Not just erotic tales. Also erotic poetry. And, when I say erotic poetry, I mean the good stuff. Not the little rhyming quatrains I’ve been known to compose in the bath.
She was beautiful, bare and breathless,
My prize at the end of the hunt,
She lay on her back with her legs in the air,
And I played around with her mobile phone.
See? I can never get that final end rhyme. It always eludes me. This other one I started also tripped me at the same final hurdle.
Topless, we sit on the pier,
The sun on the lake’s surface ripples,
I daub my ice cream cone, twice, on your chest.
Then spend the day licking your décolletage.
Which is one of the reasons I have nothing but respect for the skilled poets who have contributed to this title. Writing poetry is never easy. Composing odes that venerate the tension of a single erotic moment, or the physical bliss of a passionate union, is a rare talent. Yet Justus Roux has managed to include works from fourteen different poets who each bring their own unique skills to the blend. From accomplished and multi-published poets, like Lawrence Schimel and Karen L Newman, to the clever wordplay of up-and-coming talent like Gia Anderson, the poetry in this anthology is intelligent, erotic and arousing.
But this book is called Erotic Tales 2 so I need to make some mention of the prose as well as the poetry.
The short fiction in Erotic Tales 2 is an eclectic blend of stories that embrace a wide panorama of sexual tastes. The balance is slanted toward the heterosexual, but the contributions also include homoerotic narratives with arousing stories that have a core of gay and lesbian sex.
I’ve written a few erotic short stories in the past, as well as a handful of erotic novels. (Well, it’s about two-dozen erotic novels but I’ve got large hands – and you know what they say about us guys with large hands? That’s right: we need large gloves.) It always surprises me when people say, “How can you write about so many variations on sex? Surely it’s the same all of the time?”
This question, which exposes so much about the innocent who has raised the point, can be answered in a number of ways. “Fuck off and stop talking to me!” is one of my personal favourites, although I have been known to say, “You shouldn’t be reading that, Mother.” However, it only takes a quick glance inside an anthology like Erotic Tales 2 and any reader can see that erotic encounters are seldom the same on any occasion and variety and deviation are at the heart of imaginative and well-written erotic poetry and prose.
Erotic Tales 2 covers a broad spectrum of erotica. And, just as the oeuvre is eclectic in the sexuality of its erotic content, it is also equally diverse in the approaches each writer has assumed in their take on what makes a story sexually exciting. From the heady passion of Gwen Masters "Better Than Brazil," which is quickly followed by the foursome frolics of Lynne den Hartog’s "All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor," the anthology shows that sex can be loving and luscious and playful and powerful – and, invariably, a lot of fun.
There are some outstanding writers in this anthology. Justus Roux’s own contribution, "Sarah’s New Beginning," is a tautly told tale of a newly wed woman’s need to submit. Michelle Houston’s "Nice Kitty Kat" is an inventive and intoxicating introduction to the world of (amongst other things) public spanking. H.L. Berry’s "Nightgirl – The Prisoner of Brenda," is a hilarious romp in the companionship of a wannabe super-heroine who encounters her arch nemesis.
There really is a lot to enjoy in this collection. There is certainly enough to ensure that every reader will find something to satisfy their personal appetite and, perhaps, encourage them to savour the flavour of something a little different to their usual fare.
Justus Roux’s previous anthologies include Erotic Tales, Erotic Fantasy: Tales of the Paranormal, Bosslady and Who’s Your Daddy? Erotic Tales 2 continues Justus’s tradition of collecting well-written erotica from a range of venerated veterans and very-promising virgins.
And, just to remind you all again that the poetry presented in this collection is not as easy as these talented folks make it seem, I’ll finish with another of my painstaking attempts at verse. Again, the more literary minded of you might notice that end rhyme is just not quite working for me.
Naked we lay in the bedroom
I called you “The Sexiest Lass.”
And then, when you’d knelt in the doggy position,
I buried myself deep in Justus Roux’s Erotic Tales 2
NB – It should be noted that the poetry quoted above is the work of Ashley Lister alone and is not (nor does it resemble) the poetry published in Justus Roux’s excellent collection.
