Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Sexually committed


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Take this Man: Gay Romance Stories, edited by Neil Plakcy; Cleis Press, $16.95

With the Supreme Court's legal ratification of same-sex marriage in all 50 states in June, there has been a celebration of committed relationships in all their forms. Neil Plakcy, the author of more than 20 novels and story collections and editor of many Cleis Press anthologies, is intrigued by the intersection between love and lust found in married couples. In his introduction to Take this Man, Plakcy asks, "How much sexier can an encounter be when the two men involved have been together for long enough to make some sort of commitment to each other? When you know what turns your partner on, and vice versa, your encounters can be even hotter. When you are making love to a man, not just having sex. When your pleasure is so much deeper because you're with him, and you have a history together?"

Plakcy has collected gay romantic erotica focused on committed relationships, marriage proposals, and lovemaking before and after wedding ceremonies. Plakcy argues that sex between men who have been together for a while is just as thrilling as new lovers exploring each other's bodies as they meet each other's desires. As one of the characters in Rhidian Brenig Jones' "A Good Heart Is This Day Found" observes, "Marriage has to be consummated, doesn't it?" Too often, marriage is depicted as the death of passion, but these stories attest that wild, steamy sex can happen just as easily in your own bedsheets with your husband as it can at Blow Buddies.

All these stories can be classified as explicit literary erotica, leaving little to the imagination, featuring a torrent of bodily fluids and sex-play positions, but encompassing mostly vanilla sex. The one exception is Jameson Dash's "Table for Three," about a restaurant-owning couple taking their new waiter, eager to please his new bosses, into their bed. One could imagine married couples reading these tales aloud to each other to spice up their sex lives, a break from the usual video porn.

According to these stories, the hottest sex occurs minutes before a marriage ceremony, with the aid of Xanax and/or margaritas. Also, apparently with the repeal of DADT, the military is now a steamy carnal free-for-all. Not surprisingly, several of the stories are written by women, a now-established tradition of female authors expounding on gay sex begun by Patricia Nell Warren in the 1970s (The Front Runner ). In anthologies, some stories invariably are better than others, but here they are all pretty much on the same keel. They use lines such as, "You sure know how to put the 'come' in 'comforter,'" or, "First National Bank of Aidan, now open for deposits," which, depending on your mood, can be seen as clever or cheesy. All of them feature mostly white, middle- to upper-middle-class men with hot, muscular bodies. Any conflicts are quickly, sometimes unrealistically resolved so lusty urges can be sated.

A few tales have special appeal, acknowledging that maintaining a long-term partnership involves hard work and compromise. I especially enjoyed Michael Bracken's "Blue Heart," about the evolving relationship of two undergraduates who met at the University of Texas in 2001, and how a gray chest hair sparks old memories. Oleander Plume's "Never Too Late" explores how to recover pizzazz in a 15-year relationship sidetracked by materialism. And you will never look at caves in the same way after D.K. Jernigan's "Into the Dark," where a bickering couple seeks refuge after a hike in the woods goes awry.

Justin Josh's "Homecoming," about a practical joke involving a fat-suit that almost backfires but leads to a wedding proposal, was probably the most fun. All these stories will remind marriage partners of what brought them together and the importance of recapturing that original spark.

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