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
Anything for You: Erotica for Kinky CouplesAnything for You: Erotica for Kinky Couples
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448133
August 2012





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

With the phenomenal success of 50 Shades of Grey, it's inevitable that new fans of erotica will start looking around for more BDSM to whet their appetites. (Not that BDSM and kink are the same thing, but let's not get too pedantic) Anything for You is the kind of book I hope they'll pick up. Interesting characters, kink of all kinds, and yes, even a touch of romance because the focus here is on couples who play well together, in a very naughty sense.

When I open a book and see this sort of line up of contributors, I know I'm in for treats. 

Like Riding a Bicycle • Lisabet Sarai
Borrower Beware • Heidi Champa
Anything She Wanted • Neil Gavriel
Tails • Deborah Castellano
Teppanyaki • Janine Ashbless
Greasing the Wheels • Madlyn March
Interview • Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde
I Tend to Her • Justine Elyot
Apple Blossoms • Emerald
Big Night • D. L. King
The Guest Star • Sinclair Sexsmith
Exposure • Elizabeth Coldwell
New Games on a Saturday Night • Teresa Noelle Roberts
Notes from Her Master • Kathleen Tudor
Lap It Up • Kay Jaybee
What If • Angela R. Sargenti
Petting Zoo • Rachel Kramer Bussel
Normal • Charlotte Stein
Everything She’d Always Wanted • Ariel Graham

Look at these writers! Lisabet Sarai, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussell, Chalotte Stein, D.L. King, Emerald, Janine Ashbless, Heidi Champa, Kay Jaybee, Sinclair Sexsmith... It's like picking an all-star team roster from the erotica hall of fame. Or is that infamy? 

But that presents a quandary as I usually talk about a couple stories in an anthology that stood out, when every single one of their stories is worthy of mention. So do I talk about the names I recognize, or do I feature names I don't know as well or are new to me and talk about their equally wonderful work? Sorry all-stars. You know I love and admire your work, and your stories in this anthology were all examples of why I seek out your names. But let's be honest, many of you are my friends or at last friendly acquaintances and none of us like the feeling of a closed club, especially when it comes to shout-outs in reviews. So here are the writers I'll be looking for in the future:

“Interview”by Talon Rihai and Salome Wilde isn't written as a regular prose story. A slave and his mistress trade off sections where they talk about their relationship. You get the story of how they met and how their relationship evolved. What I enjoyed the most though was how healthy this relationship comes across. Anyone who thinks BDSM is abusive would have second thoughts after seeing the affection between these two. Toward the end of the story there's a revelation that shocks the slave, but from everything that came before, you know it isn't going to change the core of this solid and loving relationship.

“Anything She Wanted”by Neil Gavriel started with one of the best opening lines in this anthology and just got better from there. I love a story with a sparkling sense of wit. From later in the story:

It’s one thing to fantasize about it, to dream of what your girlfriend would do with your ass if she could only read your dirty mind, but it’s another when you’re faced with seven inches of pink reality strapped to her pelvis. 

Hah! Now you have to read more, don't you? The power dynamic between this couple is sexy and fun as they discover and experiment together.

Some of you are going to have a lovely time reading Elizabeth Coldwell's “Exposure.” Older woman, younger man. She's clothed, he's naked. And her friends are over for drinks. It isn't my fantasy, but it's sure a fun one. Who wouldn't want a buff young stud to rub your feet when you get home from work? Hmm. I may have to rethink that "not my fantasy" bit.

“Tails” by Deborah Castellano features a couple with sexual fluidity that's refreshing and just genderqueer enough to pique my interest. “Greasing the Wheels” by Madlyn March is a revenge tale, sort of, with a few twists. “I Tend to Her” by Justine Elyot has light medical play, a very nice and welcome bit of kink just when I thought every story in the anthology was going to be BDSM. “Notes from her Master” by Kathleen Tudor is sort of Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs through the woods – if the woods is an airplane, the crumbs are notes from her master in the sub's book and carry on, and the witch's house is... Okay, it's not Hansel and Gretel at all but it is a high-flying fantasy. If you're into the art of the slow tease, and some near-food fetish, then “What If”by Angela R. Sargenti is going to be a story you relish. (I really didn't write that terrible pun on purpose.) And for those of you who can't get enough of collared slaves being pushed to their limits by a master, read “Everything She’d Always Wanted”by Ariel Graham.

You know those car commercials where they say things like "Professional driver. Do NOT try this at home?" Yeah. About that. Many of these stories have something you could try at home with your lover. So if you find yourself squirming over a passage in a good way, maybe you should. And who better to play with than your other half, your significant other, your willing and obedient slave?





Baby Got Back: Anal EroticaBaby Got Back: Anal Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449628
September 2013





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Q: What’s the difference between oral sex and anal sex?
A: Oral sex can make your day. But anal sex can make your whole week.

OK. I know it’s an old gag. But it still makes me smile. And I reiterate it here because this anthology, depending on how quickly you read, is likely to make your whole week. Maybe even your whole month.

The book comes from Cleis Press – market leaders in producing well-written erotica for discerning readers. The book has been edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel – an editor who knows how to collate, edit and balance a collection of dedicated erotic fiction. And the content has been written by some of the most respected names in current erotic writing, including DL King, Tenille Brown, Emerald, Erobintica, Thomas S Roche and Laura Antoniou (amongst many others).

Ordinarily I’d dip between stories in an anthology and share a little from this one and a little from another. But, rather than spoil any surprises, I thought it would be more appropriate to consider a single story. Randomly, I selected ‘Everybody Knows’ by Giselle Renarde.

You know when you’ve just given a blow job and then you take the subway right after and you feel like everybody knows?

That’s me, sitting on this faux-velvet seat, smelling like come and feeling so conspicuous I could hang myself. The scent doesn’t go away. It sticks to your hair, doesn’t it? And your skin.

Sex is in my aura, gossiping with other passengers, telling them things that aren’t true. I’m not a slut or a whore, though I’ve been called those names too many times to count.

There’s a guy all in black standing by the doors. I know he’s looking at me while I pretend to read subway posters. Every so often, I glance his way, really subtly, catching outlines of his bulky body. I imagine shouting, “What are you staring at, motherfucker?” but I second-guess myself. Maybe he’s not looking at me. Maybe I’m wrong. Hey, it happens.

I loved this opening. Renarde’s narrator is directly addressing me, the reader, which suggests an elevated level of intimacy – ideal for a story that touches on the elevated levels of intimacy associated with anal erotica. The characters are well-drawn. The backstory, although only present in allusion, is lingering here from the opening lines. “You know when you’ve just given a blow job and then you take the subway right after and you feel like everybody knows?”
The quality of the writing continues to excite and intrigue. This is a description of Asher, being observed by our narrator Stephanie:

There’s so much pain in his storm-gray eyes. He’s huge, and still he seems beaten down, like the world won’t stop trampling him. I don’t really know what to say, or how to make him feel better, so I kiss him.

He pulls away, and I feel like an ass.

My heart is pounding in my ears, and I stare at the swirls of chocolate sauce on my fancy-ass latte. I always move too fast with guys. I jump in with both feet—except with Yaro and Mike.

Renarde is setting us up for a delightful anal romp later in the story and the cues are all here. More importantly, we get a convincing sense of Asher, with the storm-gray eyes and beaten down by a world that won’t stop trampling him. Even that unemotional refusal of Stephanie’s kiss makes this character compelling and vivid and wholly believable.

Then there’s the sex.

His skin tastes like anxiety. It’s a vibration between us. I wish I knew how to put him at ease, but I don’t so I keep sucking his fingers until his breath grows shallow and his eyes burn dark.

He pulls his fingers from between my lips and kisses me. Now I’m the one who can’t breathe. I always imagined him kissing me softly, but this isn’t soft. He cups the back of my head in one big hand and crushes my mouth with his. I can’t catch my breath. His tongue is battling mine.

There’s a warmth in my belly and it moves down my thighs as Asher backs me into his bedroom. He’s neat and tidy and he doesn’t smell bad, and I love that about him. I love everything about him.

“His skin tastes like anxiety.” There’s poetry in this description that elevates this writing from above the mechanical to something that reminds us that sex is a revered act. Renarde’s narrator describes intimacy with the skill of an expert storyteller who has gained the trust of the reader with an honest and credible voice from the opening lines.

The standard of writing through this anthology remains consistently high. The focus on anal intercourse is made clear in the title and subtitle. And each writer delivers content that is exciting, competently presented and a pleasure to read.



Bedding Down: A Collection of Winter EroticaBedding Down: A Collection of Winter Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Avon/Red
ISBN: 0061560634
December 2008





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Oh the weather in this book is frightful, but the romance is as warm as hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire. This collection of stories by seven mistresses of erotic romance would be an excellent Valentine’s Day present for the right reader, preferably accompanied by roses and chocolates.

These stories are all competently written, and the sex scenes are plausible and arousing. This reviewer wouldn’t expect anything less from the writers assembled here. However, the theme tends to restrict the plots of these stories, each of which focuses on a woman in love with a man – in some cases, since childhood.

In several stories, the heroine is conveniently trapped with the man of her dreams in a confined space by the fury of nature. Having to face each other forces the hero and heroine to reveal their true feelings, which include mutual, irresistible desire. Several of these stories end with a promise of marriage, one ends with an agreement about childbearing, and several end with a hope that geographically-challenged lovers will agree to live together in one place for the rest of their lives.

To a large extent, these stories are driven by the romance formula rather than by the characters. Personal misunderstandings keep the lovers apart until a climactic moment, while most social and political conflicts in the real world are kept out of the world of the story. Monogamy is an unquestioned ideal, and heterosexual identity is taken for granted.
Responsibility for housework and disagreements over money are nowhere to be seen.

My favorite story of the bunch is the whimsical “It’s Not the Weather” by Alison Tyler, whose erotic stories are often set in Los Angeles, in and around the unreal world of the movie biz. The heroine here is a weather girl (meteorologist) who first works with, then lives with, a moody scriptwriter from New York who prefers the four distinct seasons of the U.S. east coast to the endless sunshine of southern California. The weather girl is so tired of revolving-door relationships and so determined to make this one work that she goes far out of her way to help her boyfriend feel at home and ready for sex, even after she learns that he is using her as comic inspiration. In due course, she gets the happy ending she deserves.

This story shows a witty approach to the seasonal theme of this collection and to the broader theme of heterosexual romance, yet it doesn’t break the conventions. Alison Tyler’s characteristic light touch prevents the heroine’s dilemma from descending into melodrama.

Subterfuges and plot devices that show the hand of Fate are too prevalent for my taste in several of the other stories. In “One Winter Night” by Kristina Wright, Susannah returns to her home town for her sister’s wedding after having left in a blaze of scandal, several years before. She protects her pride by pretending to be respectably married, even though she is divorced.

Susannah’s strategy makes sense when she arrives in town, wondering if the other townsfolk still see her as a Scarlet Woman who has returned to cause trouble. However, the revelation that Susannah (neat use of the name of a slandered Biblical heroine) is able to form a “legitimate” relationship with her former lover, now single and determined to win her back, only occurs near the end of the story, when it is too clearly intended as a means of removing the last barrier to a happy ending. Why Susannah would continue keeping her secret when she has every reason to admit the truth is unclear and unconvincing.

In “Hidden Treasure” by Sophie Mouette, a security guard and a tour guide in period costumes are conveniently trapped by a storm in an historic mansion. So far, so promising. However, two clownish intruders break in to retrieve the “treasure” promised to one of them by his deceased grandmother. When the “treasure” influences the budding affair between the guard and the guide, the reader’s credibility is stretched to its limits.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Marilyn Jaye Lewis and “Northern Exposure” by Isabelle Gray are both grittier stories about clashing desires in marriages based on love. In Lewis’ story, a chronic disagreement about when (whether) to have a first baby gets neatly resolved, and the reader can only hope that there will be no long-term resentment as a result. Isabelle Gray’s story is probably the most heartbreaking in the collection, and it looks like a serious response to Alison Tyler’s story about lovers who each want to live in a different physical and cultural milieu.

“Six Weeks on Sunrise Mountain, Colorado” by Gwen Masters is literally a cliff-hanger. The plot premise (celebrity recluse rescues the journalist who tracked him down in the wilderness) is one of the most unusual and dramatic in the book. Here is the first meeting of the hermit on the mountain and the woman who has risked her life to find him:

He found the woman at the foot of the ravine. Even in the moonlight, she looked pale as a ghost. Blood covered her forehead and a bruise was already flowering under her right eye.

Luckily, healing of various kinds takes place during six weeks of hibernation in a snowbound cabin, when the man and woman come to know each other. 

“Sweet Season” by Shanna Germain includes the most creative sex scene in the book, in which seduction accompanies a hands-on lesson in turning sap into maple syrup. The sights, sounds and smell of the setting are almost palpable. The author’s bio explains: “Shanna Germain grew up in upstate New York with a pitchfork in her hand, maple syrup on her tongue, and more first loves than she can count.”

This collection would certainly appeal to lovers of traditional romance with explicit sex, but it is uneven. Unfortunately, the restrictions of the genre result in some awkward and predictable writing strategies. The diverse and changing nature of heterosexuality in the real world provides plenty of raw material for fiction. The static world of romantic cliché leaves me cold.



Best Bondage Erotica 2011Best Bondage Erotica 2011
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344426X
December 2010





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Rachel Kramer Bussel offers this year's best bondage erotica in an anthology sure to excite your senses.

If you're a fan of female submission, there are many stories here for you. “The Long Way Home” by Elizabeth Coldwell leads off the anthology. “His Little Apprentice” by the UK's fabulous Jacqueline Applebee, “Foreign Exchange” by Evan Mora, “Closeted” by Emily Bingham, “Vegas Treat” by Rachel Kramer Bussel, “The Cartographer” by Angela Caperton, “How the Mermaid Got Her Tail Back” by Andrea Dale, “Stocks and Bonds” by Rita Winchester which is a delightful story of a couple at play, “The Rainmaker” by Elizabeth Daniels, Teresa Noelle Robert's tactile and sensual “Do You See What I Feel” will all thrill fans of that scenario. “Truss Issues” by Lux Zakari closes out the book. One or many of these are sure to please anyone into female submission.

Janine Ashbless offers an interesting tale where the man is bound, but he still manages to get inside of the head of a young woman on the verge of discovering her sexuality in “The Ingénue.” “Reasoning” by Tenille Brown is a stand out story of a woman simply fed up with her boyfriend's behavior. Lisabet Sari's “Wired” is another tale of a woman dominating a man, with some ingenious use of workplace items for bondage. In the “Lady or the Tiger” by Bill Kte-pi, who is dominating who is up for you to decide. Jennifer Peters finds an inventive use of saran wrap in the delightful “Sealed for Freshness.

There are a few lesbian tales in this anthology, including Dusty Horn's “Subdue,” “The Apiary”by Megan Butcher, and my favorite offering, “Helen Lay Bound” by Suzanne V. Slate.

For fans of voyeurism and male on male action, Emerald offers “Relative Anonymity.”  

There's a little of everything here for fans of bondage. I recognized many of the contributors and found some new names to look for in the future, which is always a joy. From traditional restraints - stocks, corsets, and shackles - to everyday items turned to exciting and inventive uses - saran wrap, wire cables - there's a lot here to get your kinky mind whirling on the possibilities.  



Best Bondage Erotica 2012Best Bondage Erotica 2012
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447544
December 2011





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Best Bondage Erotica 2012 is a sizzling collection of twenty one exciting, erotic bondage stories from a plethora of talented authors.  Familiar names include the incredible Elizabeth Coldwell, the wonderful Kay Jaybee and the sensational Teresa Noelle Roberts.

It’s a superb collection that contains something for everyone from those who are new to the idea of bondage through to those who are seasoned professionals with a length of rope and a willing partner.

This is from “Melting Ice” by Shoshanna Evers.

Amanda stripped off her slacks and cotton button-down blouse, kicking off her low heels. Sitting tucked away in her underwear drawer was her favorite toy: a pink dildo with rolling beads in the perfect place, and an attached clit vibrator that looked like a bunny, the long bunny ears buzzing to life and the entire dildo rotating enticingly as she flicked on the wireless remote, checking the batteries. She shut it off. Save it, she thought. For the bondage.

There was no need for lube; she was so wet the length of the dildo slid inside her easily even as it stretched her. Next she pulled her tightest jeans over her naked cunt, trapping the vibrator in place against her flesh. Holding the grey wireless remote in her hand, she brought it with the handcuffs over to the bed.

Amanda in this story is eager to experiment with solitary bondage. Not knowing Evers as a writer, and because this story is first in the book, I thought there was an air of uncertainty and anticipation that comes with the narrative. To me, it felt like the same air of uncertainty and anticipation that comes with any bondage encounter.

Is this going to end well? Will Amanda be safe and satisfied? Rather than answering those questions and spoiling the tension of the story, it’s enough for me to say I shall now be looking out for more of Evers’s work.

This is from “Cumaná” by Helen Sedgwick.

First he lifted my left hand. I felt rope tighten against my skin. He pulled my arm up to the top corner of the bed, securing it somehow. I held out my other hand obediently, and he guided it toward the other corner, fastening more of the rope around my wrist. I lay there, waiting, tensing against the knots that secured my hands above my head. One by one he took my ankles and pointed my feet to the corners of the bed, spreading my legs wide open. Moving slowly, deliberately, he tied them down. I strained against the rope, but it was tight. He made no sounds, no more movements. My heart was racing.

Aside from illustrating the exquisite quality of writing, both these examples show that the core appeal to bondage is the relinquishment of control. Bondage is about an embracement of helplessness. Bondage is an investment in the trust of a sexual partner to deliver satisfaction. This is a recurrent concept illustrated in the following example from Valerie Alexander’s “Insurrection.”

I waited breathlessly for it then. Instead he walked around me, studying my body. Then he pulled up my bottoms, untied my wrists and tossed my bikini top at me, walking away before I’d even put it on. I showed up at his cottage that night and begged him to fuck me. Begged for real for the very first time, shameless, desperate and horny.

He’d just shrugged and smiled like sure, he’d do me a favor, and tied my hands behind my back. Then he pushed me face first into his sofa, lifted up my miniskirt, and fucked me from behind while I bucked and screamed with the hardest orgasm of my life.

And the theme of control is illustrated equally well in the psychological bondage demonstrated in Billey Thorunn’s excellent story “Pawns.”

She was his for two hours. No quickly checking her email, no getting a glass of water, no nothing without his permission or instruction.

So now she was in the kitchen, wearing red patent-leather pumps and a checkered blue apron over a clingy black teddy. She’d done up her makeup as she would if she was “getting slutty to go out,” and Gabriel had done her hair that morning, standing in front of her while she lay on her back in bed. He’d pushed into both her and the mattress, back and forth until he came, leaving both her hair and the sheets sweaty and disheveled.

Every story in this collection is hot, passionate and exciting. Each of them explores a facet of bondage in a way that makes the whole idea of sexual torment and restriction sound irresistible and appealing. For anyone who has never experimented with the thrill of restraint, this collection of stories provides a taste of every risk you’ve been missing.

