Derrière by Julius Culdrose is a memoir expressing “the height of bottom adoration” under the Nexus imprint. If there is any question as to what sort of bottom being adored, it is most definitely the female one at endless lengths and with the widest possible variety of approaches from ogling to patting proceeding onward to spanking and enemas not to omit group buggering and fondling.
Mr. Culdrose is an unabashed roué who has willingly spent his life by his own admission as a “lazy, irresponsible pervert.” It is a description that early on he accepted as his due given his relentless passion for female fannies and his ardent pursuit of them. In many cases, the protest was feigned according to his narrative, so that the femme would not lose face as she offered up her rear for their mutual pleasures. What is more he bases his behavior on the principle that those who have inhibitions about sex should keep them to themselves.
Whatever fantasy or curiosity about technique you may harbor about the wonders of the female bottom and anus, the full details are discussed here with a careful exposition of technique replete with anecdotes of every sort. One might feel that would become redundant at some point but there are two things that mitigate that.
First and foremost, Mr. Culdrose can actually write a fluid and engaging complex sentence in English which is very nearly impossible to find elsewhere these days. As a painter, he is an able imagist so the subject of girls’ bottoms -- while I suppose not completely inexhaustible -- holds up very nicely. I think he should be eligible for some sort of award given the variety and creativity of his descriptions of the texture, color, contours, and accessibility of the female anus. That circuitous route, oddly enough, brings us to his second virtue, which sustains the vitality of his book.
The truth is that Mr. Culdrose – though I am sure many feminists would clench with fierce objections here – truly likes women. What’s more, he likes them as they are. He has a rather odd take on their personalities as he always starts a relationship at the base of their spine. That may not be at all PC, but it’s where he starts, and given his passion that’s to be expected.
However, he never objectifies them (unless they want that sort of thing), demeans them, or regards them as anything but his most adored equals. He is not much for fidelity, but to hear him tell it, neither are his lovers. They stay until the thrill has dimmed and then brighten the world by backing into the lives of other men. Women are also presented as being different than men in the way they think and pursue sexual pleasure, which seems a simple truth. He does not present them as either victims or paragons of conventional virtue, which in this case is a form of respect.
His lovers come in all sizes, shapes and colors from as many cultures as he can seduce. And they come in every variety of individual from charming to cunning, conniving to clever, pleasant to pusillanimous, brilliant to just plain crazy. And while they all come to his attention on the strength of their rear ends, they are all regarded as individuals. So there is none of the Victorian hand-rubbing as the old lecher seduces yet another hapless maiden. These maidens all drop their knickers knowing full well where and how he intends to engage with them.
As an Englishman of the old style, both Culdrose’s prose and his languid Tory outlook are driven by the mental habits of another era. He writes like an Edwardian pornographer, in long and delightfully circuitous sentences as he describes his participation in the Swinging Sixties and hence to the present. You might not necessarily want him in your home, especially if your lady friend has a charming bottom and is growing tired of you. However, he is the sort of fellow you might very well enjoy – regardless of your gender – sharing a weekend of callipygian debauch. I suspect he has excellent taste in food and wine as well.
He narrowly avoids adopting the tone of Frank and I with no steamy references to creating a ‘snuggery’ and various methods of birching bouncy behinds. He certainly enjoys administering a sound spanking to a dainty darling, but he really likes their bottoms very much and has no intention of doing them any harm. What is more, they have all apparently asked for the spankings they receive.
Even if you find Mr. Culdrose an incorrigible rake, you have to admit that his book is upbeat, positive about his subject and life in general as well as guilt free. He believes that life is meant to be lived and, as he says, life to him is synonymous with pleasure. Such sybaritic sentiments may seem either out of date or immoral given the wretched state of the world. However, the moralizers do seem to make it ever more wretched by the day. So this epicurean attitude is refreshing in Derrière precisely because it is so unique.
