Whenever I read a book edited by Tristan Taormino, I look forward to her introductions just as much - and sometimes more - than to the stories. This is no exception. She starts out by giving us readers some heartening news about how kink has become more and more "mainstream" in recent years, thanks to the internet. It's about time, right? Then she proceeds to explain how and why this guide is relevant at this point in time. Let's just say that, if I'd been highlighting interesting and well-crafted sentences in her writing, the whole introduction would have been highlighted. For instance, the following sentence defining what kinksters do when they get together in public events:
"We learn skills that we can translate into every part of our life: how to claim our desires, negotiate for what we want and need, set boundaries, communicate limits, acknowledge power dynamics, celebrate sexuality, and accept each other's differences."
This is not fiction, people. This is a comprehensive collection of clear, concise, and expert advice on kink. The concept of kink itself is open and all-inclusive. The definition of the term, according to Ms. Taormino is: "an intimate experience, an exchange of power between people who can be physical, erotic, sexual, psychological, spiritual, or, most often, some combination. It's the people, practices, and communities that move beyond traditional ideas about sex to explore the edges of eroticism."
To me, that sounds like enlightenment.
The book is divided into two main parts:
* "Skills and Techniques" which includes a glossary of terms, and sections on spanking, bondage, fisting, rough sex, and other kinks. This section is a simple to understand and easy to read "how-to" manual for those topics. It is beautifully illustrated to show some of the concepts, rather than going into cryptic and impossible to visualize Kama Sutra-like descriptions.
* "Fantasies and Philosophies" goes deeper into the darker aspects of kink, like Domination, submission, masochism, sadism, and the taboo practices in role play. These types of play have always been a part of the kink scene, but have been kept quiet and "in the closet" precisely because they show the dark side of the human psyche.
Overall, there are several themes repeated over and over by all the contributors:
* Safe, sane, and consensual; risk-aware consensual kink - Effective communication and consent are threads consistently present in every single chapter of this book. It seems to me that kinksters are way ahead of the rest of us in that department.
* Safer-sex - there is no safe sex, but you can take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your partner(s). It doesn't have to stop the fun, though.
* There is nothing wrong with being sexually kinky. Discard all those messages that society imposes as the rules and regulations you must follow. In the intimacy of your sexual life, between consenting, risk-aware adults, anything goes.
Even if you have never thought of rope as anything but a good tool for hanging clothes to dry, there's lots of good stuff in this book. For example, the chapter on erotic role play gave me an "aha" moment. I've always had a problem mentally bridging the awkward distance I feel between me and the fictional characters I create for my writing. The solution is to go back to my all-time favorite pastime of childhood, playing "let's pretend..." When I get "into" my character's skin, the distance is gone and I can relate what I see, hear, and feel much better. My reader will then be able to experience the story much more vividly, too.
For all of you who might be curious about BDSM and edgy erotic play. For those who jumped in feet first but without much research, wanting to experience the thrill of giving or receiving pleasurable pain or control. For those into the scene already, who want to continue to learn and grow. For anyone who wants to read a good, no-nonsense guide to kink. This is the book for you. Enjoy!