I’m in the midst of reading this fascinating collection of works edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, guest judge Susie Bright. The subject mix is wonderful, and all stories are extremely well written. This book does not disappoint. It is not the typical erotica book Rachel is known to edit, and meant to arouse. It is an important read, one I highly recommend.
Book Trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Figl8jJ2ok
Book website: http://bestsexwriting2012.com/about/ If you are interested in submitting your work for the 2013 book, link to: http://www.bestsexwriting.com/
To purchase: http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sex-Writing-2012-Culture/dp/1573447595
Rachel Kramer Bussel Interview
How do you go about selecting the pieces for the Best Sex Writing series?
I generally put out a call for submissions, but the vast majority of the work I include is work I’ve sought out or commissioned. I don’t tend to get as many submissions for this series as I do for my erotica, and the biggest thing I look for is work that says something new and bold and daring about sex, or says it in a new way. I read as much as I can, from magazines to alt weeklies to books, about sex in any given year, and I like to be surprised. I also like to keep the book as timely as possible given the long lead time.
For this past year, that meant finding a perfect piece about SlutWalk, and I’m sure next year’s will continue the slut theme with the recent Rush Limbaugh Sandra Fluke controversy. I welcome submissions that fit the guidelines, from authors or editors. I also am especially proud that this volume reprints work from Salon, Playboy, Reason, Ms. and many other sources. I’d love a piece on sex and tech, or sex and the environment, or any other topic that is not a usual suspect, like porn or female submission. Those are important topics but they would need to be approached in a novel way for this series. That being said, I love to be surprised and make it a priority to publish authors new to my anthologies in every book, so send me your submissions by May 1st (earlier is strongly preferred!). As with any piece of writing, think about what unique story you have to tell about sex and tell it. Details are at http://bestsexwriting2012.com/2012/01/20/call-for-submissions-best-sex-writing-2013/
What surprised you about this year’s book?
I was intrigued that there turned out to be two pieces of what can only be called media criticism, Thomas S. Roche’s “Men Who ‘Buy Sex’ Commit More Crimes: Newsweek, Trafficking, and the Lie of Fabricated Sex Studies,” from Tiny Nibbles, and Roxane Gay’s “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence,” from The Rumpus. Each took on major mainstays of mainstream media, Newsweek and The New York Times, and articulately skewered their blind spots. We also desexed the cover a bit from previous years, and I hope that welcomes in readers who might have found the other covers a little too provocative. I call this a book for “sex nerds” but it’s also for anyone who wants to learn more about the extremely wide world of sex.
Will readers of erotica who don’t tend to read sex nonfiction enjoy this book?
I hope so! I will say unequivocally that the goal of this book is to turn on your brain, not your libido, per se, but I think they work hand in hand. By learning more about sex, you learn about people who are different, or perhaps similar, to you, and through that process, may learn about your own desires, judgments, ways of thinking. You may be provoked to learn more. I certainly learn each and every year from editing this series and that is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. It’s not a rote process of simply sorting through submissions but of actually asking myself, “What is going on in the culture that I should be including?”
Would you consider Best Sex Writing 2012 a feminist book?
In many ways, yes, and Susie Bright’s input was very important in putting a feminist stamp on the book. I think this book will speak to feminists, especially Susie’s essay, “Why Lying About Monogamy Matters,” my essay, pegged to the Anthony Wiener scandal, “Penis Gagging, BDSM, and Rape Fantasy: The Truth about Kinky Sexting,” the look at female orgasm and One Taste by Tracy Clark-Flory and Ms. editor Katherine Spillar’s ” Sex, Lies, and Hush Money,” about Republicans and sex scandals. While not every piece is explicitly feminist, I think there’s an angle of social justice here, whether that’s applied to standing up for teen sexuality or sluts or sex workers.
The pieces are a mix of journalism and personal essays. Why do you include both?
I think each of those types of writing speaks to the importance of sexuality in our lives. It’s both extremely personal and highly political. The essays about the law and politics aren’t necessarily more important than the pieces about a personal sexual awakening. I think some readers may relate to one more than the other, and I want to reach readers beyond the “sex community” because sex is a topic that affects everyone’s lives.
Is there any one piece in particular that stands out for you?
That’s a tough one, because they are also in the book for a reason, but Amber Dawn’s “To All the Butches I Loved between 1995 and 2005: An Open Letter about Selling Sex, Selling Out, and Soldiering On” from the excellent, highly recommended anthology Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman, is one, and Tim Elhajj’s “An Unfortunate Discharge Early in My Naval Career.” Both deal with queer issues, the former about a lesbian who sleeps with men for money, the latter about a straight man who gets kicked out of the Navy for homosexual sex. Each confronts many stereotypes about sexual labels and identities, about the proper role of sex, where and when it’s appropriate, and strikes back at our culture’s often narrow-minded views about queerness, sex for money, and sex and the military. Elhajj’s piece stood out in part because he isn’t a “sex writer” and it wasn’t from a sex-related publication, but from the literary magazine Guernica, yet it touches on something we are still debating today: gays in the military. And it opens in a way we can all hope our essays to open: with a bang. “My first year in the United States Navy, I let another boy give me a blow job. Of course we were caught.”