Host Carol Queen:
Host Carol Queen:
What great news – my publisher Cleis Press has asked me to edit Best Sex Writing 2009. If you’re reading this site, you have an idea of the kind of work I’m looking for; I’d also love any tips or recommendations.
Call for submissions: Best Sex Writing 2009
To be edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Publication date: November 2008
Deadline for submissions: May 1, 2008
Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel is looking for personal essays and reportage for inclusion in the 2009 edition of the Cleis Press series Best Sex Writing, which will hit stores in November 2008. Seeking articles from across the sexual spectrum, covering alternative sexuality, reproductive rights and sexuality, sex education, sex and technology, sex work, sex and aging, sex and parenting, sex and religion, sex and race, sex and disability, BDSM, polyamory, gender roles, etc. These topics are just starting points; any writings covering the topic of sex will be considered. Personal essays will also be considered. I like work that looks at sex in new and unusual ways, that challenges us to think about sex and our own sexuality, is thought-provoking and possibly disturbing. I want sex journalism that’s found in the most unexpected places.
Previous editions of the annual series have featured authors such as Susannah Breslin, Susie Bright, Stephen Elliott, Tristan Taormino, Virginia Vitzhum, Gael Greene, Michael Musto, and others. See Best Sex Writing 2008 for examples of the types of writing being sought (introduction and more information at https://bestsexwriting2008.wordpress.com). I’m especially looking for reported pieces that are political, timely, intelligent, surprising, and insightful about sex in American culture (and its many subcultures).
About the editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel (www.rachelkramerbussel.com) is a prolific author and editor. She hosts In The Flesh Reading Series and has edited or co-edited over a dozen erotica books, most recently Yes, Sir, Yes, Ma’am, Best Sex Writing 2008, and Crossdressing.
Requirements: Story must have been published (or slated to be published) between June 1, 2007 and October 31, 2008, online and/or in print (book, magazine, zine or newspaper) in the United States.
Instructions: Please send your double-spaced submission (up to 6,000 words) as a Word document or RTF attachment to bestsexwriting2009 at gmail.com – you may submit a maximum of TWO pieces for consideration. You MUST include your full contact information, a bio, and previous publication details as per below.
If for some reason you are unable to send a Word document or RTF, send your submission in the body of an email. Put BSW09 in the subject line. Include your name, email address, mailing address, phone number, and exact publication details (title of publication, date of publication, and any other relevant information). ONLY SEND WORK YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REPRINT.
Editors may submit up to three submissions from their publication, following the guidelines above. Please make it clear that you are the editor submitting work for consideration from your publication, and have the author’s contact information available upon request.
Email address (for queries and submissions): bestsexwriting2009 at gmail.com
Deadline: May 1, 2008
Expect to hear back from me by October 2008 at the latest.
Because I really think you’ll like Best Sex Writing 2008 as much as I do, here’s another incentive to buy it: anyone with a U.S. mailing address who buys Best Sex Writing 2008 by January 31st from Amazon.com gets a FREE copy, signed by me, of Sex and Candy: 22 Succulent Stories. How’s that for a deal? Just forward your entire Amazon receipt to me at rachelkramerbussel at gmail.com with “BSW” in the subject line, starting from today, January 15th.
So, buy this:
and get this:
Greta Christina‘s wonderful essay “Buying Obedience: My Visit to a Pro Submissive,” originally published in Other magazine, closes out Best Sex Writing 2008. Here I interview about her experience hiring a pro sub, writing about it, and how that affected her sex life and fantasies subsequently.
Greta Christina has been writing professionally since 1989. She is currently editing the annual Best Erotic Comics series, the first volume of which comes out shortly. She is editor of the anthology Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients, and author of the erotic novella Bending, which appeared in the three-novella collection Three Kinds of Asking For It edited by Susie Bright. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including Ms., Penthouse, the Skeptical Inquirer, and two volumes of the Best American Erotica series. She blogs at http://gretachristina.typepad.com/
When you visited the professional submissive, was it with the purpose of writing about it, or did that come later? How long afterwards did you write
the essay and did your thoughts about the experience change as you wrote it?
