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'09 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Digital Publishing & Print
Common Myths of Epublishing
Ebook Formats and Devices


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
Compelling Characters
Point of View, Part I
Point of View, Part II
Learning to Love Conflict
Story Structure
Keep ‘em Guessing
Keep it Simple
Keep Your Writing Real
The Importance of Pacing


Literary Streetwalker
by M. Christian
New World of Publishing
To Blog Or Not To Blog
Meeting & Making Friends
Thinking Beyond Sex
Selling Books
Walking the Line
e-book, e-publisher, e-fun
Still More E-book Fun


Shameless Self-Promotion
by Donna George Storey
Our Journey Begins
Pitches and Bios
Websites, Blogs & Readers
Publicists, Press Kits and...
Viva the Internet
Adventures in Cyberspace
Promoting In the Flesh
Make Your Own Movie
Bigger is Better
Looking Back, Planning Ahead


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Questions to Ask Yourself...
Tough All Over


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Ideas
Practice Makes Prefect
5 Books for Fiction Authors
Poetry In Motions
Six Serving Men
Ashley Lister is Anal
Stealing Ideas
Celebrating Poetry


2009 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Myths
Graduation


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
A Year of Living Shamelessly
Adultery, Exhibitionism ...
John Updike Made Me Do It ...
Story Soup: Forbidden ...
Lessons from Amazon
Naked Lunches ...
Erotic Alchemy
Secrets of Seduction
Are You a “Real” Writer?
Don’t Fondle My Sentence


Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
The Passionate Taphophile
Havens on Earth
A Knight Without Armor
Jail-Baiting
Magic Carpet Rides
Getting Hammered
Keep It Quiet
Hang Around for a Spell


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Worked Up About Why
Worked Up About Why, Part II
All Worked Up About Porn
The Catholic Church
Purity Movement
The National Crisis
The Future
About Homosexuality
Public Indiscretions


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Premature Ejaculation
Auctioning Off What?


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Who's Who Around the Table
Retro-Shame
Ritual Sex
Mixed Legacy
The Spectrum of Consent
Drawing the Line
Marriage without the Hype
The Distracting Smirk
Innocent Guns
Gardens of Earthly Delights


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Anneke Jacob
D L King
Kristina Lloyd
Lisabet Sarai
Mitzi Szereto
Portia Da Costa
Shanna Germain
Sommer Marsden
Susan DiPlacido


Guest Appearances

Marketing a Self-Published Novel
by Jeanne Ainslie

The Other Side of Desire:

Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing
by Daniel Bergner

Book Review by Rob Hardy

 

The Other Side of Desire

Eating is one of our great inner drives, and it is not at all surprising to us that other people like eating things that we do not, or even that they eat things that disgust us.  Sex is one of our great inner drives, too, and while all of us realize we don’t perform every single act in the sexual smorgasbord of our species, we find some of those acts by others pretty repellant.  We also tend to be curious about them.  Daniel Bergner, who has previously written about Sierra Leone’s civil war and Louisiana’s Angola Prison, turns his journalism to exploring inner worlds with The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing (Ecco).  The journeys are those of a foot fetishist, a female sadist, a child molester, and an amputee devotee, with side views of even stranger trails.  These lives will seem peculiar to most readers, but from Bergner’s pen, they are not completely foreign.  All of us have our drives and our kinks, even though they may not extend to these extremes.  Bergner stresses commonality, and extends (and engenders) compassion and sympathy.  There is some humor here but no leering.  There are also few firm answers about how these people came to their puzzling enthusiasms, but there are appealing accounts of how they made peace with them without ruination of their lives or those of others.

