Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Joy of SEX SCENE | Review

There's something psychologically revealing about the way a writer approaches a sex scene that gives a more immediate peek into their head than straight dialogue or prose. And that's really the joy of reading Robert James Russell's Sex Scene, an anthology of thirteen shorts from independent authors of various backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and orientations.  It's extremely satisfying as a reader to play armchair psychoanalyst while noting the divergent styles and comfort levels in handling the subject matter.

There's very little here that is identifiable as porn or even  "erotica" (which I think is a euphemism for high brow porn, presumably distinguished by the fact that you jerk off to it with your pinky held up like you're at a tea party).  Only a handful of them manage to successfully quicken the heart rate, while many have a clinical or academic feel, almost reminiscent of junior high sex ed.  Some dance around the actual sex as long as possible or try to skirt by with little graphic detail, while others take the plunge with such brashness that they almost border on being disingenuous.  Some choose to decontextualize the sex, providing little or no framing story, while others take great pains to dress up their contributions with a lot of plot and/or literary conceit, like they felt the need to justify or vindicate the inclusion of explicit content.

None of this is meant to in any way denigrate the participating writers, many of whom are among my personal favorites.  In fact, I have a deep respect for everyone who contributed, born of the fact that a Catholic upbringing and an adolescence wracked by extreme gender identity issues have left me largely terrified of sex and sexuality.  I tend not to have the guts to write sex scenes, and when I do I make them as ugly or mortifying as possible.

Which may be why my two favorites are the stories by Dan Holloway and Sarah Melville.  Dan's story, God bless him, is frankly, well... terrifying.  And I hesitate to give you any more details because you really should read it cold and experience the gut-punch for yourself.  And then Sarah's piece is on the opposite end of the spectrum, managing to be so poetic and whimsical and sincere that it almost makes you forget you're reading a sex scene at all.

Sex Scene is available through Lulu:
Free PDF Download
Paperback ($6.50)

For more about editor/ring-master Robert James Russell visit or @robhollywood on Twitter.

Cover art by John Vestevich

Also, check out the trailer by Sarah Melville: