Best Bisexual Women’s Erotica

BCN 64 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 64, published in November 2003

Book review: Best Bisexual Women’s Erotica
Editor: Cara Bruce, Cleis Press, 2001
Buy it on Amazon here: Best Bisexual Women’s Erotica

“Bisexual women are a staple of everyone else’s porn, and maybe that’s why you rarely see collections by and for them”, writes Bruce in the introduction. Quite possibly. Or perhaps there just aren’t that many good porn producers and narrowing it down to bi women means you don’t have much left? Maybe bisexuals do for once enjoy the best of both worlds, reading and watching gay and heterosexual porn? It could of course be simply a side effect of the faffing that bisexuals are known for. Still, there’s always room for more good erotica on my bookshelves. How could a book aimed at bi women fail?

It doesn’t fail, but only gets a B grade. There are interesting stories here, with lots of plot. I enjoyed almost all of them. The editor speaks truly as she says, “The stories in this book are also supremely original”. Thing is, they have originality of plot but few erotic moments. I want some good sex too [form an orderly queue, thank you]. Often, the erotic part was limited to one ‘having sex’ bit, which seemed tacked on at the end of the tale. Another quote explains the editor’s opinion: “a lot of people’s misconceptions about bisexual behaviour showed up in many of the stories I received as submissions. A large percentage of stories featured predictably written threeways, a pointedly straight woman experimenting for the first time, or a lesbian stepping out with a man.” But these examples aren’t misconceptions so much as the subset of bisexual behaviour that makes it easiest to indicate bisexuality in a story. It’s simply an unimaginative attempt to distinguish a bisexual story from any story where someone ends up with someone else. Any story could be bisexual – the difficulty is when part of the remit is to make it clear that it is a bisexual story.

Maybe there were more erotic stories in the stereotyped plots – if you aren’t worried about creating a new story, you can concentrate on showing both feelings and sex in a new way. It’s possible to create a new experience of quality rather than type – I’d rather eat unoriginal chocolate ice-cream as made wonderfully incarnate by Hill Station, rather than the novel taste explosion of Choco-coco-fudgie-doh with NEW! RaspberryRipple, and not just because I’m a curmudgeonly grammar pedant. I like my erotica the same way.

Some stories here do pass my ‘quality erotica’ test. ‘Hands’ has sensuality throughout – a beautician with a hand fetish offers extras to clients who respond to a hand massage. In ‘Surrender Dorothy’ “We finally cornered Dorothy into coming out as bisexual. It was a bit like gang warfare…”; ‘Party of One’ has a woman fulfilling her fantasy of sex in a hotel room with an anonymous person. Others are excellent short stories, just not very erotic: ‘The Devil is a Squirrel’ involves meeting the devil in East London. ‘Scenes from Thailand’ explores the mixed feelings of lust and exploitation in having sex with desperate young Thai prostitutes. ‘Thwack!’ details the calls on a phone sex line and what is running through the minds of the workers and the clients. An outstanding story – but about details of daily life such as air-conditioning, and the people who regularly call sex lines, like the pathetic ‘Chicken George’, rather than erotic sex. Finally there are the stories which squeeze sex in, and describe it in the blandest terms: ‘“I’m going to fuck you ‘til you come!”…”Oh my fucking god baby!” She came.’ I won’t mention their titles.

This anthology gets to stay on my bookshelf thanks to some novel plots and involving situations. I’ll just have to remember not to be fooled by the word ‘erotica’ on the spine when wanting some. I’m very glad someone lent me ‘Switch-Hitters’ at the same time as I bought this, which I heartily recommend – it’s a collection of lesbian erotica written by gay men and gay stories by lesbians, which didn’t make any difference that I could see (eds. Carol Queene & Lawrence Schimel, Cleis Press 1996).