Best Sex Writing 2013: book review

Every year, I look forward to the new edition of the Best Sex Writing series from Cleis Press. This year’s Best Sex Writing 2013: The State of Today’s Sexual Culture offers 20 sex-themed, nonfiction essays, previously published in magazines and on websites as diverse as Playboy,, New York magazine, The, and Church & State Magazine.

Since this blog is for sex-positive people age 50+, I always check out the essays about or by our age group first. These two emerged as my favorites:

  • “Ghosts: All My Men Are Dead” by Carol Queen stunned me with its beautiful writing and poignant content. Queen writes from the heart about the men in her life whom she lost to AIDS, interspersed with her own story of her sexual blooming in San Francisco, a self-described “small-town dyke who really wanted to fuck practically every gay man she ever saw.” For those of us who lived through the bewildering beginning of AIDS and the ensuing grief, fear, and loss, this essay is particularly moving, though I challenge anyone of any age to read it with dry eyes.
  • “Very Legal: Sex and Love in Retirement” by Alex Morris is a fascinating look at the dating lives of residents age 70+ to 90 at Flushing House, an independent living facility in Queens, NY. “There’s a practicality that comes with knowing there are certain undeniable limits to how long a romance can last, or what romance at the age of eighty-five even means,” Morris writes. What about sex? Al, age 89, keeps Viagra in a plastic bag in his shirt pocket. “You know, sex isn’t everything, but it has a lot to do with it,” he says. “An awful lot to do with it.”

I don’t mean to imply that only the essays by writers of our age or addressing issues affecting our demographic will interest you — not at all! You’ll be as absorbed as I was by most of the essays here. Some are political; some are intensely personal. All are well-chosen and well-written. If you’re a sex geek, as I am, you’ll devour this book.

Cleis’s own book description says it well:

The Best Sex Writing series has fundamentally changed the way people think—and what they say—about sexuality. Rachel Kramer Bussel has collected the year’s most challenging, literate and provocative pieces on this endlessly fascinating subject.

This is not an exaggeration. Thank you, editor Rachel Kramer Bussel and guest judge Carol Queen for this superb anthology. And thank you, Cleis Press, for always being a staunch supporter of a sex-positive view of the world.

Best Sex Writing editor Rachel Kramer Bussel is a prolific author, editor and blogger. She has edited over forty books of erotica, and has been published in over one hundred anthologies. She blogs at

Learn more about Best Sex Writing 2013 here.


  1. Dan, 65, Santa Cruz Mountains on May 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    went out and bought it, loved it; reviewed it on Amazon…because of your blog. Went to her book talk/signing in Santa Cruz last year when she co-edited with Susie Bright
    Thanks Joan turning us on to these things.

  2. Lower Haight Holler on May 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    The VERY LEGAL essay was one of my personal favorites; I learned from it – a few surprises in there!

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