Libido: Reviews:Anthologies
REVIEWS
“A Wet Cunt Cannot Lie”:
The Best of the Erotic Anthologies

By Ellen Barnard

I picked up my first written erotica when I was 12. It was Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland. One of the first -- and best -- books of erotica ever published, the scenes of rampant members entering slippery sexes gave me the oomph I needed to get hot enough to pleasure myself to orgasm. I’d sneak the book off the shelf in the living room, read my favorite scenes, and squeeze my legs together until I came. I learned right there how to enjoy an erotic tale.

In those times, it was hard to find interesting erotic stories. There were dime-store novels and Victorian erotica with lots of sex, and little story. Written for men, they were stroke books, bypassing most of the brain, and heading straight for the cock. They were written to arouse, and do it quickly. The lousy editing was distracting, but they still turned me on.

A few books spoke more directly to me. Anaïs Nin (Delta of Venus and Little Birds) and her friends wrote poetic tales of lust and pleasure for a patron who paid them a dollar a page. In My Secret Garden and Forbidden Flowers Nancy Friday cloaked erotica as studies of women’s sexual fantasies, and Lonnie Barbach rocked my boat with Pleasures: Women Write Erotica.

In the past four years I’ve watched erotic writing mature. Now I find a great deal of writing that tells a story with finesse, and turns me on. Erotic tales now reflect a wide variety of tastes; when I get bored, there’s something new and different to make me wet. This year’s crop of “Best...Erotica” showcases this variety. There’s The Best American Erotica 2000 where editor Susie Bright focuses on the not-so-pretty and the reality of bodies & sex, and Best Bisexual Erotica where Carol Queen and Bill Brent present the first collection of stories to be born out of the bisexual community. Marcy Sheiner’s Best Women’s Erotica finds women looking at sex from new perspectives (playing with gender, desire, and vegetables in wonderfully inventive ways) and Tristan Taormino’s The Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica serves up lesbian sex as a sweet and spicy banquet of love and lust. Plus the editor in my brain stays quiet enough to allow the primal part of me to get as hot and wet as it wants.

In Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica 2000 you’ll find the darker side of sex, and some true flights of fancy. A few stories went straight to my clit, like Bret Easton Ellis’ excerpt from Glamorama -- non-stop sex a lot like those stroke books of yore. Most stories got me thinking, turned me on, then thinking again. Fortunately, thinking and sex are not mutually exclusive. My favorites include Carol Queen’s excerpt from The Leather Daddy and the Femme (one of the most deliciously perverse books I’ve ever read); “S & M” by Gabrielle Glancy (an S/M story for those who wonder how to ask for that first spanking); and Serena Moloch’s “Casting Couch” (Trixie gets more than she expected in her first day as Jane’s administrative assistant). Edgy, spicy and taking risks that made me sigh. Not a lot of romance and sweetness in this book, but plenty to challenge the brain and get my juices flowing.

Carol Queen and Bill Brent’s Best Bisexual Erotica is honest about its aims: stories to turn us on, by and about bisexuals, twosomes and threesomes of every type, with lots of fucking, sucking, and licking. The stories are often gleefully kinky, and cheerful in demeanor. These folks are having fun! Hanne Blank’s “Sauce for the Gander” is my favorite in this one. I love a woman who loves her sex this much. Polyamorous and bisexual, Anna gets to play with her boyfriend, her girlfriend, then watch her girlfriend fuck her boyfriend for the first time. Yikes, I’m still throbbing from that one.

Sex mixes with food, Santa Claus and siblings in Marcy Sheiner’s Best Women’s Erotica. More adventurous than good old Pleasures,” lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual voices converge to present women’s sexuality in all its wet, juicy, romantic and lustful guises. Some of the stories are dark in tone, others full of joy. Risk-taking and new experiences bring out the best in these authors. My favorite is the story of the woman who fucks the department store Santas every season wearing only her fur coat and pearls. Each one is going to be her last, until she discovers that they love her as much as she loves them. These stories turned me on in a different way, engaging my heart as well as my pussy. And to give credit where it’s due, the lovely phrase, “A wet cunt cannot lie” comes from Katherine Love’s story “Arrogance” in this collection.

Tristan Taormino’s Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica has a very different feel from the other collections. Not all the stories are sexually explicit, and certainly not all of them speak directly to my vulva. There’s the subtlety of Nicola Griffith’s excerpt from The Blue Place, with martial arts as the prelude to a date. There are sweet tales of falling in love (or lust), poems that pulse with emotion, and kinky scenes of dominance and submission. Gender gets tweaked in “Ariel” and “When He Was Mary.” I don’t have one favorite story; I like the whole book. It’s a diverse collection that both aroused me and made my head spin wondering what is lesbian sex (or maybe, what isn’t lesbian sex)?

It’s a treat to be able to read so much good erotica. These are some great collections, bringing entertainment to my clit and challenging my brain. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Ellen Barnard is one of the owners of A Woman's Touch sexuality shop in Madison, WI.

CORRECTION: In the Fall 2000 issue of Libido Magazine, the story "Arrogance" from Best Women's Erotica was mistakenly credited to Susan St. Aubin. The author of the story is Katherine Love, and we regret the error.

Best American Erotica 2000, Susie Bright, editor (Touchstone Books, 2000. ISBN: 068484396X. 299 pages, paperback. $13.95)

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Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica, Tristan Taormino, editor (Cleis Press, 2000. ISBN: 1573441058. 250 pages, paperback. $14.95)

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Best Bisexual Erotica, Bill Brent and Carol Queen, editors (Black Books, 2000. ISBN: 1892723018. 270 pages, paperback. $16)

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Best Women’s Erotica, Marcy Sheiner, editor (Cleis Press, 2000. ISBN: 157344099X. 200 pages, paperback. $14.95)

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