We embark on our flight the top floor of a converted Shoreditch warehouse with pink lighting and round tables. The air is warm, the curtains are drawn and the sweet sound of elevator music fills the room: like a tornado in baby blue, Fancy Chance, air steward to AmeriKorea air, chucks a pack of mini cheddars at my head.
I began reading this book on the train home from Clapham to Eastbourne, and let me tell you, people noticed it. If it wasn’t the very obvious title ‘THIS IS NOT A SEX BOOK’ leaping right out at you, it was the fluorescent orange cover that caught people’s attention. Such was the idea of the famous Spanish YouTuber Chisuta Fashion Fever (real name: Maria Jesus Cama). This self-described ‘manual’ makes no apologies for its honest and realistic views on sex. At the beginning of the book, she warns people ‘who don’t like calling things by their name’ not to read it, but for others ‘who want to know everything about sex’, she ensures all topics are covered in an inclusive and sensitive way.
I wasn’t sure how much I’d have to say about Dutch lubricant. Ideally, it should do exactly what it says on the tin. That being said, I think Level deserve a shout-out for their luxurious new lubes.
A few decades later I was invited to the Strangers' Gallery by a lobby journalist friend and again, I watched someone make another dullish speech to an almost empty house, only this time I was a bit more grown up and less easily impressed by Pugin’s imposing interiors and the aura of institutional power. Later we ate lunch in a cosy cafeteria, although whether this was in Portcullis House, where the security seems even greater than that of any large airport, or in the Palace of Westminster, I don’t remember. The Houses of Parliament have that effect on you. Not labyrinthine, perhaps, just very, very big and easy to get lost in.
Okay, let's do the technical stuff first: it's a state of the art clitoral stimulator that simulates… an intense sucking sensation. Which, of course, may or may not be your thing. But if it is, it's v. handy for when your partner just isn't prepared to pucker 'n suck or when you fancy a bit of me-time. It's made by a German firm called Satisfyer Pro 2 who, in ever-efficient fashion, have designed it to be waterproof, rechargeable and stroke-ably smooth.
I’ll admit, there was a time when I had never really considered what I wouldn’t expect puppets to do. Reared on Thunderbirds and seaside Punch and Judy, my conscious puppet repertoire was defined by International Rescue missions and sausage-themed domestic abuse. A diverse enough spread, you’d think. But, had I thought about what I wouldn’t call ‘puppet territory’, knife throwing, striptease, and floating through the air while masturbating with an aubergine would have been high on my list. How wrong I would have been. Thank goodness the Sex and Puppets/Puppet Cabaret double bill hosted by Moving Parts, Newcastle’s new puppetry festival, was here to set me straight.
It’s official: Sade is part of the canon. Thanks to a blistering new translation by Thomas Wynn and Will McMorran, the 120 Days of Sodom now sits merrily alongside War and Peace and Little Women in a restrained, matte black cover. A familiar little bird in an orange bubble is posed directly under Man Ray’s Monument à D. A. F. de Sade, a close-up of pert buttocks framed by an inverted cross. Fifty years ago, anyone who published Sade faced prosecution. Now, ‘the most impure tale ever written’ is a Penguin Classic.
Gardner’s vision of eighteenth-century sex work is the perfect mix of romanticism and realism. For every silken gown, rococo pleasure garden, and champagne-fuelled masquerade, she offers a sobering glimpse of the indigence, cruelty and inequality on which eighteenth-century society was built.
Originally titled The Erotic Oscars until the Hollywood proprietors of the eponymous statue objected and forced a change to The Erotic Awards, this annual recognition of libidinous creative talent is now in its twenty second year. It was conceived by the extraordinary Dr ‘Tuppy’ Owens, ‘onlie begetter’ of The Sex Maniac’s Diary and The Sex Maniac’s Ball. Both productions fell victim to political correctness (the well-researched and informative diary died), although the Ball survived for over twenty five years including a name change to Night of the Senses.
Only the Visible Can Vanish, Anna Maconochie’s debut collection of short fiction, crackles with an electric energy. It’s extremely present and the humour is trenchant. Eleven stories, dealing with big city themes: urban alienation to the point of wanting to vanish; internet romances; pressure-cooker media jobs; trying to connect with the opposite sex; encounters that could succeed and bloom into fuller, more permanent relationships only to be destroyed by their creaky foundations.