Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What I've Been Reading - April

I love to read -- always have, probably always will. And I also enjoy learning new things about the stuff I'm into. Recently, I've been a bit slow in my reading -- too much else to do! But I still enjoy taking the time to catch up on a book while I eat, as anti-social as that's considered, so I've made my way through a few.

The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy

In my last little series of mini-reviews, I spoke about I Am Not A Slut, which I felt had a strong argument that the word "slut" when applied to a person is disparaging no matter how one uses it. I thought that The Ethical Slut would serve as a counterpoint to this, arguing for the reclamation of the often still harmful word. It turned out I was sort of correct, but mostly not.

The Ethical Slut is a revised version of the original 1997 publication, with the second edition having appeared in 2009. It is sort of a lifestyle guide to sharing your life with multiple partners, which the two authors didn't want to limit to the term "polyamory," due to the multiple types of relationships discussed therein. The duo instead reclaim the term "slut" as an all-round expression of joyful, pleasurable sexuality that precludes infidelity -- ie, being an ethical slut. The book discusses a wide variety of multi-person relationships, covering asexual sluts, single sluts, heartbroken sluts, and closeted sluts. And wow, I have never written that word so often in a single sentence. Basically, Easton and Hardy are comprehensive in their interrogation of multi-person relationships, exhibiting a sensitivity to issues of age, gender, and sexuality that would allow people of most backgrounds to feel included in this lifestyle guide.

Apparently, the third edition of the book is due to be released this year, and I would be curious to see what changes. I'm guessing there will be a huge emphasis on online platforms for meeting people, and how technology has impacted our social spheres in general.

The Licorice Box by Harper Valentine

I spent a great deal of my free time ploughing through this ebook for a Pleasure Panel review, and although it was a good distraction when I had a few minutes, I found this particular piece of erotica too long and poorly-written to really recommend to any discerning reader.

You can read my full review here, but tl;dr the constant textual errors were frustrating (people are described as having a "casual manor" and often dis-guard their clothing), the characters were decidedly unethical and I couldn't let go of the bad parenting choices depicted in the book. Yeah, it's erotica, it's meant to be based in fantasy -- this is why we read sexy fiction, after all; we want to feel like we're being transported to a world where anything could happen. But this particular fictional universe was grounded in London, with the hints of real consequences that should make the characters reconsider their absolutely awful life choices. Like, oh, cheating on your girlfriend with your daughter's sixteen-year-old best friend and not using protection even though pregnancy is a thing that can clearly happen. I don't want to be too judgemental -- hey, YKINMY, and it's fictional, after all -- but I did have a few rants to friends about the more disturbing aspects of the book. However, I'm always keen for a little trashy reading -- it may be a fault of mine -- and while I didn't actively enjoy the book, I did read it pretty consistently.

The Intimate Adventures of a London Call-Girl by Belle de Jour

This was a bit of a pop-culture classic, as I understand it, causing a bit of scandal when it emerged onto the literary scene. Belle de Jour's thoughtful memoirs of her experiences as an escort to make money after completing her university degree is funny, self-deprecating, and even heartfelt at times. De Jour's prose is dry and factual, claiming to be based on her own diary; lending a further feel of authenticity to the events described. I admire her no-nonsense approach to the subject -- she consistently presents an unsentimental reflection on her experiences. I particularly liked how she refuses to romanticise her sessions with clients, her often unglamorous lifestyle, or the humdrum activities of her life outside sex-work. It's more likely that she will wax lyrical about really fancy underwear than the people with whom she has sex. After all, it's a job -- it can't always be interesting. Naturally, there are a few odd experiences that stand out as remarkable, like the client whose urethra appeared to sprout from the side of his penile shaft, or the one who demanded she remove all his clothing entirely with her teeth and was so bored by watching her perform this challenging task that he didn't feel like having sex afterwards.

She also describes the difficulties of personal romantic relationships in her line of work -- the cute boys who she can't bear to tell and the ones that know. She writes about the ways in which they navigate her job and their personal intimacy in the same unemotional tone that runs throughout the book, yet this is still performed sensitively, communicating the emotional hardship undertaken by all parties.

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