Walter Mosley is well known as a writer of crime and mystery novels. Needless to say, his first foray into the genre of sex writing has occasioned a flurry of skeptical and childishly embarrassed media commentary. I first became aware of Killing Johnny Fry when someone on the Erotica Readers and Writers Association Writers Forum (www.erotica-writers.com) posted the URL of Jennifer Reese's scathing review from Entertainment Weekly.
Ms Reese has given Killing Johnny Fry a place on her list of worst books of the year. According to her, the plot of this "pornographic novel" is "but a flimsy excuse for the raw sex scenes"' the writing is rife with hyperbole and cliche; the entire book ranges from ridiculous to depressing. According to her, Killing Johnny Fry is not even "good porn", although she then admits that she's never really considered just what might deserve that label.
Rather than dissuading me reading Killing Johnny Fry, this sex-averse tirade made me intensely curious. Could a book by the popular and acclaimed author of the noir classic Devil in a Blue Dress and the eerily spirtual science fiction novel Blue Light really be so awful?
My conclusion after reading Killing Johnny Fry is that Ms Reese's review says much more about her own lack of comfort with sex and lack of understanding of erotica/pornography than it does about Mr. Mosley's talent.
Killing Johnny Fry is indeed full of raw, extreme and even violent sex. However, the sex is in no sense gratuitous. Although the story is narrated in plain, matter-of-fact language (despite Ms Reese's complaints), it has a mythic quality. This is a story of passions and revelations, a pain-filled odyssey of personal discovery.
Cordell Carmel, the protgagonist, unexpectedly drops by the apartment of Joelle, his lover of more than nine years, to find her being sodomized by Johnny Fry, a mutual acquaintance. Cordell slips away unseen, but the experience shatters his world and his sense of identity. Previously he was a mild-mannered, middle-aged schmoe, hardworking, abstemious and responsible, a considerate but unimaginative lover. After viewing the graphic evidence of Joelle's betrayal, he undergoes a transformation. He finds himself constantly aroused, especially by the ambiguous dynamics of D/s situations. He is newly, inexplicably potent. Women are drawn to him, and he takes them when they offer themselves, bringing them to painful ecstasy even as his own orgasms reach apocalypic proportions.
Meanwhile, emotionally, he is confused and lost. He understands the emptiness of his previus life, but cannot comprehend the changes that seem to be tearing him apart. Tortured by headaches and nightmares, he turns to the mysterious Cynthia, a desembodied voice on a phone help line, for comfort. Meanwhile his world becomes more and more bizarre as he oscillates between raging lust and pitiful self-doubt, incandescent anger and paralyzing fear. In a twist that stretches credibility but works in the context of the story, he meets Sisypha, the star of a pornographic video with which he has become obsessed. She becomes his guide to a sexual underworld, his White Rabbit in a terrible and thrilling Wonderland.
Killing Johnny Fry explores the relationships between sex and anger, and between freedom and desire. This is far from a trivial fuckfest. Cordell is a sexual Dr. Jekyll; seeing Joelle's secret self, the lust-crazed, abuse-loving creature that she becomes when she is with Johny Fry, releases his Mr. Hyde. He experiences many climaxes, but little satisfaction, as he tries to understand his motives and to reconstruct his life and self-image.
In Killing Johnny Fry, Mosley also concerns himself with the complex interactions between race and sexual identity. Like most of Mosley's main characters, Cordell is black. So is Joelle. Johnny Fry is white. Mosley makes it clear that Cordell's previous well-ordered, compliant life is an attempt to make it as a black man in a white world, to be accepted and financially successful and to prove to his abusive father that he is worthwhile. Johnny Fry steals not only Cordell's lover but also his manhood, his pride as a black man. The historical echoes of slavery are there; Mosley doesn't have to harp on them.
Is Killing Johnny Fry erotic? My initial reaction would be negative; most of the sex scenes did not particularly arouse me while I was reading them. Yet after finishing the book, I found myself in the grip of intensely erotic dreams, so the work must have touched something in my unconscious.
Certainly, Killing Johnny Fry is a serious book about sex and identity -- or at least it pretends to be reading some of Mosley's coments about his own work, I began to wonder if in fact it's all a sham, a publicity stunt. Perhaps the book was intended to be exploitative, banking on its controversial subject matter to attract media attention and stir up sales.
