Authors
Alexandros
Carmine
Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic StoriesBasketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Stories
By: Richard Higgins
Renaissance E Books
ISBN:






Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

The phrase “good editor” is something of an oxymoron.  It’s a little like saying “honest lawyer” or “rap music.”  The two words just don’t sit naturally together and, when they are combined, they produce something that clearly cannot be true. 

Not that I’m trying to say all editors are bad. 

I’m sure not all of them are into sacrificing baby goats, deflowering virgins, painting bloody pentagrams on consecrated ground or demanding first-born children.  DLK at Erotica Revealed is surprisingly charming for an editor and I’ve never once seen her involved in a satanic ritual invoking diabolical forces in her attempt to claim mastery of the universe’s blackest powers. 

I’ve not seen that once.

Yet many of the editors I’ve worked with have had sides to their personalities that are most kindly described as maniacally evil.  The merciless way I’ve had copy butchered; the masochistic manner in which royalty cheques have been withheld, lost or neglected; and the downright deviant exploitation of my naïve authorial innocence has invariably been exacerbated through my contact with editors.

And it’s not just my personal experiences that make me think editors have a sinister influence on our society.  Hitler only turned into a scum-sucking piece of evil sputum after writing Mein Kampf.  I’d wager, if that book had been published without an editor, Hitler would have simply continued a banal existence as a petty criminal, bad moustache-grower, and mediocre house painter.  However, through his contact with an editor, he went on to form The Third Reich

Spiderman’s arch nemeses usually have the full support of newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson.  Is that a coincidence?  I don’t think so. 

Clark Kent had to endure the orders of that despicably evil fucker Perry White.  (I’m aware that most readers don’t perceive Perry White to be inherently evil but I can foresee a long-ranging story arc that shows he is either Beelzebub or the Son of Satan.  How else could you explain his recovery from lung cancer?)

But, as I (hopefully) mentioned earlier, not all editors are evil.  Some of them (especially those I’ve worked with over the past few months) are wonderful, charming people and it’s been an honour to work with them.  And, while the phrase “good editor” does remain something of an oxymoron, I have to use it here: Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Stories could have used the services of a good editor.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this book.  In the tradition of the Victorian erotic novel it contains short stories from a distinctly male perspective that would make a contemporary feminist want to burn her pubes in protest.  The writing is conversational in style but the plot exposition is so belaboured and obvious it’s often hard to engage interest with the fiction.  Whilst going through this book I found myself reading on because the writing had the ghoulish appeal of driving past a car wreck.  I didn’t have any real desire to know what was going on but some twisted and macabre need inside me compelled me to keep looking.
This extract from “Checkmate” illustrates what I mean.

Daisy took me by the hand and said, ‘Come, my dear, over to the bed. The floor is too hard. You know what I want. And I’ve wanted it for a long while. The arguments I initiated with you were just a pretense. I wanted you all along, but I didn’t want to make Hazel feel bad. I have been pretending to be indifferent to you.’
‘Well, the feeling has been mutual with me.’ I said. ‘Our arguments were superficial and really a kind of sexual expression.’”

Checkmate also contains a layman’s introduction to the game of chess, the sort of anecdotal sexual description one would expect from a drunken college student who’s trying to disprove accusations of virginity, and dialogue (as illustrated above) that is so wooden it could give splinters to Pinnochio. 
But it’s not just the dialogue that makes this book so special.  The description of sexual intimacy is one of the key factors in erotic fiction.  Any decent author of erotica, with or without the help of a good editor, can produce intense scenes of passion that balance graphic description with literary integrity. This is part of what follows the previous extract from “Checkmate”.

Daisy gripped me with her vaginal muscles and treated me to a round of snapping pussy. She was good and I came off deliciously. She enjoyed a strong orgasm and, shuddering, she blacked out.”

The eponymous heroine of Basketball Bonnie is named Basketball Bonnie not because of her interest in recreational sports: “Her marvellous chest inspired her name, although the persons she encountered never called her Basketball Bonnie to her face.” 

As I said before: Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Short Stories is not a bad book.  It’s just not one I could honestly recommend, except to illustrate how one should not write fiction – erotic or otherwise.  The writing has the feel of Victorian erotica with all the wordy, conversational and misogynistic humour one would expect from that period.  It’s easy to consider such a style dated in this age of equality, tight-writing, subtlety and authorial competence but it would be wrong of me to suggest that this book was past its sell-by-date before it hit the shelves.  It just needed the services of a good editor. 

I also think the involvement of a competent author might have helped.





Best Fantastic Erotica: Volume 1Best Fantastic Erotica: Volume 1
Edited By: Cecilia Tan
Circlet Press
ISBN: 1885865600
November 2007





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Fantastic has several meanings.  In the context of Cecilia Tan's new anthology, the word refers to fiction which has elements of the supernatural or the futuristic.  At the same time, “fantastic” also serves as a superlative, a synonym to “wonderful,” “exceptional” or (in today's parlance) “awesome.”  I have no hesitation in using the word in its second sense to describe this collection.  Cecilia Tan and Circlet have winnowed down a set of more than five hundred submissions to present eighteen of the best erotic science fiction and fantasy stories that I, at least, have read in a long time.

This anthology is noteworthy both for its originality and its diversity.  The tales range from Arinn Dembo's exquisitely lyrical “Monsoon” to Thomas Roche's hilarious satire, “The Night the New Hog Croaked, Or the Lascivious Dr. Blonde: A Romance”.  Kal Cobalt's “The Lift” is pure cyberpunk, set in a world in which the lines between human and machine have become tragically blurred.  “The Caretaker,” by Fauna Sara, offers a deliciously traditional fantasy world inhabited by unicorns and their virgins.  “The Bridge,” Connie Wilkins' contribution, gives us a war-scarred veteran who encounters the mythical Green Man, while Catherine Lundoff's “Twilight” presents a sassy, modern half-vampire who meets her match in the sexy descendant of a legendary vampire slayer.

