Has anyone else ever just openly balked at that common statistic on couples and kink? You probably know the one I’m talking about, it usually cites that approximately 10% of couples have practiced some form of BDSM. It’s always slightly distressed me. Now, rather obviously, getting a clear accurate depiction of the stats on kink and relationships is a tricky, complicated, and generally ambiguous process. One must take into account social (as well as political) forces that may make someone uneasy with releasing such information, even if they do so annonymously.
But, I think this is a semantic issue as well, it is an issue of language.
I know this because I have known kinky folks and had friendships and relationships with them for most of my adult life. A lot of them were older than me, more experienced, and because I didn’t see myself as being on the same playing field with them, I considered myself a very vanilla person. I also didn’t know a whole lot about the mechanics, as these folks were often my mentors and older friends, they weren’t training me, they just happened to be power-players. I thought that because I didn’t have some of the equipment or play publicly that I couldn’t consider myself anything but vanilla. That was until, I had that hilarious epiphany that many others have had, “Uh, yeah, Peep. You’re kinky alright.”
I don’t mean to demean or belittle vanilla folks, but I do mean to point out, as Never Say Never edited by Alison Tyler does, that even the most vanilla sex can have an edge, can be exploratory, can play with danger and a kink aesthetic.
Many folks, I think, are more afraid of the language of kink than the actual practices within. And what I like about Alison Tyler’s Never Say Never is that it begins by mischievously demanding the reader to get over those fears, and to start opening the realms of possibility. Tyler implores the reader that they can either keep on with fantasy and sexual lives that may or may not suit their more carnal desires or they can, read this book, arm their brains (and other parts too) with ideas, knowledge, and pointers—-and go out and explore.
Because this book is a book for couples—-and not in old school Marriage Manuel sort of way. Tyler’s new book sits on the edge of what I think (and desperately hope) is a new tide in writing on monogamous, and/or long term couples. I incorporated Alison Tyler’s mantra: monogamy does have to equal monotony into how I thought about our cultural narratives surrounding partners. I mean,how is that the media both supports the “couple” (read: married, heterosexual, and reproductive) as the main unit of social organization and at the same time, also presents this same couple as foreclosed from sexual satisfaction or diversity or really the possibility of erotic pleasure of any kind?
Like, wait what?
The constant thunder of these representations affects us in various ways. Often I think viewing these repetitious representations can make it hard for us to ask for what we want. And over time, we start to believe that by committing in certain ways that we are foreclosing a future for sexual desires and needs as they change and take shape over time, and that by signing up for “monogamy” we are signing up for “monotony” and if we don’t like it we shouldn’t have stepped up to the plate, so to speak.
Never Say Never says to hell with all of that.
And I rally on behind it. Formally, the book is unlike any other collection I’ve read. The easiest way I can think to describe it is as a roll-a-dex of smutty ideas. Broken down by concept or practice (i.e. Voyeurism, Spanking, Pegging, Fem Domme, etc) Never Say Never is wide in scope. While, in the past, I feel like certain practices are discouraged in books and videos aimed towards partners like anal sex, pegging, and multiple partners, this book pushes the bounds of the “couples genre.”
Each chapter contains two parts: a chapter that is more “hot-to” oriented and then a narrative piece that highlights the practice in action.
But, the how-to part is more than information, Tyler arranges smaller erotica passages from her own writing and other top-notch erotica writers to explore different aspects of the practice or concept. Reading these chapters makes me feel like Alice falling through the rabbit hole, twirling through a multi-faceted exploration. Each of these chapters contains a plurality of voices, allowing for multiple opportunities for discovery and identification. The narrative pieces range in voice, tone, and position, but each affirms my belief in a changing tide on partners and couples. They don’t deny that there are often lags in relationships, as folks get more and more used to each other, but they refuse to allow those lags to define their relationships. A rough patch is neither a definitive aspect of a relationship, nor indicative of how “bad” the relationship must be. Though new encounters do make for great smut, so do partnered stories. Because if you’re like me, a lot of the kinky stuff I like I only found through a long-term relationship. Some things for some folks are only possible in those contexts, and that’s hot too.
Though I’d like to do a thorough play-by-play of every story for you, here are just some things that stuck out for me.
I really enjoyed “Allowed” by Charlotte Stein, which is included in the Fellatio section. The story features a woman is trying desperately to get her husband to let her give him head. It was exciting to see a representation of 1) male vulnerability and shyness towards a practice that “every man is expect to, de facto want’ and 2) to see a woman who so actively wants to give a blow job. We read time and time again stories of how to make this act, which is often thought to never really be wanted by women, and actively seek it out. The story is more than hot smut (though it needn’t be), it traces how as partners we want and negotiate and wonder and long. And ultimately, find that “permission” maybe isn’t the only way to describe how we get what we want in bed.
The Blind-Fold chapters were a real delight. I like that it included games that while being sexy and edgy are also light hearted playful and fun. The narrative piece “Blind Lust” by Kristina Lloyd transforms the domestic space into a dark magical playground with the simple use of a blindfold. Ordinary objects are transformed from banal instruments into tools for intense sensation play. Also, the premise is simple yet becomes complex. I love the dynamic between the characters, and how trust functions throughout the story.
“Syzygy” by Ashley Lister incorporates the making and maintaining of safe-words into the erotic nature of a fiction piece on Soft-Swapping.
“No Shame” by Dante Davidson manages some high femme domme power play that surrounds the concept of begging. In “real” life I am a bratty bottom, a snarly sub, but I love to read and imagine the possibilities of femme dominance. Like a lot, which proved to me that our sexual lives can be multi-faceted, that my fantasy life and my “real” life may be different but both are important aspects. The story is short and sweet and if like me, you love the idea of hearing a man beg, this could be a story for you.
Never Say Never is a collection of tips, tricks, and inspiration for lovers. Tyler combines erotic narratives, sassy advice, and a whole lot of inspiration to make for a book that is great for couples who may not even know where to start or those who have known where they were headed the whole time. My favorite tip occurs in the final chapter, in which Alison Tyler suggests to her readers:
Read erotica, eat exotic foods, watch foreign fuck films, dress in the clothes of your dreams, push against your boundaries, fall into your fantasies. Turn your volume up to eleven.
Now, there are some words to live by. The concept of “never say never” eschews the death-bed stigma around long-term and/or monogamous relationships in favor of possibility. To never say never is to keep oneself open to the changes, waves, new directions, and returns. At the end of this book, I think you too could find yourself with a promise to Never Say Never.
The folks at Cleis Press sent me a copy of Never Say Never for my opinion on it. You can snag a copy here.
- From the Floor: Volume 1
- OhMiBod Lovelife Adventure Review
- Review: Pleasure Works Sidekick
- Review: Pleasure Works Captain
- Review: Exotic-Erotics Hippocampus (Medium)
- The Bratty Bottoms Spanktacular Giveaway Series: Bettie Page “Picture This” Spanking Bat
- Best Sex Writing of the Year Review
- Princess Play: A Fairy Tale Round Up Review
- Peep’s Re-Group Reading Group: Ecstasy is Necessary
- Peep’s Picks: Tantus Thwack, Wham Bam, & Snap Strap