Six Books on Sex
A professor of theatre with an expertise in Shakespeare was asked by his daughter for a quote to embroider as a wedding present for a friend. She hoped for something from the Bard, but her father was in ill-humor. Cynically he said, "Make your bed and lie in it." For us mortals, the bed, connubial or otherwise, is no simple place. We bring our whole selves -- conscious and unconscious, psychologically "and" socially determined -- with us when we lay across it. The books below were selected with that in mind."Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry" Edited by Frederique Delacoste and Pricilla Alexander. Cleis Press 1987.The contributors to this collection are (or were formerly) sex workers: exotic dancers, prostitutes, makers of sex films, etc. Heterosexual, lesbian or otherwise, they have all thought long and hard about sex. You could say that they have a familiarity with the world's oldest profession and sex in general. The longest section of the book, "In the Life" is the most facinating as the author/subjects tell stories from different stages of involvement with the business.The contributions are uneven, but every selection is honestly felt: "Dancing nude is the epitomy of woman as sex object. As the weeks passed, I found I liked being a sex object, because the context was appropriate. I resent being treated as a sex object on the street or at the office. But as an erotic dancer that is my purpose."The remainder of the book is more theoretical. In part two, "Connections," the selections discuss prostitution in relation to feminism and homosexuality. "Both dykes and whores have a historical heritage of re-defining the concept of women." The third section, reviews the organized political advocacy for and among prostitutes. Interestingly, all advocacy groups, even those for juvenile prostitutes, are united in wanting prostitution decriminalized while being divided on the question of whether all prostitutes are victims. The Bibliography is well organized and extensive."A Search for Love and Power: Women, Sex, and Addiction" By Charlotte Davis Kasl Harper and Row 1989Few people (men very much included) will find nothing to contemplate in this book. The author is a psychologist with expertise in addiction, co-dependency and child abuse. She makes a convincing case that drug, alcohol and food addictions among women are often expressions of underlying sex-addiction/sexual co-dependency, and all are related to unmet needs and angers. She translates a twelve-step approach to sex addiction in which spirituality has a central position:"How do you know if sex is spiritually centered? For starters, it is "not"dependent on being married, being heterosexual, or being a particular age. It is dependent of feeling clear, honest and in tune with yourself and having the best interest of yourself and your partner at heart. It is not a substitiute for another need that is avoided or being kept secret."Kasl is witty which helps leven the heavy material. "Christian girls' attitudes toward sex? Sex is dirty and you do it with the one you love." (Remember the recent quote from our "Christian" State's Attorney's office? "You don't have to get naked to do 'the nasty'!"?)"The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used against Women" By Naomi Wolf. Doubleday NY1991.This very readible book is on the list because it is sexually affirming and robust. The premis is that the commercially manipulated notion that only pretty (skinny) women are sexual is a big turn off for both men and women because we grow more concerned about looking desirable than exploring our actual desires. Wolf writes well and she takes on cultural assumptions, way-older than Wall Street's:"Religious guilt supresses women's sexuality ... but [research has found that] religeous beliefs have have little or no effect on a man's sexual pleasure ... Technically, the female sexual organs are what the older religious feared as "the insatiable cunt." Capable of multiple orgasm, continual orgasm, a sharp and breathtaking clitoral orgasm, an orgasm seemingly centered in the vagina that is emotionally overwhelming, orgasm from having the breasts stroked, and of endless variations of all those responses combined, women's capacity for genital pleasure is theoretically inexhaustible.""Lovers Guide Lovers' Guide Encyclopedia, The Definitive Guide to Sex and You" Edited by Doreen Massey. Thunder's Mouth Press 1997.This is one "facinating "encyclopedia, loaded with photos and illustrations -- a visual feast. When it came in to the office we flipped through it stunned, curious, yellow. No form of sexuality is beyond its pale. Everyone is affirmed. Photographs and reproductions of fine art save thousands of words.For example, an image by Aubrey Beardsley, accompanies the quote: "Most men fear that their sex organs are too small. A woman's reassurance seldom helps to allay these fears, but business success sometimes helps." Theodore I. Bubin."The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World" By Karen Lehrman, Anchor Books NY 1997.Lehrman, a young journalist, tackles liberation, feminity, beauty, sex, love, power and sisterhood with post-movement aplomb. The title refers to her assertion that one can wear lipstick and boss men around in the office with equal integrity. Part of her clarity comes from a glib briskness that will no doubt take her to the top of her profession. Her chapter on sex holds that it may be in women's interests and in accord with our biological nature to reconsider chivalry and monogamy:"Chivalry corrects for the weaknesses of men, not women. A man who holds open a door for a woman is less likely to make a derisive comment about her breasts. A man who helps a woman on with her coat is less likely to force her clothes off at the end of a date.""Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man" By Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman. ReganBooks, publication date September, 1997.Although not available yet, we were curious anough about the book to ask the publisher for a manuscript copy to preview. This book dares, in the days of AIDS, to go where "Tales from the City "went before the sexual halocaust. That is, it plays with the campy, happy sensuality of the gay subculture: "In the gay world, we think too much is made by locking partners into being a 'top' or a 'bottom.' Even our friend Phil jokingly said, 'I'm a bottom. Let the top do the work, get it in, get it over with, I want to go shopping.'"The thesis is that no girlfriend, nor most boyfriends, can tell you what's going on in "the guy's head or any other part of his body." It's a joyful how-to by a loving gay guy and an uninhibited straight gal who know and care about each other very well. The sexually experienced and creative, may find little that is truly new or inspiring, but it is a good refresher course if your technique has become sloppy. Illustrations help."Ah what fools us mortals be!" Hie thee to your favorite book store, and remember Dr.Ruth's advice for truly great lovers: "Do something about your problems. "Enjoy!"