Tag Archives: reviews

Review: The Right Side of History

cover of The Right Side of HIstoryAs I read The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism (Adrian Brooks, ed., published by Cleis Press) I vacillated between feeling like this collection is an important addition to the queer U.S. history canon and wishing that it could be just a little bit more. I found the pre-Stonewall chapters quite refreshing, something different from a lot of the histories I’ve read that tend to be either highly academic and theoretical in discussing gendered behavior and queer urban geographies, or tightly centered around the specifics of the 1950s-1970s gay and lesbian movements. Several of those books have a place in my heart, Martin Duberman’s Stonewall in particular, but I’m always in favor of a new twist, and the opening chapters of this book deliver.

The Right Side of History falls in between anthology and single-author work, with about a third of the chapters written by Brooks and other authors taking up one or two chapters each. The topics coalesce around the theme of 20th century queer activism in the U.S., but also vary quite a bit, discussing people as much as movements and wandering between major historical figures and the more obscure. I particularly liked how the pre-Stonewall section of the book focuses on topics you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in a history of queer or gay activism: Isadora Duncan, Josephine Baker, the 1934 Longshoremen’s Strike. There are some great threads picked up here around how anarchism, socialism, labor movements, and racial justice movements contributed to the development not just of queer activism in the U.S. but of a culture in which queer activism takes place.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find that those threads were consistently followed through to modern history in this collection. The mishmash of personal stories, interviews, and more removed histories is enjoyable, and there were certainly chapters I appreciated about movements post-Stonewall—Merle Woo’s chapter was a highlight, as was the inclusion of a piece by intersex activist Tiger Howard Devore—but the later chapters for the most part fail to deliver on the radical promise of the book’s introduction. While I appreciated the framing of actions in the 1950s and 1960s as radical for their time, I don’t love the way the book sets up an arc from truly radical movements to the 1990s and 2000s gay nonprofit-industrial complex as if interviews with Barney Frank and Evan Wolfson are a natural conclusion to this activist story. While inclusion of authors of color and trans authors is certainly a welcome relief in such a collection, I found myself bothered by the fact that Miss Major Griffin-Gacy’s account of Stonewall is the only chapter that gets a sort of disclaimer and is followed by other witnesses’ memories of the event. Certainly, there are a lot of debates around the facts Stonewall, but was this really necessary?

Overall, I think the book is a worthwhile addition to the canon, and I love the way it ties together political and social history with cultural and artistic history, jumping among perspectives, but it could have gone further. I’d have loved to see interviews with Reina Gossett or CeCe McDonald, for example, rather than so many snippets from Brooks’ personal history.

Review: Show Yourself to Me

show yourself to me by xan west coverI can honestly say that I’ve never read an erotica collection like this before. To me, this book is to other pieces of BDSM erotica as the full, messy, grown-up experience of BDSM play and practice is to the overblown kinky erotica fairytales I read at thirteen in the early days of the Internet, about ravishment as romance and mysterious silent doms who could somehow know everything about their submissives without asking and effortlessly make them fly. As Annabeth Leong writes in the book’s introduction, “[Show Yourself to Me] is about knowing that BDSM really can make you fly, but remembering how sore your muscles may be afterward from the effort of pumping your wings.”

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Review: The Submissive Playground

For a change from all the book reviews in the Sex & Relationships section here at Queer & Now, I decided last year that I wanted to find more of a sexual experience to review for you lovely readers, something that’s offered regularly and available for you to try yourselves. Since most kink events don’t welcome press coverage, I had to do some digging, but I eventually stumbled upon something called the Submissive Playground, facilitated by writer and educator Sinclair Sexsmith. Having worked with Sinclair previously at a queer erotic bodywork workshop, I thought this would be an awesome opportunity, and so I participated in the Playground for an eight-week course in the summer of 2014.  If this review interests you, the course is running again right now, but stay tuned to the website for the next round, and in the meantime dominant folks have a couple of weeks left to register for Mastering Dominance, a half-day online workshop from Sinclair that takes place on February 22nd. If it’s anything like my experience in the Submissive Playground, I’d highly recommend it!

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I’m Doing a Thing! Submissive Playground Starting Soon

banner reading Submissive Playground: Your Subby Summer School Starts in July...Come Play With Us!So I’ve been reviewing sexuality and erotica books for a while now, and I’m also looking into opportunities to review toys. But to be perfectly honest, books and toys aren’t where my most amazing sexuality and relationship-related experiences come from, and the same is probably true for you. To add to this part of the site, I’ve been wanting to write about sexuality and relationship experiences: things I can review that are interactive, interesting, and available for you to find out there when you’re looking to go a little deeper in your sexuality and relationship exploration.

The good news is that just such an experience showed up in my inbox recently, and so I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reviewing friend and fellow educator Sinclair Sexsmith’s Submissive Playground, an 8-week e-course that stars in July. Here’s how Sinclair describes the course:

Submissive Playground is an online course with five live calls, eight weeks of creative, sexy explorations, and four learning modules—Bondage, Discipline, Service, and Masochism—all with the goal to take your submission deeper. And, you’ll get to explore it in community, making friends with other s-types through the course, and learning from each other. The entire course is online, and done within your own levels of comfort. Registration is open at www.submissiveplayground.com.

If you’d like to participate alongside me, registration is still open until June 30th (that’s this coming Monday), and there’s a sliding scale that includes a package as low as $150 for the eight weeks. I look forward to letting you know what this new-to-me journey is like!