Reading this anthology of lesbian erotica is like riding a rollercoaster or speeding down the highway in a vehicle that lets in a lot of fresh air. The theme of “road games” is broadly interpreted: some of these stories are about the brief ecstasy of long-distance lovers when they get together, some are about being stranded on the road by extreme weather, some are about taking one’s show on tour, and some are about games of chance in exotic locations. Kinesthesia, or the experience of movement, is important in these stories, which are all focused on immediate experience. Each of them involves a journey which is geographical as well as emotional, and a devilishly creative sexual game.
The plot of the story "Free Fall" by Julie Cannon seems characteristic of the collection as a whole. In this story, the lesbian narrator’s fairly humdrum life is interrupted when her friends send her on a tour for her fiftieth birthday. During an island stop, she impulsively chooses to go skydiving for the first time. The voluptuous female skydiving guide (who seems to be everything that the tourist is not) tells her: “I know exactly what you want and I’m going to give it to you. You are going to scream with desire and come so hard your body will explode. And then you’ll go home and tell all your friends what a wonderful time you had in my country. Am I right?”
To the narrator’s amazement, the guide fulfills her promise while secured behind her during the few minutes that both are in free-fall. The narrator’s feeling of weightlessness seems to combine seamlessly with her growing excitement as the guide strokes her body through an opened zipper in her suit. The pacing of the description matches the narrator’s sense of distorted time. After she has landed, she feels transformed:
“With one last knowing smile I turned and walked toward the hangar, knowing that I would never again be the woman I was before I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.”
The compromise between wish-fulfillment and plausibility in this story is characteristic of this generous collection of 31 stories, only one of which can be clearly identified as sci-fi. Not all of them end as happily as “Free Fall,” nor do they all affirm that impulse decisions are usually wise. In the stories about long-distance relationships, the lovers must face a decision to go their separate ways or make a commitment which will inevitably involve sacrifices.
The importance of careers in these stories looks like part of the gestalt of lesbian life in our time. The use of particular sports, games or professional roles as sexual analogies in these stories seems to be part of a trend in lesbian erotica.
Road Games is the fifth anthology in the Erotic Interludes series from lesbian publisher Bold Strokes Books. This series looks parallel to the annual Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press, which apparently started the trend in 1995, and a copycat series, Ultimate Lesbian Erotica from Alyson Books. Lesbian websites, magazines such as "On Our Backs" (no longer in print) and video companies have helped give rise to the current availability of lesbian erotica, as distinct from the lesbian romances of yesteryear, which coyly referred to sex by means of predictable erotic imagery: women who purred and stretched like cats, desire between women as a tide, a pool or a river.
The steady growth of lesbian erotica since the mid-1990s is parallel to the influx of women into a variety of professions since the 1970s. Women’s jobs now show up regularly in erotic stories as essential elements in the plot and in the characters’ sexual magnetism.
For instance, Road Games includes a story about musicians on tour by a writer who actually sings and plays guitar in a band, and stories about other artists (professional dancers, a wannabe-actor-turned-masseuse, a magical chef), athletes (golfers, basketball players, martial artists), blue-collar workers (a trucker, a cop, a demolition expert, a “repo” woman), business owners, computer-savvy librarians and a “gigola.” The skills and working personas of the characters are described as erotically as their curves, and these can be biceps as well as breasts or hips. Similarly, the authors of stories which would probably have been unpublishable twenty years ago now attract enough fans to keep the genre alive and growing.
In the final story, "Test Drive," by Radclyffe, publisher and editor, a prospective car-buyer and the saleswoman who takes her out for a test drive seduce each other in double-entendres:
’Do it,’ she whispered, and pressed down on the gas pedal.
The force of the engine accelerating surged through me, and I drew the slip of silk aside with one hand and stroked my swollen slit with the other.
‘Zero to sixty,’ I gasped, letting my head fall back against the window as I started to come. ‘In. . .oh, God. . . right now.’
Blaze laughed and reached across the space between us to caress my cheek softly. ‘That’s what I call high-performance.’
‘It’s not the engine,’ I murmured drowsily. ‘It’s the driver.’
There is a thin line between wit and camp in some of these stories, and that is part of their charm.
A thin line which seems more problematic is suggested by the three stories in this volume which were written by Radclyffe and the one by her co-editor, Stacia Seaman.
