The title of the book is Best Sex Writing of the Year, Volume 1: on Consent, BDSM, Porn, Race, Sex Work and More, and it’s true; the book does have all that. These non-fiction stories are all connected by sex, but they are connected by something even deeper than that. The common thread between all the stories in this amazing collection is our humanity. I was expecting to learn some things, maybe read some racy stories, but I got much more from this book. It challenged me to think deeply. It challenged to me think of things that I – even as immersed in the world of sex, sexuality, and relationships as I am – hadn’t thought much about. There are things I hadn’t really thought of too deeply, as a white, ciswoman. The line “there is no brown in your rainbow” from The White Kind of Body by Alok Vaid-Menon really hit me. Alok lets us in as he tries to unpack his attractions and scrutinize his sexuality. As he digs deep, deep down we get to catch a glimpse at the many layers and intersections at play. He says something that really struck me.

When my family didn’t understand the word queer, rather than trying to understand where they were coming from I dismissed them as homophobic and transphobic.

This sentence made me stop and reflect on the current climate in Ontario and the updates to the Health and Physical Education curriculum (what many refer to as sex ed). To write someone off as homophobic or transphobic is too easy. Too lazy. If we really want to foster change, we need to try to understand the reasons underlying the fear and confusion.

BSWoftheYear tabs

There are 29 pieces in this book, and I enjoyed every one of them. Jon Pressick has done a fantastic job of putting together stories that connect and challenge us, maybe even confront us. Sexuality connects us. It’s part of what makes us deeply human. When we get vulnerable and open up, we get to the core of our humanity. That’s what is in this book. There are so many quotes I’d love to share with you – every tab is a part of the book I want to share. Right from the first story, the book starts out strong. In Captain Save-A-Ho Fiona Helmsley begins with

I never know what to say when I’m asked if I knew anyone who died on September 11. It’s a conflict that cuts right to the strange nature of sex work..

… I’m pretty sure Stephen died on Sept. 11. He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, a company located on the 101st-105th floors of Tower 1… I was seeing Stephen two to three times a month… and after August of 2001, I never saw him again.

Those are things we “can’t” talk about. Fiona has a story that connects her to the loss and shared grief of September 11, but she can’t talk about it. To have something to share, but being unable to share it for fear of being shamed or shunned can be incredibly isolating, yet we do it all the time. These are the kind of things that came up for me as I was reading.

Epiphora, a snarky sex blogger I adore, shares a piece about the semantics of “sex toys”.

I believe that the less we fear offending people, the less they’ll be offended. Which perhaps explains why I’ve been using the term “sex toys” all along – without ever thinking about it.

Hear! Hear!

Cory Silverberg, author of What Makes a Baby, gives us a glimpse at what the process is like when he’s writing a book. I enjoyed the peek behind the curtain. It was a timely read, as his next book, Sex is a Funny Word, is coming out soon. I can’t wait to read it. In his piece We Need a New Orientation to Sex, he talks about the struggle to not only explain things to kids, but to wrap his own head around concepts themselves.

Alexandria Goddard in her piece I Am the Blogger who Allegedly “Complicated” the Stuebenville Gang Rape Case – And I Wouldn’t Change a Thing, she says

This case has created a social awareness about rape culture, and it has opened the dialogue between parents and their children that it’s okay to be the lone man standing as long as you STAND.

In Pump Dreams Mitch Kellaway talks about his relationship with his body as a trans man.

I’m not quite ready, should my efforts fall short, to endure her reassurances that I am, and always will be, enough for her.

This caused me to reflect on how sometimes our words we intend as comfort, can add to the pain. It gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what it might be like when your body, even when it’s a source of pleasure, can also be a source of conflict and emotional pain.

I loved many things about Mollena Williams’ Tell Me You Want Me. Here are a couple morsels:

What gets you hot the fastest, what you think about when making yourself come…over and over…in the dead of the night when you are playing the film of your darkest dirtiest hottest fantasies in the private theater of your own mind.

Wanting me…wanting to do bad things to me, and telling me so, wanting to possess me, use, consume me, with ferocity and delight is an aphrodisiac like no other.

We ALL love feeling desirable, feeling wanted, feeling like the center of the universe for our partner. Regardless if it is for a fleeting few hours of play, a quickie in a borrowed bed or a lifetime committed relationship.

There is an amazing amount to be learned about humans from the ways we want to play. We get to go behind the scenes, so to speak, in The Gates by Tina Horn.

I also learned profound things about the human sexual imagination. The most important of these is the role that irony plays in fantasy: the dark, depraved, degrading scenes that are commissioned around the clock at The Gates are predicated on respect and communication. The implied meaning of a scene is most often the opposite of the literal meaning.

In the piece No Restrictions by Dee Dee Behind, challenges us to think deeply about sex and disability.

In a whisper, the attendant expressed his ambivalence about helping Justin get laid, since he could lose his job, or possibly worse. He was visibly distraught describing how no one around him took Justin seriously as a young man, not just censoring him from the world of adults, but also disallowing him the right to grow up.

As I mentioned, I could go on and on with blurbs from each of these stories. There are so many questions contained in this book – Where is the line between being a woman and being a mother? How do you reconcile something that is a source of your desire, but also your nightmares? If a man desires a man, does that mean he’s gay? Can you imagine wanting to have someone go down on you for fifty years? Having a husband you love and not being able to ask him to do that? How do you deal with “the yuck” of all the feelings that go along with being diagnosed with an STI? I urge you to read the book for yourself and let it challenge you.

You can also find Best Sex Writing of the Year on Facebook.

About Anya Hastings

Anya is a mom of four, two she gave birth to and two that came as part of the package when she joined lives with her partner. She’s done the marriage and divorce thing. She’s loved, learned and loved again.