The Gay Man’s Kama Sutra
by Terry Sanderson
Thomas Dunne Books. 144 pages, $24.95.
Motivated, no doubt, by fraternal concerns, two of our big brothers have written sex guides for their younger, slow-witted siblings. In Ultimate Gay Sex, Michael Thomas Ford tells us, “Our mouths are openings to our bodies, openings through which words, food, and air move.” More gracefully, he exhorts us to “Think of a kiss as a match that starts a fire.” Is it getting hot in here, or what? I guess I’m just horned up and overeager. Here’s a splash of cool water: “Meeting someone can’t be the primary goal of an activity. It should be a rewarding by-product of living a productive, well-rounded, and satisfying life.” More deathless wisdom: “Time spent together doing routine things, such as making dinner or taking care of household chores, helps couples develop a sense of togetherness that makes both partners feel comfortable and secure in the relationship.” This book is basically a glorified hygiene manual—Ford reminds us three times that our teeth should be kept clean—as is another recent book, The Gay Man’s Kama Sutra, by Terry Sanderson, which is likewise written in a flat, pedantic style, illustrated by images of handsome couples getting it on, sharing drinks, or talking soulfully. Ford’s book, in particular, feels padded. Its busy layout, complete with photo captions and sidebars vying for attention, can’t disguise its frequent repetition. On the other hand, sometimes the story in the main text disagrees with a sidebar, as when Ford can’t decide whether erection problems have a physical or a psychological cause. I turned for a touch of poetry to Sanderson’s loose adaptation of the classic Indian text, in which he gives evocative names to various sexual positions, such as the butterfly, “two pillars,” and (a personal favorite) “willows bent in the breeze.” Sanderson prudently reminds us that “it is important, especially with a new partner, always to let him know, either by word or gesture, that you intend to fondle his jaghanabbaga.”
Best Gay Asian Erotica
Edited by Joël B. Tan
Cleis Press, 252 pages, $14.95, paperback
In 1998, Joël B. Tan edited what was then hailed as the first anthology of its kind, Queer PAPI Porn: Gay Asian Erotica (PAPI stands for Philippine, Asian, Pacific Islander). One of his goals was to fight the stereotypes that have seemed to bedevil Asian men (at least in American culture): that they’re “feminine, physically diminutive, and submissive.” In this new collection, he seems more intent on celebrating the desirability of Asian males than on defending them from narrow-minded preconceptions. He also aims, as he states in his introduction, to “navigat[e]around exhausted formulas of erotic storytelling and nationalist themes.” Despite the title of this collection and the photo of a beautiful young man on the cover, Tan delivers erotica that’s a cut above the norm. Some stories from the first collection appear again, such as Virgil Vang’s “Mimesis,” in which a deaf man becomes involved with a highly unusual and intense theater group that engages is elaborate sexual rituals; and Jason Luz’s “Scherzo for Cunanan,” a tale inspired by the brief but deadly spree of Versace killer Andrew Cunanan. Tan notes in his introduction that many of the stories lack an obvious PAPI context. In John Tunui’s “Liberty,” for example, there’s a heated, politically-charged sexual encounter between a black man and a blonde Frenchman. Tan also includes stories with characters who fall outside the mainstream of what is typically regarded as sexual desirability, such as a gay dwarf in Chen Lin’s “A Hand in the Dark.” This collection reminds us of just how varied the world of “color” can be. Under the rather expansive umbrella of “Asian,” there’s a large, diverse world of experience, and the writers assembled here take us down paths both familiar and new.