The Ultimate Guide to Kink: book review

I was, at first, conflicted when Cleis Press invited me to review The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge, ed. Tristan Taormino. I’m so unkinky personally. I like gentle sex, and although I had a “try anything twice” motto a few decades ago, by now, I feel pretty secure in knowing what works for me, and it’s decidedly, deliciously, vanilla.

However! I’m open-minded and curious about all things sexual, and I have a duty to my readers with more varied proclivities and experimental attitudes to learn everything I can and guide you to the best resources.  Whether you’ve been a long-time kinkster or you’re wanting to try something new, this book can be your guide.

I’ll admit it, I’ve never understood what could be pleasurable about pain. I’ve been in two devastating automobile accidents with residual and lifelong pain, I shattered my shoulder in ten places two years ago,  I have arthritis in my neck — I know pain. I couldn’t imagine bringing pain intentionally into my sex life. Imagine my surprise reading this in Tristan Taormino’s introduction:

Tristan Taormino

When people experience pain, adrenaline, endorphins, and natural painkillers flood their nervous system. People get off on this chemical rush, which many describe as feeling energized, high, or transcendent… In the context of a sexually charged scene, some people, when they are aroused (and their pain tolerance is much higher), process a face slap in a different way: it feels good.

Oh! Now I get it. (Are true kinksters laughing at my innocence?)

I approached The Ultimate Guide to Kink knowing I’d learn something new. I had no idea how well-written it would be, how many new things I’d learn, and in what detail! The book is comprised of 20 essays on different aspects of kink, written by 15 well-known leaders in their particular brand of kink. And yes, several are our age!  Among them:

  • Patrick Califia, who writes “Butthole Bliss: The Ins and Outs of Anal Fisting” (“one of the most extreme sexual acts that one person can allow another to do to his or her body”) and “Enhancing Masochism: How to Expand Limits and Increase Desire.” He defines masochism as “the desire and the ability to become aroused and perhaps even climax while experiencing sensations that other people avoid.” 
  • Hardy Haberman, who writes “A Little Cock and Ball Play,” including household items you can use as sensation implements: toothbrush, paintbrush, nylon scouring pad, mushroom brush…. 
  • Jack Rinella, who writes “The Dark Side.” As the Dark Lord, he advertised for men who desired to be “subjugated, degraded, dominated, humiliated, and violated” — about 120 men responded. 
  • Lolita Wolf, who writes “Making an Impact: Spanking, Caning, and Flogging,” including choosing an implement, techniques, and why the bottom and the top enjoy it. 
  • Barbara Carrellas, who writes “Kinky Twisted Tantra,” including “The Tao of Pain.”
You might be surprised at the number of folks with gray hair who have been practicing BDSM for all or most of their sexual lives, as well as the number who decided (or will decide) past midlife to enact fantasies that they kept tamped down. You’ll find some of them in Naked at Our Age. This is one more hush-hush aspect of senior sex — that some of us like our sex kinky.

Patrick Califia challenges those who brand BDSM players as “mentally ill”:

The assumption that variant sexualities are mental illnesses has more to do with conservative religious values than it does with objective observation. If a mental state or human behavior is unhealthy, we ought to be able to demonstrate that it makes that person unhappy, interferes with their ability to give and receive love, prevents them from setting goals that give them a sense of fulfillment, and injures their health.

This book  is a how-to guide that answers every question you might have and many you wouldn’t think to ask, from bondage techniques (illustrated by Katie Diamond) to safe fisting to training a sex slave. I recommend it whether you’re already into kink, think you might be, or — like me — you’re just fascinated by and nonjudgmental about consenting adults doing whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody who doesn’t want to be hurt. Take a look!

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