If you only ever read one book of mine, I'd lobby hard for this one. It's the book I've worked the hardest on in terms of hours and effort and the one that's closest to my heart and politics. I'm really proud of it and think that no matter what your background, you'll learn something from it. I'll have copies in my hands next week, and it'll be in bookstores and in stock online by the end of the month. I'm looking into readings in (fingers crossed) Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area and NYC (NYC will probably the toughest location, so if you have any bookstore contacts, let me know!). Below is my introduction, and if you like it, I'd really appreciate it if you'd pass this on. I hope it does well, not just so I can continue to edit the series, but because I think the ideas and the writing are important, and trust me, I rarely say something as audacious as that about my work, but look at this killer lineup and you'll see what I mean.
Thank you for your support! I have a limited number of copies avaialble for Amazon.com review. You must promise to review it by January 31st and get your request in by December 14th. Your signed by me copy will be mailed out next week via media mail. I will delete this one call the copies are taken. Email bestsexwriting2012 at gmail.com with "Amazon" in the subject line and your name, US mailing address and Amazon.com profile so I know you are eligible (or a link to a previous Amazon review).
The book has original pieces and reprints from everywhere from Ms. ("Sex, Lies and Hush Money") to Reason ("You Can Have Sex With Them; Just Don’t Photograph Them" to Playboy ("The Dynamics of Sexual Acceleration") to The Village Voice ("Guys Who Like Fat Chicks") to Salon ("The Worship of Female Pleasure" and "Dating With an STD") to The Rumpus ("The Careless Language of Sexual Violence") to Guernica ("An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career") to SexIs Magazine ("Latina Glitter" and "Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy: The Truth about Kinky Sexting"), plus literary fiction stars and some preeminent commentators on sexuality, and many more offerings from a range of ages, backgrounds, locations, topics, etc. I'm especially proud of the media criticism, which is intense, unrelenting, powerful, political and vital; I speak of Roxane Gay's "The Careless Language of Sexual Violence," which takes The New York Times to task over its coverage of an underage rape victim, and Thomas S. Roche's "Men Who 'Buy Sex' Commit More Crimes: Newsweek, Trafficking, and the Lie of Fabricated Sex Studies," which challenges the newsweekly's coverage of the issue of sex trafficking nad utterly unqualified fawning over Melissa Farley. The book touches on atheism, SlutWalk, sex work from a first-person perspective, sex scandals, sex after a lover dies, male sexual education, obscenity law, teen sex and the law, and much more.
If you do plan to buy it, as with all books, pre-ordering them has a dual impact on the book's sales, meaning your sale counts not just for one book, but means that the bookseller your purchasing from will stock extra copies. All sales are great, but pre-orders are extra special, a heads up as a way to support your favorite authors.
Best Sex Writing 2012: The State of Today’s Sexual Culture is a nonfiction anthology edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, with Susie Bright as guest judge, to be published by Cleis Press in January 2012. It is available for pre-order at Amazon (other links below). Email bestsexwriting2012 at gmail.com if you have any questions; to request a review copy, email Brenda Knight at bknight at cleispress.com.
Pre-order Best Sex Writing 2012:
Kindle (coming soon)
Nook (coming soon)
Table of contents:
When the Sex Guru Met the Sex Panic Susie Bright
Beyond the Headlines: Real Sex Secrets Rachel Kramer Bussel (see below)
Sluts, Walking Amanda Marcotte
Criminalizing Circumcision: Self-Hatred as Public Policy Marty Klein
The Worship of Female Pleasure Tracy Clark-Flory
Sex, Lies, and Hush Money Katherine Spillar
The Dynamics of Sexual Acceleration Chris Sweeney
Atheists Do It Better: Why Leaving Religion Leads to Better Sex Greta Christina
To All the Butches I Loved between 1995 and 2005: An Open Letter about Selling Sex, Selling Out, and Soldiering On Amber Dawn
I Want You to Want Me Hugo Schwyzer
Grief, Resilience, and My 66th Birthday Gift Joan Price
Latina Glitter Rachel Rabbit White
Dating with an STD Lynn Harris
You Can Have Sex With Them; Just Don’t Photograph Them Radley Balko
An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career Tim Elhajj
Guys Who Like Fat Chicks Camille Dodero
The Careless Language of Sexual Violence. Roxane Gay
Men Who “Buy Sex” Commit More Crimes: Newsweek, Trafficking, and the Lie of Fabricated Sex Studies Thomas Roche
Taking Liberties Tracy Quan
Why Lying about Monogamy Matters Susie Bright
Losing the Meatpacking District: A Queer History of Leather Culture Abby Tallmer
Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy: The Truth about Kinky Sexting Rachel Kramer Bussel
Adrian’s Penis: Care and Handling Adrian Colesberry
The Continuing Criminalization of Teen Sex Ellen Friedrichs
Love Grenade Lidia Yuknavitch
Pottymouth Kevin Sampsell
Beyond the Headlines: Real Sex Secrets
Rachel Kramer Bussel
I think about sex a lot—every day, in fact. I don’t mean that in an “I want to get it on” way, but in a “What are other people up to?” way. I’m a voyeur, first and foremost, and this extends to my writing. I’m naturally curious about what other people think about sex, from their intimate lives to how their sexuality translates to the larger world.
