Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Book review: I Like It Like That – True Stories of Gay Male Desire

Log off and discover the unequalled erotic power of a book

Is there ever anything truly new in erotica? Web surfers are by now thoroughly jaded — yet never sated. We chart a perilous course between sites, disposable webcam buddies and cherished fetish pages (delete those cookies!) that partners and office mates secretly frequent under their own avatars. What chance does the quaint old world of print erotica stand against the dazzle of the internet pornplex?

If I may suggest: Log out for a day and take a look at I Like It Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire, Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel’s anthology of steamy mini-memoirs from an array of sex hounds. It’s a reminder that virtual sex is best when it comes with a storyteller’s skills, triggering your own memories of lust and love.

When I burst from the closet onto the mean streets of Toronto my forays to Yonge St bars were augmented with the more efficient pleasures of the tubs. Writer Jay Starre whisked me back to the unbridled, carefree lust of those days with his account of the night in 1980 when he first dared to enter a Vancouver bathhouse known as Hornby Steam. I felt like three decades had been erased. Starre perfectly captures those first-time jitters — a full-body experience of surging hunger and quaking fear all mixed up together. Passing room after room of nubile flesh on display, a “near-paralysing lust” left him gaping outside cubicle doors as, key-in-hand, he wandered in search of his own room. “I thought my dick would tear a hole in my jeans.” Jeans at last doffed, he entered a night of expanding pleasures. “All around me… a free-for-all of sexual adventures. I was part of it, for real, at last.”

Lambda-winning US novelist Larry Duplechan offers disarmingly forthright homage to his own ginormous man-pole, which (he says) he never knew was huge until, at age 18, he met a thirtysomething McDonald’s manager who unpacked the meat and after a stupefied pause said, simply, “Wow!” Duplechan claims a dick circumference of six inches, and nine the other way. This sent me to my sewing kit, and then my fruit basket. The tape ribbon confirmed that big Larry’s tool is like an uncommonly fat banana — and with “a wicked back-curve that a lot of guys really like.” He’s also not one to carp about racial stereotyping, noting that lines like “take that big black daddy-dick” have served him well for decades. Still, there are role-playing no-gos: “the N-word is a major soft-on for me.” Black-power celebration is Duplechan’s modus operandi. In the webcam world, he’s “The Denzel of dick,” with legions of fans in Holland, Germany, Scandinavia and the former Soviet bloc — wherever dark is in short supply. Um, can I order in?

We join Toronto writer Steven Bereznai on a “naked workshop” weekend for fags worried about their seduction limits. The lesson: Get past your prejudices and you can be erotic with just about anyone, which still doesn’t mean you’ll willingly put skin to skin. Sometimes the inclusive impulse is just a feel-good spin — and “that curly-haired dude is just creepy.”

Steve MacIssac’s graphic presentation of a threesome date blew me away with its compact mating of images and resonant storyline. What clinches the success of a great graphic story is the artist’s gift for subtly evocative snapshots of faces and body language. MacIssac had me mesmerized with his tale of a single hunk on the rebound from rejection, observing himself in bed with a long-term couple.

There’s dizzying variety in these 34 entries. US soldier boys, soon to ship out to Iraq, wank each other on an intercity bus. A fortysomething enjoys weekly olive-oil wrestling with a somewhat pudgy twink. A football-obsessed kid grows into a football-fixated gay man whose fetish bewilders his friends. In a Lille sauna, it becomes evident that rimming is “something the French like very much.” In a forest shack in the BC interior a 16-year-old feels his first erotic touch from another boy, experiencing the “soul-shattering reality” of his fantasies come true.

I think my favourite entry is Martin Delacroix’s. At a bible camp in 1962 Florida we watch two teen counsellors wank and squirt in the chapel, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in unison. I suspect that most Christian believers would find this scene beyond the pale. But, really, what a wholesome and liberating alternative to the coercions of the closet-fag priests.

There aren’t any dud contributions worth mentioning here, though a few feel like they might have been dashed off just before deadline. Not being into pain or bondage, I whizzed quickly through a few pieces. Admittedly, one man’s erotic nightmare is another’s soaring ecstasy.

Print porn remains unique. With the power of words, it builds its images from your own intimate storehouse of memory and imagination. The flat-screen universe can’t do that. Give your screen studs a rest. Take a look at the book.