot more difficult. In the end, what I took away from this little volume was about relationships.
Relationships are perhaps the most complex layer of human experience. What we as individuals bring to a relationship is a lived experience; we never really get much from school or home on the actual mechanics - it's something we have to see, feel, experience along the way. Much of that, clearly, is difficult.
Any attempt to bridge the aforementioned divide between popular and scholarly runs a considerable risk. Critics on the scholarly side will quickly note the dearth of references, and few citations. That's true here, but there are a number of references, good ones, and despite the sprinkling of citations, the articles are written, and the book is set up, to make it relatively simple to dig deeper. In one of the articles, for example, there is a fascinating quote by Virginia Woolf - "I will wait until men have become so civilized that they are not shocked when a woman speaks the truth about her body." - and a quick search online led me to several good sources. The curious need only dip a toe into the water. At the same time, critics on the popular side will likely decry the meticulously crafted article on the impending changes to the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the exceptional dissection of the United States Army's General Order 1a as it pertains to the real and gritty lives of the troops in the war zone. How, they might ask, can we expect a reading audience seeking to be entertained to cozy up to this kind of dry technical detail?
The answer to both sides is that sex, and relationships, just aren't always easy or pretty or even sexy. Sex can be difficult, painful - both emotionally and physically. It can leave lasting traces, damage that takes years to repair. Relationships are not the 1950s black and white images that an awful lot of that same "entertain me" audience seems to think they must be. Nor are they the sterile compartments of a General Social Survey. Differences can tear partners apart, and leave families gasping for breath. Yes, Virginia, there are good ones, even hot ones, and that's touched on here too.
What makes this little book so special is this spectrum, a presentation of perspectives that ranges across a large area of sex and love and passion and humor and fear and relationships. After reading it, I was left with a hope that it is a good beginning to really opening doors between two vastly different layers of our social milieu, and that in the end, the readers who choose this one will come away wanting more of both: more detail about the difficult parts, and more thrill about the soft and delicious parts. Ms. Kramer Bussel is to be commended on this count. It's not an easy task. I plan to look for the 2010 edition soon.
I wouldn't say these essays by what the editor calls "sexual outlaws" are fiercely eye opening, but they do serve to remind us that our own "abnormal" desires, fetishes, and behaviors are not as sinister and outlandish as conservative forces in this country would like us to think. The problem is not "abnormal" sex, the problem is that we still haven't found a way to have open discussions about sex, and that there are still too many people trying to make all the rules regarding sex for everyone else.
Some of the essays are great, including "The Girl Who Only Sometimes Said No," "Sex Laws That Can Really Screw You," "BDSM and Playing with Race," "The Anatomy of an Affair," and "The Future of Sex Ed." There's no running theme throughout these pieces, but they all do say that we should think outside of the box about sex and sexuality and stop pretending there's some real "sexual norms" out there that everyone needs subscribe to.
This is the second edition of the book that I've been fortunate enough to read (also read last year's 2008 collection), and both have wowed me. This year's Best Sex Writing 2009 is full of interesting articles on a plethora of subjects, ranging from dildos as contraband in Iraq to different takes on abstinence-only education/programs/teens who wait until marriage, and so much more.
To me, the first piece, by Tracy Egan, was entrancing. As a feminist, she talks about trying to hire someone to fantasy rape her, and her surprise at all of the issues that came with this, although they weren't the issues that you'd expect. I really enjoyed this piece, far more than I expected to, and it really set the tone for the rest of the book.
I liked that this spanned so many different sub-areas within the incredibly broad field of sexuality. As someone with a degree in human sexuality, I have been frustrated that people tend to lump "sex writing" into either erotica, or research/papers/dissertations. This book is a collection of some of the best written, most interesting, incredibly deep essays, interviews and articles written on the spectrum of sexuality.
I found this book incredibly enjoyable, well-edited and collected, and immensely hard to put down. I'm sure it will be making the round among my friends and peers alike, and I plan to use it to reference for future sex writing of my own. I applaud Rachel Kramer Bussel on this work of hers.