Several of the stories contemplate the distance, or lack thereof, between man and animal.  In Robert Knippenberg's “And What Rough Beasts,” a faddish treatment that allows humans to become part animal results in the gradual disappearance of homo sapiens. Jason Rubis' enigmatic and disturbing “Circe House” considers transformation from human to animal, from male to female and back, as a sort of extreme fetish.

Any contemporary volume of erotica is likely to include some BDSM, and this collection is no exception.  However, in the hands of these Circlet authors, the themes of surrender as a gateway to freedom; pain as a precursor to pleasure, become newly exciting.  Corbie Petulengro's “The Harrowing” concerns an evil sorceress who exacts a ransom of sexual servitude from a brave female warrior, teaching her young slave how to accept her craving for submission and suffering.  “Marked,” by Cody Nelson, one of my favorite stories in a book full of candidates, presents an odd plague that confers heightened sensuality and sensitivity upon its sufferers while at the same time condemning them to horrible pain if they touch each other.

“Zach forcefully unclenched his teeth and slowed his shallow breathing.  He rubbed his aching cock against the mattress and felt its steady throbbing.  He moved his hips rhythically under Brendan's hand.  He let the pain wash through him, felt its circuit flow from point of contact to point of contact, butt to belly to breast to arm to hand.  He felt the electric pricks and tingles and bites.  And he relaxed his mind and invited the pain in.

Something changed then.  The pain didn't go away and didn't abate, not one bit.  But it was no longer something to be feared and shunned.  It was searing and gorgeous and wonderful, and Zack found his body racked with laughing sobs at the joy of it.”

In the end, Zack is cured – only to realize that he still wants the lust and the pain that he has left behind.

There are many more wonderful stories in this volume.  “Music from My Bones,” by Anya Levin, explores a different kind of submission, in which a woman allows her body to be played as an instrument in a performance of sexual ecstasy.  Jean Roberta's “Smoke” entertains the notion that Lucifer was a woman, with all the attendant implications.  “Nocturnal Emissions,” by Joe Nobel, is a delightfully sensual chronicle of an elderly Christian priest in the sixteenth century who comes face to face with the old gods and his own suppressed carnal desires.

“The Gantlet,” by B. Lynch Black, offers a parable about the dangers of too much control, set in a classic sci-fi dystopia.  Renee M. Charles' “Opening the Veins of Jade” gives us oriental magic and feminine power.  Argus Marks' “Copperhead Renaissance” is a creepily erotic picture of mutual addiction.  “Venus Rising,” by Diane Kepler, takes us into the familiar territory of android sex toys, but adds an ironic twist.  Last, but hardly least, Carolyn and Steve Vakesh offer the clever, funny “Capture, Courting and Copulation: Contemporary Human Mating Rituals and the Etiology of Human Aggression”, part of the dissertation research of a young dragon sociobiologist.  (“We are educated, politically correct dragons.  We do not eat humans anymore.”)

Normally when I review anthologies, I don't mention every story.  Usually there are at least one or two that are better left in the dark.  Often I want to allow the readers to discover some of the tales on their own.  In the case of this collection, every author deserves a mention, for all of the tales are exceptional for their craft as well as their creativity.

Best Fantastic Erotica is, indeed, fantastic.  I'm hardly surprised, since every Circlet anthology that I have read or reviewed deserves the superlative.  For Cecilia Tan, every Circlet Press book is a personal labor of love.  It shows.





Dirty Girls: Erotica for WomenDirty Girls: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580052517
February 2008





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

After reading the stories in Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women, I had to ask myself why I expected stories about “bad” women when Rachel Kramer Bussel’s intro made it clear that these were stories about women who could be dirty and sweet at the same time. Take her words to heart. These stories are not about femmes fatale, but about women who embrace their sexuality.

Perhaps I read too much erotica. It takes a lot to get me to sit up and take notice. The well-worn conventions, unless delivered by a master story-teller, leave me yearning for the story that could have been. Strangers knock it out, but here’s the twist at the end, they’re husband and wife role-playing. It’s only a twist if I haven’t read it a hundred times before. Every time, I wonder what’s so hot about it. Then there’s the mysterious stranger who quickly humbles the confident sex-goddess by dominating her and forcing her to accept the submissive role she was always secretly yearning for. Um. Right. Next? And of course, there’s the high-fantasy BDSM scene of the slave girl kept in sexual torment all night while she services her Master and his friends. That was covered ad nauseam in the Beauty series by A. N. Roquelaure and hasn’t become any more interesting since then.

Despite my dissatisfaction with a number of the stories in this anthology, there were also some amazing treasures. The lead-off story for this anthology is “Fucking Around” by Marie Lyn Bernard. It set the bar high for what was to follow, unfortunately. Sure, as an Angeleno, I wasn’t thrilled by Marie’s representation of LA, but at least she made it clear it wasn’t somebody from here. But I’ll admit I laughed aloud at Boston’s self-absorption, so we all enjoy a well-placed tweak of another person’s hometown. Call it regional schadenfreude. The pay-off with New York was priceless. I hate to describe this story beyond these comments because you deserve the delight of discovering this one on your own. Sexy? Maybe. Erotic? Questionable. One hell of a good read? Absolutely.

Shanna Germain is a master at bittersweet stories. Sometimes, what we’ve lost can never be replaced, no matter how much we gain. The narrator in “Until It’s Gone” can only get off from being choked by a belt and longs for the lover who knew how to do it for her. Her loving husband tries, but can’t bring himself to hurt her, so she fakes sexual fulfillment and tries to convince herself that her life now is worth the sacrifice. The sex in this story passes the border from dirty into kinky without so much as a kiss blown to the customs agent, but as always, it’s the emotional resonance of Shanna’s stories that stays with me for days, even weeks, after I read her work.

 

I could almost feel the swelter from Rachel Kramer Bussel’s story “Icy Hot,” and wanted that damn ice as bad as her character Doris did. When the last bag of ice for sale at the local bogeda is taken by a hot guy, Doris challenges him for it. He agrees to share it, but in his apartment. The sex scene that follows is as sizzling as the city sidewalks in summer.  I know when my nipples pucker at the same time the character’s do that the story is going to have its way with me, and I’m enthusiastically along for the ride.