I definitely visited Rachel with the intention of writing about it. It’s how I justified the expense to myself, actually. I’m a freelance writer, I’m not exactly raking in the big bucks, and I’m not generally in a position to drop $300 on a one-hour luxury splurge. But as a professional expense…that’s a different story.
I started writing about it almost immediately afterwards. In fact, much of the essay talks about my planning and thought processes before visiting Rachel — and I started writing that before I even saw her.
Writing about the experience didn’t change my thoughts about it, exactly. But it did clarify them. And more importantly, I’m not sure I would have had the experience at all if I hadn’t planned to write about it. I don’t think I could have justified the expense; but I also don’t know if I would have had the nerve to go through with it. If it had just been for my own pleasure and curiosity, I might have chickened out.
You write, “Touching the naked skin of someone whom I’d paid for the pleasure, squeezing her flesh while my clit throbbed and then squeezing it harder to make my clit throb again…that is what made me feel like I’d done something I couldn’t take back, become somebody I couldn’t change. It was unnerving — but it was also exciting, in the way that adventure is always exciting.” Why do you think it was this act of touching her, versus booking the appointment and going there, that was so powerful?
Touching her was the moment I became a person who had paid for sex.
That’s a big taboo. That’s a big cherry to pop. Until I actually touched her, I could have backed out, said, “Forget it, I changed my mind, keep the $300″… and still thought of myself as a person who had never paid for sex. Touching her was the moment that, in my mind, I became a sex work customer.
You write that “being sexually selfish turned out to be much harder than I’d anticipated.” I know you talk about it in the essay, but can you explain a bit about why that is? Do you think it’s easier for men vs. women to be “sexually selfish” (whether in a paid setting or not)?
Whether it’s by my nature or my nurture or both, I’m a person who is very concerned about other people and my affect on them. The positive side of that is that I’m compassionate and ethical and socially responsible; the down side is that I can be very anxious and self-conscious about whether people like me, to the point where it’s hard to just relax and be myself.
And sexually, a lot of what I get off on is my partner’s pleasure. So even though I was paying Rachel, in part, so I could just do what I wanted (within her limits, of course) and not worry about what she was getting out of it, paradoxically a lot of what I selfishly wanted was her pleasure.
I don’t know if it’s easier for men to be sexually selfish. I know that’s
the stereotype…but I don’t know if it’s really true. I do know that sex work customers are overwhelmingly male, so maybe that’s an argument for men being more sexually selfish, more willing to have sex with someone who’s primarily getting money out of it and not necessarily sexual pleasure.
But on the other hand, it’s very common for sex work customers to become very attached to their sex workers. Many customers want their workers to think of them as special, and many even fall in love with them. And almost any sex worker will tell you that a lot of what they give their customers — whether honestly or faked — is affection and reassurance. “I really like you, I really like doing it with you, you’re my favorite customer,” etc. Even the most jaded sex workers fake pleasure and orgasm as part of their job. None of that would be true if men were completely selfish.
You write in the essay about worrying about whether Rachel’s (the pro sub) reactions are real or faked, but then say that you’re not sure you’d ever spanked someone as hard as you’d wanted before. Was there a point where you stopped worrying about what her “real” feelings were and simply trusted her (and yourself), or was this thought still in the back of your mind?
I’m a good, safe top — and I think if you’re a good, safe top, the bottom’s feelings are always in the back of your mind. So it’s not like I let go of any concern I had for her and just became vicious.
I think what happened was this: When I’m spanking a lover or a fuckbuddy,
I don’t just care about whether I’m spanking them harder than they can take. I care about whether I’m spanking them harder than they like. (This is actually one of my weaknesses as a top: I tend to pull my punches, it’s hard for me to push people to take more than they think they really want. See above re: wanting people to like me.)
