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Zaftig Well Rounded Erotica Review
Humans are sexual beings--all humans, not just the skinny ones, not just the straight ones. Sex writer, editor and educator Hanne Blank calls Zaftig a "celebration of those big bodies, those round bodies, those chubby-plump voluptuous-heavy fat bodies of all sizes of large". And indeed it is full of voluptuous and "juicy" feminine bodies. Yes, world, fat people have sex. All kinds of it.
The focus of this book is sex with a little fat thrown in for good measure. Two comments in the introduction set the tone for the stories. First, Blank says, "although this book is definitely sexual, sensual and arousing, it is also challenging-- not always an easy or comfortable book to read." Second, she says "this is volatile smut." Volatile? Yes sometimes. It borders on obscene with the references to ass licking. The reader needs a very open mind.
It's unusual to read a sex scene without all the other history that normally goes into a storyline. There are no soft literary Anais Nin descriptions here. The writers call it what it is. It's almost feels like voyeurism; each story is a new window and as each curtain opens you never know what you're going to see. This collection of stories will definitely not appeal to all tastes. There are 9 lesbian stories, 7 hetero stories and 2 woman-meets-object stories. It was a little weird reading about girl on girl... and girl on girl... and girl on girl. Despite being almost half and half it definitely felt one sided.
Each story should come with its own rating for kind of sex and gender so the reader can skip the ones they don't have an interest in and when they are ready they can explore later or better yet this would have been fabulous in two volumes; one with the lesbian slant and one with the hetero, so each group feels they are getting their money's worth of smut. The stories won't suit everyone as interest and aphrodisiacs are not mutually exclusive.
Here's a brief rundown on the stories:
Looking, Really Looking at a Painting (Melusine) - A woman stands in front of a painting of a woman fantasizing about having sex with her. This is one of the open mind reasons I mentioned. If the visualization of a string of pearls going where no pearl has gone before doesn't make you squirm then the rest of the stories are probably a piece of cake.
Divining (Jianda Johnson) - A woman talks about having sex with her boyfriend, "her first big man" and shopping with him for sexy lingerie at a Lane Bryant store. An empowering story but some of the language was awkward and slows it down.
How Loretta Got a Schlong (Anne Tourney) - A professional woman spends a week alone after her vacation buddy cancels on her. It's a comical look at one woman's journey with a stranger (male), her flannel nightgown and a very large pepperoni. Silly physical descriptions like "his eyes were the colour of semisweet chocolate chips" add to the humour.
Office Hours (Dawn Dougherty) - An interoffice sex-capade between two women.
The Model (Catherine Lundoff) - A female photographer finally makes a move on the voluptuous model she's admired for some time.
Breathing Lessons (Eleanor Brown) - A woman, having sex with a man, wants to enjoy herself but is self conscious of her body's appearance. I liked how this one switched back and forth between a sexual interlude and childhood memories of being fat but was turned off by some of the descriptions; like, "his hand is moving slowly, creeping like a centipede..." Yikes! That doesn't impose images of eroticism.
Madchen in Uniform (Heather Corinna) - A woman describes to her girlfriend an encounter/fantasy she had with another woman.
Weekdays at Rosini's Bakery (Veronica Kelly) - A thirty something woman visits a bakery every morning before work and gets to know the elderly baker. He's not only baking pastries. Sex doesn't stop at 50 or 60 or 70!
Cleavage (Diana Lee) - A woman in a wheelchair has a sexual adventure at an S&M bar. I was surprised and delighted to see this story not because of its sexual content but because it shows readers that people in wheelchairs are sexual beings. The flipping point-of-view was confusing.
Goddess Worship (Reyna D. Tutto) - A female student house-sits for her 400lb gay professor while he's away with his boyfriend. During her stay she fantasizes about him and has an encounter with one of his archaeological fertility statues.
Alphabet Soup (Helen Bradley) - A woman recites how she met another woman and their continuing relationship via the alphabet.
Denial (Hanne Blank) - A contribution by Zaftig's editor. It's the story of a man at a weight loss meeting who finds himself, for the first time, attracted to the thin woman who commands it. He's recently been dumped by his fat girlfriend who lost a lot of weight and found another (thinner) boyfriend. This story wasn't what I expected and instead of having a sexual focus it has a pleasing ending that doesn't culminate in a sex act. Some of the descriptions I wouldn't have expected from a seasoned writer; like "she blushed becomingly". Huh?
Flesh Love (Debra Hyde) - Two point-of-views, easily discernable, tell the story of the relationship between a large woman and a 99lb man and their love of one another's bodies.
In Season (Corbie Petulengro) - A woman afraid of her partner hides out at the farm of another woman and begins to lust after her. This story carries a message besides sex. Feminine empowerment. I loved the part when Rein tells the narrating character Kitty, "You have girl disease." Rein goes on to explain "You've been taught all your life not to use your full strength, so you don't know how much strength you have. You don't know where your body's limits are, because you've never reached them." By the end of the story she has her disease under control.
Liquid Pleasure (Gabriella West) - A plush woman alone at a spa has a threesome with another heterosexual couple.
Big Girls, Little Girls (Lori Selke) - A woman has a date with a man she wants to call "Daddy". This story got under my skin with the reference of Daddy having sex with his little girl: "Are you looking for a Daddy, little girl?" and "You're such a good little girl, letting Daddy touch you there." I know it's judgemental but Dads in any form shouldn't be touching their daughters 'there', fantasy or otherwise.
Etched in the Flesh (Sacchi Green aka Connie Wilson) - A woman returns home from a funeral trip, eager to see her partner. She discovers her partner knows more about the deceased family member than she did.
Frank Miller, 1984 (Susan L. House) - A short poem about a woman's fantasy to replace a cellist's instrument with her curvy body.
There's nothing wrong with a little fun. I can actually see a book like this used at a girls' night. Everyone taking a turn reading a story aloud and then discussing it. Imagine what you could learn about your friends. I have a hard time recommending this book as a whole though the concept is good. Just because it has plus women in it isn't a reason to buy or recommend it. I'd like to see something on the market celebrating the beauty and sexuality of the full-figured woman without being tawdry.
Cleis Press Inc., 2001
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