I had a little free time this week. Sadly, a quick perusal of my well-stocked bookshelves revealed that I'd read everything there at least two or three times. Some titles are more dog-eared than others; especially the sexy stuff! Here are the ones I couldn't do without...
The Sex Memoir: the Sexual Life of Catherine M by Catherine Millet
This short book has been called "the most explicit book about sex ever written by a woman", although I'm sure that title has passed on to someone else by now. It's the sexual autobiography of a French woman with an affinity for group sex. Her encounters begin in her teenage years and continue to adulthood, as she works as an Art critic in Paris.
Her descriptions of her activities are detached, almost clinical in their assessment of the various situations in which she finds herself. I love the way that her sex life grows innocuously from her childhood fantasies, considered as something perfectly natural. Her own curiousity is not in the least bit self-judgmental. As a unashamedly promiscuous woman, I find her story inspiring and liberating.
The Kinky Fantasy Novel: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
One of the best things about the nineties - for a book nerd like myself - was the number of fantasy novelists who broke away from the stodgy, macho sword-and-scorcery tales we were all accustomed to in the eighties.
Alongside the Tamir Triad by Lynn Flewelling, 'Kushiel's Dart' is one of my favourites.
The plot centres around a woman marked at birth as a masochist - one who enjoys pain - and who takes up her calling as a sex worker, which is considered a deeply religious art. The author has taken Christianity as a starting point and evolved its stories to create a world where sex work and BDSM are sacred practices, a refreshing and ingenious device. If you like a long read, there are six books in the series.
Oh, and the sex scenes are hot.
The True Life Story: Chicken by David Henry Sterry
David Henry Sterry has a great writing style and it's hard to put this one down! His novel tells the story of his year working as an underage escort, a 'chicken', in Hollywood. His style is comedic but self-deprecating, making the sadness of his life somehow more poignant. It's a 'down-and-out hooker' story, the kind I usually find objectionable, but it's told with such wit and honesty that it's hard to find it distasteful. It's also great to read a sex work story from the male perspective.
The Sex Work Handbook: Turning Pro by Magdalene Meretrix
I always get a twinge of nostalgia every time I pick this up; it's the first book I read when I was trying to decide whether to give sex work a go. Her advice for the unsure? "..go to a singles bar an pick someone up...pay close attention to how you feel about yourself afterwards." As I'd ticked that box already on a number of ocasions, I felt safe venturing forward!
This is a very matter-of-fact guide, covering everything from health and safety to the more basic considerations of when, where and how much. Much of the book isn't relevant for Australia as the USA is a very different place, but it's a good way to get your head around the basics.
The BDSM Handbook: SM101 by Jay Wiseman
SM101 is a great staple for BDSM enthusiasts. It's something of an encyclopaedia of BDSM techniques and it pretty compreshensive - it covers most techniques of S&M, all the broader variations of domination and submission and a lot of common fetishes. It has been around since the seventies (with a few updates) and the stuff in there is just as usable today as it was back then, although it's designed for the 'old school leather' crowd so some of the attitudes and methods are a little stricter and more formal than they are in today's scene.
I use it to refer to when I'm interested in a specific technique, and it's easy to start off with the simple things and then return for more when you wish to progress further. I think I've only actually read it cover-to-cover once!
The Polyamory Bible: the Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
The Ethical Slut is a very famous book, widely referred to and probably the most commonly recommended to those who are considering or attempting an open relationship or a polyamorous sitation. I actually had the good fortune to meet one of this book's authors, Dossie Easton, at a workshop earlier this year. She has aged since this was published in the 90s, but the text hasn't. It is actually considered the 'bible' of polyamory, with a decent amount of info on open relationships and sex-positivity in general thrown in for good measure.
'The Ethical Slut' empowers you to become self aware, to take control of your sexuality and your relationships. It has been criticised for being overly idealistic and I'm a bit too cynical about human nature to take everything it says as gospel. But sometimes I just want to read something that has not a shred of sex-negativity, and feel empowered and hopeful, and that's why this one is on my bookshelf.