In the foreword to this book, Midori asks:

But what’s life if not lived with some risk? Behind every reason for avoidance of erotic adventure and sensual fulfillment lies fear. What do you fear? Does the thought of unbridled pleasure frighten you?

If the thought of unbridled pleasure does frighten you, then avoid this book at all costs. If however, you’re intrigued by the prospect of relinquishing control and enduring unbridled pleasure, Best Bondage Erotica 2012 could be the ideal way to start the New Year.



Best Bondage Erotica 2013Best Bondage Erotica 2013
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Contributions By: Graydancer
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573448974
December 2012





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

In the wonderful introduction to Best Bondage Erotica 2013, Graydancer promises truth – truth that can be embarrassing or uncomfortable as well as thrilling, truth that transcends the overt activities of bondage and discipline celebrated in this collection. I gave a mental nod, understanding the point exactly. I know, from personal experience, how deliberately choosing restraint can shatter fears and defenses, deliver new insights, rearrange reality. I was eager to dive into the book, anticipating more than just the clever and creative kink Ms. Bussel reliably delivers in her anthologies.

Best Bondage Erotica 2013 partially fulfills Graydancer's promise. Some of the tales touched me deeply. Some of the others left me feeling a bit cheated, focused as they were more on the actions of bondage and submission than on the emotional impact.

Of course, after the introduction, I had, perhaps, unrealistic expectations.

I particularly appreciated Valerie Alexander's “The Moons of Mars,” about a non-traditional relationship between a charismatic gay astronomy professor and his female assistant, who is hopelessly in love with him. Their strange accommodation partially fulfills the fantasies of each, and in the process binds them more closely to one another than most lovers.

I also loved“Public Spectacle” by D.L. King, an exquisite vignette that provides an inner snapshot of a female dominant using her slave in public, highlighting the love and trust that illumine the humiliation and pain.

I can sense the people around us. I know they can feel the transformation too. They have seen the plain Jane you wouldn't look twice at on the street transformed into an object of desire. As her submission deepens, she will become even more desirable, and I will become even more desirous of her.

Evan Mora's “You Can Look...” is another deliciously depraved F/f tale in which the most important bonds are the ones that connect the dominant and submissive protagonists.

“Tying the Knot” by Tiffany Reisz, in which a dominant fiancé is summoned on the eve of the wedding to remind his frantic and nervous betrothed what's really important, uses humor to expose the way submission can be a mechanism for coping. 

War is a terrible truth. Three of the twenty two stories in the collection have military themes. All deal, in different ways, with the healing power of BDSM.  In “This is Me Holding You,” by Annabeth Leong, a female soldier struggles with guilt, fear and incipient despair as she prepares to return to duty. Andrea Dale's moving tale “Steadfast” features a heroine trying to reawaken the desire for dominance in her wounded, Iraq-veteran husband. Louise Blaydon explores the out-of-time quality of BDSM encounters with her story “Interlude for the Troops,” in which an Army captain seeks the solace of surrender with one of his comrades.

Peter says nothing, but then,Tom doesn't expect him to. They both know that. His hands are bound at the small of his back with a length of rope that rasps at the skin, and the position thrusts his shoulder blades up and out painfully, like thwarted stubs of wings. The floor of Tom's little medic's hut is hard and unyielding under his knees and yet, somehow, these are comforting pains, compassionate hardships. Tom controls them, after all. It is out of Peter's hands.

The original bondage in Giselle Renarde's “Tree Hugger” involves bungee cords and a huge, rough-barked tree trunk. Ms. Renarde's vivid descriptions pulled me into the story, even as the sensations bring her protagonist into a new kind of communion with nature, and her lover.

“Passion Party Purgatory” by Logan Zachary stands in a category of its own. This totally filthy, over-the-top fantasy (that's a compliment!) features a sadistic and highly inventive host (Charles) who “entertains” the husbands of his wife's friends in his basement recreation room while the women are upstairs enjoying a Tupperware-type sex-toy party. Is there truth here? I suppose the fact that the Charles' straight-as-an-arrow victims discover that they're aroused by bondage, pain and homoerotic activity might count as a revelation. Anyway, the story definitely made me sweat.

The editor's own story “Foot and Mouth” concludes the collection. Rachel Kramer Bussel paints a chilling but arousing portrait of deep masochism and its perverse satisfactions.  

It's not the wealth of lovers he's had before me on whom he's honed his Dominant skills, either. It's that he wants each time to be better than the last. He wants it to matter. He wants me to feel it not just on the tender surface of my skin but inside, deep down, all the way, where it counts. When he takes out his knife and traces it along the swell of my breast, he wants me to wonder, even for a split second, if he'll be careless – or, worse, careful – and break the skin. He wants me to wonder, when he tells me he's bringing guests while I'm all trussed up, if he really is, and how many. He wants me to be uncertain whether he'd actually try to get his gigantic fingers insight my tight but eager ass without lube.

Ms. Bussel's truth is uncomfortable indeed – both literally and figuratively – and yet in it's own way transcendent. I couldn't identify with the particular physical torments her Dom inflicts, but I definitely recognized the emotions.

Overall, Best Bondage Erotica 2013 offers BDSM aficionados a wealth of kinky fun – with sufficient instances of deeper insight to satisfy even a picky reader like me.



Best Bondage Erotica 2015Best Bondage Erotica 2015
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780890
February 2015





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Left to my thoughts, my arousal subsides some when I think about how close my body is to where the chairs are placed. The table is rather small; all they would have to do is reach over slightly to touch me. I am chained up, completely adorned, and any number of men are coming to sit at the table that I am the centrepiece of. He has bound almost every part of my body.

My anus and nipples burn but the feeling spreading through my body from those places is amazing. I feel like I am on fire in the best possible way. If the gag weren’t in my mouth, they would hear my harsh pants when they arrive. I remind myself to breathe slow and steady.

“The Centrepiece”, Erin Spillane

From reading the title it would look like there are three good reasons to purchase a copy of Best Bondage Erotica 2015

The foremost reason for making this purchase is that it’s erotica – and erotica is always worth purchasing. It’s a genre of fiction that depends, for success, on arousing a physical response from readers through the descriptive passages of text. There is no other genre that does this as effectively as erotica.

Secondly, and probably of equal importance to the first point, the book focuses on bondage.  If you’re going to have a sexual deviance, bondage is currently in vogue thanks to the alleged BDSM undertones of Fifty Shades of Grey. (This is not to detract from the pleasures of bondage by associating it with that particular book.  If someone asked me whether I’d rather be tied up and violently fucked, or read FOSG again, I’d be holding out my wrists and offering to share my knowledge on knots).

Thirdly, and again of equal importance to the other points, this collection showcases talents that are rightly presented as THE BEST.  This is why the book is called Best Bondage Erotica 2015.

Christie stared at the hook in her skin, clenching tight to Mac’s hand, watching the man slide the shiny curve into position in the freshly pierced hunk of flesh before moving on. She came back to herself after a moment, looking around as if she’d just woken, her whole body tingling with a mix of pain and excitement.

“Doll,” Mac leaned in, “are you okay?”

“I…” Christie watched, rapt, as the other attendant did the same, popping the hook through her skin so she was symmetrical again.

“You what?”

Christie looked at him, a slow smile spreading over her face, a tightness spooling in her chest, identical to the winding beginnings of arousal. She bit her lip and fought the urge to grind her naked cunt against the plastic-covered seat. “I thought there’d be more blood, that’s all.”

“In Suspense”, Shenoa Carroll-Bradd

Best Bondage Erotica 2015 contains lots of familiar authors as well as a handful of names that are less familiar. Once again it shows that, when Cleis chooses to do something properly, they can do it very well. The book also pushes boundaries with some very daring choices that move mainstream erotica up to the next level.

Someone raised his hand. “Four thousand!” the auctioneer said, pointing into the darkness beyond the lights. “Do I hear forty-five? Forty-four?”

More slaps against poor Sheila’s cunt. “Forty-four! Do I hear forty-five? Listen to those screams, folks. That could be yours! Forty-five! Forty-six?”

Sheila’s body was quivering, shaking from her sobs, but she stayed put.

Mistress Anna stopped her whipping, looked out toward the audience. She reached to Sheila’s upheld breast and wiped her finger across it. She held it up to the crowd, wet from Sheila’s tears, and placed her finger in her own mouth, tasting it. She seductively drew the finger from her lips. She lowered her hand to Sheila’s crotch, and showed her finger to the crowd again. It was glistening wet. Now she licked it, tongue extended, not taking it into her mouth this time. She stepped behind Sheila, and whipped her across her ass, hard, harder than she’d whipped either her tits or cunt. Sheila cried out accordingly, a loud, open mouthed moan, with her hands still supporting her breasts.

“It’s five or nothing, ladies and gentlemen,” the auctioneer said, and hands went up. “Five!

Do I hear fifty-five hundred?”

“Auction, In Quotation Marks”, LN Bey

If you love erotica, good writing and bondage this is the title you need to buy.





Come Again: Sex Toy EroticaCome Again: Sex Toy Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627781250
April 2015





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

I get a bit tired of saying this, but according to my definition, erotica is not primarily about sex, but about the experience of desire Your mileage may vary, of course. Personally, I don’t find stories that focus mostly on physical pleasure to be particularly arousing. Since enhancing physical pleasure is the raison d’être for sex toys, I approached Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica with some sense of trepidation. After all, how many stories about vibrators and butt plugs can one read without getting bored?

In terms of diversity, I needn’t have worried. The toys in these tales cover a wide range. From the customized pedal-driven fucking machine in Oliver Hollandaize’s “Bikery” to the stainless steel claws in the editor’s own story, “Claws Out,” the characters in these stories take many routes to release. 

The stories as a group show considerable creativity in their underlying scenarios as well. In “A Tale of Two Toys,” Chris Komodo explores the very plausible possibility of two remote controlled vibrators on the same frequency interfering with one another. Valerie Alexander’s “The Cure for the Common Lay” conjures what may be the ultimate toy, an immersive virtual environment where one only has to imagine something to make it true. “The Superman Dildo” by E. Bellamy is a rather sweet story about the fragility of the male ego, while Dena Hankin’s “Gift” provides a rare (at least in erotica) glimpse of the sex lives of two elderly women. Rob Rosen’s “In the Pink” involves a straight man who convinces his gay colleague to help him accustom himself to anal sex, in preparation for being penetrated by his wife.

Despite the variety, though, I have to admit to being unimpressed by most of this collection. I would read a story, then immediately forget it. To some extent, I blame my own tastes for this. As I’d expected, the bulk of the stories concerned themselves with immediate sexual gratification, with few of the emotional complexities that make a story memorable for me. 

There were, however, three exceptions.

“The Prototype” by Malin James was one of the sexiest short stories I’ve read in a long time. This is due partly to the nature of the sex toy involved (which I won’t describe, so as to avoid spoiling the fun) but even more because of the relationship between the protagonists and the clever, expressive prose.

Edward smiles at me. His eyes, behind his glasses, are earnest and adorable. Edward invents things for fun. In real life, he does something abstract with currency markets, but in his dreams he has an underground lab and a henchman. At the moment, he’s wearing his eureka! face, which means he’s onto something.

Okay, I admit I have a real soft spot for sexually experimental nerds. But even readers who don’t share my preferences in this regard will be delighted by Edward’s ingenuity and his partner’s reactions.

“Sex Kitten” by Errica Liekos introduces the reader to a submissive with attitude. When her master chides her for buying a sex toy without permission, she’s startled.

She briefly considered apologizing, then decided against it. She wasn’t a puppy, after all. She liked curling up at James’s feet, but she was also the type to stretch a limb across his newspaper or keyboard, casually encroaching on whatever space was most central to his needs. She liked biting and scratching instead of talking to get his attention. Some owners have submissives, she thought, and some have slaves. You, Sir, have yourself a cat. I want to rub up against you, pretending your focus isn’t somewhere else. I want to demand you keep a hand free to stroke me, oblivious to your other obligations. I want to sleep in a sunbeam and stretch half the day, wander the house insolently, then settle in to find you’ve made me dinner. I have opinions.  I’m the pet who owns you back.

“My tail,” she said pleasantly, “is not a toy.”

This subtle, sexy story is beautifully written, which I guess is a prerequisite for keeping my attention.

Finally, Giselle Renarde’s “Must Love Dolls” takes a rather ordinary premise and makes it extraordinarily sexy. When a couple splurges on a high-end Japanese sex doll, they discover they’ve embarked on a true three-way relationship.

Honor set the brush on the nightstand and slowly slid her hand down Natsuki’s soft shoulder and along her arm.

“You can touch her breasts,” Tom said, like he could read Honor’s mind. “She’s ours now, babe. You can touch wherever you like.”

Honor’s stomach knotted with nerves as she cupped one of Natsuki’s perky silicone breasts. She could hardly breathe as she carried that significant weight on her palm. It had been ages since she’d touched any breast but her own.

“How does it feel?” Tom asked.

“Heavy.” She sank onto the bed, wrapping her arms around the love doll, pressing both big breasts together and wishing she were naked too. “Her skin’s so soft. Her hair smells like lilies. God, I’ve missed this.”

“Playing with dolls?” Tom asked.

“Playing with women.”

He smiled. “I know, babe. Take off your top.”

Having sex with a mannequin definitely counts as kinky, but it’s the intensity of anticipation that makes this story so arousing.

Should you read Come Again? Probably, especially if you’re less picky than I am. Like all Cleis anthologies, it’s impeccably edited and beautifully presented. If you’re looking for brief, hot tales where the sex is front and center while other considerations retreat into the background, this book’s for you. On the other hand, if you’re crazy enough to want thematic complications or literary language, like me, you might want to pick up something else.

 





Crossdressing: Erotic StoriesCrossdressing: Erotic Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Contributions By: with a forward by Veronica Vera
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442887
August, 2007





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Sexy outfits are an important element in much modern erotica, especially in stories that focus on fetishes. Leather and lace abound in that genre, and they have been named in book and song titles. (Readers of a certain age could probably hum along with me.) So does Rachel Kramer Bussel's latest clothing anthology unpack the same old wardrobe of push-up bras, thongs, tight pants and stilettos? Not exactly.

This collection of "crossdressing" stories is really more about gender-based role-playing than about clothing as such. The power of the clothes in these stories to make characters think, feel and behave differently than they usually do recalls stories about enchanted garments such as Cinderella's ball gown conjured out of spider webs by her fairy godmother, the "sorting hat" in the Harry Potter novels, cloaks that make their wearers invisible and battle-wear that makes them invulnerable. "Crossdressing" as defined in this anthology is a traditional concept, based as it is on the notion that men and women live differently, and that dressing as a member of the "other" gender is akin to shapeshifting. This book is about the deeply erotic implications of "drag."

Stories about males dressed as glamorous women could be expected in this book, but there are less predictable scenarios here as well. Despite the revolution in women's fashion which has made it acceptable for women to go almost anywhere in pants (trousers) and every other item of dress formerly reserved for men, the women in these stories who deliberately dress "as men" for specific purposes find that the experience changes their consciousness as well as their image. In Elspeth Potter's fantasy story, "The Princess on the Rock," the hero who comes to rescue the princess from a fearsome sea-monster is a woman dressed in the garb of a fairy tale soldier-of-fortune. Needless to say, the hero gets the girl, especially since making her less "pure" (and thus attractive to the monster) is part of the rescue strategy.

Several of these stories play with the notion that a relatively butch woman (especially a dyke) who puts on feminine dress is in "drag." In Andrea Miller's story, "Tori's Secret" (reprinted from Best Lesbian Erotica 2006), the narrator carries out an elaborate revenge scheme by pretending that she has always been a butch in disguise in order to outdo her ex-lover in the art of casual seduction. In "Tough Enough to Wear a Dress," by Teresa Noelle Roberts, a lesbian progresses from being a closeted teenager in a ruffled 1980s prom dress to "coming out" in college in leather and ragged denim to dressing up in a custom-made man-tailored suit to going out on a hot date in an ultimate gender-bending ensemble.

In the daring "Beefeater," by Lisabet Sarai, a heterosexual English girl fulfills her lifelong desire to wear the historic uniform of her uncle, a Yeoman of the Guard, by promising to give her cousin Phil the sex he wants in exchange for his help. The invasion of Uncle Geoff's closet for several illicit purposes excites both young lovers to fever pitch.

The stories about men who dress in feminine frills range from light and sunny (Rachel Kramer Bussel's "A Cute Idea," in which a young man agrees to wear his girlfriend's silky underwear) to poignant ("Higher and Higher" by T. Hitman, in which a frustrated man in a dead-end job and similar marriage finds the "dudette" of his dreams) to tragic ("The Sweetheart of Sigma Queer" by Simon Sheppard, in which a crossdressing young gay man is sexually used by a succession of men who regard him as a joke).

The theme of sneaking into forbidden places wearing "inappropriate" garb continues in stories about men, since "women's" clothing is generally more taboo for men than vice versa. In "More Than Meets the Eye" by Stephen Albrow, a businessman loves wearing women's lingerie under a suit. After defeating his corporate rival in a ruthless takeover bid, the character shows his alter ego, "Suzy", by taking off his masculine business armor in the men's lavatory, where the rival is allowed to "win" sexually.

In "Down the Basement" by Ryan Field, the narrator explains:

"One Halloween night during my senior year in college, I went to a costume party in a broken-down frat house, dressed as a character I'd been inventing for months--years, if you really want to get technical. I looked like any normal guy in college by then: short, sandy blond hair, blue eyes, white polo shirts, and khaki slacks . . Most people would never have guessed that I was gay or that I had a secret passion for lipstick, earrings and very high heels."

The narrator is invited to descend literally into an underworld of drunken frat boys who all seem to think he is a sexually-available girl. He worries about what they will do if and when they discover the truth, but one of them already knows.

Several of the stories deal with complex currents of lust among three or more characters, both crossdressers and their significant others. In a story about another Halloween party, two heterosexual couples explore their gender-variant sides when a husband and a wife change genders for the evening. Helen Boyd, the author of this story, also wrote two autobiographical books (My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married) about her crossdressing husband.

Several stories deal sensitively with the fear and hostility shown by characters whose sense of sexual identity is shaken by a partner's fantasy or by the attractiveness of a fellow-partier in drag. In the final story in the collection, "Some Things Never Change," a lesbian in Vancouver (the Canadian version of San Francisco), learns to accept the two spirits (butch and femme) in herself and in her girlfriend. Each persona has its own wardrobe, and both are equally valid. One of the themes of this anthology is the well-worn saying that before you can judge another person's actions, you must walk a mile in his/her shoes.

Throughout this collection, clothing is the tangible symbol and entrance-point into various states of mind and soul. These stories show that "drag" still has the power to shock the most sexually experienced observers, and to work magical transformations on everyone involved.