Some stories that also deserve mention are Catherine Lundoff’s “Just Another Girl on the Train” that appealed strongly to my voyeuristic side, and Alison Tyler’s “Like a Good Girl.” Alison’s stories always have a moment that turns me on in a big way, and this one was no exception. 

Whether a story works or not is a mystical thing. Shortly after reading Rachel’s “Icy Hot,” I read Carol Queen’s “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!”  and had quite a different reaction to strangers rushing into immediate sex. Maybe it was because Rachel’s Doris seemed streetwise enough to take care of herself that I took it on faith that she’d follow a stranger to his apartment and they’d get it on. But in “Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed!” I couldn’t make that leap that it was in character for Abby to simply go off with strangers who admittedly had been stalking her. I also couldn’t quite figure out the – to me – non-sequitur that if a person is a bibliophile, she is also into a three-way with strangers in a booth at a peep show.

It’s not the set-up, it’s not the setting, and it’s not the scenario that makes a story erotic to me. Sex is a given, so even that isn’t enough. And maybe that’s the problem here – in too many of these stories, sex portrayed in graphic detail is supposed to be enough to turn me on, except that it often isn’t. I need interesting characters to grab my libido and not let go until we’re panting together through the closing words. I wanted to like this anthology more than I did. Yes, there are a few really good stories, but in the balance, not enough.





I is for IndecentI is for Indecent
Edited By: Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443050
February 2008





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This pocket-sized volume of fifteen stories is adorned with a radiant cartoon pinup girl on the cover, complete with a World War II-era sailor’s cap. This little book is part of Alison Tyler’s alphabet series, beginning with A is for Amour, B is for Bondage, and so forth. Each volume contains fewer stories than the average erotic anthology, but the whole collection will eventually include quite a range of styles, plots and sexual flavors.

Alison Tyler is a prolific editor as well as a writer of stories and novels which have been translated into various languages and circulated all over the world. Besides editing anthologies for Cleis Press, she runs her own small company, Pretty Things Press. She is a kind of one-woman industry, and her “brand” (to use a popular buzz-word) is usually easy to spot. The sex in her stories tends to be offbeat, spontaneous, fun and heterosexual. Her male characters sometimes mislead her female characters, or vice versa, but Tyler describes disappointment in a light and witty way. No one seems to get seriously hurt. If any of her characters have dark nights of the soul, these happen off the page.

This book is quirkier, stranger and darker than any of her other anthologies that I know of. These stories answer the question: Is anything considered indecent these days, even by those who consider themselves sexually free? (Or, to paraphrase a line from the 1980s music that Tyler loves, what would it take to make a pro blush?)

Several of these stories deal with exhibitionism in public places. Showing off in itself doesn’t seem shocking in works of erotic fantasy, but the characters in these stories deliberately risk violence, injury, arrest and unexpected emotional transformation. In “That Monday Morning Feeling” by Lisette Ashton, Mandy consoles herself for having to go to a boring office job by flashing her shapely butt and pressing herself against men in the London tube. “Have a Nice Day” by Mike Kimera carries the break-from-work theme further: an emotionally-detached male narrator sends his girlfriend a package at work containing a large dildo which she is ordered to stuff into herself before going to a “meeting” with a strange woman who ushers her into the narrator’s stretch limo, which seems equipped for every conceivable sexual activity.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Crowd Pleaser” describes a happy couple visiting New Orleans for their anniversary during Mardi Gras. Nothing about them seems unusual until the general revelry inspires them to have sex in a place where they are caught by television cameras before escaping from security guards.

In “The Installation” by Michael Hemmingson, a financially desperate young woman in graduate school agrees to perform sexually as part of an art exhibit. Her only reward, supposedly, is a fee which will get her out of debt. The older, experienced male artist who hires her awakens her capacity for pleasure and endurance. The change in her feelings, from grim resignation to the self-centered thrill of performing for a snobbish audience that loses interest after awhile, could have led to an ironic role-reversal. Would the artist simply forget his “object” after opening night? Would she contact him again, after resisting the impulse to do so during the lead-up to the public performance? The author doesn’t say.

In “Wet” by Janine Ashbless, a middle-class woman on a date with her husband searches in vain for an open public lavatory until she loses control of her bladder. Her public embarrassment leads to a passionate response from her husband, despite the presence of passers-by.

In “A Genuine Motherfucker” by Sommer Marsden, a female narrator tells the reader that she specializes in discovering the most shameful fantasies of the men she dates, and rubbing their noses in them (so to speak) when the men are most vulnerable. Parallel to this strategy for breaking down any semblance of dignity or self-esteem is the elaborate violation scene in “The Things You Do When You’re in Love” by Mathilde Madden, in which a domme seems to abandon her male pet in a rundown gas-station urinal after securing him to the plumbing. The scene is consensual enough in the context of a Dominant-submissive relationship, but it is hardly decent by any standards.

In “Daddy’s Pillow” by Rita Winchester, a more conventional male Dominant-female submissive encounter takes place via long-distance telephone call, and the physical absence of “Daddy” gives the narrator’s story of rapturous release a certain eeriness.

In “Waif” by Alana Noel Voth, an angry man who has been fired by his embezzling boss is approached by a young male prostitute who seems even more powerless than the unemployed corporate pawn. The story raises questions about corruption and responsibility while showing two wounded males warily responding to each other. The developing relationship between the hustler with nothing left to lose and his reluctant john shows a glimmer of hope for humanity in general, but the punch line removes any trace of sentimentality.

Thomas Roche’s black comedy, “Death Rock,” is an uncomfortably amusing look at a certain gay goth sub-community of young men who are literally in love with death. The ending, which mimics that of Romeo and Juliet, is both melodramatic and too plausible for my taste.

In “From Here to Indecency,” Stan Kent refers to a romantic movie about wartime lovers while satirizing Hollywood conventions in general. In a slapstick climax, three people who are far from glamorous are thrown together in the ocean off the coast of California. The looney-tunes romance which follows shows that Mother Nature is the best script-writer.

