March 2008

Jonathan Shipley

fiction

Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica edited by Stephen Elliott

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has resigned, implicated in a prostitution ring, spending thousands of dollars on prostitutes, including the now infamous Client-9. Bill Clinton got a blowjob while in office. Senator Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s bathroom in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. Sex and politics: they go together like peanut butter and jelly, or, more to the point, penises and KY jelly. Why there hasn’t been a great politically-inspired erotica collection until now is anyone’s guess, but here it is -- wonderfully weird, and erotic, and silly, and interesting and a little creepy in some ways (Dick Cheney in a love scene = nausea) but never boring. Oh no, never dull. It pulls down the pants of traditional erotica and gets down on its red, white and blue knees in star-spangled literary delight.

San Francisco native Stephen Elliott (author of My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up) has presented readers with a nice assortment of writers and stories. Jerry Stahl (of Permanent Midnight fame) starts things off with a bang with a downright unhealthy story of Dick Cheney love and that duck hunting accident. “I didn’t mean to sodomize Dick Cheney,” it starts. “I mean, I’m not even gay. Or not usually.” Michelle Tea follows with “Music From Earth,” a tale of a lesbian and a young man about to be shipped off to war. “Aidan’s body was not the mystery. Nothing about a body was a mystery, a body was nothing if not blatant, obvious. My shorts were yanked down, a demin puddle in the weeds…”

There’s an amazing breadth to the types of stories here. Of course, they’re all sexy in some way or other and have some connection to the politics of our day, but they’re told in so many different ways. The always hilarious Jonathan Ames makes an appearance in the collection, as does Michelle Richmond and Anthony Swofford. Mistress Morgana writes “An Open Letter to the Bush Administration” and James Frey (of that little Million Little Pieces fiasco you may remember) pens “The Candidate’s Wife.” “He takes her outside on Wednesday, they go into an alley behind the bar. She wraps her legs around his waist and he takes her against the wall. Thursday they get into the backseat of her car.” Some of the tales are funny, some are horny as all hell and some actually touch your heart rather than make you want to touch yourself.

Of course, much of the fucking in this book is simply a “fuck you” to the Bush Administration. In Elliott’s forward he writes, “It would be fine to keep sex private, something behind closed doors. Unfortunately, when that happens, the politicians read that as a lack of public support. So now it’s okay to block sex-ed materials, to outlaw practices arbitrarily judged obscene. Straight, gay, or kinky, to keep our freedoms, we have to be out of the closets.” That said, perhaps the Bush Administration might want to read a few of the stories in the book. They’ll probably have to hide the tome in the closet of their bureaucratic offices, however. Perhaps not. Perhaps a conservative Republican senator will invite in a conservative Republican staffer and they’ll read a story by Jami Attenber or Lydia Millet or Peter Orner and they’ll get all hot and bothered and do each other right there on the mahogany desk while some filibustering goes on in the Senate chambers nearby. “This isn’t so bad,” they’ll say, smoking cigarettes after. “What’s all the hubbub about?”

Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica edited by Stephen Elliott
Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0061351210
288 Pages