When I was spanking Rachel, it finally occurred to me that it was okay for me to spank her harder than she might have actually liked or gotten off on…as long as I respected her limits and stopped if she safeworded. That’s what I was paying for. Because she was a pro, I knew that (a) she’d have no hesitation about stopping me if she had to, and (b) she’d almost certainly taken harder spankings than I was giving her. I think I just decided to trust her professionalism.
You say that “[n]one of this weirdness or anxiety had anything to do with Rachel. Rachel was great. She knew her stuff, and she responded beautifully to my orders, and she was lovely to look at and luscious to fondle and spank.” Based on your experience as a client, what qualities would you say make for a good professional submissive?
She was very clear about her limits. In our negotiations ahead of time, she was very clear about what was and wasn’t okay. And because she was so upfront about what was off-limits, that made me feel more confident and safe about doing the things she’d said were okay. That was important — probably more important than anything else.
She was very obedient. She did what I asked her, without hesitation. That was what I wanted; I’m not into brattiness or disobedience. I get off on the feeling of power I get from telling someone to do something — something sexual — and having them do it. That’s what I was paying for, why I hired a submissive instead of another kind of sex worker: the feeling of pulling the strings. And she did it beautifully.
She was very responsive. Especially when she was getting spanked. It’s certainly possible that she was faking it, of course. But when we were negotiating, she made a point of saying — several times over — that it was okay to spank her. She talked about spanking a lot. I don’t think she was faking how much she liked it. And regardless of whether she was getting off on any particular thing I was doing, it seemed as if submission in general was a genuine pleasure for her. I think that’s a big difference between pro subs and other kinds of sex workers; very few people go into submission professionally if they aren’t into it personally. In any case, if she was faking, she did a bang-up job.
And she was hot. She was pretty, and she had a nice body — voluptuous, not too skinny, very much my type — and a nice ass, round and fun to spank. That sounds shallow, I know. But physical chemistry is important, especially when you don’t have time to get to know someone.
What kinds of reactions did you get to the piece? Did they differ markedly amongst sex workers and non-sex workers?
I can’t really answer this question. The piece didn’t get very wide circulation, and I didn’t get any response to it at all. It’ll probably get more widely read in this book than in the original magazine.
How do you feel about the essay when you reread it now? Have you gone for any more pro sub sessions?
I love the essay. I think it’s one of the better and more interesting things I’ve written, and it’s on a topic that doesn’t get much attention. A lot has been written about sex work, but very little has been written from the customer’s point of view. And very little has been written about pro submission.
Plus I think the essay is just hot. Re-reading it now reminds me of what a strange experience this was…but also of how erotic it was.
I haven’t gone back for more pro sub sessions. But the only reason for that is money. If I could afford it, I’d definitely do it again. Especially because so much of that first time was about it being the first time: getting over my nerves, figuring out the lay of the land, etc. I’d love to go back and have the experience just for the experience, without all the first-time jitters.
And I’d love to try other kinds of sex workers, too. I’ve been feeling very bottomy lately, and I’m curious about what hiring a pro dominant would be like. I’m sure there would be a whole other set of interesting, weird paradoxes. How do you feel subservient and helpless when you’re paying someone to make you feel that way? I’d love to find out.
You start off the essay talking about how you’ve fantasized about visiting a professional submissive, and end it by saying you still fantasize about it. How did the reality differ from your previous fantasies, and why do you think you had/have such intense fantasies about this, as opposed to topping someone where money isn’t involved?
The reality differed from my fantasies in the same way SM reality always
differs from my SM fantasies. In my SM fantasies — my toppy ones, anyway
— I’m cruel, I’m selfish, I take pleasure in another person’s suffering, I have power over another person which I unscrupulously abuse, etc. In reality, I’m a nice, thoughtful person who cares about other people. So the reality of SM play isn’t that I get to be the cruel, selfish, power-hungry control freak. The reality is that I’m the nice, thoughtful person, letting my inner sadistic control freak out to play for a while — on a very short leash.