Start with the most distressing, the child molester.  Roy was convicted of groping his preteenage stepdaughter.  There is no question that molested children are victims and their molesters are criminals, and this is the one segment of the book that covers a perversion that causes harm.  Roy’s current wife knows of his past, and says, “One of the nicest things he ever said to me was that when he met me God was giving him a second chance.”  Roy’s workplace knows, too.  His boss says, “Everybody has these thoughts. The only thing that separates him from you and me is we didn’t act on them.”  It turns out that researchers agree.  Bergner has incorporated the views of clinicians and sexologists in his reporting of such cases, and describes the testing procedure used to evaluate levels of excitement by genital swelling and by brain scans.  When Roy took the test, he was attracted to adult women, and slightly more attracted to adolescent girls.  This is within “ordinary male desire,” as knows anyone who looks at magazine ads featuring teens trying to sell us any sort of product.  There is no evading (or resolving) a nature-vs.-nurture argument, but studies of pedophile’s brains do show some differences, and, for instance, pedophiles are three times more likely than others to be left handed.  That desire might be determined genetically or prenatally seems undeniable.  What society should do about such offenders is still, of course, a troubling question.  In the 1960s, “masturbatory reconditioning” was proposed; when the offender (in those days, the homosexual, but also the pedophile or fetishist) came close to bringing himself to orgasm, he was supposed to focus intently on a “normal” stimulus like a Playboy centerfold.  This has been “quietly abandoned.”  Roy himself, with credible introspection, gets to groups, keeps a journal, talks to himself positively, carefully follows all the rules of his 30 year probation, and tentatively requests increases in privileges.

Less worrisome is the foot fetishist.  Jacob, a decorous and otherwise conventional man, is afflicted by an erotic attraction to women’s feet, and is tortured by it.  He does not want to share his obsession with his wife, whom he loves deeply.  It is not just that looking at feet or imagining feet as sexual vessels is a bother to him.  He hates winter, for the weatherman will talk about how many feet of snow will be coming.  “Imagine,” he complains, “if snowfall was measured in breasts and you were the only man with that sick desire.”  He hates spring, because of sandals and flip-flops.  The undesired arousal could get so intense that he might have an orgasm with mere visual, not tactile, stimulation.  Jacob finds a psychiatrist who agrees that as troubling as Jacob finds his symptoms, they must be brought under control.  A drug to suppress testosterone is in order, with the idea that somehow desires are programmed into the brain and lust could simply be obliterated.  Ideally, the right dose would lop off the fetishism and leave regular sexual feelings and desires intact.  It’s not the way things turned out.  “No matter where you go,” he confides to Bergner, “there are people, and people have feet. Unless I lived in a center for amputees. That would be peace.”

Possibly, but then there are others who would find the same sort of excitement in such an environment.  Ron from age five has felt drawn to women whose legs are misshapen or missing.  His explanation is that it goes back to some primordial urge to hunt down the wounded animal, but he isn’t aggressive (and anyway, the explanations for all of these strange conditions turn out to be maddeningly unsatisfactory).  Ron photographed cripples in his spare time because he gets an erotic zing from them.  The therapist who helped him the most through his issues is the therapist who advised him that there was no harm in what he was doing.  Unlike Jacob, he could come to terms with a fascination others might find shameful, and found the ideal woman, in his words: “She was smart, she was cute, and she had no legs.”  They were married for nineteen years and ended the marriage for the same sort of ordinary reasons other people end theirs.  He began to court another woman who lost her legs in an auto accident.  The marriage is successful, and with his help his wife is counseling the mentally ill and posing for magazines targeted at the many men who share Ron’s tastes.  She explains to Bergner at the breakfast table, “We have all the regular things that keep people together,” whereupon her husband adds, “And like the cherry on the sundae is that she’s a double amputee, which brings me such happiness and pleasure and joy.”  And she accepts the shared attraction, wondering if an inexplicable preference for amputated limbs is really different from an inexplicable preference for any other sort of body type.

The one woman profiled here is the Baroness, a dominatrix who specializes in extreme pain, and also in latex fashions.  Unlike the dominatices-for-hire you can find in the Yellow Pages, the Baroness takes real sexual pleasure in making her subjects submit, even if the submission is merely doing her vacuuming.  Like some other subjects here, she has a conventional and satisfying marriage, in this case with a man who proposed to her in a dance hall between swing band sessions.  He has no interest in submissive play, and he admits he cannot understand her fascination with domination, but he allows her to engage others in it.  It seems to be the case, research shows, that people with paraphilias (essentially every character profiled here with a fascination for the unusual) do have higher potential for orgasms than the rest of us.  The Baroness says that the orgasms she gets with her husband in ordinary marital sex are “spikier” but the ones with her submissives are far longer and deeper, and they leave her “half-blind, mostly deaf, mute, slack-jawed.”  One of her acquaintances remarks about going to her parties, “The first few times, it was like we needed a checklist.  Clothespins.  Ankle restraints.  Wrist restraints.  Ball weights.  Leash.  Collar.  Gag.  Masks.  Opera-length rubber gloves.  Carabiners.  Flogger.  Whip.  Lighter.  Locks.  Keys.  It’s great to go fetish-shopping at Home Depot.”  Her husband says that there are social obstacles in living this way, but if offered the chance to give it all up without missing it, they wouldn’t take the offer: “This brings us too much.  We wouldn’t trade this for the world.”