Even if this is true, the book stands on its own merits. I found it intense, though occasionally uncomfortable. The sex is messy and dark but somehow fascinating. You can't look away. The cleverness of the final plot twist left me with a smile, and relieved some of the tension that knotted my stomach so badly that I couldn't read more than a few chapters at a time.
Could Mosley have written a serious novel, despite himself? You, the readers, need to decide. Don't pick up this book if you're squeamish about rough sex. If you're curious, though, about just how hardcore a mainstream-published novel can be, I recommend it.
Peggy Munson’s Origami Striptease is a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Project: QueerLit contest-winning novel.
The narrator says she was semi-famous once for her sex columns in several underground magazines. She’d take boys home (don’t get hung up on pronouns and gender - in this story people are their mental genders, not their physical ones. Cocks are detachable.), fuck them, and then write about it for her articles. She laughs off warnings that one day she’ll be forced to eat her words, to eat crow. Then she meets The Sludge, singer in a punk band who gets her down on her knees in an alleyway, breaks off the tips of pens, and makes her suck down the ink.
The poison from the ink destroys her body. She is fragile and chronically exhausted. She still desires her boys, but can’t get out to meet them, and is left trapped with herself. On a rare day when she feels good enough to venture out, she goes to a store that sells unclaimed airline baggage. “I had a sense that everything I owned was lost. I had an impulse – spawned from feverish delusion – that my life could be restored if I just found my bag and reconstructed what was in it, even though there never was a bag,” she says.
In the store, she meets Jack, a cautious boy who won’t share his secrets. They buy a bag together and split the contents. He gives her a pen they find in it, one of those old fluid-filled ones where a girl strips when it’s tilted down. A week later, Jack calls her and says he needs to see the pen. It’s the beginning of a frustrating affair. Jack holds back everything – the truth about his illness, his past, his cock. They can share delirium dreams brought on by their respective illnesses, fantasies, sex, and the frailties of their bodies, but Jack is elusive and finally slips away.
The Sludge comes back into her life. Repentant about what the ink did to her, he tries to make amends. He moves in and cares for her. They are joined by her illness, she the victim; he the villain. But it isn’t an easy truce. The Sludge wants her to be grateful. He resents her, and resents that she still loves Jack. When she tries to leave the Sludge, he slams a frying pan into her skull and flees.
When she returns from several weeks in the hospital, The Sludge is gone. He’s taken everything but the bed and the frying pan. She’s left alone in the empty house. Then she receives a letter from Jack. He’s coming to see her.
Jack finally tells her about his illness. He had a bad heart, but got a transplant while he was away. He takes her to the cemetery and puts a gun to his head. She’s furious that he’d throw away his recovery. He just wants it all to end. She takes the gun from him and he begs her to shoot him.
“Why am I here?” Jack asked.
“You are my bodyguard,” I said. “You need to let me out and hold me in.” I thought that it was something he could handle, just the canopy of one small duty keeping out the rest.
“That’s something, isn’t it?” asked Jack. “I have a use?”
She convinces him that he does. They leave the cemetery, reunited, but the gun is still there, and it’s not a happily ever after ending.
I met Greg Wharton, the publisher of Suspect Thoughts Press, at the Saints and Sinners Literary festival. I’d just finished reading Origami Striptease, and we talked about it. He told me that Peggy had lost the ability to write and had to relearn it. I don’t know what she lost, but it’s evident what she’s gained – an incredible mastery of words. This book reads like poetry and left me stunned with writer’s envy.
Beyond the incredible language, this story has so much going for it. The genderqueer characters finally liberate the reader from attachment to pronouns. It reclaims sexuality for the non-ableist population that society deems asexual and neutered. It’s about love and hate and jealousy, and need and want and sex and life, and it will speak to anyone, queer or not. I highly recommend it.
Groan-worthy double-entendres (big, thick, meaty, rising to the occasion, capable of delivering what it promises) are hard to resist when describing this anthology of 32 stories by popular writers of gay male erotica, several of whom are award-winning novelists. Some of the stories are sweetly domestic, some are edgy tribal tales of initiation into Daddy/boy (or consumer and sex-toy) sex, some are haunting tragedies of lonely men who can’t find what they want and need, or who find it and lose it too soon. All the stories are written by seasoned writers who could (and in some cases, do) write critically-acclaimed mainstream fiction. All the stories are realistic, as though speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, fictionalized history) had no place in a book meant to be read as Literary Erotica.
