by Jim Piechota
When She Was Good: Best Lesbian Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino; Studs: Gay Erotic Fiction, edited by Richard Labonte; Men on the Make: True Gay Sex Confessions, edited by Shane Allison; all Cleis Press, $15.95
The latest batch of erotic offerings from Berkeley-based Cleis Press includes an edgy, diverse collection of 22 lesbian sex tales expertly edited by award-winning New York author and sex educator Tristan Taormino. In her introduction to When She Was Good, she writes that what unifies the book's stories is "the desire to push something perhaps a little too far, to give the middle finger to 'polite society.'" Guest editor and author Ali Liebegott comments on how impressed she was with the entries, all "filled with the real lesbians I'd been looking for my whole life."
True to these attestations are many stories of transgression, of characters defying social norms and expectations, breaking traditional molds of behavior and sexual desire. These rogues can be found in the form of the dominatrix exerting her lusty demands on a date in a "classy French restaurant" in Rachel Kramer Bussel's "Domme's Games"; an Amish girl's deflowerer in Peggy Munson's brilliant "The Storm Chasers"; the hesitant sex-club patron in Radclyffe's "Sweet No More"; and the grocery store co-worker with an "old-school butch feel" who gives new meaning to checking stockroom inventory in Miel Rose's "Undone." What turns these characters on varies from women's shoes to unbridled emotions to a full-bodied ant-colony queen costume. There's plenty of wild fantasy to be enjoyed.
Much the same can be said for the new erotic fiction collection Studs, edited by veteran Canadian editor Richard Labonte, ably assisted by spoken-word artist and poet Emanuel Xavier. Among the entries is the beautifully written "Snowed in with Sam" by Jeff Mann, where a night of urgent sex in a wintry mountain cabin ends as "the snow stretches on without mark or flaw this late at night." Shane Allison's addictive "Confession Angel" rattles off remembrances of boners, toilet stalls, dick smells, personal ads, sloppy kisses, cruisy woods, and closeted tricks who admit they "had a place, but his wife was always home." Horehound Stillpoint's cruising extravaganza "Donuts to Demons" and Andy Quan's sweaty remembrance of sex between separated partners in "The Best Sex Between Them" are standouts as well. Sometimes it's the title that grabs a reader by the balls, as in Simon Sheppard's "Frank Fudgepacker, Teenage Whore," chronicling the hilariously nasty exploits of a youthful hustler who is "working my way through college, okay?" This collection artfully combines newer writers and reliable repeat contributors in a book that is less sexually graphic than previous volumes, yet still packs in an amazing amount of hot men of all shapes and sizes.
Finally, a fiery, sex-drenched storybook of 19 true-to-life confessions is compiled by award-winning Floridian author Shane Allison in Men on the Make. These stories are distinctive in that they are based on real events, a quality that adds a certain spice and imagination into the mix. Short story veteran Rob Rosen's "Forbidden Fruit" describes a steamy interlude with a sexy, "ripe for the picking" work supervisor at a Castro office. Bearmuffin's park cruising results in a hot meat-and-greet with a Hispanic runner in "Jogger's Jizz." Minneapolis author Logan Zachary's "huge Polish penis" gets a workout at the YMCA on a randy masseur's table; and Gregory Norris' exciting story of "Jason's Feet" recalls hookups with a bisexual "Daddy"-type with a foot fetish who stops by whenever he can "sneak off from the guys" on his trips through Massachusetts. Among the best are orgy participants, belly fetishes, Zamboni drivers, strip joints, ass eaters, a pool table grope-fest set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and author Devondre Johnson's potty-mouthed debut about the horny exploits of a self-proclaimed shameless slut.
Some of these stories are so outrageously lascivious, it's difficult to believe they actually occurred, but whether they've been lightly embellished or written straight from the groin, that's what makes this book such a savory snack to enjoy by the bedside or whenever you need a punch of real sex to jump-start another day.