All four stories are diverse, entertaining, and well-constructed. However, an editor who also writes seems unlikely to have the same perspective on her own stories as she could have on the work of other writers.
Admittedly, the names of popular writers of lesbian erotica are guaranteed to pop up regularly in the same places. As a case in point, veterans Karin Kallmaker, Crin Claxton and Therese Szymanski all have stories in Road Games, and their novels and stories are also widely available elsewhere. And Radclyffe is certainly not the only editor who has arranged for the publication of her own work. Perhaps I tend to split hairs, but I can’t help wondering when the links between players in the same field become a conflict of interests. In fact, this type of ambiguity is one of the themes in the book under discussion!
Hair-splitting aside (unless hair-splitting is your pleasure), this book is exhilarating to read. It certainly isn’t your grandmother’s Oldsmobile.
The contributors to Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica will probably be familiar to fans of lesbian erotica. Fiona Zedde, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Jean Roberta, Jolie du Pre, and many others are known for their sensuous, hot, delightful, and thought-provoking work. This wonderful collection of stories shows why.
Like many of these stories, Tenille Brown’s "Waiting" highlighted the problems of a cross-cultural relationship, but it’s the personal distance that gives this story its edge. Lucinda has her life set in neat, distinct categories that suit her needs, and she makes it clear that Gabriela isn’t invited to step outside that boundary. When Gabriela does, Lucinda is unwilling, or unable, to give her some-time lover any emotional respect. Gabriela’s longing for more than her defined role is heartbreaking.
Nan Andrew’s "The Portrait" touches on skin color more than any other story, but not in terms of race. An artist, inspired by Freda Kahlo’s work, tries to paint a portrait of a woman she’s attracted to, but can’t make it work. Every time she looks at her soon-to-be lover, the complexity of skin color, with all the underlying tones, frustrates her. She can’t seem to capture it. Only after the artist experiences her model beyond the surface can she paint the person. This story encapsulates the theme of this anthology – race and culture influence perspective, but it’s what lies beneath that ultimately matters.
Fiona Zedde’s "Night Music" is lush, but playful. Likewise, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s "Two Strippers in Love" is upbeat and oh-my-is-it-getting-hot-in-here sexy. Jean Roberta’s "For All My Relations," and Jolie Du Pre’s "Monisha" are about loves that can never be again, and how the bittersweet knowledge of that can only be held outside for so long before reality creeps in. Lisa Figueroa’s "Enchanting Evalina" and Cheyenne Blue’s "Glory B" show that sometimes finding the prefect lover takes a touch of the mystical.
The stories in Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica feature women of Caribbean, Native American, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, Mexican, and interracial backgrounds. They are photographers, mechanics, musicians, barkeeps, strippers and sex workers. Refreshingly, none of these women are fetishized. They are real, smart, sexy, and a pleasure to read about.
What is kinky?
Sometimes I wish I had the right body shape for T-Shirts. My head is too large for my pencil-like neck and the ratio of my torso to my limbs is proportionally akin to a turnip with cocktail-sticks for arms and legs. When fashion designers were originally designing T-Shirts, they weren’t thinking of individuals with my malformed physique.
Of course, if I had the ability to change the shape of my body through wishing alone, moulding myself to appear presentable in T-Shirts would be way down on the list. First, I’d correct the problem of having one ear bigger than the other. I swear that problem didn’t exist until I started to wear a Bluetooth earpiece for my mobile phone. I got it cheap, and it weighs nearly three kilos, and I’m beginning to suspect the burden of this extra weight may be a contributory factor in the condition. Since I started wearing it my left ear now flops over and points south every time I watch a sunset.
And there are other areas of my body I would change too. I know that everyone says size doesn’t matter but there’s certainly one part of my anatomy that could do with losing some length and maybe trimming a little of its vast girth. Of course, I know some people find a large nose attractive, but I guess body shape is a personal decision.
But I’m digressing, aren’t I? I was talking about T-shirts. And my desire to wear one and not look like a famine victim on holiday. Or a badly constructed scarecrow with a wasting disease. I’ve always wanted to wear T-shirts because they can be printed with such pithy observations.