“Guilt” by Tsaurah Litzky is both gritty and bittersweet. The narrator’s situation suggests a line sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl: “Would a convent take a Jewish girl?” The breaking of sexual vows, whether to a human spouse or to God, seems indecent to all those who believe that promises should mean something. The dilemma of the guilt-ridden man in the story is that he has already proven himself a hypocrite, and he can’t do the right thing by his own standards without hurting himself and the woman who confronts him.

The stories by Rachel Kramer Bussel (who has co-edited anthologies with Alison Tyler) and Tyler herself seem downright sweet and innocent compared to most of the rest. In Bussel’s story, “The Secret to a Happy Marriage,” the “secret” is revealed to involve sex outside the marriage—and outside the heterosexual “mainstream.” The narrator’s encounter with a lesbian couple seems to be exactly the outlet she needs to remain faithful to her husband in her fashion. In Tyler’s story, “Milk and Honey,” a charming man meets a woman in a coffee shop and persuades her to drink her coffee differently than before. The delicious new flavors of sex that he introduces her to lead her to hope that something long-term might be developing between them. She learns that whatever seems too good to be true probably is.

Donna George Storey’s “The Cunt Book” also involves a dishonest man and the woman who is enchanted by his imagination even when she knows he is not telling her the factual truth. The photographic evidence of his seduction of her (or of her exhibitionist streak) suggests the woman-centered art and photography of lesbian artist Tee Corinne, which foreshadowed The Vagina Monologues some twenty years earlier.

These stories take risks and leak out of a predictable marketing niche. They could inspire you to find the sides of yourself that you’ve kept hidden from the light of day, desires which still feel indecent.





Yes Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male SubmissionYes Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443093
March 2008





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

“But from the moment he ties her, she’s gone.  No pleasure, no pain, just emptiness.
He sighs and unties her.
She looks up, stunned at his defeat.  ‘Tell me, and I’ll do it.’
But he shakes his head.”

From “Ribbons” by Kathryn O’Halloran, Yes, Sir.

I have two basic responses to the stories in the new companion volumes, Yes, Ma’am and Yes Sir, from Cleis Press.  My reactions range between intense fascination and the inability to continue reading without falling asleep.  Both books have two distinct sets of stories.  The first group deals with bdsm as a sexual proclivity that gives the characters unique insight.  As such they make discoveries and enhance their sensitivities through bdsm.  Sometimes that happens in spite of themselves, which lends these stories irony, and even pathos, at no cost to the sensual pleasure of reading them.  The quotation above from “Ribbons” embodies all those qualities in a few short, crafted sentences.

The second are essentially formula S/M plots that constitute mechanical instructions on how to practice this or that form of BDSM.  They all seem to begin with the dom/domme calling, saying, writing, and even text messaging their submissive some instruction that sets them all a twitter.  The orders are followed, the submissive is punished anyway and a good time is had by all at least in theory.  These stories are written to a deceptively simple formula that can either be a springboard for the writer or an iron cage of banality. 

The formula stories each have the same plot and, in these two volumes, for some reason, they often have an artificially appended upbeat ending.  What is troubling is that these endings are so often entirely out of context with the rest of the story.  Neither life nor fiction, always lead to a closed denouement.  As the quote from Ms. O’Halloran illustrates, it’s not what you do that matters nearly as much in all aspects of sex, but the spirit it invokes in both the doer and doee.  The results may be indeterminate.

The first group, which I shall call stories of discovery, have some absolutely first-rate examples in both books.  At the very top of that list is Lisette Ashton’s “Sitting on Ice Cream” in Yes, Sir about a stage struck young woman who longs to be spanked by the house manager of the theatre in which she works as a lowly, but comely, usher.  The title itself seems like a delightful rationale of punishment for the fairly naughty and that is what makes Ms Ashton’s style so unique.  She understands naughty as a form of flirtation for which an arousing spanking is a just and winning reward.  The irony is of course that the young lady is truly being rewarded with exactly what she wants. Now she knows how to get it the next time.  Like all truly gifted authors, Ms Ashton’s humor flows naturally from her style and that in turn reflects the playful worldview of the story. 

Not to be outdone, is Lee Ash’s story “Tea for Three” in Yes, Ma’am which is an absolutely hilarious high comic romp in the vein of Noel Coward, a man who would, I believe, have understood the benefits of a whacking good time.  The happily submissive husband in the story is asked if he would like a threesome.  He replies demurely, after serving his wife tea, that, “Yes, please, I’d very much like a threesome.”  His sleek wife replies, “A threesome?  That’s very assertive, isn’t it?” 

It is impossible not to be charmed by these people.  That is not because of what they do sexually so much as how they respond to each other.  Nonetheless, “Tea for Three” is one of the sexiest stories in the two books. These people are genuinely subtle, playfully indirect, and truly witty.  They have the brains and style to be interesting. Best of all they are extremely sensitive to each other.  The husband is not rebelling against his wife. He is flourishing under her control.  She knows in turn just how much to tighten the screws to make their play as piquant as possible thus leading the couple into continuing the discussion between elegant and irresistible segments of hot sex. Mr. Ash can even make the feel of fabric read in a way that is truly sexy, but his real talent is word play.  It is the sort of badinage that Thorne Smith created in Turnabout.

As a work of literature, Stephen Elliott’s, “It’s Cold Outside” in Yes, Ma’am is the finest piece in both collections.  He uses irony in the totally opposite direction from Mr. Ash.  Here the central character is ostensibly male, but he is so much diminished by his life of being a display item in a traveling sex show that he is more of an androgyne.  He is what his booking agents, clients, audiences and even his friends want to imagine him to be to suit their appetites and their superior notions of themselves.  He not only wants but needs their exploitation. 

The pain and arousal he gets from bondage is the one stimulus that reasserts his personhood.  He is the ultimate free market commodity, the willing thing that is whatever you want it to be for a price and totally disposable thereafter.  It is poignant to note that his ultimate abuser is a woman psychoanalyst.  The analyst, among all other dominants in both books, is a horrifying creature.  She is so in need of something that feels like empathy that she has passed beyond the erotic to blatant cruelty.  As a merchant of the mental healthy industry, she spouts banalities even as she gets off with numb and deliberate authentic sadism.  She is after all a certified professional and thus has a right to her special brand of insensitivity and a lack of ethics in exploiting others.

