I love the Best Sex Writing series from Cleis Press. I’ve been a loyal reader since the first edition in 2005. I collect them, give them as gifts, read them cover to cover. This year’s edition (titled inexplicably “Best Sex Writing of the Year, volume 1” instead of “2015”), edited by Jon Pressick, has the breadth and quality I’ve come to expect.
Realize that this series isn’t erotica (although Cleis is known for erotica) — it’s a collection of non-fiction essays about all colors and stripes of sex-themed topics. Some of the essays are intensely personal (e.g. my own contribution, “Sharing Body Heat”), some are commentary on sexual issues in the news, some are sex-nerdy opinions, many open windows to sexual practices and worlds that might be new to you.
The best way to convey the range of topics and writers is to share the chapter titles with quotes from a few of them:
- Foreword • Belle Knox
- Captain Save-A-Ho • Fiona Helmsley
- How a Former Porn Star’s Sex Tape Helped Him Reclaim His Sex Life • Christopher Zeischegg aka Danny Wylde: “I’d done it a thousand times with people I’d barely met, and in the most stressful environments. Yet, I couldn’t get my cock hard while in bed with the girl I loved.”
- What Should We Call Sex Toys? • Epiphora: “I own over five hundred dildos, vibrators, and anal toys, which I routinely hold against my vulva (not my ‘lady bits’), stick in my vagina (not my ‘vajayjay’), press against my clitoris (not my ‘love button’) and push up my butt (not my ‘backdoor’).”
- We Need a New Orientation to Sex • Cory Silverberg
- I Am the Blogger Who Allegedly “Complicated” the Stuebenville Gang Rape Case—And I Wouldn’t Change a Thing • Alexandria Goddard
- Porn Director: I Changed My Mind about Condoms • Nica Noelle
- Pregger Libido • Ember Swift
- The White Kind of Body • Alok Vaid-Menon
- Sex, Lies and Public Education • Lynn Comella
- Sharing Body Heat • Joan Price
- Being a Real-Life Accomplice • Cameryn Moore
- Oops, I Slept with Your Boyfriend • Charlie Nox
- Pump Dreams • Mitch Kellaway: “I don’t have a clitoris. Or, rather, I used to have one. But since starting my gender transition a year ago, my relationship to it has become quite complex.”
- Prostitution Law and the Death of Whores • Laura Agustín
- Fisting Day • Jiz Lee: “What I love about fisting someone vaginally is feeling them take me in. There’s a moment where the person just opens up to you. Once inside, they’re so warm, wet, and every little movement you make can be felt.”
- Tell Me You Want Me. • Mollena Williams: “What about submitting, what about service, what about taking a thorough flogging, what about menial chores, what about being useful, is sexy? Why is it eroticized? What makes it hot? In a word? Passion.”
- The Gates • Tina Horn
- The Choice of Motherhood and Insidious Drugstore Signage • Stoya
- Kinky, Sober and Free: BDSM in Recovery • Rachel Kramer Bussel: “Can you be clean and sober and still engage kinkily?”
- Crazy Trans Woman Syndrome • Morgan M. Page
- Let’s Talk about Interracial Porn • Jarrett Neal
- When I Was a Birthday Present for an Eighty-Two-Year-Old Grandmother • David Henry Sterry [see below]
- What an Armpit Model Taught Me about Sexual Language • Jon Pressick
- Growing Through the Yuck • Ashley Manta
- I Was a Teenage Porn Model • Lux Alptraum
- Disability and Sex • Jason Armstrong
- Fumbling Towards Humanity: How “Trans Grrrls” Helped Me Open Up to My Partner • Amy Dentata
- In Defense of Celibacy • Lauren Marie Fleming aka Queerie Bradshaw: “There are times in your life when a quick fuck can be beneficial, but sometimes all sex does is add to the confusion that is life. Sex with others muddies the emotional waters; take sex away and there’s a better chance of finding clarity within yourself.”
- No Restrictions • Dee Dee Behind: “My very first session with a client with severe disabilities was while I was working as a professional dominatrix on the third floor of a dungeon in an elevator-less building.”
Who could resist a book with this range of topics from such a variety of writers, sex educators, performers, sex workers, and other juicy, sex-positive activists? As Pressick puts it,
Some of the topics you will read about here are very specific while others speak to all of us. Bringing them together is an attempt to throw open those doors. Pull the thoughts out from under the mattresses. Talk about sex in meaningful, thoughtful and creative ways.
One of my favorite essays — you might guess this! — was “When I Was a Birthday Present for an Eighty-Two-Year-Old Grandmother.” Author David Sterry was 17 when he was hired as a sexy birthday gift for a woman who was 65 years his senior. Although he told his employer yes, his brain was imagining “an ancient naked wrinkled saggy droopy granny spread-eagled in front of me and my poor placid flaccid penis …a lifeless piece of useless meat… What if she wants to do some weird old person sex thing I don’t know about?” The experience, of course, was nothing like his nightmare-fantasy, but I don’t want to reveal more and ruin the surprise.
I consider myself a sex geek. I’m interested in all things sexual. Whether or not I’m personally interested in exploring a particular behavior, belief, or milieu, my mind wants to take it all in. This book really satisfied my sex geekery. Thank you, Jon, contributors, and Cleis Press.
Order Best Sex Writing from your local independent bookstore or at this Amazon link.