Some of the extremes covered here are tough to read about, but others that obviously make the fetishists happy and fulfilled are impressive by the degree of joy the participants thereby derive.  While Bergner never flinches, he also never fails to extend a humane understanding.  What could be a freakshow turns out to be an appealing look at characters who have peculiar longings that are beyond their control and beyond anyone’s complete understanding.  There are mysteries in their behavior, but you can read their stories and wonder about the mysteries of your own sexual behavior.  Why, as one researcher wonders in the book, do people kiss?  We are all practice that intimate behavior, we all enjoy it, we think it normal, and we are no closer to understanding its “why?” than we are to any understanding any of the behaviors this surprising book describes.

Rob Hardy
April 2009


The Other Side of Desire

(Ecco; January 27, 2009; ISBN-10: 0060885564)
Available at: Amazon.com  / Amazon UK


_______
© 2009 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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'09 Movie Reviews

Blame It On Savanna
Review by Byrdman

Cry Wolf
Review by Spooky

Faithless
Review by Spooky

Heaven or Hell
Review by Oranje

House of Wicked
Review by Diesel

The Office: An XXX Parody
Review by Spooky

This Ain't The Partridge Family
Review by Spooky


'09 Book Reviews

Anthologies

A Slip of the Lip (ebook)
Review by Jean Roberta

Best Women's Erotica '09
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bottoms Up
Review by Ashley Lister

Enchanted Again
Review by Victoria Blisse

Frenzy
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Girls on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed
Review by Ashley Lister

Libidacoria (Poetry)
Review by Ashley Lister

Licks & Promises
Review by Ashley Lister

Like a Thorn (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Mile High Club
Review by Ashley Lister

Nexus Confessions: Vol 5
Review by Victoria Blisse

Nexus Confessions 6
Review by Victoria Blisse

Oysters & Chocolate
Review by Kristina Wright

Playing with Fire
Review by Ashley Lister

Sexy Little Numbers Vol 1
Review by Ashley Lister

Up for Grabs
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Novels

A 21st Century Courtesan
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Ages of Lulu
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Amanda’s Young Men
Review by Kristina Wright

As She's Told
Review by Ashley Lister

Bedding Down
Review by Victoria Blisse

Broken
Review by Ashley Lister

Brushes & Painted Dolls
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Cassandras Chateau
Review by Ashley Lister

The Edge of Impropriety
Review by Kristina Wright

Exposure
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Free Pass
Review by Ashley Lister

The Gift of Shame
Review by Victoria Blisse

Kiss It Better
Review by Ashley Lister

The Melinoe Project
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Mortal Engines & The ...
Review by Ashley Lister

The New Rakes
Review by Ashley Lister

Ninety Days of Genevieve
Review by Victoria Blisse

Obsession: An Erotic Tale
Review by Kristina Wright

Sarah's Education
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduce Me
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Lesbian Cowboys
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Night's Kiss
Review by Jean Roberta

Where the Girls Are
Review by Jean Roberta

Gay Erotica

Animal Attraction 2
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Boys in Heat
Review by Vincent Diamond

Faewolf
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Low Road
Review by Jean Roberta

Personal Demons
Review by Jean Roberta

Ready to Serve
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Secret Tunnel
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Shuck
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Transgressions
Review by Vincent Diamond

Non-Fiction

Best Sex Writing '09
Review by Kristina Wright

The Big Penis Book
Review by Rob Hardy

Erotic Encounters
Review by Rob Hardy

The Forbidden Apple
Review by Rob Hardy

Hollywood’s Censor
Review by Rob Hardy

Lady in Red
Review by Rob Hardy

Licentious Gotham: Erotic...
Review by Rob Hardy

Live Nude Elf
Review by Rob Hardy

Live Nude Girl
Review by Rob Hardy

The Other Side of Desire
Review by Rob Hardy

Scripts 4 Play
Review by Ashley Lister