Curvy Girls: Erotica for WomenCurvy Girls: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Seal Press
ISBN: 1580054080
April 2012





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Who is “overweight?” Who is “plus-sized?” These loaded terms are more culturally-specific than many people seem to realize. This anthology contains no precise definition of “curvy,” but the fact that women’s clothing in Size 14 and up is usually only available in “plus-size” stores (at least in North America) neatly serves to divide women on the basis of size in much the same way that apartheid once divided people on the basis of skin colour.  Despite famous paintings of full-figured women and even famous centrefolds of the likes of Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, the current belief that gorgeous equals painfully thin seems to permeate Western culture.

This anthology not only aims to restore the self-esteem of “plus-sized” women, it aims to show why they are and always have been sexy. In these stories, fat-phobia is unpacked as a form of prejudice that is no more rational than racism or sexism. In fact, the equation of “overweight” with poor health is deliberately overturned on the first page of “Champagne and Cheesecake” by A.M. Hartnett: 

She called them her ‘victory tits.’

A whole year without smoking, and Sylvia had packed on thirty pounds, but she was no longer sorry for a single ounce of the blubber. In fact, now that she was staring at her reflection in the full-length mirror of the luxurious hotel room, she was feeling pretty good about the added girth.

Of course the hotel room where Sylvia has planned a tryst with two of her men friends is luxurious. Effective descriptions of sex, including scenes of mutual attraction and sexual tension, have always included delicious excess:  extravagant settings, luxury items, feasts, multiple partners, extreme sensations (including pain so intense that it transmutes into pleasure and vice versa), explosive orgasms. The message of this anthology that fat can be beautiful is consistent with the traditional exaggerations in much erotic fiction.

Several of these stories combine esthetic excess with references to past periods when the ideal woman was imagined as plumper than the models of today. In “Wenching” by Justine Elyot, Ginny is dressed as a peasant wench of the 13th century to serve at a medieval feast, where she meets her modern-day prince, and he explains to her why she should never feel ashamed of her body:

Think of all the words associated with a bit of extra flesh. Generous. Ample. Voluptuous. Bountiful. Beautiful, sensual words. Contrast them with their opposites. Mean. Insufficient. Meager. Miserly.

Ginny and her admirer sneak off to a hideaway where he shows her in the most convincing ways that he adores her generous flesh.

“Before the Autumn Queen” by Angela Caperton focuses on a nineteenth-century painting of “Autumn” as a majestic woman who seems to be offering herself to a lover. A modern-day male art-lover notices the resemblance of a woman who works in the art gallery to the painting that graces one of its walls. The resulting seduction seems like a threesome which involves the man, the woman, and the eerily life-like image.

Most of the couplings in these stories are heterosexual, and the man’s admiration for a woman with ample curves enables her to see herself through his eyes instead of through the self-punishing lens of the fat-phobic media.  Two of these stories (Hartnett’s “Cheesecake and Champagne” and “Appetite” by Elizabeth Coldwell) involve threesome scenes in which the woman shows her generosity and her appetite for pleasure by taking on two men. In at least one story (“Excuses”), the man-woman relationship is interracial, and the white man shows that he admires the beauty of a woman who is neither blonde nor skinny.

Three of these stories feature f/f sex between women who have defined themselves as lesbian for some time, and therefore their relationship with mainstream culture is different from that of women who have never lived anywhere else. In “Recognition” by Salome Wilde and Talon Rihai, two women exchange glances in an airport and recognize each other as having something important in common despite their differences in race, culture, occupation, relationship status and home city (one lives in Atlanta, one New York). Their brief hookup in the cramped space of a lavatory is not meant to be repeated, but it seems likely to affect them both for a long time. In “At Last” by Jessica Lennox, a pair of long-term friends finally act on the attraction which has been simmering for years. “What Girls Are Made Of” by Evan Mora is more of a prose-poem than a narrative, and it sings the praises of a “dapper butch woman with a little substance to her.” These stories encourage me to hope that lesbian culture will never adopt the degree of fat-phobia which causes too many heterosexual women to see their bodies as asexual and repulsive. 

The two male-Dominant BDSM stories, “Big Girls Do Cry” by Rachel Kramer Bussel and “Marked” by Isabelle Gray, make a necessary distinction between desire and contempt. In these stories, a man goes to extreme measures to take ownership of a curvy woman while assuring her that he is not punishing her for any “flaws” of body or character. 

The story which moved me the most, “In the Early Morning Light” by Kristina Wright, is told from the viewpoint of an exhausted mother of a newborn baby, not her first. The narrator dreads the thought of having to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs while she feels that her body is bloated and hideous. His gentle touch is miraculously effective at reawakening her old desire for him. By the end of the story, their relationship has shifted profoundly for the better.

While some of these stories are predictable, some challenge conventional assumptions with confidence and wit. In general, this is a collection of well-told tales that would especially appeal to women who have been bullied because of their size, and the ones who love them.



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.





Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex StoriesDo Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443441
March 2009





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Hotels and sex are natural bedfellows.  We go to hotels for sex.  Admittedly there are occasionally other reasons – business meetings, holidays, the necessity of travel etc – but, as a general rule of thumb (not to mention those other important parts of the anatomy) we go to hotels for sex.  Which is why it is only natural for the inimitable Rachel Kramer Bussel to link hotels and sex in her latest anthology: Do Not Disturb

I regularly go to hotels for sex.  And not just because people pay me.  (I don’t mean people pay me to go to their hotel rooms for sex.  Usually my wife gives me £50 and tells me to fuck off to a hotel for the night). 

Hotel sex is better than regular sex because hotel rooms already have a bed in them, so there’s no worrying about where the gear-stick might go, or what to do with your hat or your sandwiches.  Hotel sex is also good because, when you turn up at the hotel with your partner, the obviousness of the situation means you might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says: WE’VE COME TO THIS HOTEL TO LOCK OURSELVES INTO OUR ROOM SO WE CAN SPEND THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE HAVING WILD MONKEY SEX.

Even if that’s not the intention.  Even if your wife has actually destroyed and disposed of your T-shirt (which bears the aforementioned slogan) and privately warned you that you are not allowed to touch her with a ten foot barge-pole or any other part of your anatomy: everyone still thinks that’s why you’re there.  And, in this day and age of visual cues, if people think it’s happening then, whether it’s happening or not, it’s definitely happening.

So, we’re all agreed?  Hotels and sex go together.  If you’re still not convinced, go out and pick up Do Not Disturb

The anthology begins with Amanda Earl’s “Welcome To The Aphrodisiac Hotel.”  Aside from writing saucy, sultry stories, Amanda Earl is also a poet and people watcher.  Her people-watching prowess comes to the fore here as her story’s persona watches the occupants of a hotel lobby bar.  The idea is deliciously simple and, in Amanda’s skilful hands, the story comes to life in an enchanting, effective and erotic fashion.

Are you more interested in the honeymoon suite?  Madlyn March’s “Heart-Shaped Holes” is a pithy blend of pathos and the prurient as she introduces a confused new bride, a callous new husband, and the sympathetic ear of a neighbouring hotel guest.  Madlyn March’s story is a bittersweet sojourn with a conclusion that should warm the coldest heart.

Fancy trying something wicked?  They don’t come much more wicked than Kristina Wright’s “The Other Woman.”  Hotels are there to fulfil our fantasies.  Five Star hotels are there to fulfil our richest fantasies.  And the characters in “The Other Woman” get to fulfil their fantasies, even though things don’t work out quite as everyone expected.

In “Talking Dirty,” Shanna Germain’s characters use their hotel room as an escape from reality – or maybe an escape from unreality.  Whichever the reader decides it might be, the overall verdict will be that this story excels as a sympathetic and poignantly rendered tribute to deviance and dysfunction.

Saskia Walker leads us to the Kilpatrick in London where the waiting staff bend over backwards to satisfy their customers.  They also bend over forwards too in “The Lunch Break.”  Saskia Walker knows how to write smouldering hot fiction and “The Lunch Break” is no exception. 

And then there’s Lisabet Sarai’s “Reunion.”  This is a story that is powerful in its sexual content and equally profound in the depth of the relationship shared by the two central characters.  Written with a simplicity that is stylish and sexy, “Reunion” is one of those narratives that lingers with you for days after as you brood on the characters’ futures. 

If Do Not Disturb were a hotel it would a 5 star hotel with the luxury of 24/7 entertainment available.  The anthology includes authors of such renown as Thomas S Roche, Maxim Jakubowski, Elizabeth Coldwell, Donna George Storey, Alison Tyler and, of course, Rachel Kramer Bussel. 

If, like me, you know that hotels are there for sex and sex only – you will adore this book and the collected stories.  If you have any doubts about the purposes of hotels, buy the book and let Do Not Disturb change your mind for the better.



Fast Girls: Erotica for WomenFast Girls: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443840
July 2010





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

When I was in high school, “fast girl” was a barely polite term for a slut—a girl who'd do anything with anyone, at any time. Unlike “slut,” however, the term carried a hint of admiration. Fast girls didn't worry about their reputations, at least not when that conflicted with their pleasure. Fast girls were brave and bold. They went places and did things that the more timid, good girls, might only dream about.

Rachel Kramer Bussel's collection Fast Girls pays tribute to this image of the girl (or woman) who is not afraid to defy convention in the quest for her own satisfaction. The theme is evocative without being too constraining. The stories that Ms. Bussel has assembled take a variety of perspectives on the concept of  “fast.” Some authors, like Jennifer Peters in “Confessions of a Kinky Shopaholic” or Kayla Perrin in “Temptation,” give us women who are willing to act on attraction to a stranger.  Others—Jacqueline Applebee in “Five-Minute Porn Star,” Tenille Brown in “Speed Bumps,” Charlotte Stein in “Married Life”—show that it's possible to be “fast” in the context of a committed relationship or even a marriage.  Angela Caperton's “Playing the Market” and Rachel Kramer Bussel's “Whore Complex” explore the forbidden allure of playing the prostitute. Kristina Wright, on the other hand, creates a heroine who gets her kicks playing on the right side of the law in “Chasing Danger.”

The Table of Contents includes many familiar names, and practically every story is worth reading. I thought I'd mention my personal favorites.

Tristan Taormino's “Winter, Summer,” the only lesbian tale in the anthology, is an exquisite tale of a bar pick-up that turns out to be much more. The unnamed femme narrator tells us at the start that her motto is Get close enough to get off. No closer. Yet the dominant butch who claims her manages to break through her frosty shell.

It was as if she had diligently studied my body and knew all its curves and tender spots by heart, like she knew the pool table: hands gliding, stroking, pressing until my soft flesh relaxed into warmth and wetness underneath her, ready to go into whatever deep pocket she was pushing me. She pulled back from me and stood studying my body with her acute, extreme eyes. Her concentration and the quietness that surrounded us were terrifying. Electric.

Stunningly beautiful and lewdly intense, this is the story that will stay with me the longest.

Another exceptional contribution is D.L. King's femdom fantasy “Let's Dance.” I have to admit that one reason I loved this tale was the fact that I know D.L. King personally—and this is a very personal story.  The narrator, an author of erotica, notices a cute guy dancing, discovers (through some first-hand exploration) that the boy's genitalia are shaved, and decides (with his enthusiastic agreement) to take him home, tie him up and flog him. The scene in Eve's loft is explicit and arousing, but what sets this story apart is the humorous, natural dialogue and the way it shows off Eve's fast girl attitude.

Once in the cab, I said, “Hey, Cute Boy, who shaved your boy parts?”

A blush began at the top of his ears and traveled to his cheeks. “Uh, I did,” he said.

“What made you decide to do something like that?” The blush spread to his forehead and neck simultaneously, and he looked at the floor of the cab. “Aw, c'mon, you can tell me.” I rested my hand on the inside of his thigh and gave him a good-natured squeeze. […]

“Well, see, I was reading this book...and the guy in it—I guess it was a dirty book...” He looked out the window at the Manhattan Bridge.  “Where do you live?”

“Brooklyn. Go on.” […]

“Brooklyn?”

“Don't worry about it. It's not a foreign country,” I said.

A third tale that touched me is the breathtaking D/s saga “Lessons, Slow and Painful” by Tess Danesi. The terrifying sincerity of the heroine's submissiveness struck a deep chord.   Ms. Danesi takes the “fast” in the anthology title literally. Her master punishes her for taking shortcuts, doing things too quickly.

“Beg me to cut you, Tess,” he whispers darkly. “Beg me, bitch.”

I don't hesitate. I can't pretend I don't want this. “Do it, Dar. Do it. Go on and just do it,” I reply.

“And you expect me to do it hurriedly, Tess? I don't think so,” he says, accompanied by a cruel little laugh that chills me.

And lest visitors to Erotica Revealed wonder why all my favorite stories appear to involve BDSM, let me also mention Donna George Storey's lively and intelligent “Waxing Eloquent.” The narrator, house sitting at her brother's Manhattan Beach condo and trying to break up for good with her married professor lover, ends up falling into bed with the television actor who lives next door.  She decides to get her pussy waxed in order to have the full L.A. experience (“I guess in L.A. a woman is supposed to look like Barbie with her clothes off, too.”) and discovers that the reported heightened sensitivity of a bare pubis is only the beginning.

As I ride him, slowly, then faster, I realize I am much more sensitive down there. It’s as if my time on the salon table was a kind of rough foreplay, priming me for his cock. Cody’s wiry curls chafe my tender lips, and I feel as if I’m straddling not just him, but a knife’s edge—one side is pleasure, the other sweet pain.

Okay, there's that familiar pleasure/pain dichotomy, but I swear, this story does not involve any bondage or discipline!

Cherry Bomb's brief but eloquent contribution “That Girl” seems to sum up the entire collection.

I’m a promiscuous girl…only not the way you think. Oh, I know what they say about me. I hear them back home, clamoring in judgment, their whispers. They don’t even wait until my back is turned anymore. I know what they think of me, which is why the second that you show any interest in me, any desire to get to know me, they will come to you with the same words on their lips:

“Watch out for her. She’s dangerous.”

And I guess I am. What else would you call someone like me? Someone so emotionally reckless, a dangerous fuck. I am the girl that wants everyone and everything, the girl with the uncontrollable lust and insatiable hunger.

--This is what it means, to be a fast girl. But it's not as simple as it sounds, as the authors in this collection demonstrate.

Rachel Kramer Bussel has what is likely to be another success on her hands with Fast Girls. For its variety, intensity and quality of writing, I have to give the collection two thumbs up.





Flying High:Sexy Stories From the Mile High ClubFlying High:Sexy Stories From the Mile High Club
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780424
March 2014





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

Ah, the fabled Mile High Club. Talk about an extremely narrow theme for an anthology. You've got your airplane bathroom - even in first class, it's a place where people void their bowels - or your seat, which is about as comfortable as those hard plastic desk seats in high school. Oh yeah, and the cockpit. Not much there to work with fantasy-wise, and it shows in the lack of diversity. I also wondered if this anthology was a reprint because I've read several of these stories before. However, I suppose if joining the Mile High Club is a huge fantasy for you, you might want this anthology.

The well-written contributions are by veterans of the erotica scene. In Alison Tyler's “Planes, Trains, and Banana-Seat Bicycles,” a couple is offered a trip to a remote island by her richer sister. Nothing about the trip appeals to them, but he uses it as an excuse to playfully torment her. It's so nice, so romantic, to see a couple in sync with each other. They know who they are, and that’s sexy.

“When Your Girl Friend Wears a Very Short Skirt,” by Thomas Roche, shows how a master at the genre can take the same scenario and make it transcend the others. He's such an entertaining writer. His characters leap off the page.

I know I complained about sex in the bathrooms, because ick, but Stan Kent's Aisle Seat did the best job of making me forget stagnant water pooled on the floor and the sickeningly sweet scent of airplane hand soap. Stan is the author of the (in)famous Shoe Leather series, and his continuing appreciation for fine women's shoes shows in this piece, as well.





Going Down: Oral Sex StoriesGoing Down: Oral Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447897
May 2012





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Can I be honest here? There are not many advantages to being a book reviewer.

The hours are terrible. I say that because I’m writing this whilst the rest of the world is asleep.

The money is abysmal: this month’s reviewing salary won’t pay the price of a tank of gasoline. (That said, with the way fuel prices are rising at the moment, I suspect there are some bankers and lottery winners who won’t be able to afford a tank of gasoline this month).

There are also times when I’m expected to read and review books that are an insult to the concept of publication. This used to be fun in the days of printed books, when I could angrily toss a book across the room and watch it smack against the wall; or when I could occasionally burn a paperback in my own homage to the historical mentals who have burnt books. But there are serious ramifications to personal cost when I do this with a Kindle.

Being a book reviewer doesn’t give me any street cred or kudos. People don’t come up to me and say, “Wow! Ashley, I hear you review books. What a sexy occupation. Please tell me all about that whilst I lavish you with pleasure and other sociological or psychological benefits.”

Yet there is one advantage to being a book reviewer. And that one advantage happened this month. This month I happened to be one of the fortunate ones who got an early chance to read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest anthology Going Down: Oral Sex Stories.

To show you how lucky I am, here’s a short piece from the opening story, “Pretty Dull.”

She didn’t think his wife or her husband were very giving and receiving sorts of people.

But oh, he was. His hand went to the side of her face, when she finally took him in her mouth. He didn’t push or force, however, or grasp a handful of her hair. Instead he cradled her face tenderly, as though he wanted to thank her through a touch.

It burned more deeply than the feel of him, all thick and too-hard in her mouth. Her clit jumped inside her already-wet panties, and when he carded his fingers through her hair she grew slicker still. Her cunt bloomed beneath no touch at all, and when she swirled her tongue around the glossy head of his gorgeous prick, the urge to touch herself grew too great.

She resisted, however. He’d resisted. She’d never seen him stroke himself, as he licked her pussy. He’d focused entirely on her, and she wanted to give him the same. She wanted to suck strong and fierce until his taste flooded her mouth—strangely sweet, in a way other men had never been—and moan in that exact way he had.

“Pretty Dull” is written by the eminently readable and talented Charlotte Stein. Charlotte knows how to write erotic fiction and she introduces characters who are living and breathing people. This story works as a piece of erotica as well as an emotional journey where exploration and generosity are contrasted against conservatism and repression.

This is, I think, a point of view which echoes the sentiment voiced in the introduction by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

I thought I knew, if not everything, quite a bit about the fine art of oral sex until I started to read the stories that came in for Going Down. In them, giving and receiving head became its own, if you’ll pardon the pun, head trip, and showed me that there is plenty for even the most seasoned connoisseur to learn and enjoy about an act that brings pleasure to so many.

Not that all of the stories in the collection focus on alternatives for repression or approaches to banish the dysfunctional. Jeremy Edwards, “Bubble Gum,” produces a piece of fiction where the narrative is less important than the tremendous physicality of the description. Similarly, Lucy Felthouse, “Clean/Dirty,” relates a first person narrative with the focus on the pleasure of oral sex between consenting adults.

But, as Rachel Kramer Bussel points out, this is an anthology that does not simply show oral sex occurring. The stories in this collection touch new areas and stretch the boundaries. One of my favourites in this category is Shanna Germain’s pragmatically titled short, “Sucking Casey’s Cock.”

“Danny, who taught you how to go down on a woman?” He laughed, and then it was his turn to blush a little.