And that was true with Rachel as much as with anyone else. The only difference was in my expectations. Before the session, I’d somehow imagined that, because I was paying for it, I’d feel more comfortable letting my inner selfish sadist out on a longer leash. That was somewhat true…but it wasn’t nearly as true as I’d thought it would be.
Why do I have intense fantasies about paying for submission? I think it does have to do with the fantasy of getting to be selfish, getting to pull the strings and have my way. It feeds into my “molesting the servant girl” fantasies very nicely.
More realistically, it’s a way to make the scene be about what I want, about my fantasies and desires — not the overlap between my fantasies and another person’s. It’s like therapy. When I’m in therapy, I’m paying, at least partly, so I don’t have to stop and ask, “So enough about me – how are you doing?” That’s a big part of what makes paying for sex appealing: as long as I respect the worker’s limits, I can make the session be about what I want. I know now that that’s less true — and more complicated — than I’d originally imagined…but there’s still a truth to it, and
there’s still an appeal.
Of course I also love to play in the overlapping areas between my fantasies and another person’s. That’s what I like to do most of the time, in fact — just like most of the time I like to have back-and-forth conversations that aren’t only about me. And I do have fantasies about topping people without paying them. It’s not like this is my one obsession. It’s just one thread in a whole perverted tapestry.
Did the experience of visiting a professional submissive affect the rest of your sex life in any way?
Not really. It changed my fantasy life a little — my fantasies of hiring a pro sub are more based in reality now, they’re more an imagining of what the experience might really be like instead of a pure fantastical fantasy. But it didn’t really affect my real-life sex life.
What are you working on now?
My new anthology, Best Erotic Comics 2008, is about to be published — it should hit the stores in January. I’m extremely excited about it; we just got the advance copies, and it came out beautifully. It’s exactly what I’d imagined and hoped for: it’s artistically solid, wildly varied, and very, very dirty indeed.
And I’m blogging up a storm. I do a lot of sex blogging, but I’ve also gotten deeply involved in the atheist blogosphere, and am focusing a huge amount of my time and energy on that. My blog where I’m doing some of my best writing, I think. http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ – Come check it out!
Below is the publisher’s blurb and interviews, updates and event info coming soon:
Do Jewish girls give better blowjobs? What does it mean to be a modern-day eunuch? Would you want to work in the pink ghetto or live in the glass closet? How “hung” are African-American men? What happens to a celebrity sex tape star in Iran? Best Sex Writing 2008 answers these questions (and raises many more) as it probes the inner lives of those on the front lines — political, personal, and cultural — of lust. From dangerous dildos to professional submissives, the erotic appeal of twins, sex work, pornography and much more, these authors delve into the underbelly of eroticism. Probing stereotypes, truths, and the tricky areas in between, Best Sex Writing 2008 opens the bedroom door and explores the complexity of modern sexuality with thought-provoking, cutting-edge essays and articles.
Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations
Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report • Rachel Shukert
Double Your Panic • Kevin Keck
Battle of the Sexless • Ashlea Halpern
Kink.com and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting • Violet Blue
The Prince of Porn and the Junk-Food Queen from Insatiable • Gael Greene
Tough Love • Kelly Rouba
Dirty Old Women • Ariel Levy
Stalking the Stalkers • Kelly Kyrik
Sex in Iran • Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin
Surface Tensions • Jen Cross
Sex and the Single Septuagenarian • Liz Langley
The Pink Ghetto (A Four-Part Series) • Lux Nightmare and Melissa Gira
To Have or Have Not: Sex on the Wedding Night • Jill Eisenstadt
How Insensitive • Paul Festa
The Study of Sex • Amy Andre
Dangerous Dildos • Tristan Taormino
Absolut Nude • Miriam Datskovsky
The Hung List from Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America • Scott Poulson-Bryant
The Glass Closet • Michael Musto
Menstruation: Porn’s Last Taboo • Trixie Fontaine
Buying Obedience: My Visit to a Pro Submissive • Greta Christina
Introduction: One Little Word, Infinite Interpretations
Sex. One little word, so much drama. One little word, so many interpretations, definitions, permutations. For some, sex means ecstasy. For others, it means procreation. For some, it means sin outside the confines of marriage. Many believe that only heterosexual penetrative sex qualifies for that hallowed three letter word; everything else is either foreplay⎯or forbidden. For a lot of us, myself included, sex is an ever-changing, ever-evolving set of acts, philosophies and identities. It teaches us, thrills us, empowers us, confuses us, electrifies us. Sex drives our lives and our lives drive our sex, in all sorts of complex ways. Pleasure and danger, as the famous Carole Vance anthology called it.