My wife hankers after the T-shirt that says, “Yes, I do have some spare change. Thank you for asking, you homeless piece of shit!” As you can probably tell, her application for a position with the Samaritans was unexpectedly rejected. My son wants the T-shirt that shows a picture of Harold Shipman and is framed with the words, “Carry On Doctor.” And me: I’d be happy with the T-shirt that says, “It’s only kinky the first time.”
Michelle Houston’s collection of four short BDSM stories, Kinky Girls Do, got me thinking about what constitutes kinky. Of course, I’m often thinking about things that are kinky, and not just because I’m a pervert, subversive and deviant. I consider these thoughts to be the necessary preoccupations of an author in the erotic genre.
And I keep coming back to the question: what is kinky?
As some of you may know, I’ve written a non-fiction book on swingers and I’m currently working on a follow-up title. To write this book I’ve interviewed many, many swinging couples and, not surprisingly, the word kinky has been bandied around with the frequency of the word parrot at a Monty Python convention. But no one has pinned it down to a universally acceptable definition.
One young lady I spoke with catalogued her interest in leather and rubber fetish wear. We followed this with a discussion on the most judicious locations for watersports and the inherent problems of outdoor bondage and flagellation. I then broached the subject of missionary position sex in bed, in the dark, with the lights off and she lambasted me for being outrageously depraved and kinky.
Which I only mention to show that one person’s kinky is another person’s commonplace.
But, for a primer into the world of kink, you could do much worse than enjoy Michelle Houston’s Kinky Girls Do.
Michelle Houston is a veteran writer of erotic fiction. While it’s not exactly true to say her name has been in more anthologies than the words, Table of Contents, it’s an inarguable fact that she is prolific and well-published. Her short fiction can be found in a variety of collections including those published by Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Justus Roux and many of the Renaissance anthologies. Unleashed, a collection of Michelle’s short erotic fiction, includes sixteen sensationally sexy stories and this is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg for her true output.
In Kinky Girls Do, Michelle entertains us with four stories of BDSM kink. As with all Michelle’s fiction the narrative is graphic without being gratuitous and sexy without being salacious. She creates rounded characters and masterfully takes us with them as they grow just a little bit more.
The first of these stories introduces exhibitionist Angela. Michelle makes the woman gorgeous and credible and pens a delicious story of steamy stripping, sultry show-womanship and a sensuous, satisfying conclusion. But, to show her diversity, Michelle brings a blend of sensitivity to the kink in this collection, and shows that however deviation might be defined by most, it can always be tempered with humanity.
If I say much more I’m going to spoil the plots of the other stories. It’s enough to say Michelle Houston writes sensational erotic fiction and these four shorts will strike a chord with every discerning reader of erotica.
I've come to the conclusion, after considerable deliberation, that Lofting is intended as an elaborate joke. The fictitious Alma Marceau (Lofting was actually written by a man), widely traveled in "the Paleo- and Neotropics", author of a PhD dissertation entitled "On the Genealogy of Morels", has penned a self-consciously literate, extravagantly smutty novel that pretends to be serious erotica. In reality, the author winks at the reader on nearly every page. How many more mindless sex acts, how many more pints of semen spattered across our heroine's anatomy, how many more obscure nouns and overblown metaphors will it take, dear reader, before you realize that I'm poking fun at the whole concept of literary erotica (and possibly, at you, esteemed reader, as well)?
Lofting begins well. Claire, a brilliant, articulate New York psychotherapist, engages in witty and erudite cyberchat with the equally glib and mentally adroit Andres (a married man who lives in Denver). Gradually their double-entendres metamorphose into cybersex and then phone sex. Claire discovers an unsuspected submissiveness lurking in her psyche. She also begins to fall in love with Andres, who predicts that she will soon encounter a real world lover who will more completely satisfy her needs.
The early chapters of Lofting are probably as overwritten as the later ones, but I didn't notice. The intellectual, sexual and emotional connections between Claire and Andres were sufficiently genuine to invite my identification. When Claire meets Nick, however, the man who will become her new master and mentor (and who, tellingly, originally enters her life as a prospective patient), I abruptly lost interest. Nick is virile and handsome, but he is also dishonest, manipulative and shallow. He lacks both the sympathy and the cleverness I found in Andres.
