I had little doubt that I was going to find Best Sex Writing 2008 interesting reading, especially after reading Rachel Kramer Bussel‘s posts about it, and working my way through various interviews with the authors on the official book blog. What I didn’t know what just how much I would enjoy it, and how quickly I’d work my way through it.
(Non-fiction and I generally have a more sporadic affair, with quickies at lunchtime and brief interludes in the doctors’ waiting room. While we have a bookcase full of non-fiction, it’s only a small portion of the empire of books residing in our house.)
However, in contrast to my usual non-fiction fare, I had difficulty putting this book down. I picked up the book from my post office box on Friday afternoon, and promptly spent the weekend ensconced in the bedroom. The fan was rotating and the windows were open, letting the cool summer breeze wash over me while I immersed myself in attitudes and cultures of sex and sexuality that were unfamiliar to me.
(While I’m a voracious reader, it’s generally fiction that I delight in losing myself in, whipping through a large novel in a day or two. Non-fiction, on the other hand, is something I savour, taste in small portions – where a month of lunchtimes will take me from beginning to end).
“Sex… one little word. so many interpretations, definitions, permutations.” (from the Introduction by Rachel Kramer Bussel)
Rachel has done an amazing job as editor, using broad interpretations and definitions of sex and sexuality to provide the reader with a great variety of sexy journalism. Each article is – very definitely – about sex, but the diversity is immense. As a sex blogger, sex haver, and sex fascinator, I thought I knew a fair bit. This book proves me wrong, in the nicest way possible! Each article taught me something new. Sometimes it was something as large as the entire topic of the article, sometimes it was a perception (permutation?) that had not occurred to me, sitting in my corner of the sexual world.
Articles that I found the most intriguing ran the gamut from fascinating to disturbing. Ashlea Halpern’s ‘Battle of the Sexless’ describes wince-inducing self-castration, but also digs into why the desire to become sexless is regarded with derision in a culture where it take balls to be a man. ‘Sex in Iran’, by Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin, chronicles the reactions to a local celebrity sex-tape scandals in Iran, which cannot help but be contrasted with reactions to similar tapes in the United States. Paul Fiesta has a personal stake in ‘How Insensitive’, where he delves into research about circumcision, and how it may impact the sensitivity of the penis and the resulting sexual pleasure. And Trixie Fontaine pushes boundaries by discussing the still-hidden eroticism of blood in ‘Menstruation: Porn’s Last Taboo’.
What appeals to each reader will be different. Some articles will open new avenues of sexual meaning, while others might leave you depressed by cultural attitudes and reactions. What is certain, however, is that out of twenty-one articles, most – if not all – will surely teach, enlighten, and cause you to think. They are, absolutely, the best sex writings of 2008.
Just know that with twenty-one essays, every one of which taught me something new, this is a book that is wellworth reading, and owning.
Name: Best Sex Writing 2008, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Published by: Cleis Press, as trade paperback
Where to find: From Cleis Press in the US, Real Groovy in NZ, or Alibris in the UK
Price: $14.95 US, $32.95 NZ, £9.99 UK
Worthy of note: There are other reviews of Best Sex Writing 2008 here:
10/10 Erogenous Zones
See my other reviews here!