Toronto
3 min

Less fantasy sex, more real sex

Sex manuals are the highest form of self-help books. This is because they are the most earnest form of an extremely earnest genre.



There’s nothing quite like the repetition, the deliberately upbeat and oh so breezy tones of a really solid here’s-how-to-improve-your-life volume. It doesn’t matter if it’s about getting a date, getting over your anger or getting laid – damn it, you’re going to feel good by the end of the book.



There are books by gay men advising heterosexual women about what men are really like (think columnist Dan Savage), and now there’s Lesbian Sex Secrets For Men, from Jamie Goddard and Kurt Brungardt, to tell heterosexual men what women really want.



There’s a superficial logic in thinking that same-sex expertise is a higher form of knowledge and it’s tempting to take that kind of credibility and run. Most lesbians entertain the notion of their superior sexual skill as compared to that of straight men, but we also know that there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to sexual preferences.



This book is aimed at guys who either believe that lesbians really do have an edge, or they want to think they are as cool as dykes. Of course, there’s nothing in this book that couldn’t be found in another less provocatively titled one. However, the combination of the perky tone and constant use of analogies that are hilariously guy-oriented do suggest that the authors really are trying to reach a male audience. For instance, “kissing isn’t just something we just know how to do, any more than we automatically know how to change the oil in a car.”



Or my favourite: “For a great cunnilingus session, you’ve got to be prepared to go the distance. Be ready for 15 rounds if necessary. Don’t think you’re going to be down there for a few minutes and she’ll explode in a mind-blowing orgasm, then beg you to bang her afterward.”



There’s nothing wrong with the advice being served up in the book. It’s easy to imagine the straight woman who would love to meet a careful reader of it. He’d be cooking her dinner, giving her a full body massage and then going down on her for as long as she wanted – with appropriate musical accompaniment and candlelight.



It’s just really hard to imagine the straight man who would buy this book or more likely, accept it as a gift. Perhaps I’m underestimating the power of the provocative cover image: an extreme close-up shot of two lipsticked women in soft focus, sepia tones. It would certainly look good on a bedside table.



I’m used to thinking that erotic fiction is really about fantasies of one kind or another, and that non-fiction is much more reality based. Lesbian Sex Secrets seems like the fantasy version of sexual writing, and the anthology Carnal Nation is the reality.



This collection is truly quirky and distinctly queer, even though the stories are not exclusively about same-sex encounters. Editors Carellin Brooks and Brett Josef Grubisic (both contributors to Xtra West, Xtra’s Vancouver sibling) have gone out of their way to include a rare and twisted selection of stories.



There are stories about strippers and coke bottles, men’s bathhouses, tortured and non-tortured lesbians, and a whole lot more. This is not a cheap thrill collection; many of the pieces barely contain an official sexual episode.



Rather the focus is on how different writers write about sex and sexuality. Some are funny, like Derek McCormack’s story “The Accessory.” Some are incredibly poignant and sad, such as Natalee Caple’s “Dream Of Sleep.”



Like all collections, there are things that appeal and things that don’t. This collection deserves a lot of points for trying to present sex writing in a different light.



LESBIAN SEX SECRETS FOR MEN:

WHAT EVERY MAN WANTS TO

KNOW ABOUT MAKING LOVE TO A

WOMAN AND NEVER ASKS.

By Jamie Goddard & Kurt Brungardt.

Plume.

273 pages. $18.99.



CARNAL NATION:

BRAVE NEW SEX FICTIONS.

Edited by Carellin Brooks & Brett Josef Grubisic.

Arsenal Pulp Press.

303 pages. $21.95.