“You.” It was true—when he’d gotten his first real girlfriend at eighteen, I’d been the one he’d gone down on first. He was the only guy I’d ever had between my legs, and I’d been surprised to discover that if you closed your eyes—and ignored the scratch of his teenage beard—tongues felt a lot alike no matter the gender. He’d made me come—twice, in fact—and I’d discovered something about myself, too. I liked having the power of telling someone what to do. I was a little lesbian domme in the making.

This is another stellar anthology from Cleis Press. The standard of writing is high and the depth of the subject matter is seldom short of thought-provoking. If there was ever a reason for a book reviewer to boast of an advantage to their job, then it’s being one of the first to read this delightful collection.





Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden SexGotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446475
March 2011





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

He was already two knuckles deep into my cunt, so asking for his name was kind of pointless.

Thus begins Kathleen Bradean's wonderful contribution to Gotta Have It, entitled "A Good Stiff One." I start my review with Ms. Bradean's story not only because it's one of my favorites, but also because it captures the essence of Rachel Kramer Bussel's new collection of flash fiction - stories that turn on the heat from the very first sentence. The subtitle of this book is definitely appropriate. With no more than 1200 words available, these stories tend to race into the clinches, leaving both the characters and the reader a bit breathless.

The best tales in Gotta Have It, however, are more than just fast and furious sex scenes. I was extremely impressed by the depth and originality some of these authors managed to pack into a small package. Ms. Bradean's story is a case in point. It captures all the awkwardness, the inwardness, of fucking a stranger at a party - the lack of emotional connection even as you're being propelled into the sensual stratosphere, the judgments one can't help oneself from making.   

Consider Carmel Lockyer's lesbian lust-fest, "Pink Satin Organza." "Here's the problem; Sonya isn't even my friend," the narrator begins, guilt-tripped into acting as a bridesmaid for her sister's best friend. The bride's stern aunt provides some rough consolation, though. By the middle of the tale, "Her red lipstick is being equally shared between her mouth and mine."  The characters in this story could easily sustain a much longer piece. I'd love to see the narrator and the aunt at the next "fitting."

Gotta Have It offers considerable variety in orientation, kink, mood and even explicitness. There's the high octane collision between two women on the leather seats of a vintage Corvette in Evan Mora's "My Femme," the improbable but irresistible M/M butt-fuck at 35,000 feet in Mike Bruno's "The Copilot," the deserved punishment of the deliberately clumsy waiter in Sommer Marsden's "Laugh," and the unabashedly naughty exhibitionist in Jeremy Edwards' "No Blame, No Shame" ("Even the hum of the ice machine sounds libidinous.") Shanna Germain offers up an ironic woman Bible teacher in "Genesis" ("I don't hunt them down. They come to me.").  D.L. King serves up a sizzling version of the stern librarian fantasy in "Punishment Befitting the Crime." In "Intersect," Burton Lawrence gives us a zero-G liaison between two space freighter captains that's constrained by physics to no more than seventeen minutes.  "After Ten Years" by Christen Clifford masterfully conveys the complex joys and disappointments of sex after a decade of marriage. And Salome Wilde wins hands-down in the category of originality (or possibly bizarreness) with "Too Wondrous To Measure," about the love affair between a human woman and Godzilla. (I'm not kidding!)

Of course, given who I am, I was particularly drawn to some of the BDSM-themed stories. Mike Kimera's chilling "Need-Leash" manages to be arousing and disturbing with no actual sex at all. "My nipples stretch the silk the way my desire for you stretches my morals," says the nameless female narrator, only too aware of her own abasement. "Over His Shoulder" by Maximilian Lagos is a more light-hearted tale about the erotic power of the written word. Teresa Noelle Roberts' story, "Laughter in Hell," highlights the paradoxes in a power-exchange relationship. ("My cane still makes her wet and her laughter still makes me hard." Possibly my favorite BDSM tale was Valerie Alexander's "Don't Struggle," which gives us a peak into the thoughts of a manipulative but appreciative Dom. The insights in this story will stay with me. (I read it at least four times.)

Of course, with sixty nine stories, I can't begin to mention all the stories I enjoyed. This is a huge book - over three hundred fifty pages. Overall, Ms. Bussel has done a great job assembling work by both familiar and new authors. Having edited anthologies myself, I'm in awe of the amount of effort that must have been required, managing communications with sixty-eight contributors. (The collection includes one of the editor's own stories as well.)

The depth and breadth of Gotta Have It means that there will be something here for every reader. If you're in the mood for a quickie, I highly recommend this book.





He's On TopHe's On Top
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442704
March, 2007





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Who's on Top?

Cleis Press has just come out with a paired edition of BDSM books entitled alternately, She’s on Top, and He’s on Top. They are edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel with her usual insouciance and élan vitale. We know her from her earlier Naughty Spanking Stories books, and it must be said that her international reputation is soundly earned in the area of erotic bare bottom discipline.

Her story selections for both books reflect the engaging tension humans feel between sex, affect, romance, pleasure and pain. That tension centers around whether we will, or even can, allow ourselves the joy of each other.

BDSM here is the ultimate test of our willingness to risk ourselves and trust others. It becomes a search for connection and richer self-understanding. Conventional notions of loyalty and bonding are literally stretched or stood on their head. They emerge the stronger for it in these stories. BDSM thus becomes the most poignant of sexual arenas in which to explore that willingness. The stories in these two books are for the most part readily up to that challenge.

Both books offer an edgy, hip, and, in some cases, techno view of BDSM, but the stories are generally in the vein of sophisticated dominance and submission (D/s). The authors keep their characters’ tongues -- among other things -- planted firmly, if damply, in their cheek. They are, however, never cynical or superficial.

There is a basic tension generally in erotica between meeting the readers’ desire to re-enter a familiar fictive world and one that stimulates them in new ways. BDSM by its nature tends to flirt with ritual more than other areas of sexual proclivity. The mastery of self often involves gaining the ability to endure beyond all patience, if for no other reason than to enhance the impact of the release when it is finally allowed.

The nature of an ordeal -- even one that is enjoyed -- tends to strip away the veneer of civilized disguises we need to get through life. It is very hard to be cool and detached while being given a long, hard spanking. The filtering is penetrated by pain and lust. In many cases that is why the characters are begging to be spanked, flogged, caned, pinched, bound, gagged and regularly find large objects moving relentlessly up their rearends.

Ms. Bussel has chosen an array of short, pithy stories for both books that focus on the action more than the atmosphere. They focus more on the choices characters make than characterization. That makes for a highly successful brisk style and pace. There is a point, however, at which I as a reader feel that I know what is coming next a bit too well. That is perhaps because as an author and critic, I see the erotic in erotica as a point of departure as much as a narrative destination. Mine is not the more widely held view, however, among readers and other writers of erotica.

These are anthologies and I can see no way of getting round giving a shopping list of brief comments about individual stories. Therefore I will just enjoy showing you a sample of what’s on offer here.

In He’s on Top, N.T. Morely’s “Not Until Dawn” captures beautifully the torture of a woman’s orgasm that is delayed for an entire night. The story concludes, as the title suggests, with a lovely, if shattering, sense of relief.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” carries away top honors for entering the male head successfully and winnowing out how the hero rethinks and comes to understand the meaning of loyalty and trust as he thrashes back and forth between his beloved’s bottom and his lover’s rear end. When you are beating two behinds, what are the rules of fidelity? What sort of vote do those getting thwacked have in this case? Ms. Sarai has thought this out carefully and renders her answer with very plausible tenderness. She is one of the best in the field of erotica without question.

Several stories reveal something about masculine priggish punctiliousness as in Mackenzie Cross’ “A Good Reference”. Men here are often presented as being more obsessed with rules and technique than with the sensations and sensuality of their relationships.

I must add that Lee Ash in my view emasculated “Boardroom Etiquette” by letting us know that the relationship we are observing -- which is so witty and piquant at first – is in fact a rehash of one the characters have had the night before. That makes it showy, but blandly safe. Risk, like good spankings, has to be real to amount to anything significant.

Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” is surely one of the most amusing and enjoyable of the stories in this book with its narrative adagio on the discipline of the musical arts.

She’s on Top is billed in the editor’s preface as a companion to the male volume. However, it seems to me the juicier of the two. As Ms. Bussel writes, the female dominants revel in the visceral exercise of power over their boy toys with no girlish pretense of reticence. However, that in no way is to suggest that this is not a book about girls.

These characters are not moribund creatures who grimly fit the now-PC appellation, “Women.” In fiction that joyless label has come to sound like a legal grounds for institutionalization. These are big, highly dimensional, playful girls. They take charge and get things done to their liking regardless of their physical size. They have a lot of down and dirty fun doing it, regardless of who is left squealing and begging for mercy (gratefully) in the process.

“City Lights” by Kathleen Bradean is the story most like conventional femdom fiction. As such, it is guaranteed not to disappoint. A dominant woman spanks and canes her ultra handsome, successful man with voracious abandon after a hard day at the office. The story is far more than that though because it captures how much she also loves and depends on him in the peculiar ways of their relationship. She does not “wear the pants” in the family. She doesn’t need to because she decides when the pants get taken down.

The husband is presented as both an eager submissive and still a fully realized, if dumbly pretty, self-involved, male. That seems to be part of what she loves in him. He is her trophy boy toy, but that is only as a part of a larger, more complex and subtle relationship. Nonetheless her spankings are sincere, traditional, and enthusiastically executed. She genuinely takes charge and so her authority rings as genuine.

Kristina Wright’s “The Mistress Meets Her Match” is wonderfully original. A very able mistress encounters a man who wants to be authentically dominated with the highest skill and authority. So, through a process of tease and challenge, he educates her to the point where he is truly forced to submit. It is a complex dance and a refreshing change from the usual doleful, groveling submissives of this genre, who will settle for any sort of female attention as long as it is painful and delivered with scorn.

In fact, scorn is an element that is totally absent from either of these books. They are not about abusive rejection and hurt. They are about people searching for each other on the most demanding and rarified plane of sexual encounters. That is not a plug for BDSM, but rather for the best that erotica in general can achieve.

The best story is Ms. Bussel’s own, “His Just Rewards.” The title ironically conjures the dusty image of a dreary after school paddling, but the story is nothing of the sort. It presents us with a D/s Olympiad conducted by a mistress who shifts her attentions between people with symphonic, almost self-sacrificing, grace. It is one of those stories where you find yourself wanting her to get laid as a reward because she has worked so long and so hard and so well for the benefit of her naughty charges. How unselfish can a girl be?

What erotica can do is make the point that sex is just sex and just fine as that, but that it can be more; it can be a conveyance to another level of experience and attachment. For that to work, even if only in the comfort of reading a book, one must give oneself over to its inescapable attraction, rather like bondage. Once there, who wants to escape anyway? These stories capture the exciting risk of not knowing how your lover will use their power over you, and acquiescing to that. They show that far from being vacant brutes, those who dominate must be equal in skill, sensitivity, and sensibility to that role.

 





Hungry for More: Romantic Fantasies for WomenHungry for More: Romantic Fantasies for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1940550041
August 2014





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Let me begin by warning readers that the subtitle of this collection is distinctly misleading. Anyone who buys this collection looking for romance will be sorely disappointed.

What could be less romantic than Greta Christina’s “Craig’s List,” a tale of a woman seeking extreme anonymous sexual encounters via the personal ads, sticking to self-imposed rules about having to accept all comers no matter how repulsive? This phenomenal tale, which I first read in Ms. Cristina’s single author book Bending, is extremely arousing in a squick-inducing sort of way, but romantic? I suspect it would make a true romance fan run away screaming.

Then there’s “Jailbait Torch Song” by Valerie Alexander, one of my favorite stories in Hungry for More.  This tale chronicles a feverish, hopeless affair between an almost-thirty single mother struggling for respectability and an eighteen year old high school student. It’s gorgeously written, flooded with genuine heat, but there’s no possible happy ending. Both participants know this from the start.

I thought the editor’s own story, “A First Time for Everything,” was one of her best  (and I’ve read many, many stories penned by Rachel). It’s full of smart, funny, heartfelt observations by the narrator, who decides to fulfill her darkest fantasy by staging a bukkake party (basically a gang jerk-off where the many men present all drench her in their cum). In this tale, her gay best friend rounds up a quintet of hot guys (most of whom she has never met), “men I admired and respected enough to welcome into my home to defile me...It takes a special, enlightened, intelligent kind of man to treat a slutty girl like me just right.”

Later, in the midst of the action:

“Just then, I felt the first jet of cream land on my back, and I whimpered as best I could with a mouth full of cock. I looked up into the eyes of Rob, and he cradled the back of my head gently in his hand as I sucked him. This may sound crazy, but it felt spiritual to me, a moment of bonding that went far beyond the mechanics of sex. Or maybe I’m just the rare girl who can have a holy moment with five gorgeous cocks surrounding her.”

Despite the sexual epiphany (which I don’t mean to disparage - I’ve had those moments, too), I don’t think these guys would really qualify as her soul mates!

In Tiffany Reisz’ tale “Bringing the Heat,” the heroine Jada dumps her arrogant, homophobic date at a minor league baseball game and ends up hidden in the locker room, where she watches a handsome, athletic ball player get his butt fucked by his equally buff sports therapist. The (hot and well-written) sex scene would be right at home in a gay erotic romance – without the secret observer. I suppose it may qualify as vicarious romance.  

Katya Harris describes a wildly erotic public coupling – in the middle of a dance floor – between two individuals who are mere acquaintances. Sexy, definitely, but romance? There’s certainly no HEA. “His firm lips caught at hers, his tongue flicking out to lick across her mouth. Lila’s eyelids fluttered; her breath hitched. She leaned forward for more, but he was already melting into the crowd with a wink and smirk.”

Erzabet Bishop’s “Red Lipstick” chronicles the BDSM initiation of a cosmetic salesgirl by one of her regular customers. In this lighthearted tale, the elegant and self-assured Mistress provides her submissive with plenty of pleasure, but there’s definitely no mention of commitment. Giselle Renarde’s “Happy Ending,” another F/F tale, brings the intimacy and intensity of a full body massage to glorious life – but as the masseuse reminds the heroine after her stunning release, this is “work.”

Several of the stories that made an impression on me do feature committed couples doing various naughty things. Jeremy Edwards’ “Tickle Day” made me smile.  Although I have to say that personally I find tickling annoying rather than erotic, Mr. Edwards excels in bringing out the playfulness of his characters.

“She clutched his idle wrist and thrust the open expanse of her tender underarm toward his tickle hand, urging him on. She was vanilla ice cream, and he was a million soft, tiny spoons.” Now there’s a novel metaphor!

Meanwhile, Tilly Hunter’s “My Pillar-Box Red Cock” relies completely on the trust between two long-time lovers. When the heroine, prodded to reveal her darkest fantasy, confides that she wants to fuck her husband in the ass, his initial reaction is rejection. Then, weeks later, he reveals that he has bought a set of butt plugs and has been training himself to take her cock.  The story brilliantly captures both the thrill and the uncertainty of that first penetration.

But then, in contrast, there’s Rose de Fer’s chilling and arousing kidnap tale, “The Instructor.” A woman wakes from a confused dream to find she’s a captive, chained naked to a bed in a bland, windowless room. She has no idea who has taken her, or why.  A man appears, interrogates her, slaps her face, whips her, and reveals the truth:

“The air is heavy with the implicit threat and he lets the silence hang for agonizing seconds while I tremble and wait. At last he speaks again.”

“‘I am the instructor,’ he says simply. ‘And you are here to be instructed. Specifically, you are here to be trained to be a slave.’”

Ms. de Fer manages to kindle real fear, edged with inescapable arousal.

Not exactly the stuff romance is made of.

Why am I making such a big deal of this mislabeling, you might ask. After all, here at Erotica Revealed, we attempt to exclude romances from the works we review – not because we disapprove of the genre, but because there are already dozens of review venues that cover romance. In contrast, few if any sites, other than Erotica Revealed, are willing to review sexually explicit fiction that does not feature committed relationships or happy endings. So if this book is billed as romance, but turns out not to be, I should be pleased, not sorry.

The trouble is, the publisher seems to have believed that this book of erotica needed the label “romantic” in order to sell. That bothers me greatly. I suppose this is a marketing decision, but to me it feels both dishonest and a bit cowardly.

Anyway, if you’re looking for “romantic fantasies,” I would not recommend that you buy this book. On the other hand, if you want to read a fairly diverse and well-executed collection of erotica, Hungry for More might be a good place to start.
   





Love Notes: A Music and Sex AnthologyLove Notes: A Music and Sex Anthology
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Ravenous Romance
ISBN: 978-1607770688
February 2009





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

This collection of 22 stories has a kind of silent soundtrack of all the songs that inspire overwhelming lust in a variety of fictional characters. This anthology could also be regarded as a textbook in how far a writer can go in referring to copyrighted material without being sued. Despite the warnings that have been posted in various writers’ loops (e.g. your characters can quench their thirst with “pop,” “soda” or a “soft drink,” but nothing more specific unless you can afford to pay a fortune to a large corporation for naming their product in print), the contributors to this volume name living artists and quote both song titles and lyrics. Here are a few of the story titles that made me gasp:  “Like a Prayer,” “Shania in the Chatroom,” “Cheerleading Zeppelin,” “Dancing Queen,” “Cherry Pie,” and “Simply Beautiful.” In case a reader doesn’t own a recording of a particular song and needs a memory prompt, there is plenty of “da-da-da-da-da- DUM,” and “oo-oo baby” in the descriptions.

In general, these stories do a remarkable job of describing something that is almost indescribable in words:  the effects of rhythm and melody on human psyches.  As the editor explains in the introduction, sex and music naturally go together. As she doesn`t explain, `playing` in one sense or another is hard to describe for anyone who isn`t in the scene at the moment. The references to real music are useful as a way to establish the mood.

The theme of this anthology is consistent throughout; every story uses music as an essential element of the plot. However, some of the stories read like catchy but quickly-forgettable pop tunes (a guy and a gal are moved by their favorite song to fuck to the beat) while some are more complex and worthy of experiencing more than once, like concept albums, fugues (consisting of several intertwined melodies), good jazz or musical comedies.

“The Main Events” by Eve Carpenter and “Musically Arousing” by Mariana Tolentino border on being groupie-masturbation fantasies. In each story, a female fan gets the thrill of a lifetime when a male musician responds to her breathless admiration. “The Main Events” is somewhat more believable, since the fan and her idol have met before, and the band isn’t wildly famous – yet. “Musically Arousing” is more of a classic Cinderella fantasy: famous rock star happens to meet girl-next-door when he stops at the gas station where she is stranded because her car broke down on her way to his concert. Of course, he finds her irresistibly attractive.

“Rock Star Baby” by Jocelyn Bringas is a variation on this theme. Roslyn, the central character, is a female rock star who snags a devoted male fan for the night. The symbiotic  effects of her talent and high-energy performance and his crush on her result in mind-blowing sex. In “Silent Crescendo,” a white male guitarist goes to hear the black female singer of his dreams and is amazed to learn that the admiration is mutual.

