Review: Best Sex Writing 2012

The greatest strength of Best Sex Writing 2012 (ed. Rachel Kramer Bussel) is its ecclectic collection of writing from all corners of the genre.  This anthology has a taste of almost every conceivable angle on sex (or at least, every angle you could conceive of fitting into such a slim volume).  There are pieces specific to recent events–Amanda Marcotte on the Slutwalk phenomenon, for example, and a piece from the very controversial self-professed male feminist ally Hugo Schwyzer.  Other pieces are timeless, touching topics from the mundane to the unexpected.  There’s a contribution from the realm of science and health on premature ejaculation, a piece on sex work, a piece on gay sex in the military.  A few major subcultures are included as well–there’s a fat positive piece, a couple of BDSM pieces, a piece on trans Latina performers.

Though this is an anthology that will bring up topics the reader may not have considered, whether new to sexuality writing or an old hat, the diversity of the contributors is limited.  Most of the names are familiar, and a significant majority are white.  There are a few queer-focused pieces, and a couple from the BDSM world, but that’s not really the focus of the collection.  It’s definitely trying to bridge interest in sexual oddities with more everyday topics, and particularly to touch on the most talked about sex topics of the past year.  There’s also quite a mix of personal-focused pieces and academic research.

A few essays stand out:

  • Legendary sex educator Susie Bright’s short essay in response to Ross Douhat’s inflammatory 2011 piece on “Why Monogamy Matters” is snarky, witty, and right on point, a breath of fresh air for poly and promiscuous readers of all stripes.
  • Amber Dawn’s love letter to the butches of her past is not only a valuable lesbian personal history told from the perspective of a femme sex worker, but very well done–tender and powerful on the role of gender norms in queer female sexuality.
  • A little less conventional, the anthology includes a care-and-handling manual in essay form, all around the author’s penis.  You just kind of have to read it.
  • Though I have mixed feelings about male “Fat Admirers” as a fat-positive feminist, I found the essay on the subject informative and interesting.

Geared towards a mainstream audience, this collection is a wonderful blend of the smart, the newsworthy, the personal, and the hilarious.  Readable in the duration of a short airplane ride, it’s certainly worth picking up a copy.