What many writers and publishers of erotica have yet to grasp is that sex may be at best a temporary route to easing, or at least blurring, suffering in a bitter world.  It is then potentially more than an escape from life or some ultimate form of fulfillment, as Mr. Elliott’s story illustrates.  Erotica has slowly begun to mature in the last few years beyond the limited forms of the romance novel and simple pornography.  That is partly a function of the growing paranoia and repression surrounding the erotic in art.  It is also a result of the fact that writers now have access to a more complex critical response.

The metaphors authors of erotica select can be more than a gauzy detour from one’s conventional experience, and as such, broaden one’s view of the real as well as provide strength in dealing with it. Art supplies distance from experience, and that is usually rooted in a new, ironic understanding of what that experience is.   As such it is Sartre’s notion of despair, because we only really understand things from which we have, to some degree, distanced ourselves.

That is also why irony is so key to art and erotica, because it is the second sight that the artist provides on what is commonly held to be absolute.  It breathes meaning into the redundant.

When the formula in art becomes the point, it poisons itself; for while we may all have the vile properties of both the manipulated and the manipulators in, say, reality TV, those characteristics are not the sum total of what it really means to be human.  It is crucial to see that it is not the formula that is at fault here, but rather the way “reality” on television is selectively defined for a minimum of consciousness and a maximum of prurient reptilian stimulation.

No literary critic could, however, reject formulas in fiction out of hand. To do so would be to reject the common apparatuses by which we recognize each other’s experiences and thus share them.  The formula in fiction is indispensable when you consider the limitations of our common understanding of what is probable versus what is possible.  Formulas are a convenient short hand, but they are the frame of art, not the core.

The comedy of Plautus remains the basis of the American and British sitcom because they invoke the same boy meets girl who together meet a common obstacle.  The glue, which holds that formula together, is the titillation of imagining how the couple will celebrate their victory when the obstacle is finally, and predictably, removed.

There is then a third category of stories in Yes, Ma’am and Yes, Sir: those that use the BDSM formula to its own advantage.  One of the best of these is Lisabet Sarai’s “The Body Electric” in Yes, Sir in which an assistant professor is making a name for herself as an expert on the literature of female sexual submission. 

As the young ‘professoresse’ says, “My research on women’s erotic literature was, of course, impeccably scholarly, serious and restrained, carefully purged of any salacious detail.  My sources were anything but. Their enduring influence on my thoughts was only too clear.”  One can only read this and say, “Let the hand rubbing begin!”  Ms. Sarai has perfectly captured the perversely stilted world of academic idiom with its all-encompassing lists of modifiers and quasi-Victorian lilt.  It is a world where dullness is a virtue, and thus in parody it is usually far more enlightening than it is in fact.  That is using a formula to its own satiric advantage.

Predictably, the assistant professor falls under the rapacious eye of a legendary, tenured full professor who is also the faculty rake.  Though both seedy and tweedy, as well as nearing his dotage, he is a powerful academic on campus who dabbles in creating instruments of erotic electrification.  Quell surprise!  He aims his deathless attractions at her and she, with the thinnest show of reluctance, relents.

The electrodes are snappily applied hither, thither, yon, between and within.  The dials are cranked up, and the young woman’s pleasure soars upward along with her electricity bill. He is a little too obsessed with his gadgets to be a lothario.  He is too much of a nerd to be as sinister as Snidely Whiplash, and she is a little too much of a blue stocking from jolt to jolt, to be entirely winsome, but that adds to the fun of both characters.  They are authentically silly in the most positive sense, and that does nothing whatever to diminish the erotic sparks of their encounter.

In other stories, however, the formula takes total control of the piece as in A.D.R. Forte’s “Rope Burn” in Yes, Ma’am wherein the premise is excellent, but the delivery is haphazard.  A professional football player falls under the spell of a uniquely individual woman who proceeds to dominate him. He is presented as an overgrown Catholic schoolboy who is still playing games and defined by them. He is not quite, but might as well be, taking his punishment for the Gipper. 

If that were not a sufficiently reduced view of the American heterosexual male athlete -- which has appeared with grinding seasonal regularity in American film – he is also a sap.  At one point he has a faint glimmer of doubt about the future of his body, his reputation, his career, and perhaps his life under the control of a woman about whom he knows nothing.  That doubt quickly flits away in a burst of Confessional shame, for like all good boys, this idiot never questions authority. 

Were this a female athlete snarled in the clutches of an unknown powerful man, I have no doubt that militant feminists would be outraged at the story, and they would be right.  What they would probably miss is that the source of the problem is not gender bias.  It is that the author has taken the cheap and easy route of letting the formula dictate the fiction and thus its erotic meaning, rather than setting about to justify the psychology of the characters. 

This story then drools down to its final words of empty hackery, “She looked at me for a long, long minute; then she let me suffer for just a little bit more.  And then she kissed me.”  The male character has just been through what seems to be for him an exegesis of pain and pleasure along with a ball blasting orgasm.  It is the power of the moment that drives the story, and yet the final lines lie in flaccid disregard of all that has gone before as though she had said, “Wasn’t that nice?  Do you need to go to the bathroom?  I think I’m going to bake you some cookies!”  In a way, that might have been more creative.

I will add here that these two volumes are not entirely free of gender bias. Ms. Bussel’s introduction to Yes, Sir characterizes women submissives by saying, “These women aren’t pushovers by any means.  They make rules and negotiate with their masters, though sometimes they also get off on being pushed just a little too far by men they know they can trust.”  Fair enough because it makes perfect erotic sense.  They are not passive in part because passivity creates mordant sex, especially in fiction.

I compare that with her image of male submissives in Yes, Ma’am:  “Men are taught to be hunters, not the hunted, and when the tables are turned, many are all too thrilled to be treated like scum.”  Though short, this sentence embraces a long string of rhetorical and intellectual flaws and prejudices.  To name but a few, all submissive men should probably no more be seen as eager to be scum, than their female counterparts.  The proof is in many of the stories that appear in the book that follows.

