Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Reviews: Violet Blue's "The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap-On Sex"

First posted on Mistress160's Abode 19 October 2007

"Don't miss [Mistress160's] incredible, in-depth review of my
The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Strap-On Sex
(thanks for the link, Alison Tyler!).

"I feel like the reviewer really took her time to understand
the topic and the potential readership -- and she took
quite a bit of time to learn about me as well. So amazing!"
Violet Blue

I first mentioned this book in my BDSM For Beginners Guide to Strap On Sex, and would really have appreciated having a copy prior to reviewing Sax Leather's "Delux Strap On + Vac-u-Lok". Now - finally - we received a copy of our own!

Strangely, so far, there seem to have been very few reviews. I thought it time to redress that - apart from anything else, after writing my own BDSM For Beginners post I'm aware how little material is available on this subject. So: here it is: everything you wanted to know about Violet Blue's book on everything you wanted to know about strap-on sex....


The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap-On Sex
Violet Blue
Cleis Press 2007

Violet Blue is the sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and the author of over a dozen books on sex and sexuality, including The Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn and The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Sex Toys.

She has an excellent reputation as a sex educator, treating her subject in open and innovative ways. As she explains in an interview with Cleis Press:
"I want to make a lasting contribution to the way we all talk about sex, and hopefully my books—the presentation of the information and the unflinching approach to the content—have added a bit of spark to our collective conversations about sex"
I've always admired her all-orientations approach to sex education:
"I've chosen to write about sex information in a way that is open to whomever chooses to use it. As a girl with a constantly evolving sexuality, I know that a straight woman reading a book now, might pick up the book next year with bisexual curiosities. I want my books to stand the test of time in people’s lives"
Violet Blue is also unusual in that she takes the subject of cyber sex seriously:
"I feel that the Web has changed the way we have sex more than anything yet, possibly more than religion. And it's really only just begun"
She has been quick to appreciate the possibilities of the internet as an educational resource, being one of the first people to enter the erotic podcasting world (Open Source Sex) as well as (to quote her own description) being a "pro blogger, podcaster, vlogger and femmebot at Metblogs SF, Geek Entertainment TV, and Gawker Media's Fleshbot". Her website has the wonderful title Tiny Nibbles.

Another focus of her educational writing is couples. As she explained in a 2006 Eros Zine interview with Thomas Roche:
"I still think that couples are much more sexually sophisticated than media and pop culture think ...

"Most sex advice books, programs, erotica collections and videos for couples treat couples like they automatically have a problem for wanting to experiment and have fun with sex; they often impart a moral as punishment for doing things such as trying a threesome. If there's any "moral" to the stories I find for couples, it's that sexual experimentation is healthy and brings you closer together, even if it turns out silly, strange - or mind-blowingly hot, as is often the case"
Her website features a great page with info for couples, including lots of great "how to" sex articles. Here's a few topics: Introducing New Sexual Fantasies to a Lover, The Art of Dirty Talk, Fuck Me With the Handcuffs On, Please. Several of her most popular books (such as Sweet Life: Erotic Fantasies for Couples and Fetish Sex: An Erotic Guide for Couples) are written from a couple's perspective. So too is the newly published book I'm reviewing today, The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap-On Sex.

The online publicity blurb for the book often looks like this:
"Feeling adventurous? Sex educator and best-selling writer Violet Blue guides readers through the pleasure playground of strap-on sex for heterosexual couples. The wild success of The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men makes it clear that anal sex is hitting the mainstream. Lots of hot women want to strap it on, and their male partners are often happy to oblige.

"With style and wit, Violet Blue explains pleasure anatomy in men, with ample attention to the prostate gland -- the epicenter to male orgasm that's been called "the male G-spot." Full of crafty ideas on positions, toys, harnesses, role-play scenarios, and reading your partner like a dirty book, The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Strap-On Sex offers a step-by-step guide to making sparks fly. And look, ma! No hands"
The author herself says of the subject:

"Everything I've come across so far seems to be playing into the stereotypes that plague male- on-female anal sex. ("You're going to take my cock up that little ass," etc.) I don't peg my man to work out my aggression, I peg him because the prostate is a wondrous thing...

"Pegging in most porn is festooned with stereotypes of shame and pain, like most sex in mainstream porn. And, unfortunately, these stereotypes have seeped into online sex culture. But you don't have to be Mistress Asscrusher, and he doesn't have to answer to Worthless Buttslut, in order to enjoy strap-on sex. Like I explain in my book, most couples who peg do it because it's fun, intimate, new, exciting, and quite loving."

So, let's look at The Adventurous Couple's Guide to Strap-On Sex. The book is set out in twelve chapters, which cover every aspect of introductory strap on sex that you can think of, and quite a few you probably haven't thought of, lol.

The contents page not only provides chapter titles but sub headings, which means its easy to track down a specific topic. Chapter 1 ("The Forbidden Zone"), for example, provides background, talks about the "Bend over Boyfriend" phenomena and gives the recent history of the term "pegging", now used to describe male penetrative sex for straight couples. Chapter 2 ("What It Isn't") discusses myths about pegging. Chapter 3 and 4 explore male anatomy. Chapter 5 ("How pegging Works (Oh So Well)") looks at the mechanics of male orgasm and fantasies and realities of pegging.