With the Best Sex Writing series, I get to merge my voyeuristic self with my journalism leanings, and peek into the lives, public and private, of those around me. This volume in the series doesn’t pull any punches; the authors have strong opinions, whether it’s Marty Klein sticking up for circumcision in the face of an effort in California to criminalize it, Roxane Gay taking the New York Times to task for its treatment of an 11-year-old rape victim, Thomas Roche calling out Newsweek for its shoddy reporting about prostitution, or Radley Balko examining a child pornography charge.
There are also more personal takes on sex here that go beyond facile headlines or easy answers, that aren’t about making a point so much as exploring what real-life sex is like in all its beauty, drama, and messiness. Whether it’s Amber Dawn and Tracy Quan sharing the truth about their lives as sex workers, or Hugo Schwyzer explaining the damage our culture does to men with its mythology about their innate sexual prowess, or Tim Elhajj’s first-person account of pre–don’t ask, don’t tell military life, these authors show you a side of sex that you rarely see.
What you are about to read are stories, all true, some reported on the streets and some recorded from lived experience, from the front lines of sexuality. They deal with topics you read about in the headlines, and some topics you may never have considered. They are but a small sampling of the many kinds of sexual stories I received in the submission process.
Part of why I think sex never goes out of style, as a topic or activity, is that it is so very complex. There is no one way to do it, nor two, nor three. Sex can be mundane or mind-blowing, and for those who are trying to get from the former to the latter, there is a plethora of resources but also a host of misinformation purveyed by snake oil salesmen.
In Best Sex Writing 2012, you will read about subjects as diverse as “Guys Who Like Fat Chicks,” the care an handling of a man’s penis, and the glamour and glitter of the Latina drag world. Abby Tallmer, telling a story set in a very specific time and place—the gay leather clubs of New York’s Meatpacking District in the 1990s—manages to capture why sexual community is so vital, and why, I’d venture, those who lack such a community wind up mired in sex scandals. Tallmer writes, “These clubs gave us a place to feel that we were no longer outsiders—or rather, they made us feel that it was better to be outsiders, together, than to force ourselves to be just like everybody else.”
I’m especially pleased to present stories about the kinds of sexuality and sexual issues that don’t always make the headlines, from Lynn Harris’s investigation of dating with an STD to Hugo Schwyzer’s moving look at men’s need to be sexually desired and what happens when boys and men are told that that wanting to be desired is wrong. Joan Price gives some insight into elder sexuality, as well as into what it’s like to purchase the services of a sexual healer. The topic of elder sex is often treated with horror or disgust, or the focus is placed on concern over STDs—which is a worthy topic this series has explored before. But Price, author of two books on elder sexuality (her piece here is excerpted from Naked At Our Age), obliges the reader to see the humanity behind her age. She writes, “My birthday erotic massage from a gentle stranger changed something in me. It showed me that I was still a responsive, fully sexual woman, getting ready to emerge from the cocoon of mourning into reexperiencing life. I realized that one big reason I ended up on Sunyata’s massage table was so that I could get ready to reenter the world.”
Not all, or even most, of the reading here is “easy.” Much of it is challenging and heartbreaking. Roxane Gay’s media criticism centers on a New York Times story about a Texas gang rape and why “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence” distorts our understanding about rape. You may think such a piece doesn’t belong in an anthology with this title, but until we rid our world of sexual violence so that everyone can freely express themselves sexually, we need to hear searing indictments of media or those in power who ignore injustice.
As an editor, I’m not only looking for pieces that I agree with, or identify with, but for work that illuminates something new about a topic that’s been around forever. The authors here dig deep, challenging both mainstream ideas about sex and a few sex-positive sacred cows. Ellen Friedrichs sticks up for the right of teenagers to be sexual without throwing parents, school boards, and other adults into a sex panic. Amanda Marcotte explores the fast-moving SlutWalk protest phenomenon, which has garnered criticisms from various sides, from being futile to only appealing to white women.
I will quote Abby Tallmer again, because I don’t hear the words “sexual liberation” often enough these days. What moves me most about her piece is that you don’t have to be a New Yorker, queer, leather, or kinky to understand what she’s talking about. I’m 100 percent with her when she writes, “Back then, many of us believed that gay liberation was rooted in sexual liberation, and we believed that liberation was rooted in the right—no, the need—to claim ownership of our bodies, to experience and celebrate sexuality in as many forms as possible, limited only by our time and imagination.” I hope this applies in 2012 just as much as it did in the 1970s, 80s, or 90s.
The truth is, I could have filled a book twice this size. Every day, stories are breaking, and being told, about sex—some wondrous, some heartbreaking. This is not a one-handed read, but it is a book that will stimulate your largest sex organ: your brain. Whether you live and breathe sex, you are curious about sex, or somewhere in between, I hope Best Sex Writing 2012 informs, incites, and inspires you. I hope it inspires you to write and tell your own sexual story, because I believe the more we talk about the many ways sex moves us, the more we work toward a world where sexual shame, ignorance, homophobia, and violence are diminished.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this book and what you think are the hot topics around sex. Feel free to email me at rachel at bestsexwriting.com with your comments and suggestions for next year’s anthology.
Rachel Kramer Bussel