Worse still is the goofy notion that modern men are trained to be hunters.  Take the average male out into the woods.  Leave him naked and barehanded.  Then see what he catches other than a cold.  Modern men are trained to be competitors, which is far less a matter of being a capable individual than simply being a tool or exhibit.  Professional ball players may get rich, but team owners get a great deal richer.  Sportscasters are forever referring to male athletes as gladiators which in modern practice (as in ancient Rome) is something between a toy, livestock, and a marketing gimmick. 

A competitor is forever concerned with an artificial score, rather than an actual kill.  He serves someone else who is keeping the talley and making up the rules.  The submissive male or female seeks to be in her words, “pushed a little too far” by a dominant they can trust.  This subtlety is missed in Ms. Bussel’s introduction to Yes, Ma’am, because it applies to both genders.  The key word here is ‘trust’ which is only possible when surrounded by genuine affect, whether expressed as contempt or affection.

Ms. Bussel quotes Debra Hyde at the close of her essay who says that  “The unruly male doesn’t just wish to be tamed, he needs to be.  ‘I am vessel and vassal – tool and toy, the means to her pleasure.  I am hers.”  It may well be that these purple prose represent their print version of the Weird Sisters.  If that is so, the choice winds up being awkward cant. Worse still it is misleading about the stories in Yes, Ma’am, and about BDSM in general.

Some will say, “Who reads introductions anyway?  Come on.  This is porn, fella.’  Whaddahyuh nuts?”  I concur that for many these books may be that, which is just fine with me.  But not all erotica is written for the cheap seats.

As in the 1960s with works like “Fanny Hill” and “The Pearl” and those of the Marquis de Sade, new erotic works in this century are gaining importance as a literary form.  That is clearly in proportion to how the political atmosphere becomes more repressive and freedom of expression more threatened.  As with Fascism, Maoism, Stalinism, and Neo-Conservatism, sexual imagery very often becomes the fulcrum and the wellspring of what is meant by free expression.

As de Sade asks in the play “Marat/Sade,” by Peter Weiss, “What’s the point of a revolution without general copulation?”  We might better ask now, “How can we be free, if we are not at liberty to have fictional sex?”  In essence, that is the question Ms. Bussel and her publishers are asking though they have yet to learn to get out of their own way.  It is time they did.

Ms. Bussel is not a newcomer.  She is a very capable, talented, widely published kink writer in her own right, which she exhibits beautifully in Yes, Sir in her story, “Make Me” about a super-brat who is in search of a hyper-spanking.  Ms Bussel is the current mistress of intensity in spanking fiction

Her decisions as an editor as well as her thoughts as a commentator carry considerable weight.  She has edited a number of anthologies on sexual kink, and is perhaps best known for her Naughty Spanking books.  Often these collections seem more organized to taunt the bourgeois norm than to honestly explore the subject of the book, but literary movements have to start somewhere and taunting is often the best point of departure.  Disaster follows when the taunt is as superficial as the world it mocks; satire then becomes a parody of itself.

Ms. Bussel is perhaps filling bigger shoes than she realizes, given her talents and insight into erotica with its growing political and social importance.  It is a hard role to define because it is so rapidly evolving. That, however, is utterly no excuse for the fact that the story, “The Power of No” in Yes, Sir, by Teresa Noelle Roberts, employs “dance” three times in two pages as the main verb in different sentences describing a flogging. 

My complaints would not be nearly as frustrating if these books did not contain so many very good stories, and if they were not so handsomely and readably mounted as they always are with Cleis Press.  Even the size and typeface makes the books a pleasure to read.  But a book is finally the words inside it, and it is time for both the publisher and their talented editor to take the next step forward just as erotic literature has begun to do.





Yes, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female SubmissionYes, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443107
March 2008





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

“But from the moment he ties her, she’s gone.  No pleasure, no pain, just emptiness.
He sighs and unties her.
She looks up, stunned at his defeat.  ‘Tell me, and I’ll do it.’
But he shakes his head.”

From “Ribbons” by Kathryn O’Halloran, Yes, Sir.

I have two basic responses to the stories in the new companion volumes, Yes, Ma’am and Yes Sir, from Cleis Press.  My reactions range between intense fascination and the inability to continue reading without falling asleep.  Both books have two distinct sets of stories.  The first group deals with bdsm as a sexual proclivity that gives the characters unique insight.  As such they make discoveries and enhance their sensitivities through bdsm.  Sometimes that happens in spite of themselves, which lends these stories irony, and even pathos, at no cost to the sensual pleasure of reading them.  The quotation above from “Ribbons” embodies all those qualities in a few short, crafted sentences.

The second are essentially formula S/M plots that constitute mechanical instructions on how to practice this or that form of BDSM.  They all seem to begin with the dom/domme calling, saying, writing, and even text messaging their submissive some instruction that sets them all a twitter.  The orders are followed, the submissive is punished anyway and a good time is had by all at least in theory.  These stories are written to a deceptively simple formula that can either be a springboard for the writer or an iron cage of banality. 

The formula stories each have the same plot and, in these two volumes, for some reason, they often have an artificially appended upbeat ending.  What is troubling is that these endings are so often entirely out of context with the rest of the story.  Neither life nor fiction, always lead to a closed denouement.  As the quote from Ms. O’Halloran illustrates, it’s not what you do that matters nearly as much in all aspects of sex, but the spirit it invokes in both the doer and doee.  The results may be indeterminate.

The first group, which I shall call stories of discovery, have some absolutely first-rate examples in both books.  At the very top of that list is Lisette Ashton’s “Sitting on Ice Cream” in Yes, Sir about a stage struck young woman who longs to be spanked by the house manager of the theatre in which she works as a lowly, but comely, usher.  The title itself seems like a delightful rationale of punishment for the fairly naughty and that is what makes Ms Ashton’s style so unique.  She understands naughty as a form of flirtation for which an arousing spanking is a just and winning reward.  The irony is of course that the young lady is truly being rewarded with exactly what she wants. Now she knows how to get it the next time.  Like all truly gifted authors, Ms Ashton’s humor flows naturally from her style and that in turn reflects the playful worldview of the story. 

