August 2003

Julie Boulanger

la marquise

She is Butt Girl! She is Adventure Girl! She is Tristan Taormino!

Tristan Taormino's True Lust: Adventures in Sex, Porn, and Perversion is a compilation of five years of work as a sex writer/columnist. Starting off in the mid-nineties with her homegrown pansexual magazine Pucker Up, she then went on to write for the lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs, where Adventure Girl was born. In 1999, Adventure Girl moved on to the Village Voice to claim fame in a wider, more sexually diverse pool of readers. True Lust comprises what she considers her sixty-eight "Best Of" articles, all grouped in chapters with themes such as "The Sex is Political," "Fuck your Gender," "Sex Ed 201," and "Ponies, Puppies, and Perverts."

In my opinion, sex columnists must be open, adventurous and unabashed (Carrie from Sex in the City just does not cut it). To say Taormino is open-minded is an understatement. She puts into practice everything that she preaches and then tells you all about it. What were her thoughts about a session with a pro Dom, and what did She do to her? How could a lesbian date a gay man? What do girls (and guys, for that matter) see in butch dykes? And how oh how can a woman learn to ejaculate? As a sub femme dyke very openly into ass play (she wrote the book about it) and golden showers, her boundaries are far-reaching.

Her curiosity and willingness to try new things for the sake of trying them is notable, and this curiosity is not limited to sex adventures. She admits in one of her articles that she is a total nerd (i.e. bookslut). When she hears about a sexual practice, a new type of gender identity, or anything else that touches her fancy, she reads all the books about it that she can get her hands on. A sponge for knowledge, she dares to go where few sex columnist will go: instead of suggesting further readings, she actually explains the main thesis of Judith Halberstam's book Female Masculinity to you. For the reader who appreciates being led into new worlds of sex play while pushing the limits of their definitions of sex, gender, porn, and how they all fit together, Taormino is a great one to read.

Of course, no book is without faults. Taormino sometimes relates useless quirky personal experiences, such as the auctioning off, and then taking off by the new owners, of her underpants during the 2001 Ocean State Leather Contest. When she tells of almost breaking the bed in a Texan B&B, what is the point? If she aims to add personality to her persona, this means is not successful. Her texts are flavourful enough without the added salt.

Another bothersome element of the book is its format. For someone with a short attention span, who does not have time to read or who loves magazines and short stories, this is a great mind opening sex-ed book. I, however, found two hundred pages of column-length pieces to be sometimes annoying, especially when covering a topic of interest to me. To have an intriguing piece end after two pages, while I am now curious and wanting more, is frustrating.

Taormino's enthusiasm stays with the reader. She thoroughly enjoys sex. She loves exploring it. She loves doing it. She loves writing about it. This love of hers shines through her articles and renders her voice on sex not only educational and fun but liberating as well. A quote taken from the introduction of her book is a good voucher of her attitude:

"Speaking and acting on our desires and fantasies has a lot to do with permission - the permission society gives (or denies) us to be open about sex as well as the permission we give ourselves to be honest about our sexuality. I hope that my travels into new, unknown, and exciting erotic territory demystify sexual practices and communities and give my readers permission to explore their own undiscovered sexual worlds." (XV)

Indeed, little seems taboo after reading True Lust from cover to cover. She actually made me feel rather vanilla. The best thing about this book is the inspiration it gives. And that is, in this rather sex-negative world, a wonderful gift.

There is one last feature to note: The Candy Shop. At the end of the book is a section called "Tristan's Favorite Sex Stuff." There she enumerates every book, video, and web site referred to in each chapter. If you absolutely want more info on gadgets that will pump your clit, or if you suddenly become curious about Bear erotica, or would love to see a video with this Chloe porn star she keeps talking about, flip to The Candy Shop. Handy, easy and well documented--did I mention Taormino first wanted to be a lawyer?

Tristan Taormino's True Lust by Tristan Taormino
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573441570
200 Pages