When I thought about the kinds of writing I wanted to include in this anthology, I knew I wanted to read about the kinds of sex that make the world, not to mention one’s head, spin. The kinds of writings that throw our notions of what sex is into disarray. The kinds of writings that will long outlast the chronological year printed on the cover of this book because their meanings and messages will continue to be read, debated, questioned, and answered. These pieces, taken as a whole, give a broader view of sex than you’ve likely ever considered, dealing as they do with biology, gender, crime, politics, the environment, health, religion, race, and much more.
Here you’ll find a wide array of writings about the state of modern sexuality, taking you everywhere from the front lines of erotic activism to insightful analyses of everything from sexuality studies to menstruation porn to naked college coeds. From large publications such as Playboy, Penthouse Forum, and Out to smaller indie outfits like $pread, Heeb, and Other, as well as online publications and books, each of these pieces contributes to a whole that shows that sex, the act(s) and the topic(s), is much more complex than most of us give it credit for. Whatever definition you currently have for sex, prepare for it to be shattered.
Best Sex Writing 2008 includes two pieces that are very near and dear to my heart. As a Jewish woman with a passion for cock-sucking (not to mention Monica Lewinsky), I found Rachel Shukert’s “Big Mouth Strikes Again: An Oral Report,” a fascinating look at the ways Jewish women’s mouths have come to be, in the popular imagination, permanently open. While she offers up a few jokes and puns, she bolsters them with a thoughtful essay that goes way beyond the conventional wisdom. Bloggers Melissa Gira and Lux Nightmare break down the meaning of “The Pink Ghetto,” a place where I and many of my peers find ourselves, whether we like it or not, simply because we’ve chosen to write about that vexing three letter word that’s always stirring up so much trouble.
I’ve also included several personal essays here because I believe they demonstrate some powerful lessons about how sex plays out in our lives. The sexual karma delivered to Kevin Keck in the form of twin baby girls, after a high school career spent lusting after his own town’s version of the Doublemint Twins, is deliciously twisted. Gael Greene takes us back to a headier, more hedonistic time when, freed from her marriage, she could seduce the notorious porn star Jamie Gillis, inching into his supposedly seedy world while reveling in his dirtiness, literally. Journalist Scott Poulson-Bryant, in an excerpt from his excellent study Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America, a mix of personal experience and impassioned journalism, asks whether the stereotype of the black man as America’s most horny, the one who by his very definition signifies sex, is true or even relevant. These pieces you might very well be able to relate to even if you’ve never been horny for twincest, had an affair, or been a black man, because their authors’ words go beyond their individual circumstances to shed light on the current erotic climate.
And then we’ve got some more unique territory. Out of all the pieces here, Ashlea Halpern’s exploration of the lengths today’s eunuchs will go to remove their genitals, “Battle of the Sexless,” makes me squirm the most, with equal parts fascination and horror, yet I’ve reread it now numerous times. There’s something appealing and at the same time appalling about this state of affairs that Halpern delves into with a sympathetic eye.