Nick engages Claire in a variety of extreme and occasionally repulsive sexual scenarios: masturbating her to orgasm in the reptile house of the Staten Island Zoo while she watches a python consuming a dead rabbit; taking her from behind in a deserted corner of Macy's house wares department; handing her over to be used and abused by friends and associates, male and female. These scenes are not even slightly arousing (in my opinion), mostly because, despite Ms. Marceau's purple depictions of Claire's eventual orgasms, Claire really doesn't seem to be enjoying herself. Nick and his cohorts are genuinely cruel and depressingly selfish in their assaults on Claire's body. Their primary concern seems to be self-gratification, even though Nick claims to be orchestrating these activities for Claire's benefit.
Lofting perverts the D/s dynamic. There's hardly any real communication between Nick and Claire, and little if any trust. At times, Claire fears that Nick really has lost touch with her completely, and this fear seems justified. Nick (and Ms. Marceau) clearly have not studied SM 101. Some of the bondage scenes struck me as distinctly unsafe. Meanwhile, the book focuses on the physical activities and accoutrements of BDSM, completely ignoring the psychological and emotional interactions that are the essence of power exchange.
I should mention that although the sex in this novel is frequent, graphic, and attempts to present itself as incredibly perverse and decadent, it has little claim to originality. With the exception of the snake interlude (which in retrospect I believe was intended as an overly-clever Freudian allusion), there is nothing in Lofting that I haven't encountered in a dozen other dirty books. The final chapters unfold at the stereotypic remote mansion where the entire cast of characters (including, implausibly, Andres) converge to perpetrate one indecency after another on our poor heroine. (Yawn.)
I also felt that despite being recounted by Claire in the first person, Lofting's sexual descriptions have a distinctly male focus. There is, for instance, a preoccupation with the color, copiousness and consistency of semen that seems incongruous in a female narrator.
M.J. Rose, in her 2002 review of Lofting, claims that the book is "written in polished, evocative prose" and praises its "legitimate literary qualities." I have enormous respect for Ms. Rose's own subtle and sensual writing; thus I was a bit surprised by this evaluation. It's true that Ms. Marceau's vocabulary is astonishing, and that she peppers her dialogue with literary references and sly puns. However, the pages of Lofting are rife with bizarre metaphors and gratuitous polysyllabisms that are sometimes painful to read.
It's a bad sign in a dirty book when you notice the figures of speech.
Consider the following passage:
"I was close to coming, my speech halting and clipped. At the penultimate moment, Nick's hands found my nipples and twisted them savagely - exquisitely apposite torture that served only to precipitate the crisis. But fearing the cruel mercy of a silent, glassy descent, I begged Nick to fuck me full force. He answered my call with an allegro of half-thrusts: like a pestle striking a mortar, his cock pounded my vagina with short, percussive blows until, tumbled across the collapsing face of the swell, I lost muscular control, fell twisting and writhing onto my belly, and finally came to rest, splayed out like storm-cast wrack on the draggled beach of the bed sheets."
Or, another sample:
"Nick was splendid at the end, his face frozen in rapture, his muscles rigid, his cock hard and red as an ingot spewed hot from the blast furnace. His penis recoiled violently as he climaxed three long strokes, casting turbid aspersions of semen in broad, flossy arcs upon my belly, breasts and throat. Drenched in his warm emission and my own copious juices, I lay back in bed and stretched my sore limbs before curling with satisfaction into a fetal crescent."
"Turbid aspersions of semen?" I just cannot believe that prose this purple could be accidental. I continue to suspect that Lofting was deliberately constructed to parody literary erotica by combining near-ridiculous hyper-intellectualism with crude carnality. The result is a strange hybrid that in my opinion offers little literary merit (except as a clever parody) and less eroticism. As she continues her researches into "fungal systematics", Ms. Marceau must smile to herself when she reads the puzzled but effusive reviews she has received from readers who have taken Lofting seriously.