I hadn’t planned to read Curvy Girls, I really hadn’t. It was no bias on my part; I just had too many other things to read. I was erotica-ed out. The erotica goddesses had other ideas, though. Rachel Kramer Bussel asked me to be part of this virtual book tour, and how could I refuse.
Curvy Girls is above and beyond the best book of erotic short stories I’ve ever read. Not only titillating, but thought-provoking too. What more could a sex nerd like me, a purveyor of beautiful word-smithing and of all things social issues oriented, ask for?
I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to put my finger on what makes this book so great. Sure, the anthology is artfully selected and put together. Yes, the stories are some of the sexiest out there. There’s something more though. Each story is written with a love, passion, and connection I rarely pick up in fictional writing; I truly do feel as if the authors have made friends with their characters and made an oath to tell their stories with passion, truth, and pathos. These stories are filled with sensuality, whimsy, and carefully wrought political awareness and social commentary that doesn’t at all detract from the erotic entertainment.
The erotic encounters in this book are some of the steamiest I’ve ever read. I will get back to that in a minute but I want to say a few things about body image in general.
Why have a book about curvy girls? Because our culture eschews anything outside of its imaginary plastic model of perfection. The standards women are held to are almost impossible to meet. Curvy, but not too curvy, and not curvy in the “wrong” spots. Sexy, but not too sexy, and not sexy in the “wrong” places. And, perhaps most insidious and dehumanizing of all, sexually available but not sexually interested.
Sure, there are erotic stories about bigger women, but, I’ve noticed, they are few and far between and often focus on the woman’s size in a way that somehow takes the woman out of the picture. The women in Curvy Girls are real women, with dreams, ambitions, intellect, and a rocking sense of humour! A nice balance is struck between stories of women who are fully realized and confident in their sexy, curvy selves, and women who are travelling on the journey towards self-confidence and find validation in the acceptance and admiration of a lover.
What is a curvy girl anyway? Well, she’s not what you think. She’s a classic hourglass. She’s big all over. She’s muscular and jiggly all at once. She’s firmly muscled and athletic, but without the lean athleticism our society demands from active women. She’s got a curvy bottom with petite, barely there breasts. She is, as Donna George Storey writes in Happy Ending (one of my favourites, by the way) : “A fairy child on top, an earth mother below.” Curvy girls are also mothers, professional bakers, store owners, judo champions, fiancées, sex workers, runners, museum docents, tired travelers, connoisseurs of French silk pie (yum!). Curvy girls are smart, creative, shy, sassy, insecure, confident; curvy girls are women!
Somehow, we’ve gotten to a point where women are expected to fit a mold that really doesn’t fit us. I was delighted to see in Angela Caperton’s Before the Autumn Queen, a woman whose uniform didn’t fit properly, not because she was too big, but because the uniform wasn’t suited to her. Even more delightful is how she deals with this: wearing sexy, expensive lingerie. It doesn’t hurt either that someone saw past the ill-fitting uniform to the perfectly proportioned, sensual woman beneath, leading to an evening of passion.
My petite but curvy self smiled at Maya’s reflections on blue jeans in Excuses.
”I opt to put my hands into my jean pockets. What little pocket there is, anyway. Women’s jeans aren’t designed for function. They only serve to invoke the tears of hapless shoppers and to make me wonder exactly how big my hips and thighs look at this very moment.” There truly is nothing more demoralizing than clothes shopping. Somehow, the clothes are always designed for a shape or length of woman that really doesn’t exist.
I loved many of the stories in this book, and liked all of them. Underlying the passion in many is a tenderness that surprised me. The reunion of three friends in Champagne Cheesecake (yes, a threesome) and the new, healthier, heavier body of the woman in the three, is tender, playful, and gently nuanced to each character’s sexual personality. Donna George Storey gives some perspective to the interplay of self-acceptance, sexual empowerment, and the many meanings of fidelity in Happy Ending. Justine Elyot’s Wenching presents the simple, unadorned self-acceptance, in spite of the frippery of the setting, wrought both by the accepting words of her admirer and by the joyous feelings of full, uninhibited sexual release. Recognition, probably my favourite in this entire collection, plays with identities in a creative way. Turning the butch-femme dichotomy on its head, two women who love their big, strong, capable bodies, recognize themselves in each other, yielding a magnetic attraction that leads to the steamiest scene of airport bathroom sex I’ve ever read. So steamy in fact that I never once went “ewww, they’re in a bathroom” as I usually do when reading erotica set in bathrooms. Congratulations to Salome Wilde and Talon Rihai for distracting me from that ick factor!
What more can I say? If I talk about the stories too much more I’ll give too much away. Cultural critique will fill pages and pages.
And, remember, as Evan Mora tells us in WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF: “And there is nothing sexier than a big, capable woman who knows she’s got it going on.” Whether she’s soft or muscular, sassy or subtle—whether she’s taking her professional life by storm or playing seductress in the bedroom—nothing could be more true.