Many of the authors here directly address the politics of sex, and demand that the status quo give way for a broader vision of sexual inclusion. Trixie Fontaine’s discussion of piss and menstruation porn is one that, like Halpern’s, may make you uncomfortable. And that’s exactly her point: while some may find her work abhorrent, others are equally turned on by it, and the fact that capitalism doesn’t trump human blood is indeed worth investigating. Tristan Taormino looks at the important issue of phthalates in sex toys, while Violet Blue takes mainstream media to task for its biases when it comes to porn reporting. Ariel Levy’s “Dirty Old Women” explores relationships between adult women and teenage boys, asking what it means to be molested when you’re male: “For many Americans, being a real grown-up requires a penis. And if you’ve got that, even if you’re only fifteen, you must have the maturity and the manliness to know what you want to do with it—even if that involves intercourse with a forty-two-year-old. Who among us would say the same thing about a fifteen-year-old girl?” Her exploration of the motivations of these teenagers and their seductresses (she calls Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau “the poster couple for pedophilia or true love, depending on your point of view”) makes us reexamine our assumptions about male sexuality. It’s no surprise that Levy’s piece also surfaced in a volume of Best Crime Writing; the intersection of sex and the law has countless permutations, and it’s often to the legal system that we look for answers to help us define what “acceptable” sex is. Elsewhere in this collection, in “Stalking the Stalkers,” Kelly Kyrik examines real attempts to catch pedophiles in the act of luring children via the Web.
One of the great new frontiers of sex writing is college newspapers, where sex columnists are starting with a base of knowledge I wish I’d had when I arrived at the University of California at Berkeley, helping educate their fellow students and working out the logistics of sex in print. This new generation is bold, brave, brash, and ballsy, and one of the best and brightest is Miriam Datskovsky, who wrote the Columbia Spectator’s “Sexplorations” column. Here, she takes us inside the phenomenon of naked parties on campus, calling bullshit on them, in those precise terms.
For all the jokes, hand wringing, and ink spilled about Paris Hilton, even her recent jail time, we are a country whose consumers made 1 Night in Paris zoom to the top of the porn best-seller charts, resurrecting an interest in celebrity sex tapes that’s seeing burgeoning sales once thought to have gone the way of Pam and Tommy. But what happens when you’re an Iranian actress caught fucking on film⎯or possibly fucking on film? Pari Esfandiari and Richard Buskin investigate the case of Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, who’s embroiled in a sex scandal about a tape in which she may or may not star, offering insights into the changes in Iranian culture which have made sex both more and less taboo. The situation has seemingly worsened in recent months; in June 2007, Iran’s parliament, in a 148-5 vote, approved a measure saying “producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corruptors of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corruptors of the world.”
As for the word “Best” in the title, I’m the first to admit that this is a fully subjective call. Sex is everywhere, and I encourage you to read more about it on the growing network of sex blogs and mainstream and alternative publications, or take pen to paper (or fingers to computer screen) and write your own sexual manifesto.
I thought I knew a lot about sex when I started working on this book. I’ve had dozens of lovers, I wrote a sex column for the Village Voice for two and a half years, I’m on staff at an adult magazine, and I have listened to countless confessions of sexual peccadilloes and adventures. But when it comes to sex, we can all learn something, as you’ll see from even a brief perusal of the table of contents or by skimming any of these chapters⎯I certainly did.
Sometimes I think sex is a code word for every dirty, naughty, perverted thought anyone’s ever had. For some it can be encompassed in a kiss, for others a flogging, a performance, or an intense masturbation session. For others, like that famous maxim about pornography, they know it when they’re doing it. Sex is broad enough (and powerful enough) that we will continue to write, talk, and debate about it for centuries to come⎯when we’re not busy engaging in our preferred version of it. When I tell people I write about sex, I can see immediately whether their judgment about me has changed in the second it took me to say it. Most of the time, I don’t have time to sit and explain how complex a topic we’re talking about. Now, I can just hand them this book, which asks just as many questions as it answers, and hopefully does what good sex should do: leave you wanting more.
Rachel Kramer Bussel
New York City