There is a variety of sexual pairings in this collection: het-male-dominant, het-female-dominant, female-female and male-male. The same-sex couples all have more-or-less equal power, and none of these characters is more famous than the one s/he hooks up with.

The theme of a fan’s obsession with a star (rock or otherwise) meshes perfectly with scenes of Dominance/submission to a soundtrack.  In “Closer” by Brandi Woodlawn, Reyna the dominatrix plays with her boy-toy, in a club, to appropriate music. In “Freedom” by Jincey Lumpkin, a woman who admires model Cindy Crawford drives herself to ecstasy while watching a video which combines Crawford’s luscious body and George Michael‘s song “Freedom.” In “The Special Fuck” by Graydancer, the male narrator plays the role of dastardly Captain Hook (from 1904 play Peter Pan and numerous later versions) torturing the Indian maiden Tiger Lily (his submissive playmate, bound to a St. Andrew’s cross) during a Halloween party. The recorded music for this event is hypnotic enough to enhance their sense of being in an alternative world. In “With Random Precision” by Emerald, the female narrator sinks deeply into sub-space while being bound with purple silk rope to the sound of a Pink Floyd classic, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

In contrast, “Dancing Queen” is not an homage to the group Abba. Not at all. A woman at a dungeon party is completely turned off by the squeaky-clean sounds of one of Abba’s signature songs, the choice of the party host. Before leaving, the woman arranges to hook up with the bartender later to play to a rougher beat. “She Loves to Hear the Music” by Delilah T. Jones is also about a turn-off or a disconnect between music and listener, as well as between a stripper/sex worker and the male customer she serves and dislikes.  The title is as ironic as the dialogue between the two characters.

Emotional discordancy between band members is also featured in “Breaking Up the Band” by Jack Stratton, in which general unhappiness resulting from one-way lust is the theme song of the day. The male narrator, the drummer, yearns for guitarist Kate, whose heart has been broken by band leader Stephen’s announcement that he is going to move in with his new girlfriend.  Can the band be saved? No, but their final performance is memorable.

In “Battle of the Bands” by J.M. Snyder, a fierce competition between two all-male bands perfectly captures the combination of lust and rivalry that can characterize same-sex attraction. The two bandleaders reach their own truce in a hot, spontaneous coupling. In “Barely Breathing” by Madlyn March, the emotional pain of the female narrator is almost palpable as she remembers Nadine, the lover who taught her the value of delayed orgasm, but who couldn’t be faithful.

I’ll resist the temptation to comment on every story in the collection. Suffice it to say that the ones I like best are the most unusual. “Bad Mother” by Elizabeth St. John is a lifelike portrait of the lesbian mother of a teenage daughter who doesn’t appreciate her mom’s heirloom 78 r.p.m. Mexican records, inherited from mom’s grandmother. Mom is called to the school to discuss her daughter’s behavior and meets a very attractive woman who enjoys Abuela’s sentimental music as well as old-fashioned school discipline.  If only motherhood were always this fun!

“Cheerleading Zeppelin” by Zack Lindley is also a kind of school story, set in 1977. Terry, rebellious male narrator, is thrown together with Lydia, a cheerleader and honors student. At first, the two seem to have nothing in common except their love for the band, Led Zeppelin. Then Lydia, lonely daughter of immigrant parents, drops a bombshell on Terry by telling him that he doesn’t “know shit” about her. She asks him (and the reader) to guess what “happens” when she is trapped at home with a predatory father and a mother who refuses to interfere. In spite of himself, Terry cares. The heavy-metal sound of Led Zeppelin captures both the despair and the hope of the two young adults on their way out of high school, and their story ends on a movingly upbeat note.

The editor’s own story, “Cherry Pie,” fits in well with this collection, despite my qualms about editors who publish their own work. It is sweet in every sense, and contrasts nicely with the darker pieces.  This anthology is guaranteed to get you moving, probably in the direction of your sound system and your music collection. Sex and music are such an obvious fit that I expect to see more anthologies on this theme in the future.





Naughty Spanking Stories From A to Z, Volume 2Naughty Spanking Stories From A to Z, Volume 2
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Pretty Things Press
ISBN: 1576122700
October, 2006





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

There can be no question that this book is about spanking and that it gets at this activity with a serious intensity from as many angles and techniques as possible. As Rachel Kramer Bussel points out in her introduction, the spankings in this anthology explore a range of passions including, “love, anger, sublimation, awakening, desire, fulfillment, foreplay, fun, prodding, patience, surrender, exhibitionism, demand, pride, want, lust, punishment, reward, humiliation, power, surprise, daring, learning, lessons, teasing, and goodbye.” Phew! And I thought I was fond of lists.

For reasons best illuminated by the editor in the book’s introduction, more female bottoms are bared and smacked in this volume than male ones. That may seem a disappointment to some femdom devotees, but a fair amount of jockey shorts are jerked down, as well as arrogant butts unboxered. They are punished at length by an assortment of unforgiving female hands, whether equipped with an implement or descending by their own domme momentum.

What makes this book essentially a success is its frank, seriously painful, salivating, and intense focus on spanking the adult bare bottom for whatever reason or rationalization that pops into the spanker’s head. There are no excuses or half-witted psychologizing here. What’s more, a good, hard spanking is worth its weight in several volumes of blabbering romance novels. Spanking is the ultimate hanky panky as Madonna once observed, and it makes sense. Done right it is a complex form of love play while filling many other aspects of one’s life where appropriate. What more can love do?

There are three types of stories in this anthology all of them oriented to a very broad stripe of spanking tastes. The first is the dungeon spanking. Characters inhabit these stories in exotic outfits made of leather or rubber that would make most of us look like hopeless mistakes from central casting. You have to hit the gym twice daily to strut well in skin-tight. “Outing Isolde” by Anne Blakely is one of these. The spankings are delivered with high ceremony during which doms say things like, “Prepare yourself.” They are described while cropping a girl’s bottom as, “pushing her as he punished her, letting her show off the strength that she had within.”

Despite the dangling preposition, there is a place for these stories as the dream vision of those who attend BDSM clubs, or wish they did. All this Star Trek sort of gear and talk makes up for the desultory reality of such establishments. I find them so scripted that I am inclined to mutter to myself, “I can’t hold her, Captain, she’s going to blow!” with a Scots burr as I read them, even though I am not quite sure what I mean when I say it.

In the second type of story, shiny and polished characters looking (and sounding) like models glitter and squeal as the palm, brush, and cane lands. These are the perfect people of an earlier era of porn/erotica. They talk like some bizarre combination of Mary Worth and Danielle Steele. The plots are thin by design. The clothes always fit and cover super sexy underwear. We all wear that to the office every day, right? No grey jockeys here, or safety pinned panties marked “Thursday.”

The circumstances are improbable. How often do you think a Human Resources manager summons her male assistant to her office because she is desperately – if reluctantly -- in need of a very hard spanking? Kristina Wright’s story regards this scenario as one of the “Perks of the Job.” It’s a lovely thought. Who has not thought of spanking their pretty, overbearing, cranky little boss? Or better still, being spanked by her? How would she broach the subject of giving you, her strapping assistant, a dose of the strap? Out of sheer bossiness, one would hope.

The third variety of story is one that fixates on spanking as experience. One might call it la obsession rouge, for the redder the bottoms get, the more deeply the passion runs to further redden them to a deep aubergine. The strongest of these stories, not surprisingly, is Ms. Kramer Bussel’s own, “Queuing Up.” It is no surprise that it is a femme spanko’s heated confession of how she will gladly wait in line for ever more vigorous spanking accompanied by every sort of lubricious delight to heighten the experience of having her bottom blistered time and again. As the narrator says at the zenith of her ecstasy, “Our asses could take on the world,” which given the vigor and intensity of the story seems a reasonable assertion, if a rather disconcerting image.

This sort of story done well is like the litany of sexual delights that Wilde’s Salome offers Herod in payment for the head of John the Baptist. Another excellent example is Ashley Lister’s “Chippendale Library Chair” wherein an otherwise subdued couple test the merits of a particularly sturdy antique chair as spanking furniture. They do so in the recesses of an antique shop, which activity proves no end of delight to the proprietor who joins in on the spanking fun. Mr. Lister’s story is far more serene than “Queuing Up,” but that does not mean that the behind being so soundly spanked is not equally sore, or the pleasure any less intense.

Given that there are 30 stories in this volume, there is most certainly something for every spankophilic taste, need, desire, lust, and peculiar enthusiasm. They are not all of equal merit and so in the weaker cases, stories that focus on spanking as an activity can turn into a redundant list of whackings. Character and plot are never much of an issue here, but the book is clearly about naughty spankings so it endeavors to ‘get to the good part’ straight away. In fact the selection seems to eschew anything that might provide deeper context or character perhaps by design.

I think the key to this book lies in Ms. Kramer Bussel’s introduction to this volume, which speaks to her admirable dedication to spanking in her own life. She says, “In fact, right now as I write this, my ass bears bruises from my most recent spanking session, and I feel that special soreness every time I sit down. Editing this volume has only increased my interest in this topic.” One can only admire such a frank expression of appetite that is clearly reflected in her editing and writing. It is hard not to be drawn into such genuine enthusiasm. It is provocative, evocative and stimulating without apology.





Only You: Erotic Romance for WomenOnly You: Erotic Romance for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449091
January 2013





Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

I first bumped into Rachel Kramer Bussel with her story in Frat Boys, and have since run into her stories or edited anthologies enough times to realize that I adore her. She has a fresh take on any theme she approaches, and so when I was given Only You for my January review, I breathed a sigh of prescient contentment. I was sure a great book was ahead.

After reading the introduction, I knew my intuition was going to be spot-on. One of the things I loved about Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Suite Encounters was how the stories selected told stories throughout such a range of people in a variety of places in their lives – coupled, single, older, younger – and I loved that – as a whole – the anthology was one that touched a larger range of themes than I’d ever expected.

Angela Caperton’s “Driven” begins the anthology, and deftly drops a parallel metaphorical start of a new relationship just ready to turn into something hot and ready. If you’ve got the remotest fantasy of enjoying a car ride in a more carnal sense, “Driven” will be right up your alley. I also loved that this story opened up the anthology with a couple that aren’t in their early twenties – this is an anthology for couples, and placing “Driven” first delivers the message that this will not be an endless parade of youth.

Similarly, “Forgotten Bodies” by Giselle Renarde touches upon the changes that come with age, and how we can disconnect from ourselves as we feel time’s pull – but how a reconnection can come with exploration (and maybe a nicely timed spanking).

Startlingly unique was “The Love We Make” by Kristina Wright. It has an edgy roughness to it that might take many readers aback, but I adored this story. The narrator here is fighting with the desire to be slapped by Paul, her boyfriend, and to discover if he wants to slap her. There’s a real deftness to this one, and it tells one of the more rare tales I’ve read.

“Married” by Abigail Grey is a mid-life tale, where jobs and comfortable clothing and Netflix have replaced the silk and lace and hot, sweaty nights. But a forgotten instant messaging system pings back to life, and Jane realizes that those long-ago days of exploration are still there for the conjuring. I loved this story.

Cassanda Carr’s “Saved” is the penultimate story in the anthology, and steers the reader towards the close with a perfect note. This is a relationship where a wife has realized her borders are widening – thanks to a generous helping of BDSM erotic romance novels – and now she is making the riskiest move – asking her husband to make some of these fantasies come true.

And finally Rachel Kramer Bussel brings us home with “For the Very First Time.” A clever story about the first time a couple are going to have sex, this story – of a woman in her forties and a young musician – has deft layers. Moving through the various steps that lead toward various “firsts” between the two is a kind of sexy joy, and has that fluidity of role and gender that I’ve grown to love from Kramer Bussel’s tales.

All in all, you will not find Only You remotely stale – the sex scalds, but the stories aren’t just sexy, they’re fully formed, richly descriptive relationship stories as well. I haven’t mentioned every story, but none were “duds.” The arrangement is purposeful and the progression from tale to tale was just shy of perfection. I was already a lover of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s tales and anthologies, as I mentioned before – but I fear I need to upgrade that to adoration. Hopefully she won’t mind.





Orgasmic: Erotica for WomenOrgasmic: Erotica for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444022
August 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the celebrated editor of countless anthologies.  Fast Girls, Passion, Please Sir, Please Ma’am.  The list of titles is incredibly long and the most recent to be added is Orgasmic.

As with all of Ms Bussel’s anthologies, Orgasmic is a polished collection containing first-rate examples of erotic fiction from a broad sampling of talented writers, all writing to the requirements of a specific theme.

This time the theme is orgasm.  As Ms Bussel notes in her introduction:

I did my best to capture an array of big (and little) Os, moments where the world feels like it’s exploding in your body, orgasms that rock more than just your world.  These stories capture the ferocity, intensity and power of women’s orgasms, however they’re achieved.  I couldn’t include every way women come in this book, or it would be much longer than it is now, but I wanted to include a varied look at what gets women off, which means it’s not always a man or another woman, or even a machine that does the trick.

I don’t think it will spoil the surprise if I say that Ms Bussel has accomplished this objective.  As with any themed anthology, the lure is always about the diverse range of stories.  I will be eternally entertained by the idea that a disparate group of authors can all be given the same remit for a story and each produce something so different.

To illustrate this point, consider two stories from the collection:  “The Big O” by Donna George Storey and “Belted” by the anthology’s editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Donna George Storey is the supremely competent author of the novel length erotic masterpiece, Amorous Woman, as well as a wealth of short erotic fiction.

“The Big O” is a first person narrative following the mindset of a protagonist influenced by a self-help article: The Sexercise Prescription: A Stronger Secret You in Six Weeks.  The narrator discovers the article at the beginning of a period when she is in the serendipitous state of being parted from her partner but desirous to have a pleasant surprise waiting for him when they are reunited in six weeks.  What better surprise could there be than sharing a secret on his return?

“Belted,” Ms Bussel’s second person narrative, similarly deals with orgasmic secrets.  The central character here gleans satisfaction from the specific sensation of a leather belt striking bare flesh.

And, perhaps, the contrast between these stories reflects the diversity and range within this collection.  The use of different narrative styles aside, Storey’s protagonist is spurred by an external source to achieve an internalised goal.  Bussel’s protagonist harbours an internal goal achieved through external stimuli.  There is an element of pragmatic spirituality in Storey’s fiction that is the anthithesis of Bussel’s vulnerable cynicism.  This is not to say either piece of fiction is better than the other; neither is superior nor inferior.  The difference is only mentioned to illustrate that writing about orgasms, just like the experience of them, differs for every individual.

There’s a lot to be enjoyed in this collection.  The anthology includes fiction from some of my favourite writers including Justine Elyot, Neve Black, Angela Caperton, Teresa Noelle Roberts and Elizabeth Coldwell.  If you’re wanting to treat yourself to an entertaining read for the start of the New Year, you won’t be surprised to discover this collection is Orgasmic.





Please Sir: Erotic Stories of Female SubmissionPlease Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443891
May 2010





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

“Breathe,” Dominic whispered again as he dropped his body onto mine, plunging into me and grasping my shoulders as his breath rushed against my ear. He thrust into me with rhythmic strength as I lay like a doll, sprawled powerlessly across the hard foam beneath me. Dominic pumped hard, holding my hips solidly. His breathing changed as he thrust just a bit harder and came inside me, my body like a deflated balloon, a beautiful, motionless receptacle for his come.

“Power Over Power” by Emerald

Please, Sir, Erotic Stories of Female Submission, is the latest anthology to be published beneath the skilful editorial hand of Rachel Kramer-Bussel.  Regular readers of erotica will be familiar with Rachel Kramer-Bussel’s substantial contribution to the canon of erotic fiction.  And those with good taste and sufficient savvy will probably already possess their own well-thumbed copy of this title by the time this review goes to print. 
If I had to pick a favourite subgenre of erotic fiction, female submission would undoubtedly be near the top.  There are other niches where my proclivities can sometimes stray.  But the concept of masculine domination and female submission works on an aesthetic level complemented by well-written prose.  The example from Emerald (above) illustrates this beautifully.  The piece below equally exemplifies the high standards of writing in this anthology.

Oh, fuck. I can no longer breathe, much less make a noise of want. This is what he does to me, every day: whips me into a frenzy of words that makes me miss him more than I have the power to say, that makes me so wet that if he were here, I’d fuck him right now, bent over this table, with all these people watching, groaning his name with every thrust. I’d be begging him to fuck me, beat me, make me come with the kind of orgasm that makes everything else disappear.

“Anticipation” by Shanna Germain

One of the key misunderstandings with female submission, as a genre of erotic fiction, is that it does not revolve around misogyny.  Admittedly, there may be elements of denigration, humiliation and subversion, all characterised by patriarchal authority: but these are invariably contextualised by the protagonist’s desire to suffer those abuses.   It is never power wielded for the sake of wielding power: it is only ever the imposition of consensual authority over a willing subordinate.

“I think that the first time I beat you, I should use a riding crop. Each stroke will hurt more than the last. The pain of a crop is sharp, searing, biting deep. Eating into you, body and soul. I’ll beat you into a lather, my little pony. Your ass will look like it has been barbecued. You won’t be able to sit down for days.”

I could see it all. I wanted it all, wanted it now. The delicate trace of his fingers on my flesh burned like the trails of fire he promised me. His silken voice made me weak with desire. My clit was a red-hot coal threatening to burst into flame.

“Touch yourself, girl. Show me how much you want to be my slave.”

“Stroke” by Lisabet Sarai

Lisabet Sarai is a supremely competent wordsmith.  Here she uses her abilities to bring dialogue to life combined with her razor-sharp knack for charging a scene with powerful eroticism.  The heroine in this story has a subordinate streak – complemented by the antagonist’s penchant for domination.  The whole union is perfectly realised beneath Ms Sarai’s exquisite penmanship.

There are a host of superb authors populating the pages of Please, Sir.  Not for the first time Rachel Kramer Bussel has proved her laudable ability to gather an international collection of the finest erotica authors and have them deliver stories that are destined to excite and entertain.  An essential addition to anyone’s bedside library.



Please, Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male SubmissionPlease, Ma'am: Erotic Stories of Male Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443883
June 2010





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

In 1870, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch released his novel, Venus In Furs, in which the narrator admits his desire to submit to a woman. It’s a story within a story. The interior story is “Memoirs of a Supersensual Man” by Severin Von Kusiemski, which doesn’t end well. Severin finally decides that until women are educated and given equal rights, it’s best if women remain subservient to men. Now, theoretically, women have obtained equality. I wonder what his conclusion would be in the modern age, because equality isn’t what submissive men are looking for. Far from it, as the stories in Please Ma’am show.

In “I Live To Serve” by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Milady asks Leo to play butler for an evening. He envisions fun serving her and her other dominatrix friends, only to find out he’s to play the part for a formal business dinner. She keeps it interesting for him though, ad he is well rewarded for his services.

Charlotte Stein’s “It’s Not Me, It’s You” has an usual twist. The man has no idea who sends him cards at work with instructions. As he follows his secret mistress’s instructions, the demands escalate. At the end, he’s just about to meet her. Delicious workplace naughtiness.  

