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'08 Authors Insider Tips


Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Inspirational
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft


Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons


2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
Utopias
Lust
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel


Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn


Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics


On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank


Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

America Unzipped:
In Search of Sex and Satisfaction

by Brian Alexander

Book Review by Rob Hardy



America UnzippedAmerica has been conflicted about sexuality for a long while. Europeans for decades have been amused by how we can be sending titillating movies over there, but remain shy about, say, discussing condoms in school. According to Brian Alexander, although we are currently a “hypersexual culture”, we are “also supposed to be in the middle of a new Great Awakening” with the Bible, canon law, and “traditional values” triumphing over the past few decades of hedonism. Alexander has looked at the contradiction from a unique vantage. He had a column at Glamour magazine answering letters from readers, and the letters were often about sex, and the letters about sex were often about unusual practices. “I am interested in bondage,” asked one, “and hear that there are secret bondage clubs.” “I hear Paris Hilton is into fisting,” said another; “How do you do it?” Alexander tried to make sense out of the dissonance. Wild sex seemed to be a common interest among regular people, but at the same time it was happening within a country that had experienced what he calls “a freak-out over the possible baring of Janet Jackson’s nipple. (I still can’t make it out, and believe me, I’ve tried.).” So rather than merely reading about what people were doing, Alexander set out to see for himself, resulting in an online series and now a book, America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction (Harmony Books). “I have been preoccupied with sex since I was a boy,” he says in a confession that will surprise no one. Everyone is interested in sex, and everyone is curious about what those other people are doing, the curiosity coming from either healthy inquisitiveness or prurient nosiness or puritan eagerness to put an end to it. Readers will be pleased to find lots of sex in Alexander’s book, but not much of the “vanilla” kind. There is an appropriate tone of wide-eyed amusement throughout, and a thoughtful examination of America’s current version of sexual paradox.

To start out with, the “traditional values” as promulgated by the Bible crowd don’t turn out always to be so traditional. In a trial of two small video stores in Utah in 1996, the crusading district attorney insisted that porn tapes sold by the stores were completely outside community standards. The defense attorney, however, revealed that local residents were ordering thousands of adult movies from one satellite TV provider, that the local Marriott Hotel sold thousands more, and that the stores’ adult video customers numbered about four thousand, equal to the number of signers of the petition that sparked the trial. An acquittal resulted, but not before the owner was bankrupt. Alexander meets a woman who directs sexual tapes for the Sinclair Intimacy Institute, erotic how-to videos about love swings, vibrators, or oral sex, and who says of Jesus, “He is my Lord and Savior”. She sees no contradiction between this and her institute’s giving cheerful permission for all sorts of sex play. Even more interesting is Joe Beam, a Christian preacher who is determined to tell every conservative evangelical group who will have him just how delightful and important sex needs to be. Of course, he means sex between husband and wife, but it is news to his hearers, for instance, that God condones oral sex, even though it must be within marriage. Beam can cite verses from the Song of Solomon as affirmation. He gets asked sometimes, “What does the Bible say about vibrators?” Not much, it seems, so Beam endorses their use, and even has a recommended model. Another woman explains to Alexander that she left her husband because she could not get him to spank her, but did find another man who could fulfill her spanking fetish. She is a Southern Baptist, and says, “I do think this is biblical. The man is the head of the household, right? Well, this is just taking it a step further.” Alexander was himself raised Catholic, and is surprised how often Catholicism comes up in his discussions. A professional dominatrix told him, “My Catholic upbringing instilled the following concepts in my mind: pain is educational, the end result of pain and suffering is redemption, and it is possible to achieve a state of spiritual enlightenment through mortification of the flesh.”

There is a boom in non-missionary position sex. When I was growing up, oral sex used to be risqué, but it is now taken for granted. Threesomes are often an eagerly accepted pastime. More couples are playing with anal sex (for the man, too) and with that handy tetragrammaton BDSM (which so nicely abbreviates three pairs, bondage & discipline, domination & submission, and sadism & masochism). Blame it on the internet! Millions are finding validation for their particular kink via Google. The woman with a spanking fetish had no idea that’s what she had until she typed “spanking” into a search engine. “I knew then I was not the only one,” she says. There is plenty of pornography available, of course. Much of it is amateur, posted on sites that are just like the nonsexual YouTube, and costs nothing to watch. If you delight in having others watch you masturbate or have sex, it’s simple to make your own video and upload it, and if you are just too inhibited, masks or camera angles can keep any identifiable face shots from broadcast. Beyond watching, there are internet support groups for any sexual activity you can think of, and many you will find in America Unzipped that you would never have thought of. The support might come from enthusiasts over the internet, but it also means that via Craig’s List or Adult Friend Finder you can easily hook up physically with those who want to do what you want to be done. Again and again as Alexander visits dungeons or porn studios, he finds that there may be metal hooks in the ceiling, cattle prods being charged, and plenty of rope at the ready, but the atmosphere is friendly, congenial, even “family”. A woman who talks about a meeting called Fetish Con sounds as if she is “talking up a small-town bowling league, just a bunch of people with a common interest getting together for good clean fun, a little knot-tying, and some dress-up.” Fetish Con would suit Dave, who is a railroad technician by day, describes himself as “very, very Republican” (there are so many in these pages!) who is a big fan of Ann Coulter, and a self described “pervert” who likes to photograph pretty girls tied, gagged, and helpless. A trunk by his bed is “as meticulously packed as an obsessive fly fisherman’s tackle box, containing ropes in various colors and dimensions, safety scissors in case of a bondage emergency, ball gags in different colors and sizes, duct tape...” and the list goes on. “Dave keeps an eye out on Internet sales to get the best bargains.”

