For our second Dirty Book, Annabeth Leong considers writer/blogger/activist Greta Christina’s Bending, and gives us a tour of both its kinks and its big ideas. Scroll to the bottom and do social media stuff to win free books from us. And come back tomorrow to read Dan Kimmel’s appreciation of a particularly… affecting… scene from a famous mainstream novel.
Long before I read Greta Christina‘s book Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, I was lucky enough to encounter its title story. This was early in my career as a reader of erotica, and it pushed buttons I didn’t even know I had. Though I got off a great deal, I also found myself moved by the story of shifting desires, love as insufficient, and exploration as paramount. Reading “Bending” was one of the first times I realized that erotica isn’t the low form it’s made out to be.
Fast-forward many years, and “Bending” has become one of a handful of stories I return to again and again. It’s not just for the filthy, lovingly fetishized, obsessive ass play, though I do still love that. It’s also that few pieces of writing have been wiser about the issues I’ve faced in BDSM as I’ve come to practice it, not just read about it. When I’m distressed about having changed in a way I swore I never would, it’s to “Bending” that I turn.
When I read Christina’s entire collection, I recognized the fearless gaze I first met in that story I have loved so well. In her introduction, Christina explains that she hopes each story conveys the respect she has for sex itself. And Christina respects sex enough to visit hot and uncomfortable places, to trust that adults understand what it means “to imagine things we wouldn’t actually want to do—even things we think are immoral.” She respects her audience enough to believe that we will sort out the difference between fantasy and endorsement. “If we have any freedom at all,” she writes, “it’s between our ears: the freedom to think about whatever we like.”
So Christina gives her reader a section on the “borderlands of consent, where the victims are technically free to leave but feel like they can’t.” This chapter turns me on and disturbs me because I recognize aspects of myself in it, ways that safewords aren’t as simple as they seem, ways that I’m sometimes not as honest as I should be because I don’t want to ruin a good time.
I also love her definition of “Sweet Stuff,” a section I almost decided not to read because I wasn’t in the mood for vanilla. Christina reminded me that “vanilla” and “sweet” aren’t synonyms, and neither are “sweet” and “traditional romance.”
I love this book for both its philosophical underpinnings and its unrelenting transgressive hotness. I will say that if you don’t have a spanking fetish, you may find sections of this book repetitive. If, on the other hand, you get a shiver up your spine when someone says, “Raise your skirt, and lower your drawers,” you and Christina will get on just fine.
And read the one about the unicorn. Christina suggests in her introduction that it’s silly but I found it oddly delightful.
Annabeth Leonghas written erotica of many flavors— dark, romantic, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and ménage. Her work has appeared in more than thirty anthologies, including Circlet’s Like a Chill Down Your Spine, Like Hearts Enchanted, and Like a Trip Through the Mirror. Sweetmeats Press will publish her novel Untouched, a story of exhibitionism and voyeurism, in summer of 2014. Annabeth loves shoes, stockings, cooking, and excellent bass lines. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs at annabethleong.blogspot.com , and tweets @AnnabethLeong.
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