Andrew can’t stand that his sister’s friend Irina is immune to his charms, so he sets out to seduce her in Isabelle Gray’s “A Charmed Life.” She finally agrees to meet him, but he quickly finds out that everything will be on her terms, not his.

For those of you who enjoy high fantasy BDSM, “A Maze, and Grace” by Elizabeth Coldwell will strike the right note. A sub is left blindfolded and bound in the center of a hedge maze as a party prize. The first woman to find him gets to use him as she pleases. The Mistress of the estate, Lady Grace, isn’t above cheating a bit.
 
Remittance Girl’s “Inside the Pride” has a different take on domination. Professor Gordon is at the center of a group of male post-graduate students, but she encourages cooperative intellectual growth rather than competition. It is a thoroughly feminine story, even though the narrator is male.

When you read a lot of erotica, some names start looking familiar. Craig Sorensen is one of those writers I’ve seen more often lately and hope to see more of in the future. In his “Modern Major General,” Mason is unhappy that he has to report to a perky, much younger woman when they’re thrown together on a new project. He tries to assert himself, but finds out that she’s not having any of it.

In “Mr. February” by Madeline Elayne, Mark has finally admitted to his wife that he wants her to dominate him. It’s their twentieth wedding anniversary, the kids are gone away to university, he’s a buff, tough firefighter, but he’s scared to death to go home to her because he’s sure she’ll throw him out of the house. When he finally decides to face her, he finds out there’s a penalty for keeping his Mistress waiting.

There are a number of workplace dominatrix tales in this anthology. Considering the amount of time we spend at work, and the power dynamics inherent in corporate structure, it’s a powerful combination for fantasy. In A.D.R. Forte’s “Frozen,” a man wants the attention of the woman down the hall, but doesn’t know how to approach her. As they work late on a Friday night, she invites him into her office. She’s a beginner at domination, but he’s willing to guide her through the steps.

Sommer Marsden taps into two kinks in “Thrift Store Whore” – public sex, and forced feminization. For those of you not in the know, forced feminization is when a man is ordered to dress in women’s panties and a frilly dress. Coupled with public sex, this is a taut tale of humiliation. He loves every second of it. If this is your kink, you will too.

Speaking of familiar names, it’s good to see Dominc Santi’s name again after a long break from erotic writing. “Porch Swing” also features public sex. A couple on their front porch put on a show for appreciative neighbors and a horny pizza delivery girl.

There are a million kinks out there, but I’m always discovering new ones. In “Paypig” by Michael Hemmingson, a man finds a woman online who is willing to take his money. He’s not rich, but he can afford a little. She meets him in a public place, walks up to him, and demands money. All he seems to get out of it is a thrilling moment of humiliation, until she ups the stakes.

“The Crack of the Bat” by Heidi Champa is a good, old fashioned spanking story. Brian is an athlete with lucrative endorsement deals, but his public behavior is about to ruin that. His agent sends him to a client to charm his way out of trouble, but Ms Thomas feels punishment is in order.

“Dressing for Dinner” by Giselle Renarde dones’t feature forced feminization, since he loves cross-dressing. This couple has a Wednesday night ritual of dinner delivered in. He dresses for the occasion. After diner, she uses her strap-on to fuck him. This story is going to push all the right buttons for some readers.

“Living Rough” by Ariel Graham shows the downside of admitting the need to be dominated to a wife. Mitch’s wife divorces him. After losing his job too, he heads out on the open road. In Salt Lake City, he meets a woman who recognizes his need and takes him in on a trial basis.

Kinks abound in this anthology. It shows how multifaceted the desire to submit to a woman can be. In DL King’s “Pick a Color,” a man with a foot fetish gets a job in one of New York’s ubiquitous nail salons. The owner is suspicious of him, but his attention to detail earns rare praise, and an offer to provide a private pedicure, from the salon’s most demanding customer.  

It’s a bold boy who suggests that his Mistress is flawed, but after seeing the messy room surrounding his goddess during a webcast, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Houseboy” simply has to clean the place. After carefully planning how to approach his goddess, he gets a chance to tidy her place. It’s not just her approval he has to win, though.

Lee Ash’s “The Unhappy Table” was one of my favorite stories in this anthology. A submissive serves as his Mistress’s table while she and another dominatrix fool around on the couch. He’s turned on, but since he’s a table, he can’t move or take care of his hard-on. A truly funny story for the voyeur in you.

In Graydancer’s “I’ll Do It. For Her.,” a well-known Master submits to his wife. Deeply moving and personal, this is simply a wonderfully written tale of a couple in love.

Normally, I only pick three or four stories in an anthology to highlight. However, as you can see from the wide variety of stories here, male submission encompasses many specific desires and I didn’t want to omit the one that would speak to a potential reader. Something here is bound to excite or interest fans of male submission. Kudos to Rachel for putting together an anthology with such a broad mix. While these stories are all told from the man’s point of view, women who want to dominate a lover can gain insight to the many possibilities available to a fledgling goddess.



Rubber SexRubber Sex
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443131
May 2008





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

I had the great pleasure of chatting with Rachel Kramer Bussel at the opening night of the In The Flesh reading series here in Los Angeles last month. (The New York series has been running for several years. I read at it last May) Among the things we talked about was her latest anthology, Rubber Sex. We agreed that the cover looked much better on the book than it did online. If I would have read it by then, I would have told her what I will tell you – that this anthology has appeal beyond the rubber and latex aficionados. So even if this isn’t your thing, don’t be so quick to pass up this book.

I’m not a visual person. While I enjoy the sight of a dangerous looking woman in vinyl, leather, latex or rubber, it isn’t one of those short-cut cues to erotic arousal for me. Last autumn, D.L. King (Our fearless leader here at Erotica Revealed.) came out for a visit and brought her brand new rubber skirt to show to me. The moment I felt it, I understood part of the attraction of wearing it. The thin material immediately warmed in my hands. It felt like petting a dolphin. (She wasn’t in it at the time. Sorry to ruin that little fantasy for you.)  As soon as she saw how fascinated I was, D.L. said, “By the way, one of the books we have in the queue is a rubber sex book. Interested?” Of course I jumped at the chance.

A good editor knows to close an anthology with a strong story, and Rachel Kramer Bussel has edited enough anthologies to know what she’s doing. Tenille Brown’s “Breathing” was a great choice for the final selection. Last definitely doesn’t mean least. This story is so funny, sexy, and sweet that it’s impossible to not like it. Humor in erotica can be an iffy thing, but Brown delivers in style. From the opening words I was hooked, and it just kept getting better. Since I hate it when people tell me all the good lines before I have a chance to see them, I won’t even tell you the plot. Just trust me on this one. First your eyes will widen, and then you’ll giggle, and before you know it, you’ll be enchanted.

I read “The Balloonatics” by Gregory Norris a couple times as I tried to understand what he was aiming for. Then I realized it didn’t matter. Do Helmut and Vanessa get into role-play that deep? Are they a little bonkers? Or are they serious industrial agents in an alternate universe? Norris never winks and tells. Surreal, campy, or madcap? You decide, or don’t. “Balloonatics” is a glorious balls-to-the-wall, over the top, rubber clad, non-stop fuckfest of a caper. Like any fetish, don’t try to apply logic. Just dive in and enjoy it.

The opposite end of the caper spectrum is noir. Thomas Roche may have supplied a “spacey New Age shit,” soundtrack to his story “Butterfly’s Kiss,” but I heard a lone wailing sax and a voiceover right out of a gumshoe flick. The narrator heads into a special room in the rubber club he seems resigned, though unhappy, to be at. The scene he walks into is a Domme playing with her sub on a little slice of S&M hell called a vac bed. Completely encased in latex, the submissive breathes through a tube while the air is vacuumed out of the bed. Sealed in, unable to see, the submissive is completely at the mercy of her Domme. As the latex binds the submissive to the point where she can’t move, her sweat turns the latex translucent, and the narrator realizes he knows the sub. Fascinated, he doesn’t stand far enough out of the scene and is ordered by the Domme to use a dildo on the sub. While the bit about the tattoos wasn’t exactly clear to me, I gather the narrator and the sub ended their relationship when he didn’t give the sub the intense scene she craved, but with the controls of the vac bed in his hands, he finally does. Roche has the skill to write a story that will leave you gulping for air even while it turns you on. If you can endure being uncomfortable, enjoy the challenge this edgy story provides.

If you’re into the visual aspect of vinyl, “Lick of Pain” by Crystal Barela is the story for you. I hate to rob you of the pleasure of discovery by quoting from it, but it’s tempting because Barela provides so many wonderful lines. It’s a simple premise. A submissive is trying to peel off her Domme’s red vinyl dress without using her hands. But it’s not really all that simple, and you’ll relish the way this story is told.  It’s a very oral story, which leads me to this thought:  I should read this aloud to a special someone in bed, because I’ll bet those words sound just as luscious rolling off the tongue as they are in my head.

With stories by Shanna Germain, Alison Tyler, Radclyffe, Jean Roberta (one of our reviewers here at ER), Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rakelle Valencia, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Tenille Brown, and Thomas Roche, this anthology features many well-known erotica writers. The names I recognized weren’t the only strong contributors though. I look forward to seeing more stories in the future from some of these new names (new to me).

Rubber isn’t just about the visual aspect. It’s about taste, scent, and feel. Engaging that many senses, and sometimes overwhelming them, is it any wonder there are so many fans? It’s also versatile. The stories in this anthology use everything from rubber bands to balloons to rubber underwear to a swimming cap to latex tape. People wear it, worship it, sniff it, shine it, lick it, and taste it. People feel sexy wearing it, or enjoy seeing others in rubber. Sometimes the wearer feels powerful, sometimes submissive, but always turned on.  Give this anthology a chance, and you might be too.



Sex and CandySex and Candy
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Pretty Things Press
ISBN: 1576122999
November, 2007





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

The minute I started to read Shar Rednour’s Foreword to this collection, I realized that I was the wrong reviewer. I have an anti-sweet-tooth. At age two, family legend claims, someone gave me a lollipop and I didn’t know what to do with it. I could live for months without ever craving dessert. When I do want something sweet, it’ll be fruit, or crême caramel, or maybe ice cream, certainly not something gooey or chocolatey. Never (alas dear Rachel) have I yearned for a cupcake!

I’ve engaged in the traditional sexual experimentation with whipped cream. I’ve been as turned on as anyone by the famous eating scene in the classic film “Tom Jones.” For the most part, though, my personal sexual proclivities do not tend toward the sorts of sugary adventures portrayed in this book.

My overall feeling after finishing Sex and Candy is that the book is not up to the usual standards of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s collections – for instance the amazing He’s on Top: Erotic Stories of Male Dominance and Female Submission, which I just finished reading.

Even though Sex and Candy includes many of my favorite erotica authors, the majority of the stories felt superficial: sweet, sticky, sometimes nasty romps without much plot beyond the avid consumption of the focused confection. What I can’t decide is whether this is a realistic view of the collection, or whether it’s conditioned by my own personal tastes.

I’d suspect my subjectivity was the cause, except for the fact that the book does contain two completely wonderful stories that follow the theme, but take it much further and deeper than most of the contributors. Shanna Germain’s “Kneading” left me in wet, astonished awe. It is lyrical and tough, intense and original, featuring characters so far from the stereotypes that I guarantee you, too, will be amazed. The editors showed great wisdom in using a quote from this tale as the introductory blurb for the collection.

“At home, I don’t let her touch me. There is only this: my fingers tangled in her thin apron strings, cascade of cotton and flour against the floor, Macy’s dark arms iced with sugars and spice. My recipe is simple: Macy and me, hands and skin, kneading and heat. ‘The best recipes just taste complicated.’ This is something I plan to teach her.”

Equally fine, in a different way, is Donna George Storey’s “Six Layers of Sweetness.” The tale is as carefully constructed as the dessert in its title. Sharp, spicy layers of physical desire alternate with more subtle emotional flavors. Ms. Storey is an expert chef, and it shows.

A few other stories in the book have bent over pages, meaning that I felt they were worth mentioning. “Cling,” by Tenille Brown, is the delightfully tongue-in-cheek tale of a mature woman who can’t quite bring herself to give up her lover even though she knows he’s not “marriage material.” I enjoyed Bianca James “Green Chile Chocolate” largely because her “Chile man” so completely matched my image of male sexiness. R.Gay’s “Other Girls” is a carny romance, shot through with the wistfulness of a man who’s always just passing through. And Catherine Lundoff’s “Phone, Sex, Chocolate” offers a sticky, poignant look at a hopeless lesbian fantasy:

“We make plans for lunch next week and you sign off with some flippant comment about beauty sleep. I drop the phone, sending both hands between my legs to rub soft chocolate on my clit in tight, firm circles. I imagine you in your power suit, taking me on your desk with expensive chocolate dripping onto your memos and I come hard, my back arching against the couch.”

If you like sugar, if you think that having sex in a pool of fudge or on a bed of crushed cupcakes is hot, if you’re turned on by eating marshmallows from between your lover’s breasts, or sticking a peppermint candy cane into one of your lover’s orifices, then you’ll love this book. If you’re like me, someone who could live the rest of her life without caring if she ever tastes chocolate (and I realize this sounds incredible to some of my readers), Sex and Candy might leave you a bit hungry.





She's on TopShe's on Top
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573442690
March, 2007





Reviewed By: Steven Hart

Who's on Top?

Cleis Press has just come out with a paired edition of BDSM books entitled alternately, She’s on Top, and He’s on Top. They are edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel with her usual insouciance and élan vitale. We know her from her earlier Naughty Spanking Stories books, and it must be said that her international reputation is soundly earned in the area of erotic bare bottom discipline.

Her story selections for both books reflect the engaging tension humans feel between sex, affect, romance, pleasure and pain. That tension centers around whether we will, or even can, allow ourselves the joy of each other.

BDSM here is the ultimate test of our willingness to risk ourselves and trust others. It becomes a search for connection and richer self-understanding. Conventional notions of loyalty and bonding are literally stretched or stood on their head. They emerge the stronger for it in these stories. BDSM thus becomes the most poignant of sexual arenas in which to explore that willingness. The stories in these two books are for the most part readily up to that challenge.

Both books offer an edgy, hip, and, in some cases, techno view of BDSM, but the stories are generally in the vein of sophisticated dominance and submission (D/s). The authors keep their characters’ tongues -- among other things -- planted firmly, if damply, in their cheek. They are, however, never cynical or superficial.

There is a basic tension generally in erotica between meeting the readers’ desire to re-enter a familiar fictive world and one that stimulates them in new ways. BDSM by its nature tends to flirt with ritual more than other areas of sexual proclivity. The mastery of self often involves gaining the ability to endure beyond all patience, if for no other reason than to enhance the impact of the release when it is finally allowed.

The nature of an ordeal -- even one that is enjoyed -- tends to strip away the veneer of civilized disguises we need to get through life. It is very hard to be cool and detached while being given a long, hard spanking. The filtering is penetrated by pain and lust. In many cases that is why the characters are begging to be spanked, flogged, caned, pinched, bound, gagged and regularly find large objects moving relentlessly up their rearends.

Ms. Bussel has chosen an array of short, pithy stories for both books that focus on the action more than the atmosphere. They focus more on the choices characters make than characterization. That makes for a highly successful brisk style and pace. There is a point, however, at which I as a reader feel that I know what is coming next a bit too well. That is perhaps because as an author and critic, I see the erotic in erotica as a point of departure as much as a narrative destination. Mine is not the more widely held view, however, among readers and other writers of erotica.

These are anthologies and I can see no way of getting round giving a shopping list of brief comments about individual stories. Therefore I will just enjoy showing you a sample of what’s on offer here.

In He’s on Top, N.T. Morely’s “Not Until Dawn” captures beautifully the torture of a woman’s orgasm that is delayed for an entire night. The story concludes, as the title suggests, with a lovely, if shattering, sense of relief.

Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” carries away top honors for entering the male head successfully and winnowing out how the hero rethinks and comes to understand the meaning of loyalty and trust as he thrashes back and forth between his beloved’s bottom and his lover’s rear end. When you are beating two behinds, what are the rules of fidelity? What sort of vote do those getting thwacked have in this case? Ms. Sarai has thought this out carefully and renders her answer with very plausible tenderness. She is one of the best in the field of erotica without question.

Several stories reveal something about masculine priggish punctiliousness as in Mackenzie Cross’ “A Good Reference”. Men here are often presented as being more obsessed with rules and technique than with the sensations and sensuality of their relationships.

I must add that Lee Ash in my view emasculated “Boardroom Etiquette” by letting us know that the relationship we are observing -- which is so witty and piquant at first – is in fact a rehash of one the characters have had the night before. That makes it showy, but blandly safe. Risk, like good spankings, has to be real to amount to anything significant.

Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” is surely one of the most amusing and enjoyable of the stories in this book with its narrative adagio on the discipline of the musical arts.

She’s on Top is billed in the editor’s preface as a companion to the male volume. However, it seems to me the juicier of the two. As Ms. Bussel writes, the female dominants revel in the visceral exercise of power over their boy toys with no girlish pretense of reticence. However, that in no way is to suggest that this is not a book about girls.

These characters are not moribund creatures who grimly fit the now-PC appellation, “Women.” In fiction that joyless label has come to sound like a legal grounds for institutionalization. These are big, highly dimensional, playful girls. They take charge and get things done to their liking regardless of their physical size. They have a lot of down and dirty fun doing it, regardless of who is left squealing and begging for mercy (gratefully) in the process.

“City Lights” by Kathleen Bradean is the story most like conventional femdom fiction. As such, it is guaranteed not to disappoint. A dominant woman spanks and canes her ultra handsome, successful man with voracious abandon after a hard day at the office. The story is far more than that though because it captures how much she also loves and depends on him in the peculiar ways of their relationship. She does not “wear the pants” in the family. She doesn’t need to because she decides when the pants get taken down.

The husband is presented as both an eager submissive and still a fully realized, if dumbly pretty, self-involved, male. That seems to be part of what she loves in him. He is her trophy boy toy, but that is only as a part of a larger, more complex and subtle relationship. Nonetheless her spankings are sincere, traditional, and enthusiastically executed. She genuinely takes charge and so her authority rings as genuine.

Kristina Wright’s “The Mistress Meets Her Match” is wonderfully original. A very able mistress encounters a man who wants to be authentically dominated with the highest skill and authority. So, through a process of tease and challenge, he educates her to the point where he is truly forced to submit. It is a complex dance and a refreshing change from the usual doleful, groveling submissives of this genre, who will settle for any sort of female attention as long as it is painful and delivered with scorn.

In fact, scorn is an element that is totally absent from either of these books. They are not about abusive rejection and hurt. They are about people searching for each other on the most demanding and rarified plane of sexual encounters. That is not a plug for BDSM, but rather for the best that erotica in general can achieve.

