Reviewer Greta Christina has worked in and around the sex industry for over a decade writing about it, editing books about it, and living it. She edited Paying For It, a collection of articles by all kinds of sex workers: dommes, escorts, peep show girls, T-girls. Her novella called Bending is out in Susie Bright's book Three Kinds of Asking For It (published by Simon & Schuster and can be found at amazon.com). In response to overwhelming member requests for reviews of sex toys, sexy films, and other sex whatnots, Ms. Christina brings her girl-about-sex wisdom twice monthly to Adult FriendFinder. You can check out Ms. Christina on her web site, www.GretaChristina.com.
Spank Me: The Art of the Spirit
by The Spirit (ISBN 3-936709-09-2)
Goliath Books ($24.95)
(Available at Good Vibrations, www.goodvibes.com)
You have to admire a man who knows what he likes. Especially when what he likes is drawing pictures of girls getting spanked.
"Spank Me: The Art of the Spirit" is a compact but action-packed collection of dirty drawings -- mostly color, some black-and-white -- by The Spirit, who is clearly a man with a mission. On page after page of this book, luscious young women get their round and tasty bottoms spanked, and spanked hard. There are a few non-spanky pictures in the book; there's some tickling, some wrestling, a bit of bondage, etc. But overwhelmingly, this book is about girls getting spanked -- again, and again, and again.
The drawings are vivid and well-executed; they're not great art, but they're skillfully done. The style is expressive and detailed and at times almost photo-realistic, but it's also influenced by both vintage men's magazine illustrations and classic comic book art. Both of these make for happy and positive influences, and The Spirit clearly has the comic-book artist's ability to distill a lively scenario full of action and energy into a single perfect moment.
Despite its rather specific focus, "Spank Me" has a surprising amount of variety. The Spirit is a man with a fetish, no doubt; but he's also a man who can imagine a wide range of erotic possibilities within that fetish. Girls get spanked by other girls, and by older women, and by men; in offices, locker rooms, wrestling rings, public parks, beaches, or surrounded by the comforts of home. There are students getting spanked by their teachers, patients by their nurses, secretaries by their bosses, soldiers by their enemies, beautiful young women by their lovers. There are cowgirl scenes, jungle girl scenes, space girl scenes. The over-the-knee bare-hand spanking appears often (as well it should; it's a classic), but many other positions appear as well, as do hairbrushes and other toys. There are girls here in white schoolgirl panties, and girls in slinky slut-gear, and girls in almost nothing at all. There are pictures of girls with glowing-red bottoms, clearly in the middle of a long, hard spanking; and there are pictures where the victim's panties haven't even been pulled down yet and the spanking is just about to begin. The Spirit has an eye for a fun fantasy, and he has the knack of conveying an entire story of conflict and misbehavior and punishment in a single naughty picture.
Interestingly, the images in this collection rarely capture the moment of impact, the moment when the hand or the hairbrush lands on the bare bottom. They depict the moment before the blow falls, with the punisher's hand in the air and the victim twisting back to look at their tormentor with disbelief and protest. Or they capture the moment after a blow falls, after several blows have fallen, with victim writhing in discomfort and shame, and the punisher pausing to appreciate their victim's bright red bottom before striking again. But there are almost no images that catch that sweet, short moment when the hand or the hairbrush lands, the actual instant of pain and punishment, ecstasy and release.
This may simply be an artistic choice/erotic preference of the artist because The Spirit is simply more interested in anticipation and afterglow than in satisfaction. And it's true that a world of experience and drama can be expressed in these before and after moments.
But I can't help noticing that the few pictures in "Spank Me" that do show the moment of impact don't do it very well. The victim may be crying out in pain or protest, but the punisher's hand or hairbrush seems to be just sitting there, resting quietly on the victim's bottom. There's no sense of force or motion, of shock or relief, or even of physical contact. It's weirdly jarring, actually; you can see the pain of the blow in the look on the victim's face, but you don't see it on her butt at all. The Spirit is a skillful graphic artist, but he's not quite skillful enough for that.
Which leads me to my larger point. This is a perfectly fun, perfectly fine collection of dirty spanking pictures. But this is not great erotic art, or even exceptionally good erotic art. This is erotic art done with skill and craftsmanship, but without much in the way of real artistry. And this is erotic art with nothing at all to say apart from "Girls getting spanked are hot."
Of course, having said that, I masturbated to these pictures with great enthusiasm when I first got them, and looking through them even now is making me want to do it again. But they haven't really stuck with me. OK, this is the empirical, scientific difference: I'll happily leaf through "Spank Me" with my vibrator between my legs -- but if my vibrator is between my legs and the pictures aren't at hand, they won't drift into my mind. The scenarios that The Spirit depicts are cute, clever, even sexy -- but they're not particularly powerful. They don't dig into my brain and sink their claws in; they don't hover insistently like stubborn ghosts around the edges of my fantasies. They flutter about on the surface of my libido, and then disappear without a trace.
Some of this may just be me. I happen to prefer plausible, realistic porn to iconic fantasies, porn that could really be happening -- and that's hard to do when I'm looking at pictures of nurses spanking their patients, or bosses spanking their secretaries. So understand that there's a bias here.
Even so, a lot of the shortcomings still fall in the artist's lap. The Spirit is expert at capturing a perfect moment of a classic spanking scenario -- but he's very weak at imbuing that moment with any depth, or character. The women and men in his pictures are completely lacking in individuality, unless you count their broadly-drawn roles as "wrestler" or "secretary" or "cheerleader" or "nurse" to be individuality. His spanked cheerleader is Everycheerleader; his spanking nurse is Everynurse. The details of the fantasy are impeccable, but they all serve to make the image more classic -- not more human. I look at the people in these pictures, giving a spanking or getting spanked, and I have no idea why they're there, or how they feel about it. They're stand-ins, like avatars in a video game, meant to represent the idea of a person rather than an actual person. I can definitely get turned on by the images, but I don't feel any connection at all with the people in them.
In the end, though, not every piece of erotic art has to be Erotic Art. Some erotic art can just be dirty pictures. That's what "Spank Me" is. It's lively, well-crafted, classic spanking porn. Expect only that and you'll be satisfied.
[Spank Me also available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books A Million and Powell's Books and probably lots of other places.]
A Hankerin' For Some Spankerin' by Greta Christina
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