The lack of fantasy material (except as dreams and stories-within-stories) is both disappointing and surprising, especially considering that the editor, Lawrence Schimel, acquired a cult following with his own collection of witty fairy tales, The Drag Queen of Elfland: Short Stories (1997) and an anthology he edited, Things Invisible To See: Gay and Lesbian Tales of Magic Realism (1998), both from Circlet Press, the brainchild of erotic writer Cecilia Tan, who since 1992 has published ground-breaking erotic fantasies (largely queer, or gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) which would have been rejected by traditional publishers. The belief that queer authors/characters and “spec-fic” have a logical affinity is now widely accepted, and is largely due to the influence of Circlet Press.
So the absence of a single supernatural being in an anthology of gay-male erotica edited by Lawrence Schimel is a letdown, although the "realism" (loosely speaking) in this anthology is imaginative. The stories are diverse, coming from a good mix of male writers from the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Israel and elsewhere. (Lawrence Schimel has lived in Spain for years, and Spanish culture flavors his stories.) Local gay-male culture is never the focus of these stories, but it provides a fascinating context.
In "Gut Reaction," Australian Barry Lowe describes the brick toilet house in an urban park as a “beat” which is dominated after dark by “beat queens:”
“the people who live on scraps of sexual experience away from bright lights, scuttling from contact to contact, disappearing at the slightest hint of trouble, and so widespread and adaptable are their earth-wide foraging fields that they, too, like their insectoid counterparts, would probably survive a nuclear holocaust.”
The metaphor of cruising gay men as insects is a violently homophobic trope which makes the reader almost as queasy as the narrator, who needs to use the toilet for its original purpose after eating exotic food. The resentment of the “beat queens” is amusingly described, and the narrator’s uncontrollable physical processes are a grimly funny parallel to sexual release. The narrator’s effect on the star of the “beat queens” seems less convincing but consistent with the farcical tone of the story.
The gay-male tradition of the fast, anonymous pickup emerges in many of these stories, and it always has more emotional resonance here than it does in conventional porn. In "13 Crimes Against Love, or, The Crow’s Confession," Alexander Chee describes the casual seduction of men who are already in committed relationships as the theft of love by envious scavengers who want to spoil what they can’t have. In “A History of Noah, or How I Met My Boyfriend,” Shaun Levin describes a charming trick who seems incapable of settling down with one lover; ironically, he is useful as the connecting link between two men who are both looking for love. “PATH” by G. Winston James is an account of a daring seduction on the subway which does not lead to anything more profound than a missed business meeting.
Several of the tricks in these stories are whores, or professional sex-providers.
The exchange of sex for money is shown to be heartbreaking, since it sets up an illusion of intimacy which is likely to fool even those who think of themselves as realists. In "Eighty Bucks Plus Tip," an erotic “masseur” arouses the sympathy of a john who knows that the hustler is unlikely to achieve success in any other field, including “legitimate” massage. In "Little Stevie," an apparently hardened manager of a “cinema” in San Francisco which specializes in live shows reveals his weakness for pretty young men who have migrated there from small towns in the American heartland. Inevitably, his protégés develop addictions, find more impressive sugar daddies, or die.
"Dear Drew Peters" is a hilarious love letter to a porn star and escort from a devoted young fan. The innocent narrator’s lust, curiosity and admiration lead him to the slow-growing awareness that he does not really know his idol at all, and probably never will. In "A Ho’s Hieroglyphic," a hustler lives an eerily invisible life as the secret plaything of a rich man who keeps a trick apartment in San Francisco (gay-male Mecca), but while “John” is away, his boy finds another Daddy. In "Daddy Lover God," a male escort movingly describes his encounters with johns (especially regulars) as spiritual experiences outside of ordinary time. In this story, the prostitute-client relationship looks like a degraded version of one of the legendary ancient paths to enlightenment.