The best story is Ms. Bussel’s own, “His Just Rewards.” The title ironically conjures the dusty image of a dreary after school paddling, but the story is nothing of the sort. It presents us with a D/s Olympiad conducted by a mistress who shifts her attentions between people with symphonic, almost self-sacrificing, grace. It is one of those stories where you find yourself wanting her to get laid as a reward because she has worked so long and so hard and so well for the benefit of her naughty charges. How unselfish can a girl be?

What erotica can do is make the point that sex is just sex and just fine as that, but that it can be more; it can be a conveyance to another level of experience and attachment. For that to work, even if only in the comfort of reading a book, one must give oneself over to its inescapable attraction, rather like bondage. Once there, who wants to escape anyway? These stories capture the exciting risk of not knowing how your lover will use their power over you, and acquiescing to that. They show that far from being vacant brutes, those who dominate must be equal in skill, sensitivity, and sensibility to that role.

 





Smooth: Erotic Stories for WomenSmooth: Erotic Stories for Women
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573444081
October 2010





Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

Have you ever dreamed about being suddenly naked in unusual circumstances? The emotional flavor of such dreams depends on how much you dread exposure or how much you secretly or openly yearn to be seen -- and it depends on who sees you.

A theme of nakedness in an erotic anthology doesn't seem brilliant at first glance, since sex generally requires a state of undress. These stories, however, explore all the implications of being uncovered, laid bare, shown for who one really is, deprived of a familiar cloak or disguise. A few of these stories are about discovering someone else’s raw, naked truth. It's a surprisingly diverse theme.

In her introduction, the editor explains:

At the gym, in the shower, on the subway, at a tea party, the women in Smooth leave behind their inhibitions and go where many women have only dreamed about. Sexy, playful, sensual and celebratory, these nineteen stories will be sure to entice you as they reveal so much skin.

In the imaginary worlds of these stories, nakedness is often embarrassing in a titillating way, but never really dangerous. And a naked woman (like the bare-breasted Amazon warriors in Monique Wittig's feminist fantasy novel Les Guerrilleres) can leave the onlooker disarmed.

In "This Night" by Suzanne V. Slate, a deceptively simple Male-dominant, female-submissive scenario is repeated with the roles reversed, although the woman is naked in both versions. In the first, she is ordered to strip by her Master, who forces her to display herself to a stranger. In the second, the woman calmly opens the door in the altogether, while her boy-toy is helpless to stop her.    

"Eden" by Molly Slate explores the implications of the Biblical story in which Adam and Eve awake from a state of blissful innocence by realizing that they are naked, and feeling ashamed. (In Slate's version, shame is also the beginning of lust, or fascination with the exotic body of the Other.) The body of a deer reminds Adam of mortality, then Eve thinks:

His neck jerked up. He glared at me with that blinking accusation again, and then something happened--something new. His face cracked. It was waterless, but I stared in amazement before I realized that I had broken open, too, and something new was spilling out, something good and merciful, like balm. Its hand pulled and twisted in my stomach. This isn't mercy--it's the thing you got in the trade, the thing you're left with when mercy's fled. It was loud; it was chaos.

After mutual misunderstanding and emotional pain, the first woman and the first man reach a fragile agreement.

Several of these stories deal with tattoos as a means of covering or enhancing bare skin. In "Ink" by Jennifer Peters, a woman with a tattoo fetish meets the man of her dreams, but waits to reveal her own body art. She explains:

Maybe it's because my mother used to call my best friend with the abundance of body art Sideshow Barbie, or maybe it's due to the fact that a date once called tattooed girls 'major sluts,' but I like to keep my own ink to myself.

In due course, she shows her tattoos to the man who can appreciate them, and her.

In "Adornment Is Power" by Teresa Noelle Roberts, Mara and Joel, who used to date in their clueless youth, reconnect after they have each discovered BDSM and their own versatile natures as switches. Their current sexual knowledge and self-awareness are represented by their body art.

In Lisabet Sarai's story, "Clean Slate," a female former gang-member is getting her tattoos erased so that she can be a suitable wife for her upscale fiance. As the attendant Luisa lasers the ink off Ally's skin, Ally regrets giving up her favorite tattoo:

I called her Lilith. She had huge tits with red-grape nipples and a glorious fat ass. Her skin was black velvet. Her pomegranate lips parted to show pointed teeth that gleamed with my natural paleness. Lilith lounged naked on my chest, luxuriant jet curls tumbling across my shoulder, the globe of her butt coinciding with the meager swell of my own tit. Lilith grasped a steel-blue sword in one hand and a hank of chain in the other. Nobody fucked with Lilith.

Ally learns that Lilith, as her alter ego or guardian spirit, can still be with her even when the tattoo is gone. This story is powerful, and it is one of my favorites in the book.

"Live Action" by Susan St. Aubin is an atmospheric story set in a foggy city with streetcars (San Francisco?) in some past era when pounding a typewriter in an office was the default job for a typical young woman from a smaller town. Ellen, heroine of this story, develops "a fascination with windows," where anything or anyone could appear. In due course, she sees a man who needs an audience as much as Ellen needs to learn the secrets of a worldly city.

"Ivy League Associates" by Donna George Storey is an unusually realistic and entertaining story about the sex trade, in which a woman who went to Princeton goes to work as a call girl, theoretically because she is researching a book (actually because she is a starving artist who needs the money). The client who orders her to come to his house in a raincoat over bare skin abruptly changes his tone when he and she both realize that they have met in different circumstances. Being addressed by her real name makes Erica feel much more naked than she did en route. A sexual encounter between these two characters suddenly becomes less inevitable, and more satisfying for both than they expected.

"Loyly" by Angela Caperton is literally a steamy story about rebounding from heartbreak. A woman who goes to a bleak hotel alone in a Michigan winter is cheered to discover the hotel sauna. She is first surprised, then aroused by an unself-conscious fellow-tourist, a man from Finland who teaches her that "loyly" in his language means both "steam" and "spirit." He introduces her to the healing potential of the sauna, a traditional haven for those who live in harsh northern climates.

The rest of the stories are competently-written, good-natured and well-paced, but they fall into predictable categories. The editor's own piece, "Chilly Girl," could fit in with her other stories that make distinct fetishes comprehensible for those who don't share them -- or who haven't explored them yet.

This collection as a whole is as colorful and varied as other Cleis anthologies, including the annual series, Best Women's Erotica and Best Lesbian Erotica.



Spanked: Red Cheeked EroticaSpanked: Red Cheeked Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443190
July 2008





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

In these politically correct times, it’s hard for me – as a heterosexual man – to write about spanking without coming across as a raving misogynist.  Just because I condone consensual spanking does not mean I’m a woman hater.  Nor does it make me one of those dimwits that tell gags like: “What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing you haven’t told her twice before.”  However, the moment I mention spanking with any form of approval, I’m immediately seen as a man who likes to hit women.

Of course, the difference between spanking and abuse is like the difference between good sex and rape.  One is a consensual pleasure for all involved – the other is an abhorrent crime. 

In some ways it’s a comforting thought that spanking remains so taboo.  It resides on the periphery of society’s acceptable behaviour and therefore it’s seen by participants as deliciously deviant behaviour.  Personally, I don’t think there are many things more arousing than the idea behind the words: “We shouldn’t be doing this, but…

Clearly Rachel Kramer Bussel agrees with my thoughts about the pleasure of spanking.  Spanking is one of the repeated elements in a lot of Rachel’s fiction, it was one of the main themes in Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z and Naughty Spanking Stories from A to Z II.  Not surprisingly, spanking is also one of the main topics in her recent anthology, Spanked.

During a recent interview with Rachel (for ERWA), I asked her about her interest in the subject as a subject for fiction and she made this comment:

To me one of the greatest things about spanking, as a topic and activity, is there there’s such a vast range of motivations. You could watch, say, two men get spanked by two women. Both have their hands above their head, standing against a wall. Both women use the same black paddle. To an outsider, the scenes look the same, but maybe one is being “punished” by his mistress, and maybe the other has never been spanked before, and is curious. Or maybe he’s usually the top and they’ve decided to switch. You never know, and by telling the story in an engaging way, we can find out.

This eclectic attitude toward the diversity of motivations within spanking is fully reflected in Spanked

The collection begins with “Spanking You.”  This cleverly written short story, from the talent of ribald Rick Roberts, is a gentle introduction of a male hand against female buttocks.  This is followed by the wonderful Shanna Germain’s “Perfect Bound,” a pithy little story about a female spanker and her male subordinate. 

The collection includes Donna George Storey’s delicious tale,  “A Rare Find,” which brings a triptych of couples together for a cheek-reddening night of fun.  There is also Madlyn March’s wickedly entertaining “Reunion,” a punishing story of girl-on-girl retribution; Therese Noelle Robert’s naughty “Daddy’s Girl;” and the anthology concludes with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s stylishly dark denouement: “The Depths of Despair.”  

Obviously, there are other stories – all of them equally exciting and only overlooked here because I’m too lazy to read the table of contents.  But it’s sufficient to say that, as with all Rachel’s anthologies, the standard is fantastically high and every story manages to entertain, arouse and excite.

Spanked takes the time to consider a broad variety of approaches that can be used in this most pleasurable of sexual punishments.  From the traditional employment of bare hands on bare bottoms through to the innovative use of a trade paperback and even a cheese paddle, Spanked repeatedly shows that even if the mechanics of spanking are predetermined – the essence of spanking is always open to imagination and individual interpretation. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel is a marvellous editor, anthology compiler and erotic fiction author.  Spanked is one of the most entertaining compilations she has put together, including contributions from some of today’s most talented and celebrated erotic fiction writers.  It goes without saying: if you have the vaguest interest in punished backsides, you need to get Spanked.



Suite Encounters: Hotel Sex StoriesSuite Encounters: Hotel Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447900
June 2012





Reviewed By: 'Nathan Burgoine

Since I’ve been with Erotica Revealed, I’ve learned that I’ve pretty much come late to the party of the world of quality erotica short fiction. There are so many wonderful writers out there that I’ve yet to encounter, and every month the list grows. When I read and reviewed Frat Boys (edited by Shane Allison) the most standout story that struck me as hot – and different – was Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Stripped.” I loved that story, which had a gender fluidity to it, and a full narrative alongside the hot erotic content.

Getting a copy of Suite Encounters to review, then, made me smile in anticipation. I’d had that one small dose of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s work, and I couldn’t wait to see what one of her collections would bring.

Short version: Suite Encounters is a fantastic collection, with a range of stories and characters I rarely encounter in an anthology. The theme is tight – hotels, which our editor lovingly discusses in her introduction as a kind of erotic tabula rasa. Taking a narrow theme and collecting authors who can spin that theme into such a wide range of stories is a mark of a great editor, and Rachel Kramer Bussel does just that.

The stories themselves are all quite short. Usually, and I’ve mentioned this before, short “scene” pieces aren’t typically my favorite. I like my erotica with a very strong helping of narrative and character (and character development).  If there’s any flaw in the collection – and I wouldn’t say there is, really – it would be the brevity of some of the tales. I often wanted more.

Yet somehow, in the majority of these tales, short is still very much sweet without cutting down on depth and variance of character. I think it’s the wide range of the characters that really captured me. Married couples looking to rekindle their spark (“Unbound at the Holiday Inn” by Lily K. Cho), night counter clerks with crushes on rent-boys (“Night School” by Valerie Alexander), 70’s blacksploitation actresses making a comeback (“Stiletto’s Big Score” by Michael A. Gonzales) – it felt like every story had a fresh character for the reader to enjoy. Age, race, kink level – the variety here was superb.

I feel I should point out a favorite or two, but in no way does this mean the other stories were lesser. “Tailgaiting at the Cedar Inn” by Delilah Devlin was scorching hot, and I loved seeing the situation turned around to empower the woman involved – who takes control of a situation with two hot fellas interrupting her sleep on her way to a new life. That her new life isn’t one she’s looking forward to makes the scorch factor rise, and the reversal of her attitude was a lovely one-two punch amid the sweat and sex dripping from the page.

On a completely different note, “Return to the Nonchalant Inn” by Erobintica was a lovely piece with a man and a woman reminiscing on the erotic adventures of their youth – but from a vantage point of an older, wiser – and still sexually heated – perspective. I think the inclusion of this story, with a woman confident and content in her mature body, was an absolute win for the collection – and a very strong reminder that eroticism doesn’t die with the passing of years.

Lastly, I should mention that the final story in the collection – contributed by the editor herself, leaves just the right note ringing in the mind of the reader. “Special Request” spins a tale of a woman at a high priced hotel who is known for her ability to acquire anything the guest would like – but when the guest would like her – and a half dozen or so others – for an orgy, is she up for the challenge? Given the collection, I daresay you can answer that question, but it doesn’t make the journey any less hot or enjoyable.

It’s interesting – I’d never really considered hotels a particularly intriguing location. It may be that I traveled too much to really think of them that way, but after a month with Suite Encounters, I may need to change my mind.





Surrender: Erotic Tales of Female Pleasure and SubmissionSurrender: Erotic Tales of Female Pleasure and Submission
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573446521
March 2011





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

How should one evaluate an erotic anthology? Is it enough to simply consider each of the stories in isolation? Or should a reviewer also take into account the variety, the balance, and the degree to which the individual tales support the anthology theme?

I find myself wrestling with these questions as I sit down to review Rachel Kramer Bussel's collection Surrender.  In her introduction, "Surrendering to pleasure - and power," Ms. Bussel makes it clear that she considers this to be a BDSM anthology, focusing on the sensual and emotional rewards that await a woman who acknowledges and acts on her need to submit. My personal feeling is that about a quarter of the tales collected here do not really fit this mold. This is not a criticism of the stories themselves, many of which are excellent. However, their very loose connection to the stated topic weakens the book as an integrated whole.

Let me begin, though, with the tales that strongly echo the theme. Possibly the most intense is Ms. Bussel's own contribution, "Belted." Some authors view BDSM as a kind of erotic play, but for the narrator of "Belted," submission is something so fundamental that she can barely explain it.

The belt is able to speak in ways that even the both of you, wordsmiths by trade, cannot always do. The belt is not a "toy" for "foreplay" but a separate part of your sex life, one that may appear at any moment. Its presence lurks while you casually sip your drinks at the bar, hidden but powerful; your fingers are itching to stroke it, if only so they can be slapped away. You never know if he will bring it out, how he will use it, how much of the belt and himself he will give you.  

Tess Danesi's "The Royalton - a Daray Tale," expresses some of the same dark compulsion.

No one has ever hurt me more, but at the same time, no one has ever made me feel more alive and more treasured than Dar. The price for his love is high... I often wonder at my ability to fear him and to trust him at the same time.

Indeed, a common thread running through these tales is the paradoxical relationship a submissive has to the pain her dom inflicts. We both dread and crave it. Draped over her master's lap, Alison Tyler's narrator in "The Hardest Part" can't understand why she's done everything she can to invite her impending punishment.

But now that I'm here, I'd rather be anywhere else. Name the place, and I'd rather be there: in line at the DMV; waiting in the doctor's office; sitting at the back of coach on a packed flight... Why was I in such a rush to find myself over his lap? What was so urgent about him paddling my ass?

Donna George Storey's "Dear Professor Pervert" presents a lighter view of submission, though her grad student heroine is no less eager to obey her academic adviser's lewd instructions. Her master doesn't even need to be present in order to bend her to his will.

"First Date with the Dom" by Noelle Keely, and "Pink Cheeks" by Fiona Locke both capture the breathless excitement of a sub's first surrender. In contrast, "Veronica's Body" by Isabelle Gray paints a chillingly seductive picture of a woman totally, willingly, and permanently owned by her husband.

Some stories in the collection, though, just don't fit - even when they use BDSM scenarios. M. Christian's "In Control" provides a disturbing window into the mind of a twisted and self-absorbed dominant. The woman who surrenders to him is merely a prop. Shanna Germain's wonderfully moving tale "The Sun is an Ordinary Star" has more to say about fear, mortality and misunderstanding than it does about dominance and submission, even though the characters finally reconnect by reclaiming their kinky fantasies. "Schoolgirl and Angel," by Thomas Roche is a hot treatment of an unorthodox threesome, but once again, it's more about the dom's insecurities and insights than about the experience of his cheeky and demanding subs.

The collection also includes Justine Elyot's sizzling exhibitionist fantasy, "The London O" and  Matt Conklin's insightful "Wild Child." Neither of these tales has much to do with surrender, in my opinion, though they were among my favorites - partly because both were new to me.

When I first opened this book, I was struck with a sense of deja vu. Had I read this book before? Was this a re-release? No, the copyright date was 2011.  I certainly recognized most of the tales, though many are strong enough to merit a second reading. Then a check of the credits at the rear of the volume revealed that every one of the stories in Surrender has been previously published, almost all in other collections edited by Ms. Bussel. Since I tend to be a fan of her anthologies (and have reviewed many of them), the familiarity made sense. Still, nowhere in the introduction or front matter does the editor even hint that these stories aren't new. If I had bought this book, expecting a fresh set of kinky tales along the lines of Ms. Bussel's acclaimed Yes, Sir and  Please, Sir, I would have been rather annoyed.

Thus, the need to assign a rating to this book leaves me in a quandary. If I look at individual stories,  Surrender has much to offer - especially if you haven't read many of Ms. Bussel's earlier books. Considered as a thematically-unified whole, the collection is weaker than many of the editor's other offerings.





Tasting Him: Oral Sex StoriesTasting Him: Oral Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573443239
September 2008





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

When I agreed to review Tasting Him: Oral Sex Stories, I had some serious reservations. How could a collection of twenty-plus stories with such a narrow theme sustain any level of interest? And wouldn’t a focus on a single, physical sex act – fellatio – tend to move the content away from the psychological and emotional explorations that I view as the essence of erotica toward more superficial presentations reminiscent of bad porn?

I am pleased to report that my concerns were largely unfounded. Rachel Kramer Bussel has succeeded in assembling a surprisingly varied collection of tales that feature cocksucking but focus less on the activity itself than on the reactions of the characters involved.

Most of the tales involve a woman going down on a man. However the volume also offers Radclyffe’s exuberant “Blessed Benediction,” in which a drop-dead-gorgeous femme demonstrates (in public) how she can make her tough butch lover cream by sucking her strap-on. This story, perhaps more than any other, illustrates my oft repeated claim that arousal begins in the mind. Simon Sheppard is uncharacteristically cheerful but sly and entertaining as usual in “It’s a Wonderful Blow Job,” about a gay man who’s especially turned on fellating a married man. The protagonist in T. Hitman’s “Long Relief” is ultra-straight, a baseball player on tour, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying a blow job from one of his team mates. Lori Selke turns the tables in “Cocksucker,” with a submissive male who begs to suck his girlfriend’s artificial dick. Shanna Germain takes the switch one step further in “Sculpted;” her heroine’s strap-on is an actual replica of her lover’s cock.