Alexander has lots of adventures. He trains to be a salesman in a sex shop, the sort that is no longer dark and seedy. He accompanies a top saleswoman for Passion Parties, the Tupperware-style parties for vibrators, oils, and lubricants. He takes a bondage class. He watches porn being made. It’s a wild sex world out there, and he has talked at length to the inhabitants, some of whom are very strange indeed. But in an important summary he says, “None of these people were scary. They are you and me and our neighbors.” Young people involved are getting information from plenty of sources, including the ubiquitous internet, and are finding that schools and churches do not give useful or accurate information about sex. For them and their elders interviewed here, “Sex is not a moral issue, a religious issue, or a political issue. It is a personal issue.” No one here expressed any shame about being different; “No one else’s business” is the simple and practical attitude. There is a great deal of trust within the play groups, and lots of careful communication about what’s wanted and what’s permitted, and this can be no bad thing. Maybe, as Alexander contemplates at the end, taboos become mainstream and then kitschy, and thus lose their rebellious transgressiveness, and so maybe the explosion of kink he has explored has gone as far as it can. It is clear, though, that people are not about to give up these particular sources of entertainment and satisfaction. Even if you aren’t a participant, you can find entertainment and satisfaction throughout the chapters of Alexander’s recounting of a unique and amusing journey.

Rob Hardy
February 2008


America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction

(Harmony; January 15, 2008; ISBN-10: 0307351327)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK


_______
© 2008 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.



About the Reviewer:†
Rob Hardy is a psychiatrist who lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife, two terriers, five cats, and goldfish.

He reviews nonfiction for The Times of Acadiana, but has been reviewing books as a hobby for years before that.
WebBio: Rob Hardy



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'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Two
Review by Spooky

Fallen
Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews

Anthologies

Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Fantastic Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

Bound Brits (ebook)
Review by Ashley Lister

Deep Inside: Extreme ...
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Dirty Girls
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Hide and Seek
Review by Ashley Lister

Hurts So Good
Review by Ashley Lister

J is for Jealousy
Review by Ashley Lister

K is for Kink
Review by Ashley Lister

Lust Bites
Review by Ashley Lister

Open for Business
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Possession
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
Review by Ashley Lister

The Shadow of a... (poetry)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Spanked
Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
Review by Ashley Lister

Tasting Him
Review by Kathleen Bradean

White Flames
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Novels

The Art of Melinoe
Review by Ashley Lister

Demon by Day
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Gemini Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

Gothic Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

The Hidden Grotto Series
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The House of Blood
Review by Lisabet Sarai

In Too Deep
Review by Ashley Lister

In Too Deep
Review by Victoria Blisse

Incognito
Review by Donna George Storey

Nicholas
Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Out of the Shadows (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Phantasmagoria
Review by Ashley Lister

Reckless
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduced by the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sunfire (eBook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Templar Prize
Review by Angelika Devlyn

The Wicked Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Wild Kingdom
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Backdraft
Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
Review by Vincent Diamond

Hard Hats
Review by Vincent Diamond

Leathermen
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Donna George Storey

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

The Night Watch
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Non-Fiction

America Unzipped
Review by Rob Hardy

Best Sex Writing '08
Review by Rob Hardy

Bonk: The Curious Coupling
Review by Rob Hardy

The Book of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Casanova: Actor Lover ...
Review by Rob Hardy

Dishonorable Passions
Review by Rob Hardy

Flagrante Delicto (photos)
Review by Jack Gilbert

The Flesh Press
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Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Humble Little Condom
Review by Rob Hardy

Instant Orgasm (sex guide)
Review by Ashley Lister

Man O Man! Writing M/M...
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Not So Invisible Woman
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Swingers: Female...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Who's Been Sleeping in...
Review by Rob Hardy