Women's Erotic Compilation Offers Diverse, Creative Take On The One-Handed Short Story
A careful balancing act is required to make any short-story collection work. Whether the theme is cupcake-making or erotica--both loves of Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women--there is much to consider. Each story needs to stand alone and mesh itself into the collection as a whole. There can be no obvious weak links in the collection, and an erotica anthology is expected to lay out a sexual smorgasbord of tales that encompass a wide variety of sexual experiences and proclivities. It must offer something for every reader, and even when the stories are on subjects that the reader may not have great interest it, those stories cannot be so uninteresting that nothing in them holds your attention. Fortunately, Seal Press had Bussel--an erotica author, editor of more than 20 erotica anthologies, and former columnist for The Village Voice--at the helm. The works she selected are as diverse, distinctive, and sexy as the 25 female authors themselves.
The first story lets you know you're in for a very special ride. In Marie Lyn Bernard's "Fucking Around" a female narrator talks about her sexual experiences with different cities and states--not in them mind you, with them--artfully creating sexual scenarios and activities by riffing on the cultural stereotypes of each place. The narrator is in love with her female lover New York, and when she announces this to New York after making love with her, "she laughed." Disappointed, the narrator announces that she plans to "start seeing other places," and New York replies, "you'll come back." The story outlines her sexcapades, some hot and some not-so-hot, with places such as Los Angeles, Boston ("as soon as he gets my ankles on his shoulders . . . he comes all over me"), and Washington, D.C. ("I don't know why I think he might know what he's doing"). An all-girl three-way takes place between Wisconsin and Michigan ("Wisconsin wants to use a strap-on, but Michigan can't stop laughing while Wisconsin tries to get it on"), and an S/M party attended with San Francisco leads to a masturbation session with Portland, Ore., joining the fun. After a few more stops, the narrator returns to the pleasures of New York. It's such a creative spin on erotic writing that I must admit to some professional jealousy as a fellow erotica writer.
"The Mile High Club," by Kate Dominic, seems to reveal much of its story line from the title alone. But when the story opens with the female narrator--the aggressor in these episodes, who carefully prepares for them because "It's too easy to get caught in the bathroom of a plane--especially these days"--you find yourself drawn in. When she narrator meets her seatmate, you wait for the hot, sweaty somewhat anonymous exchange to begin, and it doesn't happen that way. Her seatmate is a very polite, almost soft-spoken person who says, "I haven't had sex with anyone other than my wife since we got married, and I've sure as hell never done it in an airplane," but follows with, "my wife insists that adequate nipple stimulation is crucial to a good orgasm. . . . I'd be honored if you'd let me milk your breasts while you come." He somehow manages to come off as retiring and forward all at once, and the way the Dominic writes about the calm manner in which he describes each act before he skillfully and excitedly executes it is erotica at its best.
It is just that type of creativity that keeps you engaged with theses stories, from beginning to end, no matter what the subject. It is easy for a writer to exhaust his or her options as far as scenarios, motivations, and descriptive language go when it comes to writing about sex, so I applaud these women for keeping their work fresh. Even when an author resorts to tried/true erotic themes--such as voyeurism, infidelity, strangers having sex in unexpected places, or threesomes--there were always enjoyable surprises in the plot, word choices, or characters. Bussel has done some of her best editorial work with Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women. Each and every one of the book's 394 pages shows she knows what girls like--and you're fortunate that she does.