The grandfather of all such stories is City of Night (1963), the autobiographical road-trip novel by John Rechy, a gay male hustler of the Beat generation who survived against the odds in a conservative era. That book was enormously influential simply because there was nothing else like it at the time. The stories in The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica about male courtesans and their patrons at various social levels show that the genre, like the ambitious fictional hustler Drew Peters, has risen from its backstreet origins to acquire iconic appeal.
Another narrative tradition which appears in this anthology is the “coming-out” story.
The young men who go forth to seek their fortune in these stories (as in traditional folktales), usually right after high school graduation, have a variety of epiphanies about themselves, other men and life in general.
In "Unsent," Greg Herren's story of old New Orleans (pre-Katrina), a virginal young man who has joined the U.S. Air Force to "become a man" goes to a gay bar the evening before he is to be shipped out and persuades the bartender to take him home for the night. Having discovered the joy of sex with another man, he wonders whether it was necessary for him to join the military. Eventually, the bartender learns that the Air Force man consoled himself during the Gulf War with memories of their night together
In "Daniel is Leaving Tonight on a Plane," the confident, athletic narrator is counting the days before he can leave for college while he passes the summer working in a record store. His nerdy co-worker convinces the narrator to give him a ride on his motorcycle, and they end up in the woods where:
"A cacophony of tree frogs pulsed and ebbed and pulsed again with ever-renewed fervor. Led Zeppelin was never so noisy nor mad."
With the frog chorus as a background (shades of Aristophanes), the narrator accepts the sexual service which he feels is his due. Eventually, however, the narrator is more affected by the nerd than he ever thought possible.
"Eden" by “Aaron Travis” (Steven Saylor), published in 1981 as a serial named "Blinded by the Light" in the now-defunct gay-male BDSM magazine Drummer, recounts the post-high school road trip of the narrator, who hitchhikes from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles to reconnect with a friend he does not want to lose. En route, he catches a ride with a macho truck driver who seems dangerous and homophobic, and on whom he is completely dependent after he finds that his money has been stolen. The narrator comes of age in an unexpected turn of events.
A few of these stories describe desires which are never realized. In "The Bureaucrat," Andrew Holleran’s narrator disapprovingly watches an older man who regularly displays an impressive erection in the gym. The narrator goes out of his way to learn as much as possible about the older man, and refuses to admit to himself that he is bitter because he believes that the object of his attention is out of his league.
"The Dream People" by Rick R. Reed is probably the closest thing to a paranormal story in the book. The narrator has a series of uncannily realistic dreams about a charismatic man who wants him intensely, and whom he wants. When the narrator meets his dream-man in the real world, he sees why the dream-man is unlikely to approach him in reality.
The stories in which no sex occurs show that male-to-male eroticism does not require fountains of jizz erupting from poetically-described cocks, although most of the stories in this anthology include such descriptions. Sexually explicit or not, these stories show that the human search for personal love (which can be temporarily diverted into a search for immediate gratification) is no less important for men than for women, or for anyone in between.
This book would appeal to fans of gay-male erotica in general, and especially to fans of the particular writers represented in it (Jameson Currier, Trebor Healey, William J. Mann, David May, Kirk Read, D. Travers Scott, et al). This book is clearly meant to impress, and the professional team assembled by the editor does its job.
There is a dividing line in erotica between two treatments of fiction. One is the announcement of sex in detail. It is often archly introspective and deals with sex as a world of its own, or in which it is the core of the fictive world. All else is merely symptoms leading to sex. The other assumes that sex resides in the context of feeling and intellect, events and environment, age and wellbeing.
Whipped is the kind of anthology that makes you feel you may have traveled back in time. This volume was published in 2005 under the editorship of Carol Queen. Some of the stories even deal with the post –apocalyptic neoconservative world we now occupy. Nonetheless it feels like a collection of older works from the seventies which seeks to present us with a bold new vision of BDSM -- particularly female domination -- that is neither new nor in any sense very surprising. It seems in fact an anachronism.
I am supported in this view by a DVD, which is attached to the book as a part of the ride. It is meant to entice, but the content is all too familiar and fairly drab. We are informed, for example, that there is a group of people who meet in a chain hotel in some dreary town in North Jersey to live out their fetishes and flog their various fannies. Well okay, so what?