We then move on to several chapters covering communication ("How to Ask for It" ... ) before moving on to the practicalities of anal foreplay and penetration ("Anal Penetration Rules! I Mean, Rules") with both viewpoints being covered ("His Concerns: Staying Hard and Keeping Clean"). Chapter 10 explores harnesses and dildos. Chapter 11 ("The Art of Pegging") provides a terrific list of "how to" options ("How to come in a Harness" ... "Fun Things to do When You're Fucking him"). The final chapter provides resources for further reading, shopping links and safe sex info. Several chapters conclude with erotic pegging stories by Alison Tyler.

Violet Blue writes in an informal style that instantly engages the reader ("give a man the anal attention he craves, and you might as well have tossed a pat of butter into a hot pan"). Or both readers, actually - as the author constantly seeks to engage and reassure both parties:
"To me, the discovery that a male lover enjoys receiving anal penetration opens up a whole new world of sexual adventure between the two of us. It means he wants to share something really intimate - and something he finds powerfully pleasurable - with me.

"I know that he probably hasn't been able to play like this with most of his other lovers ... but he feels confident that we can do it... when a man tells me he wants me to strap it on and give it to him - I know I've found a lover who is playful, trusting, interested in having excellent sexual communication and who thinks I'm the hottest girl for the job"
The text is full of useful practicalities. A few examples ... such as "How To Find the Prostate with Your Eyes Closed":
"beneath your fingers you'll find the gland is rounded, shaped like a walnut, but slightly cleaved down the centre so it has a furrowed seam and two subtle halves that can be felt with the pad of your finger (when touched from inside the anus)"
From "Strap on Sex and Erections":
"when you are pegging him and he gets close to orgasm you'll observe a number of physical signs, though they may not be the ones you're used to seeing during your typical lovemaking rituals.."
In another, about the practicalities of rimming, the author's sense of humor shows:
"The easiest position for rimming is doggy style ... if he has a lot of hair down there, this position is optimal for parting the furry seas - and if this notion makes you uncomfortable, let it be known that everyone has hair down there. If you do not naturally have hair around your anus you are either a) too young to be reading this b) shaving or waxing it or c) a genetic anomaly"
The chapters on communication are especially helpful in terms of practical advice, with sub headings such as "You want to, But He's Worried: Talking points". The chapter on harnesses and dildos is excellent, however it was when reading this chapter that I discovered my one real criticism of the book, which has to do with it's lack of illustrations.

Violet Blue has produced several other books with Cleis Press in a similar format. These have all proved popular. I'm sure the lack of illustrations keeps the price down significantly. However, despite Violet Blue's excellent descriptive skills, you really feel the need for images and/or diagrams (perhaps some simple line drawings???) when struggling to understand the construction of various harnesses, and how dildos attach - as well as, of course, trying to select what sort of harness to purchase.

The final chapter lists online shopping resources - always a risk in a hard copy publication because these lists and links date so quickly. In this case Violet Blue has provided a terrific range of outlets, and (unusual for an American publication, thank you thank you!) has also provided worldwide shopping links.

Her recommended reading list is good, and includes a section on strap-on porn. The book concludes with a much needed (and excellent) safe sex section.

Should we buy it, Ms160?

If strap-on sex is of interest to you, then absolutely!

Violet Blue has produced a well researched publication - written in her usual thoughtful and amusing style - that answers all the questions you'll have about starting strap-on play. Her practical approach means your first attempts will be stress free and very enjoyable, on both sides of the dildo, lol. The chapter structure and sub headings make locating specific info easy (if you have particular issues you want to check out), and the author's further reading list shows you where to go for more detailed info.

While Alison Tyler's imaginative erotic stories function perfectly to bring the topic alive (and subtly suggest further possibilities in terms of things to try) my only criticism is that illustrations would have been helpful, especially in the chapter on harnesses and dildos. I'd suggest that when it actually comes to your wanting to understand the various styles of harness construction that you supplement Violet Blue's excellent advice by checking out the images of product design on this blog's BDSM For Beginner's Guide to Strap On Sex.

Cleis Press have created a user friendly publication: the book is small in size, only 125 pages, in an easy to read font, at a great price. It's definitely worth adding to your sex / kinky library.


Male Chastity: a guide for keyholders
Lucy Fairbourne
Velluminous Press 2007

Cleis Press Spotlight on Violet Blue (interview)
Eros Zine: Thomas Roche interview with Violet Blue
Rachel Kramer Bussel "Adult Podcasts: the XXX Wave of the Future" (Penthouse Forum) (no link)
Newsweek "Podcasting: Talking Dirty on Your iPod"
Savage Love 8 August 2007
SF Gate Violet Blue - Archive

For a complete list of Violet Blue's publications and articles , please see her website's publicity and press page.

For more of Alison Tyler's great erotica, check out her publications and stories via her website Trollop with a Laptop.

Mistress 160's posts on Strap On Sex:
(another reference list on strap on sex at the end of BDSM For Beginners Guide to Strap On Sex )

Want to join discussions about strap-on sex with Ms160? Join us at Fetish Lore's Forum on Strap-Ons, incl:
Below, some of Violet Blue's other publications you might like to check out:

Sweet LifeSweet Life 2ultimate guide to adult videosultimate guide to sexual fantasybest sex writingbest womens erotica 2006lips like sugartaboo cunnilingus fellatio cunnilingus frenchfellatio spanish cunnilingus spanishsmart girl's guide to pornfetish sexbest women's erotica 2007adventurous couple's guide to sex toyslust: erotic fantasies by womenthe smart girl's guide to the g-spotthe adventurous couple's guide to strap-on sex

book covers courtesy:
Cleis Press website and Tiny Nibbles

photo of Violet Blue: cover page of Tiny Nibbles)

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