Book Review: Best Sex Writing of the Year 2015

BSW2015Best Sex Writing of the Year 2015: On Consent, BDSM, Porn, Race, Sex Work, and More

Edited by Jon Pressick

Introduction by Belle Knox

Essays by Fiona Helmsley, Christopher Zeischegg aka Danny Wylde, Epiphora, Cory Silverberg, Alexandria Goddard, Nica Noelle, Ember Swift, Alok Vaid-Menon, Lynn Comella, Joan Price, Cameryn Moore, Charlie Nox, Mitch Kellaway, Laura Agustin, Jiz Lee, Mollena Williams, Tina Horn, Stoya, Rachel Krmer Bussel, Morgan M. Page, Jarrett Neal, David Henry Sterry, Jon Pressick, Ashley Manta, Lux Alptraum, Jason Armstrong, Amy Dentata, Lauren Marie Fleming aka Queerie Bradshaw, Dee Dee Behind

I finished reading Best Sex Writing of the Year 2015 a few days ago, actually. And I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the experience ever since. It’s a stretch. By which I mean that one must stretch one’s brain quite far to wrap it around the many and widely varied essays in this collection. This is a very good thing.

After reading BSW2015 and just beginning to digest it, I want to go around handing out copies to random strangers who look like they’re open-minded… or maybe to strangers who seem like they could use a good broadening of horizons. When I first looked at this book’s title, I thought, “Oh, writing about sex. I guess it’s all erotica.” After reading the first few essays, I thought, “Okay, not erotica. Sex work.” Then I kept reading, and now I’ve got to admit that even as a person who writes professionally about sex, and who loves to argue with people about how every part of human life revolves around sex, I still drastically underestimated the vastness of what “sex” encapsulates. BSW2015 reminded me. At this point I think it’s fair to say that “sex” is not a discrete topic that touches many aspects of our collective lives–it’s far more accurate to say that sex dominates our lives as humans, and that other things get tangled up in it more often than not.

BSW2015 covers sex work, of course, in many of its variations–there are essays written about and by porn performers and producers and scholars, prostitutes and dommes and subs, phone sex operators and more, and by people who are simply fascinated with all of the above. This makes perfect sense: sex workers often write about their lives and experiences (although, truth be told, I wish that more of them did and that they did so more often, because they have so much good stuff to say!), and sex work is in some ways easier to study and quantify than the more-private, less-tied-to-numbers sex that happens non-professionally. But I digress: while the pieces from and about sex work are fascinating, there are also essays here about private sex of many kinds: straight sex, pregnant sex, trans sex, disabled sex, kinky sex, octegenarian sex, solo sex… even abstaining from sex. There are essays about the language of sex in the media and the common parlance, about the politics of race in sexuality and desire, about the experience of sexuality and the body as a trans person, about fisting, about abortion, about queer community values, about sexually transmitted infections, about death. With a few notable exceptions that leap into my head, really, this book touches on most of the human experience. (Well, except maybe eating. There wasn’t a whole lot of eating going on in there. But there are plenty of books out there on that topic, amirite?)

The point is, I could argue that the essays in this book are much more about a shared experience of being human, tied together by the common thread of sex, than they are about sex itself. And that makes me excited. So often, sex is deployed as a tool for separation–by positioning sex and desire as moral and political issues, it’s exceedingly easy to break us up into small groups of “others,” each of whom is “wrong” to other groups, or “immoral,” or “disgusting,” or any number of other terms we apply to the walls built between our groups. But when those walls are knocked down, or even just drilled through so we can get a peek into what’s going on in another room, and we take a good look at what other people are doing and saying and thinking and feeling, how they are fucking, it becomes much more difficult to want to stay in one tiny little room and shame everybody else for not crowding into that room with us. When, through books like BSW2015, we get a glimpse into the experiences of other humans, the walls get a little flimsier. Horizons get broadened. Minds get expanded. And everybody might just get a little sexier.

Particularly essays like “Fumbling Towards Humanity: How ‘Trans Grrrls’ Helped Me Open Up to My Partner” by Amy Dentata, “No Restrictions” by Dee Dee Behind, “When I Was a Birthday Present for an Eighty-Two-Year-Old Grandmother” by David Henry Sterry, and “Captain Save-a-Ho” by Fiona Helmsley made me want to grab a stack of BSW2015s and stand in Union Square next to the Whackadoodle Love Guy, handing out copies with a gigantic smile and patting people kindly on the arm or behind, assuring them that if they’d just take this home and read it, their lives would change for the better. Maybe I’m like a sex writing evangelist. Maybe I’m okay with that.

Have youyes you–accepted human sexuality as your personal savior?

No? Not yet?

Give Best Sex Writing of the Year 2015 a try. It just might change your life.

 

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