Cleis Press, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-57344-194-0
Contemporary Erotica, 2004 (Reissue)
This review originally appeared on The Naughty Bits, which is sadly no longer around. It’s now here with Teddypig’s permission.
I miss Drummer magazine, DAMN IT! It was the first gay magazine I ever subscribed to, part pornography, part pop culture critique, part advice for the truly perverted man, sometimes as funny as shit when they looked at some off-the-wall fetish and always very masculine, in fact it’s title read America’s Mag for the Masculine Male. I love these commentators I see today revising history to fit the latest fad they are talking about like the Bear culture and going on about how Bears brought masculinity back to the gay community and how they overnight founded a revolution, an anti-mainstream movement. Bullshit! Look at the original untouched grainy pictures and the original Leathermen published in these old copies of this one magazine. Drummer and the Leather community were years ahead in exploring masculinity, when the Bear movement was simply yet another fetish that Drummer covered in one of their themed issues.
I guess in talking about Drummer being a big Leather icon for me and most likely many others of my time I have to admit that I got involved reading it in the late 80′s and early 90′s when it was already slowly transforming itself first with slicked pages and then with even slicker models into a less honest S&M oriented forum. Some people swear that the only good Drummer were those with the grainy pictures and the news print pages. Sad to say even by the time I was finding Leather and Drummer, it had been quite a while since Drummer had truly been instrumental in giving the hyper masculine world of Leather and Gay S&M a powerful voice with stories like this book right here. Drummer died a hateful, messy, irrelevant death in 1999.
John Preston originally wrote Mr. Benson as a short story, a small run through of what it would later become. The editors at Drummer were so impressed with the writing that they sent it back and requested that the story be rewritten into a novel for serialization. This novel was then run with its first chapter appearing in issue 29 in 1979 till the final chapter was published in issue 38 in 1980. I myself only have issues 35 through 38 of those. Mr. Benson became an eagerly awaited almost mythic tale and Drummer became the magazine to read for most gay men. Soon T-shirts would appear with the words Looking For Mr. Benson across the chest and for the really daring and together Leather Tops they added a question mark to the end.
The story itself is actually quite simple it’s about two guys meeting in a nameless pseudo-Leather bar off Christopher Street in New York. Jamie the young bottom thinks he has got what it takes to handle Mr Benson and soon learns he knows nothing at all. Most of the rest of the book is about Jamie’s journey into becoming Mr Benson’s slave, his exploration of the mindset involved and the various nasty things that occur to him and with a relatively short side story that I can only best describe as something of a Nancy Slave and the Whipping Boys mystery that even included a van and yet no one asked for Scooby Snacks.
I want you to think about those boots, boy, think about the feel inside them. Think about how much you want to lick the surface of the leather… how much you want to suck on the feet inside. Think about them rubbing into your mouth and pressing against your balls… Keep those boots in your mind, boy… You have to learn every part of my body is to be taken care of, every part of my body is another chance at sex for you… I want you to get hard thinking about my toes… my fingers… every single part of my body.
Despite my picking on some of its minor flaws I honestly wish I had read Mr. Benson sooner than I did, it is an important addition to my book shelf and the writing really is not bad as S&M Erotica goes, in fact it’s very good. But… I have to agree with the comment John my Top once made about John Preston’s book giving people an inaccurate and highly fantasized expectation of what a real S&M relationship is about.
Let’s go over some common sense stuff for a minute since I am recommending this book.
Full Time Roles
Um well, first up, Mr Benson has Jamie quit his job to become a full time slave. I myself have never been given a chance at this type of an arrangement and quite honestly I most likely would not take it despite whatever escapist fantasies I may still secretly enjoy. The saving grace here is that John Preston added an epilogue when the story was published in book form that goes a little further to explain this issue. Mr Benson states clearly how much work it is to maintain the Top role with Jamie full time and from my experience as a bottom I can also state this is honestly the truth.
Even though you do eventually learn the habits, protocol, even the Top’s particular expectations of the role as second nature it’s not easy to pickup and it can take years to get it all down, from my view at least. Then to add to that difficulty the idea of having to maintain these roles from the start full time with no time-outs or downtime? Nice fantasy but not likely to happen. The other problem is not many people I know can afford the luxury of a 24/7 slave running around the house. When I was with John I was in the Navy and involved with a Motorcycle Club, so just consider what type of a head-trip it would have been for me to change between those roles constantly with no decompression because yes, even a sailor has a role he plays. Think about coming home from work and not being able to relax or unwind. I don’t know if these type of role problems grow less or worse if you continue to be trained in what I was taught to consider a slave, since I never reached that level of commitment myself (although I do know the protocol gets stricter and even more defining); I still can’t believe it changes the issues of maintaining roles that much.
So Jamie has gone and told you his life story. I knew the little fucker was up to something. He’s been in his little playroom for hours every day, and I’ve known he’s been using the typewriter whenever I’ve left him alone in the apartment. I don’t care that he’s written it all down, not at all. It does sort of amuse me to read the result, though. Bottoms are so typical. They inject everything with so much symbolism and so much jargon. Not that he hasn’t told you the truth, at least basically. He’s right about the meeting, the training I put him through, and the ridiculous mess he got himself into. He’s even right when he tells you this is basically a love story. I’m man enough to admit I love the little bastard.
Real Tops Do It All/real bottoms accept everything
Most Tops I have met do not get off on or perform everyone of the following fist/fuck/whip/flog/water sports/scat/gang bang/bind/suspend/shave/pierce etc etc etc.
Most bottoms I know do not get off on or provide everyone of the following fist/fuck/whip/flog/water sports/scat/gang bang/bind/suspend/shave/pierce etc etc etc.
Doing all of this and being seriously into all of this would be interesting, and most likely make you quite popular. Expecting this to be the norm in reality or a requirement for being hardcore is a really bad idea. This is why there are always initial negotiations (which is not shown in the book) especially if you do not intimately know the person whom you are doing these things with. Just to really mess with allot of peoples fantasies here, quite a few Leather Tops I have met do not even fuck after the scene, they go home to their lovers. Just so you know.
The only other small quibbles I have with the story, that seemed sorta off from my experience was some other hard to describe intangibles like, there are many reasons men get involved in S&M and many reasons men choose to serve a Master, this fantasy only covers a few of any possible combination of reasons for these choices.
Then there’s the whole branding scene the night Jamie becomes Mr Benson’s slave close to the beginning of the book. Now, I am not stating no one does the branding thing. But… one of the things John always said was a Top always keeps his bottoms recyclable. In other words, the bottom should be able to trust the Top and at the bare minimum expect to be able to leave the relationship in the exact same or even better shape than he came to him in. Branding is sort of a permanent deal to happen so quickly without the required commitment or even slave (absolute ownership) aspects being discussed like when Mr Benson does the tit-piercing scene at the end of the book, you almost want to reverse the events. See, there are things I have a hard time describing in all this, changes in the rules so to speak, that would be hard to write about without a whole other post so let’s just leave it at “levels of commitment that do not follow the actions very well”. Not the best wording in the world there.
Anyway this is Grade A Gay BDSM Erotica you must read this.