An evening with ‘The Best Sex Writing 2012,’ at turns sober, playful, and heated, just like the real thing

The readers take questions (Rachel Krantz)
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For an evening meant to promote The Best Sex Writing 2012, the introduction was decidedly unsexy.

“A typical first time with Adrian Colesberry plays out like a physical comedy routine,” series editor Rachel Kramer Bussel read. “He’ll go down on you until he gets an erection, but he loses it as soon as he reaches for the condom. If you’re kind enough, you’ll get him hard in your candor mouth, but right when he tears open the condom, he’ll get all floppy again.”

Luckily for the audience at Housing Works Bookstore, the Colesberry essay was the only phallic fodder read Wednesday night. That’s probably because all of the other selections were written by women.

Journalist Amanda Marcotte (pictured below) read her defense of SlutWalk, the protest movement which fights the idea that women who dress provocatively are asking to be raped. Marcotte told the audience that Rush Limbaugh’s comments had given SlutWalk’s cause an unexpected gift.

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“Once you’ve decided that basically all women [who take contraception] are sluts, you’ve done all the work of making that word sound as ridiculous as the SlutWalkers wanted,” Marcotte said.  

“Why then, did so many participants find it useful to walk dressed in the traditional garb of the slut, the miniskirt and fishnet?” Marcotte read from her essay. “Because they were challenging the retort to women who dress in revealing clothes ... expressed as ‘What do you expect men to think if you leave the house like that?’”

“Here’s what I expect,” Marcotte continued. “I expect men to be happy they live in a world where people have fun and exude sexual energy.... What I don’t expect men to think is 'Oh Boy, I get to rape that one!'”

Blogger and sex educator Ellen Friedrich (pitcured below) focused on the sexual rights of a different group: teenagers. Her essay, "The Continuing Criminalization of Teen Sex," argues that our legal system unfairly prosecutes teenage sexuality.  Specifically, Friedrichs argued, teen-on-teen statutory rape.

“If we assume that kids are too immature to have sex, or view pornography, then how can we possibly turn around and say that those same kids have to be held to adult standards when they post a naked picture of themselves online or have sex with a slightly younger peer?” Friedrichs asked.

Joan Price, author of Naked At Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex, spoke about rediscovering sex after the death of her partner.

“I feared I would dissolve into tears if I made love with a new man. I wondered though—could I hire this pleasure? Men have happy endings. Could I?” Price read. “I made an appointment for my 66th birthday.”

“It started out as a traditional massage, except that he didn’t skip over my breasts,” Price read to much nervous laughter. “His hand moved expertly, gently, slowly, waiting for my response with each movement. 'May I touch your yoni?' he asked quietly. 'Oh yes, yes you can.'”

Price addressed the audience’s squeamishness after the reading. “There’s what I call the ick factor about senior sex. That people of my age group who are enjoying sex are icky, ludicrous, pathetic. That’s what I’m combatting.”

The Village Voice’s Camille Dodero spoke about a different stigmatized group: fat women, and the men who love them. Dodero said her reporting for the article "Guys Who Like Fat Chicks" revealed that many men are ashamed of such an attraction.

“It’s not like being gay, but men who like fat women have had similar experiences,” Dodero said. “One of the guys I met for the story, because he always had fat girlfriends in high school, everyone just assumed he was gay. Not that he liked fat girls.”

Dodero said she learned an important lesson reporting the story. “This isn’t a fetish. This is a preference,” Dodero said. “One of my favorite ways [a source] explained it to me was that being with a fat woman is like experiencing one big boob.”

Jokes aside, series editor Rachel Kramer Bussel pointed out that all too often, sex writing isn’t taken seriously.

“Last week’s Newsweek cover story—ostensibly about Fifty Shades of Grey and BDSM—was really basically a rant. Most of the sources [the reporter] used were highly outdated, and very eccentric,” Bussel said.

“And the cover, which was a sexy woman with a blindfold on, also plays into how the media often treats sex writing,” Bussel said. “It gives it a splashy image—but then the thinking, and the quality of the writing, is not always based on the same journalistic principles we’d apply to other topics.”