Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write about Real Sex , edited by Erica Jong. Publisher: ECCO (June 14, 2011). Essays. Hardcover, 256 pages.
The mockery and dumbing down of sex in America is something I have often experienced in response to my own books. This is a particularly American response. Europeans do not snicker at nudity or “wardrobe malfunctions.” There is probably no other society in which one must argue that sex is an important human drive. Its power is simply taken for granted throughout the world.
–Erica Jong [introduction]
I became politically liberal way before I became sexually liberal. In fifth grade, I considered myself a feminist but didn’t lose my virginity until age 23. There’s no real reason behind it. I went to fraternity parties in college. I hooked up with guys. I didn’t have a boyfriend or a strong desire to “lose” my virginity. I followed two British bands [Jesus Jones and The Charlatans] in the 90s without even kissing any band members. Now I feel I’m more sexually liberal than some writers in this book. I’ve experimented here and there. I’ve had quite a few one-night-stands. I’ve had one-night-stands that I didn’t want to be one-night-stands and one-night-stands that were exactly as I wanted.
Erica Jong gathered a diverse group of women to write essays and short stories about sex for Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write about Real Sex. Rebecca Walker writes about fantasy versus reality. Ariel Levy and Fay Weldon write essays about losing their virginity. Honor Moore reflects on the ground-breaking Story of O. [I too didn’t read Story of O until recently and even then almost felt guilty about doing so]. In one of the best essays, “Sex with a Stranger,” Susan Cheever writes about a one-night-stand: “If you are looking for love, sexual intimacy can be a shortcut. It is among the fastest ways to get to know another person. During sex, we literally and figuratively expose ourselves.”
Another favorite called “Love Rollercoaster 1975” finds Susie Bright bluntly recounting an early sexual experience. “He got down on his knees in one motion, parted the shirttail of the chamois I was wearing, and pressed his face right into my pussy.” Linda Gray Sexton proves to be downright adventurous in “Absolutely Dangerous” as she and her lover practice erotic asphyxiation. She writes: “The lack of oxygen made a fiery bow of my body, bent back on itself, as one orgasm after another after another rippled through me.”
Rosemary Daniell [“The One Who Breaks My Heart”] writes: “Call me a slut—and I’m sure many have—but I’m one of those women who literally can’t remember all the men I’ve slept with (and barely all the women),” Gail Collins writes about her Catholic school girl education [“Worst Sex”]—“My friends and I were part of the last batch of American women to spend their adolescence being constantly lectured about sex by women who had never had any.” Molly Jong-Fast [“They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To”] suggests that she’s the complete opposite of her sexually free mother and provides this understandable reasoning: “Whereas my generation was already free. There was no need for us to fight the power because we were the power.”
Sex is about choice. Sex is about expression. For some reason, women aren’t as direct and open about it as men can be and that’s too bad. Sugar in My Bowl should appeal to a wide variety of women as it considers sex from various angles. It’s rare when a woman writes freely, recklessly, with abandonment about sex. Many of the younger writers proved more reticent towards sex than older writers in the collection. The enticing, thoughtful Sugar in My Bowl proves to be a powerful exploration of women’s relationship to sex.