Plume, $13.95, ISBN 0-452-27464-8
Contemporary Erotica, 1996 (Reissue)
Reading The Erotic Edge is supposed to add spice into a couple’s relationship. Why not have one read out the stories and have the significant other guess whether a man or woman wrote it?
This anthology also serves another purpose, according to the editor Lonnie Barbach: to highlight the differences in men- and women-penned erotica. Right, as if I don’t know that men go for big tits while women go for luscious peachy mounds of flesh. Yes, yes, men go for the obvious, women go for the metaphysical. For men, orgasms are volcanic gushes of, er, pleasures, while women think orgasms is a spiritual culmination of a slow-build relationships. Men take one-night stands and adultery as just sex, while women plan these things with as much zeal as they plan their weddings. And I don’t know if this anthology is written to enforce these stereotypes or to prove them.
I mean, there’s a big difference between Suzanne Miller’s verbose, annoyingly introspective Taos Spring and Shimon-Craig Van Collie’s no-nonsense infidelity-is-fun Preliminaries when it comes to character motivations. And I don’t know whether to be pissed or bemused when these adultery/casual sex-themed stories often portray women as the emotional ones, who can’t let go when the sex ends. Really? It’s all in the stereotypes and paleo-feminism, where women are often portrayed as victims of their sexuality. Needless to say, I am far from aroused.
There is also a section on “The Perfect Match”, where real-life couples each offer their viewpoint of a sexual encounter between them. Again, yes, men are physical and measure everything in inches and bra cups, women don’t, et cetera.
Okay, I’m sure the big question here is: are the stories hot? Uhm… I like those written by the men. Yes, the hot, meaningless stories of no-holds barred, no emotion-invested tales of adultery, infidelity, and one night stands. For the rest, there is only so much oversized erections, pulsing nipples, and gushing climaxes I can take without becoming bored and insensate to it all. Hence Wickham Boyle’s Floating World is the one I find closest to being all-out erotic, mainly because it has no actual penetration: just the heroine describing the voluptuous sensations a masseur is inflicting on her body. Rob Scott’s Espresso and… have the man and woman masturbating for each other, separated by a toilet cubicle wall. This one plays on the sense of hearing rather than the actual sense of touch, and I find that more arousing than a prolonged sex marathon. And Preliminaries mentioned somewhere earlier is delicious too because the hero cheats on his girlfriend and ends the story fantasizing about a threesome with his girlfriends. Naughty, naughty.
Lonnie Barbach mentions that she has eliminated submitted stories of coercion and illicit sex in this anthology because it is not “romantic”. Bad mistake. When it comes to erotica, the forbidden is the most delicious fantasy. Infidelity, rape, domination/submission, bisexuality, multiple partners – these are the stuff naughty stories are composed of. Not the boring vanilla sex of the stories in this anthology, and definitely not stories where I am bombarded with the main characters’ conscience before the jolly fun stuff starts.