Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Best Sex Writing 2013

Hello Readers!  I just had the amazing opportunity of interviewing Rachel Kramer Bussel who is the editor of a new collection of sex writing entitled Best Sex Writing 2013: The State of Today's Sexual Culture.  Information about this new book can be found in the links below, but let me just say that this collection of essays is, as the blurb on the back of the book suggests, "challenging, literate and provocative".  Of particular interest to me was the essay "Rest Stop Confidential" by Conner Habib, a porn star we've all lusted after, who is also a writer and sex educator with an amazing blog which you can read here.  Without further ado, an interview with intrepid editor and writer, Ms Rachel Kramer Bussel.


1) How did you come to be the editor of Best Sex Writing 2013 and how did you go about culling these wonderful essays?
I was asked to take over editing the series by Cleis Press based on my editorial work in the sexuality field and my passion for the topic. Unlike with my erotica anthologies, where I almost exclusively work from the submissions I receive, with the Best Sex Writing series I'm much more pro-active. So while there's a public call for submissions, most of the sources were ones I sought out or stumbled across, whether in anthologies like the wonderful Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, The Ultimate Guide to Kink, edited by Tristan Taormino and Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary edited by Morty Diamond, alt weeklies like LA Weekly and Riverfront Times and East Bay Express or magazines like Playboy and New York and Jacobin and websites like Salon.

2) With the Best Sex Writing series, what is your goal or mission when putting these collections together?  How does that differ or match your personal mission as a writer of all things erotic/sexual?
I try to make the books as timely as possible, given the lead time, but also timeless; I hope they are ones people could pick up ten years from now and still find an interesting snapshot of our sexual culture, though in many areas, I hope we make progress toward sexual freedom. Ideally, I hope the series broadens people's minds about both what topics fall under "sex" and provide food for thought. I want the books to be the start or continuation of a conversation about sex that's accessible to both sex nerds like me and to people who've never read a book like this, who may have never thought about a lot of these topics before. I also think it's important to mix the journalistic pieces with the more personal essays, because I believe they play well off each other, and will perhaps speak to different readers.

3) Your essay in the collection, "Baby Talk" is stunning in that you reveal the thought process you went through when approached with an age-play scenario with a partner.  Did the man in question know that you wrote on the subject of sexuality, and if so, do you think that is why he felt he could open up and trust you with his fantasy?
He definitely knew about my work before we went out (we met on an online dating site), though I'm not sure whether he revealed that fantasy because he figured I'd be open-minded, or if it's something he did regularly. What was most interesting to me is that, as with many aspects of sexuality, in my experience, I wouldn't have thought age play would be something I would get into, but in the moment, I did. That's part of what I was trying to capture with that essay, because I think we often divide ourselves with sexual labels. For example, someone is either "vanilla" or "kinky," when in reality, many people explore various aspects of their sexuality and fantasies in different relationships or at certain times.

4) You say in your essay regarding the age-play scenario that "we didn't stop to talk about it before or after."  Why do you think that conversation didn't happen?
Partly because of the nature of the fantasy and the nature of dirty talk, it just flowed and rather than break that role-playing, we just went with it. For my part, I was curious to see where it went and was intrigued by my own reaction to it. If it had ventured into territory I wasn't comfortable with, I hope I would have said something. Looking back, I think we were each feeling each other out and seeing where it went.

5)  You write "All I knew was the comfort I could take in this: no matter how old I get, sex always has new things to teach me."  With the readers of my blog, I find I've learned so much from them, as they share with me the journey that sex has taken them on.  Have you learned from your readers when they reach out to you?  And if so, what have they taught you?
Overall the biggest thing I've learned is that everyone has questions and insecurities. We're all human. It sounds obvious, but the more people I talk to about sexuality, the more I see our commonality rather than our differences. Even though different people have different approaches to sex and different interests, desires and attractions, seeing that common humanity has helped in my erotica writing and editing and in my nonfiction writing. I think and hope it's made me more empathetic and open-minded. Sex is a topic where a lot of people have trouble understanding others outside their own sphere of reference, and often we take someone else's fetish or kink almost as an affront if it's not one we share. I've been honored to get so many glimpses into people's personal lives and every time I do, I learn both about them and about myself, and that's a process I hope to continue for the rest of my life, no matter where my career takes me.

6)  As a sex blogger, I never tire of exploring sexuality.  I suspect you feel similarly.  Do you think however that some people might find such exploration threatening?  Furthermore, in spite of the fact that we are a sex-obsessed culture, do you find that some people are disinterested in a thoughtful, thorough analysis of sex and sexuality?
I think there's a tension in our culture between people being interested in but also afraid of open explorations about sexuality. Also, with any type of writing, there's the catch-22 situation that if you the writing is good, people will be able to relate to it and think they know the author because of it. That is a testament to the writing, but especially around a personal topic like sex, it can veer into uncomfortable territory. I think that sometimes people are interested in what seem like the more salacious aspects of sexuality, but don't want to be confronted with their own preconceived ideas of what's "true" about sex, but I do think the more sexuality is a conversation in our culture, whether related to law or news stories or pop culture like Fifty Shades of Grey, the more we create openness around dialogue.

See further for links regarding the book Best Sex Writing 2013: The State of Today's Sexual Culture below!

A link to the BSW 2013's page on the Cleis Press website http://www.cleispress.com/book_page.php?book_id=530 

The page on Goodreads

The Amazon Listing

A link to Best Sex Writing 2013's website 

And finally, a link to Rachel Kramer Bussel's personal website 

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