All of the stories in Tasting Him are on the light side – no deep conflicts, no secrets, no scars – but there’s a pleasing variation in tone and point of view. Tsaurah Litzky’s wonderful “Tony Tempo” is told in the wry voice of a former jazz great who is suffering through his golden years in the Crescendo Home for Aged and Indigent Musicians, treated like a child by the nurses but still dreaming of his deceased wife’s blow jobs. “This Just In” by Heidi Champa, gives us a second-person account of a woman living out her fantasy of sucking her commentator husband under the desk while he reads the news. Editors often reject second-person accounts as amateurish, but the perspective works in this story. “Getting Used to It,” by Tenille Brown, is a folksy third-person narrative featuring the very ordinary Herbert Miller, his wife Evelyn, and their next door neighbor Minnie, along with brisket, pot roast, peppermints, and of course, blow jobs.

My unquestioned favorite tale in this collection is Alison Tyler’s “Prego.” Although the protagonists are a long-established couple, it still manages to be outrageously spontaneous and intensely erotic.

Even our most vanilla activities tend to involve accoutrements such as rubber dishwashing gloves, velvet blindfolds and Wesson oil. So I suppose I shouldn’t have found it odd at all to walk through the swinging doors of our kitchen and discover Jackson fucking the jar of spaghetti sauce.
But I did.

Both find him, and find it odd.

As it turns out, the sauce in question is the last jar in the cupboard, intended for the pasta about to be served to the dinner guests currently assembled in the next room. It hardly matters; the lure of Jackson’s tomato-marinated cock is irresistible.

Craig J. Sorensen’s “Equanimity Unbound” was another stand-out, mostly because I empathized with the uptight, workaholic main character. Fortunately, the Goth beauty he meets at the Tshirt and novelty store in the mall knows how to loosen him up.  Then there’s the original and intelligent “A Treatise on Human Nature”, by Robert Peregrine, where the bisexual male narrator undertakes to fulfill his recently-encountered companion’s request that he teach her “how to give head like a man”.

Overall, I found Tasting Him frequently entertaining and occasionally arousing. Against significant odds, Ms. Bussel has managed to put together a collection that is varied and satisfying enough to make the reader want to swallow the whole thing.



The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy StoriesThe Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449636
October 2013





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Let me begin by confessing that I don't generally find orgasms erotic. I'd rather read about obsessive, irresistible desire than its fulfillment. I often find what's going on in lovers' minds far more arousing than anything involving their bodies. In some sense, climaxes are anti-climactic, the predictable denouement of practically every story that has ever appeared in a Cleis anthology.

Hence, I approached this massive collection of very short erotic tales – none longer than 1200 words – with a certain degree of wariness. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to compress  three-dimensional characters, a recognizable conflict, a narrative arc and a resolution into a mere three or four pages. I expected a parade of shallow sexual scenarios, each one leading inexorably to the money shot. When I opened this book of “sexy stories,” I feared I'd find far more emphasis on the sex than on the story.

I wasn't completely wrong. At least fifty percent of the contributions focus almost purely on the physical, albeit in a wide-ranging set of circumstances. I forgot these stories pretty much as soon as I'd read them, though I'm sure there are readers who'll have a different – probably more physical – reaction. Among these somewhat commonplace offerings, though, I discovered more than a few gems: stories with an actual plot, dealing with real problems; stories whose originality made me smile or ache; stories where the language made me gasp in admiration; stories with truth and heart.

Possibly my favorite tale in the book was “Matinee” by Suleikha Snyder. A college student in America returns to India to find herself smothered by the constraints of traditional culture. A young man named Azad  (which means “freedom”) greets her in the park, where she is walking with her scandalized cousins. In defiance of society's standards, she allows Azad to take her to the movies and there, in the darkened theater, with him barely touching her arm, she finds herself drowning in arousal.  “Her knees were covered,” Ms. Snyder writes, “but everything else was stripped totally naked.” Rarely have I read such vivid evocation of youthful lust.

Preston Avery's “White” is another standout. “When I make you come, what color is it?” asks the narrator's wife. As she teases and torments him, every nuance of sensation takes on a hue. “All I want to do is come, and I am red with it. Orange, yellow then blazing electric blue.” The story is as gorgeously erotic as a Georgia O'Keefe painting.

“After the Funeral” by Jeanette Grey, introduces two complex and troubled characters, with a sexual history we can only guess. As they come together, awkward and angry, driven by grief and loneliness, they find a kind of transcendence, at least for the moment. Who are this woman and man? What's their relationship, to one another and to the deceased? Who died and under what circumstances? The unanswered questions only add depth to the tale.

If I were asked to choose the one story that personally turned me on the most, I think I'd pick “The Morning After” by David Salcido. This luscious, pan-sexual, post-wedding menage is cleverly designed to keep the reader guessing as long as possible about the gender of the narrator. But then, that issue really doesn't matter in Mr. Salcido's story-world, where everyone gets a generous piece of everyone else.

Tenille Brown and Logan Zachary win special accolades for originality. Ms. Brown's contribution, “In Her Hands,” features a couple of homeless people as the main characters – definitely not your standard erotica protagonists. When Randall gets picked up by a wealthy woman who feeds and clothes him in return for sex, Button decides she needs to take charge in order to get him back. Mr. Zachary's “Remote Control” is an outrageous fantasy about a device that can alter reality in whatever way its operator desires. I won't spoil the fun by revealing just what desires get fulfilled.

I've already confessed that I find the mind more arousing than the body. Hence, I loved Xan West's tale
“Baxter's Boy.” The narrator, a high femme lesbian, is obsessed by Baxter, a legendary FTM transsexual interested only in males. Her extreme encounter with Baxter and his submissive boy takes place entirely in her imagination, but that does not render the effect any less real.

I don't have time or space to provide details on every story I marked as exceptional. Others included:

“How You Christen a Bed” by Thomas S. Roche, a wise and humorous examination of incompatibility, told in evocative, clever prose;

“Her Lover is a Flame” by Cecilia Tan, an exquisite prose poem in less than three hundred words;

“Payback” by Emerald, sexual second chance offering a pleasing symmetry;

“Pushing Boundaries on Public Transit” by Victoria Blisse, smutty, heartfelt fun that will leave you smiling;

“Icing on the Cake” by Lula Lisbon, a filthy femdom snippet with kinks that will squick some and make others squirm;

“Meeting Cute” by Vanessa Madison, another steamy movie house flirtation featuring red licorice Twizzlers;

“Queer for Mike” by Shane Allison, a sad, believable story about taking what you can get;

“The Park” by Elise Hepner, ultrashort, enigmatic and evocative, set in an after hours amusement park;

“Meeting Myself” by Anya Levin, a sincere and moving look at a widow reclaiming desire after her husband's death;

Even with all these excellent stories, I found myself getting a bit burnt out by The Big Book of Orgasms. Then, a few pages from the end of the collection, I encountered the astonishing “Should You Ever Be Allowed to Feel This Good?”  by Lillian Ann Slugocki. This story is in a category by itself, so powerful that it's scary. I read it over three times. I'm sure I'll go back and read it again.

It's not easy knowing that tonight is the night – the mask of Lilith, like a shadow on the bed.

When he was gone, I finally looked at myself – and saw that my legs were tattooed up and down with bite marks. As if a rabid dog or a wolf had gotten control of me, sunk his incisors deep into my flesh, and wouldn't let go. I needed a rabies shot, antibiotics and cold compresses. I needed to see a doctor, a shrink, a shaman, a priest. I needed to call my mother but she was dead.

It's almost worth buying the book, for this story, alone.

Someone who has read and reviewed as much erotica as I have tends to get a bit jaded. I don't necessarily expect much. I'm happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of many of the sexy stories in the The Big Book of Orgasms. Meanwhile, if you're more of an orgasm fan than I am, this collection offers an almost inexhaustible supply.





The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky TalesThe Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1627780378
July 2014





Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

I’ll do the full disclosure thing before I start. I have a short story in this collection, published under a pseudonym, therefore my review can’t be considered 100% impartial. Not that I’m going to rave about how brilliant my story is (although it is brilliant). But I figured I should be honest from the beginning.

Big Book of Submission is a superb book. It comes from Cleis and it’s edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel – both of which are guarantees of high quality in erotic fiction. This passage is from the opening of Rachel’s short story in the collection: “Reverse Psychology.”

“Bite my nipples harder,” Sasha hissed at me, the edge of frustration making her hiss hint at true anger. I focused on the way her body trembled on the bed before me as I sank my teeth into her nub. “That’s better,” she said, grabbing me roughly by the hair. “I hope your cock is getting ready to fuck me the way I like it. First you need to do your job.”

I pressed as hard as I dared, tugging on her nipple while I twisted the other one between my fingers. I hoped my cock was getting hard too. See, I’m not a sadist by nature—I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Really—I’m the kind of guy who goes out of my way to give directions or help little old ladies across the street. I’m a service sub, the worshipping sort, but I fell madly in love with a woman who happens to be a masochistic domme. Sasha likes pain, but for her it has nothing to do with being a “bad girl” or any of that. If I dared to call her names like slut or whore during sex, she’d lock up my cock for a week.

There are sixty-nine short stories in this collection, shorter than the usual short fiction. Personally, I find short, short fiction exciting because the writer is forced by restrictions of word count to use an efficiency of words that isn’t as important in longer fiction. To my mind, that moves the content of the fiction closer to poetry in its aesthetic appeal. And, if fiction is close to being poetic, I usually figure it’s been well executed. 

Joy Faolán with “Hard Things” illustrates my point:

Somewhere in the midst of it all, the heat of the pain and the blood melted my fear away and left nothing but perfect submission, perfect trust and perfect love. There was nobody in the entire world in those moments except her and me, owner and property, bound by pain. You know how some people just have something inside them that you can taste from across a room? You can smell it on them and feel them coming from a mile away. Like they’ve taken a piece of Life and claimed it as their own. Now I have it, too.

I have faced one of my most intense fears. I have walked through darkness, trembling and frightened… and not only did I survive, but I found light and love to embrace me as I came out the other end.

And I wear the marks of my journey with pride.

It goes without saying that this collection is more than one submissive sex-scene after another. The range of imaginative scenarios throughout the anthology is outstanding. The attention to detail and the physicality of the stories is emotive, engaging and exciting. Consider the sensations of physicality evoked by these lines from Regina Lafayette’s contribution, “In the Darkness.”

Dammit, I think. I don’t even know if she’s in the room right now.

My whole body is alert, lying exposed and at her disposal. Suddenly, I feel her swing a leg over to straddle me. The soft touch of her leather crop kisses my neck, the flat tip dragging agonizingly slowly over my breasts and down the center of my belly. With a sure and quick motion she flicks the sensitive flesh of my clit, making me cry out. I tense, unable to see where she’s aiming her next blow.

“I love when you tense like that in anticipation,” she says, amusement clear in her voice. “Now where shall I hit you?” she asks, and I feel her shift. I think she’s putting herself in a better position to wield her crop until I feel her mouth descend onto my cunt.

 

As Rachel Kramer Bussel says in the introduction:

You’ll find so much here, from naughty professors to sadistic former students to sex clubs, art galleries, photo shoots and more. Wherever the setting, the submission exhibited in these stories runs deep, far below the surface of the recipients’ tender skin, far louder than their cries of pleasure (and pain). Whether you read one story a day or devour them all at once, I hope these quick and dirty stories turn you on to new authors and new naughty possibilities.

This title really is worth the price of admission. Make sure you secure your copy today.





The Mile High Club: Plane Sex StoriesThe Mile High Club: Plane Sex Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 157344345X
April 2009





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

The state of the world being as it is, the fabled Mile High Club seems a reminder of the past, the swinging 60s and whatever the 70s were about. While the new paranoia brought scrutiny that seemed likely to end airborne frolics, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology The Mile High Club is a ray of hope for the altitudenaly inspired.

Most of the stories in Mile High Club are contemporary, but Craig Sorensen’s “Top Banana” goes back to the days when stewardesses were hired for their looks and portrayed in media as bimbos. Those were the years when traveling salesmen got out of their cars and took to the skies. Subject of countless bawdy jokes, meet career gal in a mini skirt. No wonder the public imagination flew with that combination. But in Craig’s story, the stewardess is tired of her male passengers’ sense of entitlement, and on her last flight, she teaches a horny salesman a lesson he never forgets.

Donna George Storey creates consistently wonderful stories. “Her Nasty Little Habit” is my favorite of the sex in the seat stories in this anthology, although Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Urgent Message” and Ryan Field’s “Bert and Betty” are damn hot reads too.

If you like a bit of domination, try Bill Kte’pi’s “34B,” Matt Conklin’s “Wild Child,” or “Obedient” by Teresa Noelle Roberts.

Thomas Roche’s “When Your Girlfriend Wears a Very Short Skirt” deserves special mention. Thomas is an incredible writer, so I tend to have higher expectations for his stories than for writers I don’t know. Much lighter in tone than most of his work, this one delivers.

Speaking of writers I’ve come to expect a lot from, Alison Tyler also contributed to this anthology. She may not know me, but she definitely has her fingers on several of my hot buttons, and I can’t recall a story of hers that didn’t push at least one. Her “Planes, Trains and Banana-Seat Bicycles” doesn’t take to the skies, but there are planes involved. In her skillful hands, that’s all you’ll need to fly.

“Wing Walker” by Cheyenne Blue is the most original story in the anthology. The biplane pilot from an aerial show tells his wing walker that he’s going to find her a lover. She laughs off the offer, and as months pass, he doesn’t follow through—until he does. On a practice flight meant to test the newcomer’s skills out on the wing, he shows her that he has moves she’d never imagined. This may be a flight of fancy, but it’s a good one.

It’s impossible to think of sex in a passenger plane without also imagining the danger and embarrassment of being caught. If two people head for a lavatory, everyone notices, or at least it feels as if they do. So even if joining the mile high club never appealed to you in real life, your inner voyeur or exhibitionist may feel a frisson of excitement in all the right places as you read these stories.



Twice the Pleasure: Bisexual Women's EroticaTwice the Pleasure: Bisexual Women's Erotica
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573449245
March 2013





Reviewed By: Kathleen Bradean

It isn’t easy to show bisexuality in a short story for the same reasons that it’s difficult to be a bisexual person. That is – people define a character’s sexuality by their lover’s gender. The contributors to Twice The Pleasure meet the challenge in various ways, from showing a poly couple welcoming another lover to ‘just this once’ affairs, from ‘straight for you’ surprises to ‘here, we’re all queer.’

These contributors have put together some amazing, sexy stories, but the ones that caught my attention because they were incredibly well written short stories, worthy of serious literary praise, were Lori Selkie’s “The Robber Girl,” and Tahira Iqbal’s “The State.” 

In “The Robber Girl,” Gerda finds a mentor in a female bandit. She is honed into an instrument for revenge-- not for the robber girl, but for herself. You don’t know what she decides or if she comes back to her lover, but you will wonder. The knife play is exquisite, but not too much for a casual kinkster. The sex is shown in vignettes that serve as teasers, leaving you wanting more. The sex is hot, and the dialog—oh, how it sparks! It was such a delicious tale that I had to read it a second and third time to try to figure out how the writer was evoking those images in my mind.

While I’ve never met her, I’ve been aware of Lori Selke for years. Tahira Iqbal is a new name for me, but after reading “The State,” I’ll keep my eye out for this writer’s work. “The State” was filled with such rich sensory detail. I enjoy a lush read, and this was it. There’s a sense of dread and loss hanging over this story, of isolation and loneliness. The melancholy is evoked so well and yet seamlessly with the sex, which is a difficult thing to do. 

There are many strong contributions to this anthology. There’s revenge sex, gender bending, a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan (Jean Roberta knows how to make me smile), and a lot of women taking vacations from what’s expected of them to get—as Jacqueline Appleby so aptly puts it—“What I Want, What I Need.” Maybe you’ll find some of that here too. 



Women in Lust: Erotic StoriesWomen in Lust: Erotic Stories
Edited By: Rachel Kramer Bussel
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573447242
November 2011





Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

I opened this book in a rather skeptical mood. At first glance, “women in lust” seems like an overly generic theme for an erotic anthology. Couldn't any erotic story (except, of course, gay male erotica) be viewed as appropriate? Isn't lust what erotica is all about?

Yes, and no. The implicit contrast in the tales collected in this volume is lust - as opposed to love. It's not that these stories all feature casual sex or encounters with strangers, although many do. Some of the most intense tales involve long-term partners, and even some of the less committed couples obviously love one another. The overall premise of Women in Lust, however, is that desire and its fruition can be intense, fulfilling, life-changing, on its own, regardless of whether love is present. With my current immersion in erotic romance, where love is the sine qua non of any sexual activity, I find this perspective refreshing.

“Guess,” by Charlotte Stein, is a case in point. In this tale,the hero and heroine play a game, where one is blindfolded while the other perpetrates various acts upon his or her body. The story makes it clear that they've indulged in this activity many times before – but the uncertainty, along with the purely physical sensations, keep it new. The focus is on arousal, here and now, even though the couple's shared history deepens the experience.

Donna George Storey's “Comfort Food” lingers lovingly – or perhaps I should say “lustfully” - on the sensual pleasures of preparing and consuming food. Ms. Storey's forty-something heroine savors the body of the young chef she seduces with equal delight. The heroine's recent divorce and subsequent loneliness provide an emotional backdrop, but the focus of the tale is mutual pleasure, not existential healing.

In the original and insightful “Bite Me,” Lucy Hughes illustrates how lust comes first and perhaps, love might follow afterward. A college boy admits his masochistic cravings to his female pal, and she discovers that the process of inflicting that pain is far more exciting than she would have ever guessed. 

Elizabeth Coldwell explores the thrill of rough, filthy, anonymous sex in her elegant story “Smoke,” then turns the tables at the conclusion by bringing marriage into the mix.  In “Cherry Blossoms”, the deliciously sensuous offering from Kayar Silkenvoice, a visitor to Kyoto has a peak experience of exquisite release in the hands of her female masseuse. Portia da Costa's “Naughty Thoughts” turns on the ever-popular trope of the insightful Dom who intuits a woman's submissive desires even when she tries to hide them. Does he love her? When he spanks her, it hardly matters. Clancy Nacht's “Bayou” teems with the languid, steamy sensuality of the swamp, where fevered desire can be kindled and quenched in a matter of minutes.

Shanna Germain's stunning “Beneath the Skin,” a chilling yet believable portrayal of knife play, deserves special mention. The narrator must love the man who cuts her – how could she trust him if she did not? - but the experience of coming under the knife has an immediacy that pushes everything else into the background:

Each pull of the knife is different from the last, and the same, too. The way it starts, sharp pinprick; the way it slides, slippery line of pain; the way it ends, fading so quick  into nothing that I am already aching for the next one. I feel like a knife myself, lying so straight and still, everything honed. Invincible even as Kade is opening my skin, exposing the part of me that no one else has ever seen.

“Don't come,” he says. “You'll shake too much.”

This is lust refined by fear, lust that does more than kindle pleasure, lust that strips away illusions and reveals truths so dark one can scarcely bear to look at them – and yet cannot look away.

Women in Lust includes many other notable tales, some by familiar favorites (Justine Elyot, Jacqueline Applebee, K.D. Grace, and Ms. Bussel herself), others by authors new to me. Almost every story revs up the heat. Overall, this is a strong collection of well-written tales that demonstrate the many varieties of lust that women can experience – no happily ever after required.



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.