Not to be outdone, is Lee Ash’s story “Tea for Three” in Yes, Ma’am which is an absolutely hilarious high comic romp in the vein of Noel Coward, a man who would, I believe, have understood the benefits of a whacking good time.  The happily submissive husband in the story is asked if he would like a threesome.  He replies demurely, after serving his wife tea, that, “Yes, please, I’d very much like a threesome.”  His sleek wife replies, “A threesome?  That’s very assertive, isn’t it?” 

It is impossible not to be charmed by these people.  That is not because of what they do sexually so much as how they respond to each other.  Nonetheless, “Tea for Three” is one of the sexiest stories in the two books. These people are genuinely subtle, playfully indirect, and truly witty.  They have the brains and style to be interesting. Best of all they are extremely sensitive to each other.  The husband is not rebelling against his wife. He is flourishing under her control.  She knows in turn just how much to tighten the screws to make their play as piquant as possible thus leading the couple into continuing the discussion between elegant and irresistible segments of hot sex. Mr. Ash can even make the feel of fabric read in a way that is truly sexy, but his real talent is word play.  It is the sort of badinage that Thorne Smith created in Turnabout.

As a work of literature, Stephen Elliott’s, “It’s Cold Outside” in Yes, Ma’am is the finest piece in both collections.  He uses irony in the totally opposite direction from Mr. Ash.  Here the central character is ostensibly male, but he is so much diminished by his life of being a display item in a traveling sex show that he is more of an androgyne.  He is what his booking agents, clients, audiences and even his friends want to imagine him to be to suit their appetites and their superior notions of themselves.  He not only wants but needs their exploitation. 

The pain and arousal he gets from bondage is the one stimulus that reasserts his personhood.  He is the ultimate free market commodity, the willing thing that is whatever you want it to be for a price and totally disposable thereafter.  It is poignant to note that his ultimate abuser is a woman psychoanalyst.  The analyst, among all other dominants in both books, is a horrifying creature.  She is so in need of something that feels like empathy that she has passed beyond the erotic to blatant cruelty.  As a merchant of the mental healthy industry, she spouts banalities even as she gets off with numb and deliberate authentic sadism.  She is after all a certified professional and thus has a right to her special brand of insensitivity and a lack of ethics in exploiting others.

What many writers and publishers of erotica have yet to grasp is that sex may be at best a temporary route to easing, or at least blurring, suffering in a bitter world.  It is then potentially more than an escape from life or some ultimate form of fulfillment, as Mr. Elliott’s story illustrates.  Erotica has slowly begun to mature in the last few years beyond the limited forms of the romance novel and simple pornography.  That is partly a function of the growing paranoia and repression surrounding the erotic in art.  It is also a result of the fact that writers now have access to a more complex critical response.

The metaphors authors of erotica select can be more than a gauzy detour from one’s conventional experience, and as such, broaden one’s view of the real as well as provide strength in dealing with it. Art supplies distance from experience, and that is usually rooted in a new, ironic understanding of what that experience is.   As such it is Sartre’s notion of despair, because we only really understand things from which we have, to some degree, distanced ourselves.

That is also why irony is so key to art and erotica, because it is the second sight that the artist provides on what is commonly held to be absolute.  It breathes meaning into the redundant.

When the formula in art becomes the point, it poisons itself; for while we may all have the vile properties of both the manipulated and the manipulators in, say, reality TV, those characteristics are not the sum total of what it really means to be human.  It is crucial to see that it is not the formula that is at fault here, but rather the way “reality” on television is selectively defined for a minimum of consciousness and a maximum of prurient reptilian stimulation.

No literary critic could, however, reject formulas in fiction out of hand. To do so would be to reject the common apparatuses by which we recognize each other’s experiences and thus share them.  The formula in fiction is indispensable when you consider the limitations of our common understanding of what is probable versus what is possible.  Formulas are a convenient short hand, but they are the frame of art, not the core.

The comedy of Plautus remains the basis of the American and British sitcom because they invoke the same boy meets girl who together meet a common obstacle.  The glue, which holds that formula together, is the titillation of imagining how the couple will celebrate their victory when the obstacle is finally, and predictably, removed.

There is then a third category of stories in Yes, Ma’am and Yes, Sir: those that use the BDSM formula to its own advantage.  One of the best of these is Lisabet Sarai’s “The Body Electric” in Yes, Sir in which an assistant professor is making a name for herself as an expert on the literature of female sexual submission. 

As the young ‘professoresse’ says, “My research on women’s erotic literature was, of course, impeccably scholarly, serious and restrained, carefully purged of any salacious detail.  My sources were anything but. Their enduring influence on my thoughts was only too clear.”  One can only read this and say, “Let the hand rubbing begin!”  Ms. Sarai has perfectly captured the perversely stilted world of academic idiom with its all-encompassing lists of modifiers and quasi-Victorian lilt.  It is a world where dullness is a virtue, and thus in parody it is usually far more enlightening than it is in fact.  That is using a formula to its own satiric advantage.

Predictably, the assistant professor falls under the rapacious eye of a legendary, tenured full professor who is also the faculty rake.  Though both seedy and tweedy, as well as nearing his dotage, he is a powerful academic on campus who dabbles in creating instruments of erotic electrification.  Quell surprise!  He aims his deathless attractions at her and she, with the thinnest show of reluctance, relents.

The electrodes are snappily applied hither, thither, yon, between and within.  The dials are cranked up, and the young woman’s pleasure soars upward along with her electricity bill. He is a little too obsessed with his gadgets to be a lothario.  He is too much of a nerd to be as sinister as Snidely Whiplash, and she is a little too much of a blue stocking from jolt to jolt, to be entirely winsome, but that adds to the fun of both characters.  They are authentically silly in the most positive sense, and that does nothing whatever to diminish the erotic sparks of their encounter.

