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For those whose only goal is to sell books, choosing a universally
exciting topic is a good first step. Sex, for example, never seems
to go out of style. The word alone is guaranteed to capture attention.
In the long run, though, it's helpful if the book has something
more to offer than a mere hot-button subject. For example, good
writing, new information, interesting new presentation of timeless
material-something. Sadly, the titillatingly titled Erotic
Passions by Kenneth Ray Stubbs and a couple of friends of
his, never goes far beyond his pride in having chosen this topic.
On its cover, this book claims to be "A Guide to Orgasmic
Massage, Sensual Bathing, Oral Pleasuring, and Ancient Sexual
Positions." That's overstating it a bit. You are not likely
to come away expert at all of those things if you do buy the book.
On the other hand, that description does give some indication
of the hodge-podge that follows. An Appendix called "A Philosophy
of Pleasure" attempts, in two pages, to explain Zen Buddhism
and Chinese Taoism as they apply to sexuality. Oh yeah, and to
everything else. A couple more appendices follow, one that we
are to read only when we are "feeling academically inclined,"
and one that cursorily takes on the issue of safe sex ("Another
alternative is to be sexually exclusive with one person . . .")
But none of those topics are integrated into the body of the book.
Instead, Erotic Passions offers some groundbreaking generalizations:
"Even with religious and parental ghosts lurking in the back
of many of our minds, we still enjoy sex . . .," some startling
news: "Fantasy games are fun," and some trenchant advice:"
Use your imagination."
Use yours, Buddy, thinks the reader. You're charging $17.95
for this thin book. Tell us something we don't know.
This is not to say that all of his tips are worthless. Some carefully
diagrammed techniques for female and male genital massage may
give you ideas you hadn't thought of (if you are new to sexual
play), or offer a little refresher in basic anatomy (if you are
not). Still, given that there is unlikely to be anything truly
new under the sexual sun, the reason to read a new text on the
subject would be that it described things in a way that was more
beautiful, more creative, more something, than works that
have come before. Stubbs's book does not bring such gifts. His
list of massage techniques, for example, includes "The Scrotum
Ring" and "The Hair Tease," and there's nothing
wrong with these activities in practice. How much more intriguing,
though, to read of "The Kiss That Awakens" or a method
of sensual nibbling called "The Coral and the Jewel,"
from the Kama Sutra.
Stubbs gives us awkward sentences that often seem confused about
how many people are involved: "The greatest barrier to experiencing
pleasure is our mind." "To be a better lover, we could
linger together a while after making love." Nor does his
penchant for self-aggrandizement make the book any more appealing.
For instance, the brief explanation of the G Spot may be helpful
to the uninformed, but then Stubbs quickly follows that with a
story of the "S Spot," named, of course, for himself.
(It's in the neck.) Similarly, a note on the dedication page,
warns that "Not all the sexual positions in this book are
for every body. Some of the positions were accomplished only after
years of yogic practice." Aside from a couple of pages, near
the end, of unattributed illustrations of cavorting Asians, it
is difficult to say what "positions" he is referring
to. Nothing in the text seems difficult to achieve, with or without
yoga. ("Now quietly cuddle up next to your lover. Softly
embrace." ". . . gently slither a finger up and down
between the toes . . .") Maybe it took you years of
yoga to accomplish these things, but don't pass judgment on us,
thinks a reader. The reader may also, at this point, be moved
to refer to advice from the Kama Sutra: "The following
kinds of men may be taken up with, simply for the purpose of getting
their money: . . .Men who are always praising themselves."
The attractive, sensual, if simple, illustrations by Kyle Spencer
are the most appealing part of Erotic Passions, but without
beautiful language to accompany them, they seem a little lonely.
Stubbs's awkward statement about the importance of the mind, referred
to above, is well worth his consideration as well as ours. It
is the mind that transforms our sexuality into something
beyond "The Juicer" (another of his physical techniques)
and makes it worth celebrating and savoring. This work of his,
unfortunately, delivers little to the hungry mind.
© 2001 Heather Liston. First Serial Rights.
Heather Liston studied
Religion at Princeton University and earned a Masters degree from
the NYU Graduate School of Business Administration. She is the
Managing Director of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico,
and writes extensively on a variety of topics. Her book reviews
and other work have appeared in Self, Women Outside,
The Princeton Alumni Weekly, Appalachia, Your
Health and elsewhere.