Sex 2 Serious? by Greta Christina
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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 AdultFriendFinder. You can check out Ms. Christina on her web site, www.gretachristina.com.
True Porn 2
Robyn Chapman & Kelli Nelson, eds.
Alternative Comics, $19.95
Dirty Stories Volume 3 Eric Reynolds, ed.
Eros Comix/Fantagraphics, $16.95
Truly devoted readers of this column may recall my recent rant about the state of adult comics. In short, I've complained that adult comics mostly suck. With some notable exceptions, they're mediocre at best, and they can be juvenile, stupid and pig-ugly at worst.
A couple of books have come out recently that offer hope for this sorry state: True Porn 2 and Dirty Stories Volume 3. (Full disclosure: I found out about both these books at a company I work for, Last Gasp, which sells and distributes them.) Both are anthologies of good, serious comics about sex, written and drawn by good, serious comic artists. They're fairly similar, actually: the main difference is that True Porn tells true stories -- it's all autobiographical comics about the artists' actual sex lives -- while Dirty Stories is more free-form, with fiction, historical sex stories (okay, historical sex urban legends), streams of consciousness, a few autobio sex stories, and some pieces where nobody but the artist knows if they're true or made-up.
And the books are good. Damn good. Quite consistently good for an anthology. There's a wide range in style and mood and content in both books. True Porn 2 has the hilarious, somewhat disturbingly confessional "Don't Come In My House" by Rich Tommaso; the nostalgically bittersweet "Jamie" by Lucas May and Ed Malys; Kelli Nelson's light-hearted, absurdly self-conscious "Sex Toys Made Me Crazy"; and much more. And Dirty Stories Volume 3 includes the thoughtful, surprisingly calm "My, My American Bukkake" by Susannah Breslin; the hallucinogenic "Garden of Porno Delights" by Cephalopod Products; the quietly sad fantasy-meets-reality frontispiece by Daniel Clowes, among many others. True Porn has a tendency towards sad and awkward "one that got away" stories, while Dirty Stories Volume 3 has one too many pretentiously impenetrable pieces for my taste... but on the whole, both collections are solid, engaging, and well worth your time.
But here's the thing. While both True Porn 2 and Dirty Stories Volume 3 are great, neither book is hot. There are damn few comics in either collection that are sexually arousing, or even in the general vicinity of sexually arousing. Both books are loaded with first-rate, super-cool comics about sex, with work that's intelligent, beautiful, insightful, touching, sad, inspiring, disturbing, and just flat-out funny. But neither book is loaded with sex comics that are likely to get your dick hard or your pussy wet.
To be fair, I don't think they're meant to. It seems clear that these are meant to be serious comics about sex, not sexy comics about sex. (Well, except for Sam Henderson's stuff, which nobody would accuse of seriousness -- but even his pieces aren't meant to be sexy.) There are some exceptions -- Rick Altergott's sweet and dirty "Mile High Club" in Dirty Stories; Ellen Forney's inspiringly informative finger-fucking piece "Mary" (also in Dirty Stories); Ellen Lindner's vivid and evocative "April 2005: A Thought Diorama" in "True Porn"; a few others. Most of the comics in these collections may be meant to enlighten, to set a mood, to provoke thought, to evoke a time and place, but not to stoke your stroke to.
I think it's fine for sexual art to shoot for goals other than arousing the audience, but the books' titles are a bit misleading -- to me, the words "porn" and "dirty" mean "stuff meant to turn you on," not just "stuff having to do with sex in some way." And since I see a huge potential for adult comics as first-rate literary smut, that's what I was hoping for from the titles of these collections. I was just a little disappointed not to get it.
Here's what I'd like to see. I'd like to see an adult comics collection along the lines of the Best American Erotica anthologies. I'd like to see an adult comics collection with comics that are both serious and hot, comics that are both beautifully wrought and deliciously nasty, comics that provide both stroke material and food for thought. I'd like to see an adult comics collection challenging the idea that sexual art must be either serious or dirty, not both. Erotic fiction, photography, poetry, film have all smashed this limited idea to pieces. It's time for the comics world to get smashing.
Available at Last Gasp
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