In other stories, however, the formula takes total control of the piece as in A.D.R. Forte’s “Rope Burn” in Yes, Ma’am wherein the premise is excellent, but the delivery is haphazard.  A professional football player falls under the spell of a uniquely individual woman who proceeds to dominate him. He is presented as an overgrown Catholic schoolboy who is still playing games and defined by them. He is not quite, but might as well be, taking his punishment for the Gipper. 

If that were not a sufficiently reduced view of the American heterosexual male athlete -- which has appeared with grinding seasonal regularity in American film – he is also a sap.  At one point he has a faint glimmer of doubt about the future of his body, his reputation, his career, and perhaps his life under the control of a woman about whom he knows nothing.  That doubt quickly flits away in a burst of Confessional shame, for like all good boys, this idiot never questions authority. 

Were this a female athlete snarled in the clutches of an unknown powerful man, I have no doubt that militant feminists would be outraged at the story, and they would be right.  What they would probably miss is that the source of the problem is not gender bias.  It is that the author has taken the cheap and easy route of letting the formula dictate the fiction and thus its erotic meaning, rather than setting about to justify the psychology of the characters. 

This story then drools down to its final words of empty hackery, “She looked at me for a long, long minute; then she let me suffer for just a little bit more.  And then she kissed me.”  The male character has just been through what seems to be for him an exegesis of pain and pleasure along with a ball blasting orgasm.  It is the power of the moment that drives the story, and yet the final lines lie in flaccid disregard of all that has gone before as though she had said, “Wasn’t that nice?  Do you need to go to the bathroom?  I think I’m going to bake you some cookies!”  In a way, that might have been more creative.

I will add here that these two volumes are not entirely free of gender bias. Ms. Bussel’s introduction to Yes, Sir characterizes women submissives by saying, “These women aren’t pushovers by any means.  They make rules and negotiate with their masters, though sometimes they also get off on being pushed just a little too far by men they know they can trust.”  Fair enough because it makes perfect erotic sense.  They are not passive in part because passivity creates mordant sex, especially in fiction.

I compare that with her image of male submissives in Yes, Ma’am:  “Men are taught to be hunters, not the hunted, and when the tables are turned, many are all too thrilled to be treated like scum.”  Though short, this sentence embraces a long string of rhetorical and intellectual flaws and prejudices.  To name but a few, all submissive men should probably no more be seen as eager to be scum, than their female counterparts.  The proof is in many of the stories that appear in the book that follows.

Worse still is the goofy notion that modern men are trained to be hunters.  Take the average male out into the woods.  Leave him naked and barehanded.  Then see what he catches other than a cold.  Modern men are trained to be competitors, which is far less a matter of being a capable individual than simply being a tool or exhibit.  Professional ball players may get rich, but team owners get a great deal richer.  Sportscasters are forever referring to male athletes as gladiators which in modern practice (as in ancient Rome) is something between a toy, livestock, and a marketing gimmick. 

A competitor is forever concerned with an artificial score, rather than an actual kill.  He serves someone else who is keeping the talley and making up the rules.  The submissive male or female seeks to be in her words, “pushed a little too far” by a dominant they can trust.  This subtlety is missed in Ms. Bussel’s introduction to Yes, Ma’am, because it applies to both genders.  The key word here is ‘trust’ which is only possible when surrounded by genuine affect, whether expressed as contempt or affection.

Ms. Bussel quotes Debra Hyde at the close of her essay who says that  “The unruly male doesn’t just wish to be tamed, he needs to be.  ‘I am vessel and vassal – tool and toy, the means to her pleasure.  I am hers.”  It may well be that these purple prose represent their print version of the Weird Sisters.  If that is so, the choice winds up being awkward cant. Worse still it is misleading about the stories in Yes, Ma’am, and about BDSM in general.

Some will say, “Who reads introductions anyway?  Come on.  This is porn, fella.’  Whaddahyuh nuts?”  I concur that for many these books may be that, which is just fine with me.  But not all erotica is written for the cheap seats.

As in the 1960s with works like “Fanny Hill” and “The Pearl” and those of the Marquis de Sade, new erotic works in this century are gaining importance as a literary form.  That is clearly in proportion to how the political atmosphere becomes more repressive and freedom of expression more threatened.  As with Fascism, Maoism, Stalinism, and Neo-Conservatism, sexual imagery very often becomes the fulcrum and the wellspring of what is meant by free expression.

As de Sade asks in the play “Marat/Sade,” by Peter Weiss, “What’s the point of a revolution without general copulation?”  We might better ask now, “How can we be free, if we are not at liberty to have fictional sex?”  In essence, that is the question Ms. Bussel and her publishers are asking though they have yet to learn to get out of their own way.  It is time they did.

Ms. Bussel is not a newcomer.  She is a very capable, talented, widely published kink writer in her own right, which she exhibits beautifully in Yes, Sir in her story, “Make Me” about a super-brat who is in search of a hyper-spanking.  Ms Bussel is the current mistress of intensity in spanking fiction

Her decisions as an editor as well as her thoughts as a commentator carry considerable weight.  She has edited a number of anthologies on sexual kink, and is perhaps best known for her Naughty Spanking books.  Often these collections seem more organized to taunt the bourgeois norm than to honestly explore the subject of the book, but literary movements have to start somewhere and taunting is often the best point of departure.  Disaster follows when the taunt is as superficial as the world it mocks; satire then becomes a parody of itself.

Ms. Bussel is perhaps filling bigger shoes than she realizes, given her talents and insight into erotica with its growing political and social importance.  It is a hard role to define because it is so rapidly evolving. That, however, is utterly no excuse for the fact that the story, “The Power of No” in Yes, Sir, by Teresa Noelle Roberts, employs “dance” three times in two pages as the main verb in different sentences describing a flogging. 

My complaints would not be nearly as frustrating if these books did not contain so many very good stories, and if they were not so handsomely and readably mounted as they always are with Cleis Press.  Even the size and typeface makes the books a pleasure to read.  But a book is finally the words inside it, and it is time for both the publisher and their talented editor to take the next step forward just as erotic literature has begun to do.