This new book by Tristan Taormino (series editor of Best Lesbian Erotica and co-editor of Ritual Sex) is an outstanding example of what I think a modern "sex manual" should be: it covers a topic that the author knows in depth on a personal level, it is factually accurate and conveys all the information the readers might need, it manages to capture the pleasure and passion which the author finds in her chosen subject, it provides guides to more advanced topics for more advanced and/or adventurous readers, and it contains a solid resource guide for folks who wish to learn more. The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women is also typeset and bound very well, and is nicely interspersed with sidebars and "testimonials" from folks who responded to a survey by the author about anal sex. Aside from being informative, this book is a true pleasure to read.
The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women starts out with the following sentence: "Yes, I admit it - I love anal sex; the first time someone put a finger in my butt, I almost went crazy from the pleasure." From the point of view of someone nervous about exploring anal play, this is almost a perfect way to start the book; it places the discourse squarely in the realm of pleasure, rather than in technique for the sake of technique or in "doing it" just to please your partner without the expectation of actually enjoying it.
This first chapter then goes on to comment on cultural attitudes and myths surrounding anal play, many of which may be familiar to the reader, before continuing into "10 Myths about Anal Sex." Myth #8 is "Women don't enjoy receiving anal sex; they do it just to please their partners", and I'll come back to this point a little later.
Chapter 2 goes on to basic anatomy, intelligently handled and well-illustrated. I liked the fact that the author emphasized the use of Kegel exercises in enhancing anal pleasure; most folks who are aware of Kegels think they're good just for enhancing vaginal intercourse or for controlling "premature ejaculation." Not true. This chapter also handled the use of latex, lubricants, etc. in a sensitive and articulate manner.
Chapter 3, "Beyond Our Bodies: Emotional and Psychological Aspects of Anal Eroticism", covers Desire, Communication, Fear, Expectations, Patience, etc.; it's one of the better chapters in the book, and will probably be especially valuable for opposite-sex couples caught up in myth #8 (see above).
Chapter 4 goes over sex toys, lubricants, and condoms. Chapter 5 goes over shaving and enemas. I'm quite glad that the author chose to include these topics in her book; there really aren't that many books out there which cover these topics intelligently and sensitively, and it's good to have a book people can refer to for questions. Chapter 6 discusses anal masturbation, chapter 7 discusses analingus (with a nice illustration of how to make dental dams out of condoms and gloves), chapter 8 discusses anal penetration with a partner, chapter 9 discusses anal fisting, chapter 10 discusses S/M and genderplay, and chapter 11 discusses anal health. The back of the book contains a resource guide (more on that later).
Here are a few other things I liked about this book, in no particular order:
For me, one of the more interesting questions was why this book was titled The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. As a male, I read this book all the way through and never felt left out; I learned a lot both about anal play in general (as almost everything about the anus applies equally to men and women), and even learned a bit more about the role of the male prostate gland in anal play. Although this book did devote space in some chapters to topics that the author seems to feel are of special interest to women, the bulk of the book seems to be applicable to both men and women. Even the use of pronouns in the book wasn't uniformly gender-exclusive. In fact, I'd say that this book is of just as much interest to men AND women as Dr. Jack Morin's classic book Anal Pleasure and Health is.
So what gives? Why wasn't this book titled The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and Men? I'm still going to recommend this book to men, but I can see myself always having to add the caveat "despite the title, it's not just for women..."
As far as I can tell, it goes back to myth #8 mentioned above (in a roundabout way). Despite what many folks seem to believe, "there is no evidence that any single group defined by sexual orientation has a great deal more anal sex than any other group; in fact, depending on which survey you cite, from 20 to 45 percent of women have anal sex" (p. 17). So, it seems likely that most anal sex in this country is being practiced by opposite-sex couples. Now, coming back to myth #8, it may be that a significant subset of these opposite-sex couples experimenting with anal sex are under the impression that it's something "the woman puts up with to please her partner" (in fact, if you don't know enough to use lube, anal sex is almost bound to be uncomfortable, which makes it a sex-education issue as well as an empowerment issue). Perhaps by titling this book the way she has, Ms. Taormino hopes to grab the attention of these women in particular; for many women, the thought that anal sex could be fun for them might be a little revolutionary.
I'm still going to recommend this book to men AND women, though. Once you get past the title it really is fairly pansexual (not to mention awfully good and up-to-date).
I have only a few complaints:
These complaints are minor, and don't affect the main content or message of the book. On the whole I think in many ways this is a superior book to Anal Pleasure and Health, partly because it has the advantage of 11 years of hindsight between now and the last edition of Anal Pleasure and Health (which is scheduled for a new edition in 1998, by the way). It's clear to me that if for no reason other than the way the books are presented and titled there's more than enough room in the market for both of them, and I'm glad that both are available.
REFERENCE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ANAL SEX FOR WOMEN RESOURCE GUIDE ERRATA
In reviewing this book I found the following errors in the resource guide section, and thought I'd include the errata here for reference:
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