Hey, I’m the first to admit it when I’m wrong. Most of the time anyway. And I was wrong. I’d predicted that She’s on Top would outsell He’s on Top because, well, the figure of the sexy dominatrix seems so powerful in our society. Don’t those captains of industry all pay big bucks to yield their responsibilities to a leather-corset-clad mistress for an hour? That’s what I read in the New Yorker! But He’s on Top has made the Amazon top ten erotica list. She’s on Top has good numbers, too, but He definitely seems to be on top in this respect.
I can’t help but wonder why. I like to wonder why, most of my stories are sort of a wondering why, and here’s a possible explanation for this one. I had thought that female domination was the more taboo dynamic as a reversal of the status quo, but actually, in our post-feminist culture, male domination is actually naughtier perhaps? Of course, men are still firmly in control in politics, the media, finance, etc, even if their iron grip has loosened somewhat. But they’re not allowed to admit it in public, nor are women allowed to admit their own desire to be dominated without fear of the dreaded stamp of political incorrectness. And so we turn to a collection of erotica to spark our hidden fantasies and give us permission to dwell in this forbidden world for a time.
I think another reason He’s selling well is because it’s a great collection, a nuanced and—to me—infinitely sexier version of classic BDSM. (She provides the same). It’s cool to have my story nestled in with the work of such fabulous writers. I’m including my “review” of the book here today (with She to follow). I use quotation marks a lot around “ordinary” words—a legacy of grad school, no doubt—but this isn’t a traditional review, which usually consists of a general evaluation of the book’s quality followed by highlights of several favorite or not-so-favorite stories. However, since this is my blog and my ideal review is to honor each writer for her/his hard work and imaginative gifts, that’s what my goal is here. I can’t be a fully objective critic anyway so why try?
The collection starts with the longest and most delicious foreplay you can imagine in “Not Until Dawn.” This story is in fact more like a poem, which drew me into its refrain, plus I especially like stories where the female protagonists have small breasts! Lisabet Sarai’s “Incurable Romantic” appeals to my mind as well as my libido—the image of Ilsa doing laundry the old-fashioned way while she got a special shampoo really stayed with me. I also liked the new perspective on the vanilla scene. Sarai really does make the master-slave relationship seem more romantic and more committed. “Seizing Monica” by Debra Hyde also provides a sweet dose of the cerebral as well as more carnal explorations. There is a tension between the thinking man’s pleasures and the groin’s primal desires. BDSM and this story bring the two together.
I like the sense of humor and the twist ending in Gwen Master’s “Confession,” plus given my upbringing, Catholicism always adds spice to an erotic story for me. Masters uses the confession trope (okay, I can’t resist) masterfully to bring new zest to a married couple’s sex life. And, hey, it might work for you, too. I’m next with “Yes,” and I’ll just say that my favorite line in the story is: “You silently thank your dear friend Sean for being such a boring, predictable fuck as you get up and walk out of the room.” Don’t know why, but that makes me smile.
The title of M. Christian’s “In Control” has more than one meaning. The first reference is to the narrator’s domination of a slutslave he meets on the internet, with a poignant twist of an ending. But the real show of control is in the words, the images, the pacing, the insight. I’ve admired M. Christian’s work from way back when in the mid-nineties when I first started reading erotica. Now I think I’m even better at appreciating a master who knows what he’s doing very well!
“A Good Reference” by Mackenzie Cross approaches the theme of the anthology from the perspective of what I think of as the classic BDSM scene. I especially appreciated the narrator’s humor and his epiphany, which brings a resistant sub to her knees. (I can even understand the appeal of the “lessons”). Didn’t you learn in school that all good short stories have epiphanies? “Boardroom Etiquette” by Lee Ash opens with humor and flair. A cheeky underling baits his boss in a meeting and is kept behind to receive his proper recompense. Of course, it’s not what you expect…unless you read that article in the New Yorker!
“The Sun is Ordinary Star” by Shanna Germain—a powerful and poignant story, takes a risk but pulls it off beautifully. And the writing, as always with Germain, is just so good. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story in BAE 09. If you’re in the mood for a little Christmas cheer, Andrea Dale’s “On the Twelfth Day” is a clever riff on the classic Christmas carol, with each day a new gift for a neophyte submissive. Suffice to say, Stacie has a very nice holiday, indeed. “Thrill Ride” by Matt Conklin is about another cerebral top (my favorite kind) who challenges his wife with a birthday gift that challenges her deepest fears. The interplay between fear and arousal is the foundation of BDSM, but we see here again, as in all of the stories, the surprising truth is that love is at the heart.
“Catherine When She Begs” (Jason Rubris) provides a dash of lesbianism, which is always good, and involves professors, another favorite theme of mine which fits well with power play. This is a story that capitalizes on the promise, the power of “the moment before.” It leaves you teetering on the edge, which is just where you want an erotic story to leave you. Interestingly enough Amanda Earl’s “Brianna’s Fire” also guides you to the brink in a slow, sensual and, for a BDSM outsider like me, instructive way.
I’ve long been a fan of Mike Kimera’s work since I read the “American Holidays” series on Clean Sheets (look in the series archives, the interlocking stories are awesome). “Christmas with Suzy and Mary” is another festive romp in BDSM territory as an older man discovers his true sexual nature. “Reclaiming” by Theresa Noelle Roberts gives us another corporate executive woman who enjoys a very different life in private. Roberts’ prose is hypnotic, poetic—good stuff.
The anthology ends with a bang with Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Late for a Spanking” and Thomas S. Roche’s “Schoolgirl and Angel.” As is fitting for the editor of the very popular Naughty Spanking Stories 1 and 2, Rachel’s story makes spanking sooo sexy. The tension between the dom, who faces his own constraints, and his wayward sub makes the piece sizzle—it’s one of my favorites in the book. (Really.) And of course you expect something good from Thomas S. Roche. He delivers with a funny, hot and very well written story.
Okay, I’ve given you the tour, but my summaries hardly do justice to the stories themselves. This is a great collection. I understand why it’s an Amazon erotic bestseller. But I still hold a special place in my heart for She’s on Top. Possibly because I like to be on top? A review to follow soon!