Or, if I were still in the Academe I would probably call a thesis study about this: The Reclamation of Female Power Through Sexuality. More on that later.
So, I found out about this book through one of the book groups that I have on Facebook. One of the contributors was asking for someone to review the book and I signed up for it. And welp, it took me quite a while to finally finish and do a review for this! (Really sorry about that, by the way.)
Erotica and Women
There is a fine line between a nicely written erotica meant to titillate and a piece written just for the vulgarity of it. (Smut for smut’s sake?) Honestly, even I can’t say for sure how to distinguish which ones carry a heavier meaning than the ones done for show or masturbatory purposes. But what I do know, for a fact, is that there is more to explore in erotica than the simple birds and the bees uncovered for all the world to watch and pick apart.
But what I do know, for a fact, is that there is more to explore in erotica than the simple birds and the bees uncovered for all the world to watch and pick apart.
Best Women’s Erotica of the Yearbook Volume 2 (to which I will now lovingly call BWE) contains 21 short stories of women exploring their sexuality. There is no one theme to tie them together aside from the fact that they all feature brave women, women who are pushed to be brave, to explore what is often branded as taboo or indecent. In this collection, women make the rules. Women take the experience by the horn and emerge victoriously.
“This is a new world, Paul. A world where everyone gets what they need.” She lowered her head to his cock and smiled as she heard him sigh.
“I like this new world.”
Calling a Spade, a Spade
Often, with patriarchy trying to impose its many restrictions on how to live life as a woman when they are not even women to begin with, give rise for the need to euphemize. Granted that nowadays, some writers might see this as a challenge to overcome creatively. But when you deliberately follow this imposition because there is a shame in writing a penis and a vagina as such, then you are succumbing and perpetuating the oppression of patriarchy.
Here is the thing I loved about BWE: there are entries where the writers, who are all female, reclaim the power of the words and use them for what they are. These are writers who did not let the words defeat them. Rather, they wielded the words as they ought to be used and in consequence, the power of the words is transferred to the writer once again. Does it matter that the writers were all female, writing these words deliberately?
Does it matter that the writers were all female, writing these words deliberately? Absolutely. For many years, women are told to have sex only after marriage. We are cattle and prized possessions simply from the presence of our intact hymen. Sex is a taboo subject and an even more mysterious world we are not allowed to explore, let alone speak of our vagina. When we use the words as they are meant to be used, we are allowing ourselves to use the word as they should be. This permission is what we have long been deprived of, and this simple calling a vagina, a vagina is symbolic in its simplicity.
“Do you want me to…go down…on you?” I gasped.
Ben whispered in my ear, “This night is for you.”
Orgasms are Political
I know, you might be thinking this has all turned too academic or political for a review of an erotica book. But uhm, sorry to hate your bubble, dear, but everything is political.
Even orgasms are political.
Usually in erotic romance novels, as much as we advocate for gender equality, there is still the notion of tit for tat. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s great.
But here’s also another thing to consider: In real life, the expectation of getting one off is to trade that orgasm with another. And I really hate this. (This is as far away from academic/clinical perspective so time to change your bearings.) Men always expect that they are entitled to get off. That the whole point of the act is to get them off. I hate that entitlement.
In BWE, there are lots of instances when the women MCs get off without having to reciprocate. And I guess I’m stressing this point because orgasms are a bodily function. When a female is allowed to orgasm, she is granted the freedom to chase after pleasure, something which has not been freely given to her both biologically and sociologically. (Even the word “granted” belies a power structure I will not delve into.)
In the collection, we find stories of women who are finally able to explore their sexuality regardless of the gender of their partner/s. There is a safe space created for them to be free and to experience the pleasure that has been restricted to them for so long. There is always that notion that before each story, there is a norm that pleasure is something rare. We always go into each story with the same mindset: there is a need, a demand, for pleasure. And the story delivers an opportunity of freedom and orgasms to the female.
Another moment, and she’d scooped up her clutch, similarly spiked, and so small it would only carry a few essentials: phone, cards and sach, lipstick, keys, condom. She tried not to think about whether that last item was protection or prayer.
On Control and Gender
There are lots of really kinky stories in the collection, some are even BDSM explorations. I keep on thinking how the sequencing of the book came about, and I observed that the kinkier ones were kind of lumped together almost by the end of the book.
And it’s weird how a lot of readers equate erotica with BDSM immediately when there is a lot more to erotica than control play. But anyway, as I was reading through the kinkier short ones, I kept on thinking what does this all mean for us? What reading could we possibly get from these stories?
I would hazard a hypothesis that BDSM, the true lifestyle, is as close sexual liberation we can find. And with sexual liberation, we also explore the subjects of body politics, power, and sexuality between genders, and possibly even the blurring of the distinction between genders. The D/s relationship is not restricted by gender. You can be a Dominant male or female, and even more revolutionary, you can be a Switch. Imagine that. You can choose to be how you want to be. What a novel idea in a world of binary notations.
As a final note, I give you this quote from one of the stories. It really resonated with me, how eventually all this talk of erotica boils down to the topic of gender. Gender, sexuality, control–they are all things we try to make sense every day. I wouldn’t even know how to approach each of these subjects without tripping myself over some incorrectness. But they are important. Sometimes, they even cost the lives of people in places we can only dream about.
Recently, there has been a post about how feminism for a woman of color means an intersectionality that is absent with white feminists. I agree with that. And I have nothing more to say because I still want to ruminate on this topic more. LOL. Anyway, here’s the powerful quote I found by almost the end of the book:
Gender still scares me, but now I think about it all the time. I don’t know what to call myself, don’t know what I am. The boundaries of my body shift and change. My cock is an island charted by sailors before Google Earth came along, appearing on some maps but not on others. My cunt us sometimes a depth, but sometimes a height. My breasts rise and fall. They curve into hills, then flatten into plains. I don’t understand what gender has to do with any of this anatomy. Sometimes my cunt feels tough and masculine, ready to take any sort of abuse. Sometimes I put on my soft-pack and watch it tremble, so delicate in shape and color, and it feels like nothing could be girlier. Other times it seems self-evident that if I put on my cock I am playing at being a boy. Mostly, it all feels queer, in a way I’d never have had the guts to explore when I was younger.