The “bottoms" in these stories are all willing, attractive young men who crave both sex and approval from men who are usually older and more powerful. In keeping with the D/s tradition of representing submissive characters with lower-case names and pronouns, none of the titles in this book have capital letters.
Here a porn star openly asks his therapist for what he wants:
“It would be easier for me to know you approved of me if you fucked me,” Tristan said. “That's how I know I'm good enough.”
Paul stroked his chin. “Yes. I'll show you how good you are. I'll give you so much approval you'll be sore for weeks.” Paul felt sweat on his palms.”'Have you...have you been taking your medication?”
“Yes, sir. I'm still constantly horny anyway.”
“Of course, you are.”
“Tristan" (from an archaic French word for “sad”) the porn star has hinted that he wants his therapist, Paul, to be “the rapist.” “Tristan” is so tempting for Paul that Paul discusses this case regularly with his therapist, Jack, a very straight man who reminds Paul to remain professional. Confused yet? Tristan has been starring in porn films since he was recruited by an older man at age sixteen. Although he enjoys more anal sex than most other people could stand, it is clear to both therapists and even to "Tristan" himself that being a fuck-toy for a potentially unlimited number of "tops" is not good for him. In this case, it seems there ain’t no cure for lust, whether it is a desire to fuck or be fucked.
All the stories in this collection feature young men with irresistible bodies (especially seen from behind) who can't say no, even when they are sore, exhausted and threatened with unsafe sex. Their horniness triggers that of the men who use them and invite their friends to join in. To complicate things further, even the most gorgeous young men and the most powerful silver-haired daddies are afraid of being rejected. In the stories with the happiest endings, a bottom who needs protection finds an owner who can use his "boy" as much as he needs to be used while keeping more dangerous predators under control.
In "Claiming Danny," a college student fulfills the fantasies of a group of older men. Here they simmer with frustration:
There was a small group of us over-fifty crowd, most of us coal miners, that huddled in a corner of the one gay bar in town and bitched about the stuck-up boys from the little liberal arts college that wouldn't give us any. We were always jawing on about what we would do to one of them if we ever got a chance.
Then the narrator's friend Howard tells him about Danny, a college boy who makes himself available to older men at all hours of the day or night. He misses classes, study-time and exams because of the men who come to his room regularly, take what they want and then leave. Working men who have always resented the sense of entitlement shown by some of the college students enjoy taking revenge on Danny.
It seems that Danny had an affair with a male faculty member who abandoned Danny when he moved away. Danny has been looking for a "Daddy" ever since.
The narrator is moved by Danny's sweetness, turned on by his willingness, and disturbed by the callousness of the other men who use him. He decides to rescue Danny by carrying him naked to the narrator's apartment and telling him that from now on, Danny will live there and keep his grades up because the narrator "owns his ass." Danny happily consents. The narrator explains to the reader:
Yeah, he wanted constant savaging instead of love, but maybe I could help. I kissed him for the first time, softly on the lips, and he smiled the prettiest smile I've ever seen.
These stories are told in a straightforward, unadorned style that dramatizes the poignancy of the dilemmas of both bottoms and tops. Bottoms want to be appreciated for what they give, but the more they and their colorful reputations are passed around, the less respect they get. Tops are drawn to young, willing bodies, but they are reluctant to claim responsibility for anyone who can't be trusted.
The clashing desires of men on both sides of the divide resemble those of guys and girls in the double-standard dating scene that many of us remember from high school. In the midst of hot male-on-male sex scenes that look deceptively simple, the reader hopes that all the players will get their emotional needs met too, against the odds.
Gavin Atlas reveals the psychology of both tops and bottoms with equal skill. He even ventures into paranormal territory without losing credibility. In "slavery by degree," first published in Wired Hard 4.0 from Circlet Press, the bottom-boy (a version of Danny) is forced into space-age prostitution. When asked the classic question about why he got into the business, he brags that he is a slut. Later, however, he explains to the customer:
My parents have a lot of debt for investing in my future. When I didn't study hard enough for comps, I didn't get any scholarships, and there was no way they could pay back the loans.
This is only one story in which the bottom is forced into sexual slavery, which makes him constantly hard. In "the only bottom for a thousand miles,” another athletic college student is victimized by two demonic businessmen who take him to an island resort where he is the main attraction for hordes of gay male sex-tourists. If this story were not an amusingly over-the-top fantasy with a happy ending, it would be the stuff of nightmares.
Several of the plots of these stories look similar, but the issues are presented from enough different angles that a second reading of each story can change a reader's reaction. The author is clearly familiar with this territory, and he doesn't dodge the intensity or the moral concerns that go with it.