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

4.1 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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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

"Spencer's memoir is a touching, honest look into the intimate lives of a few and a deeper look into the author's own inner conflict with sexuality." - The Chicago Tribune"

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

"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

"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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Original edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425219364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425219362
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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This is not a book I would normally read. I am a fan of Suzy Spencer's true crime books and was desperate for something to read so I downloaded it on a whim. I am so glad I did, It is such an interesting read and was nothing like I thought.

Suzy tells the story of herself. We meet some of the people she interviewed and we do learn about the secret sex lives of the people around us. It was interesting learning about all of these people and lifestyles through Suzy's eyes. She doesn't judge them she just shares their stories.

What is really great about this book is watching Suzy's reactions and personal thoughts on all of it. This book is more of a memoir of sorts. I cringed, and blushed for the author a lot.I got to know her through this story. She is quirky, funny and real. The last person you would expect to write a book like this. She stepped way out of her comfort zone and I admire her for doing so. I wanted to shake her and tell her to "lighten up" so many times. You will too.

I highly recommend this book. I'm so glad I read it. Thank you Suzy Spencer! I can't wait for a sequel!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Spencer deserves a special award for this brilliant, insightful and remarkable vision quest in which her loyalty and commitment to "journalistic detachment" is gradually peeled away, clearly revealing her self-inflicted numbness as professionally justified emotional distancing from her own intrinsic and, if i may say so, loveable reality.

SECRET SEX LIVES is a fascinating peek into the diverse manifestations of our human need to connect with others in ways both tangible and metaphoric.
What begins for Spencer as a cross country excercise in questons, answers and non judgemental voyuerism becomes an emotional, highly charged encounter between self, soul and superstition. Who would ever think that a book such as this would have a nail biting climax?.
Interpret that however you please. I cannot reccommend this book highly enough -- it is a valuable contribution to understanding and accepting the diversity of consentual proclivities, yet, for me, the true power and beauty of this book is Spencer's talent and personal integrity.
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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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I gave this a 3 because I enjoyed the stories from the subjects way more than I did Suzy's writing and judgmental attitude. I trudged most of the way through until she started talking about "Robin" I believe, the transgender who was married but couldn't come out as transgender to her wife. Robin said some things and Suzy reacted with something along the lines of how she couldn't agree with this because she's a "feminist" and she ended her relationship with Robin because of her feelings. I was thinking to myself reading this, "Are you an idiot? Here Robin is opening her heart out to you and you react in such a negative, judgmental way, the same exact way other people who have failed her in her past life as a boy, struggling with this have judged her." She calls herself a feminist, but is she really? Unless you're a woman who is chaste and career driven, you have no place in Suzy's narrow "feminist" world. Being a feminist is about letting women choose for themselves and allowing them to make their own decisions without judgment, yet throughout the whole book, she makes negative remarks about other women's behaviors. Like the young woman who met guys off of Craigslist and Suzy tells us all about the statistics of STD's. Get a grip lady. After the chapter about Robin, I put the book down and haven't picked it up since. I would have liked an unbiased look at this subject matter, I don't really care about Suzy's sex life because she obviously has negative attitudes towards it and let it leak into her "research."

If it wasn't for the Robin story, I would have still given it three stars because she over-focuses on BDSM. American Sexuality does not translate into "Everyone is into BDSM".
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