Book Review: Readings

Liz Belile

Readings

Gynomite

Fearless, Feminist Porn

edited by Liz Belile

New Mouth From the Dirty South, 280 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Fuck-me feminism burst onto the scene in the early Nineties, a camera-friendly movement of well-coiffed feminists lounging in the pages of Esquire. The riot grrrls' fuck-you feminism, on the other hand, was less luxuriant and substantially more fun. Still, both sex-positive schools, aided by sexperts like Susie Bright and Annie Sprinkle, paved the way for a new millennium in which the pronouns have canceled each other out, leaving simply a call to fuck. Meet Gynomite. This feminist spoken-word movement has been around in various forms for the past few years, but seems to have hit its stride since a 1999 Houston revival led by Liz Belile. In Texas, where firearms are more available (and more legal) than vibrators, this story compilation marks an important stage in Gynomite's mission to liberate women "one orgasm at a time."

Gay sex, straight sex, mediocre sex, and raunchy sex -- it's all in here. But what, besides its diversity, makes this porn more feminist than, say, Hustler? It's women telling their own stories, for one thing, and for the most part these particular women are preternaturally self-aware and good-humored. In "An Essay on Sex and Music," Michelle Glaw writes, "A lot of people turn on music when they have sex. I don't. It bugs me." Shaila Dewan does a sensual send-up of the Starr Report. Maggie Estep comes through with an odd story about a man who believes that if he sleeps with a woman she will die.

There is a stereotype that women prefer character development and buildup to out-and-out nastiness; some of the writers in this collection are guilty as charged. Abundant descriptions place some stories (for better or worse) on the near side of the sensual-sexual divide. This means that the analogies are, inevitably, more sophisticated than bananas-and-donuts. Olive Hershey muses that "Being with a new man, making love, is like teaching English as a second language. One thing Dan knew thoroughly and well were verbs. He used a great number, all in the present tense, and not one of them was passive."

But make no mistake. Plenty of this is, as one would expect, pure (if elegant) masturbation material. Take Melissa Hung's "Translation": "And up in the mezzanine, your fly open, my skirt hiked up, we masturbate each other, your fat cock in my hand." On a sour note, some of the less empowered characters at play in these pages may invite some discomfort. The aging heroine in Lee Christopher's "Lust After Fifty," tired of losing to younger women in the battle for men, eventually gets plastic surgery to compete. But even if Gynomite is waging a vital political battle, this is still porn, and still art, and examining the social ramifications of what gets someone off is boring and really beside the point. And there are enough variations (strap-ons, nipple clamps, adultery, strangers ...) to ensure that at least a couple of the 40-something stories here will plug directly into each reader's particular sexual proclivity.

So bless Gynomite and independent publishing company New Mouth From the Dirty South for providing the modern girl with some straight-up fiction about sex minus the "erotica" or "romance novel" subterfuge. As Ammi Emergency writes in her freaky knife-fetish story, "We did it like a porno, but we did it right."


Liz Belile will participate in "Sex and the Single Girls: An Erotica Panel" hosted by Spike Gillespie on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 7pm, at BookPeople. Fellow panelists include Melanie Haupt, Suzy Spencer, and Diane Fleming.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Gynomite: Fearless, Feminist Porn, Liz Belile

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