A couple of ladies form the spokespeople and featured players of this poorly made and edited DVD. The footage looks old given that the hotel in Jersey has assorted monster gas guzzlers from the seventies tooling up to its front door. A motley array of persons try to seem relaxed in the video. They seem very doubtful in making the case for SM as ‘normal’ and why bother? They are in fact more in the vein of the walking wounded than the boldly original, and so the DVD works counter to its own intentions. It’s a throw-in that is just grossly out of date and badly produced.
But what of the book, Whipped, itself? There are 19 crisply short stories, the first seven of which are also highly formulaic and grimly determined to exploit technical detail. The book starts off with "I Am Your Kitten" by Bianca James. Apparently the central character and voice of the narrative has a fetish about being treated like a cat, or more properly like a kitten who is graduating in her slavedom to the status of a cat. However, anyone who knows a cat well will know that no cat is ever enslaved to any human. Pussies may get a zing out of bottoming, but genuine felines don’t roll over for anyone if they are not in the mood. It is always the reverse.
Ms. James’ lugubrious style, viz. “I am your kitten, Mistress Marthe, that is all.” sounds like a public service announcement in a subway station. Like the writing in many of these stories, it is a laborious slog. That is because the style attempts to make obsession feel plausible as though that ought to come as a surprise to us. Who in the hell isn’t obsessed with something these days? Obsession, a la “Bolero,” may be to your taste but these stories read more like “how to” anecdotes than sources of erotic stimulation.
The eighth story, "The Rubber Chicken Scene" by Greta Christina, is a romp about the terrors of being tormented by bad comedy by clowns as a form of erotica. It’s silly and it’s meant to be, which is thoroughly refreshing. The same may be said for Marcy Sheiner’s, "Down in the Cinders," in which the hapless Cinderella is tweaked to the point of squeaking in front of the once wimpy Prince with the happy result that his resolve is stiffened.
"A Recent Favorite" by Violet Blue presents us with a very engaging bit of lesbiana that involves a most convincing, erotic spanking followed by the anal application of a strap-on. The detail is good but what is better is the way Ms. Blue allows the spankee to torment and tease the spanker into giving her a very attentive round of intimate discipline. In other words, there is some irony here at long last, and it is most welcome.
The other stories vary by degrees of intensity and sexual complexity. Many of them contain the now obligatory sneering at and detestation of men especially those who seek out the services of a professional dominatrix. Much of that takes the form of grousing about the seediness of the spanking and discipline business, which is somehow construed to be the fault of the men who patronize it. The female clients escape this opprobrium because they are among the downtrodden, and thus justified in wanting nipple clips and a hot, red, rear end as eco-political solace. Such stuff is not the feminism of politics, aesthetics, or even gender. It’s just bitching.
Some of these stories are much better than others, and I think on the whole that this book did itself a great disservice by including the DVD. Therein lies a clue. The problem lies perhaps in the narrowness of the editing. Sasha Waters bills herself as, “co-creator of the documentary, Whipped” (reviewer’s punctuation). I take that to actually mean “co-editor” as I assume Ms. Waters did not have a hand in writing these stories.
Ms. Waters has worked in the world of the pro domme herself and the editorial stance of the anthology is revealed to me in this paragraph which follows:
“Our dominatrix charade allowed Iana and me to connect in low-key, socializing, just-us-girls-hanging-out kind of way with several women in the professional S&M world. We learned that underlying the mystique of this kind of sex work, beyond the required confidentiality and secrecy, the masks and stage names and elaborate costuming, there is a great deal that is merely humdrum. We spent hours with the pro doms, in-between clients on slow nights, hearing about the most elaborate or unusual requests they had ever heard (or granted), painting our nails and ordering in pizza and chicken fingers. In this respect, professional domination is a job like any other, a business that requires advertising and promotion and security and supplies (especially cleaning supplies).”
In short much of the point of view of the editing seems to come from people who are either tired of the subject as indicated above, or they have a sort of grim pecuniary enthusiasm like the introduction by Ms. Queen. It reads like the hand-rubbing prose of the self-help genre. It is as though she were saying that now we too can learn the ins and outs of the S&M trade at practically no cost right in our own homes, in our spare time. As she says, “I bet every reader will find something eye-opening here,” and well they might, but often it may be the editors’ inept struggles with run-on sentences and muddled punctuation.