“‘Cowboy’ is a calling, a vocation, not a gender,” starts the book Lesbian Cowboys: Erotic Adventures by Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia, published by Cleis Press. The first review of it I saw said, “This book has nothing to do with gender.”
But of course, I have to disagree. It has everything to do with gender.
I know what they both mean, though: they mean men and women—they mean cowboy does not necessarily mean a cisgender man. But this collection of erotica is full of genderqueer cowboys, dykes, crossdressers, even possibly a trans guy, though the characters in these stories never identify themselves as such, partly because some of the stories are period and set in a time when this language didn’t exist. Possibly also because the authors, or even the characters themselves, do not have this kind of language.
None of the stories came across as particularly smart about gender theory or politics or identity, but all of them have specific life experience of what it’s like to be different: masculine and a “woman” in a man’s world and in a man’s profession, or feminine and a woman in a man’s profession. There are femmes and butches, women who pass and those who don’t want to, women who feel the need to prove themselves capable despite their gender, trans male characters who go by he and him as his chosen pronoun, and even a leather “phallus” strap-on in a scene in a brothel.
I am quite fond of “The Hired Hand” by Delilah Devlin, which is sexy and tense, about a woman who comes looking for work at a ranch and proves she is just as capable as any man would be. In many of the stories, I like the tough American accents, vaguely southern but also just western, I like the descriptions of the landscapes and rodeo circuits, the mountains and connection to the land.
It’s a lovely collection, and if you like gender play (and butches or masculine women) in general, there aren’t a lot of lesbian erotica collections exploring those dynamics and this is definitely one of them.
edited by Sacchi Green Cleis Press
$14.95, Trade paper, 216 p
Naughty, fast-paced, and full of lust, these stories encompass a range of women, places, and relationships. From one-night stands to long term lovers, from humiliation in a sex toy shop to being eaten out under a desk at work, each story unfolds a new scenario with beautiful writing and lots of juicy detail. Plenty of no-strings-attached sex and lust, but plenty of stories with emotional depth and fleshed out characters and relationships as well. While the sex in these stories stays pretty tame, the desire and heat flames off the pages as the characters explode with want, need, and ultimately, satiation.
BEST LESBIAN EROTICA 2010
Edited by Kathleen Warnock Cleis Press
$15.95, Trade paper, 244 p
Let’s just start it off with a bang: Best Lesbian Erotica 2010 was released by Cleis Press late in 2009 and, as always, it doesn’t disappoint. The variety of orientations, power dynamics, and writing styles will have a few stories for everybody, and the seasoned erotica writers combine with new voices for a readable, sexy anthology.
WHERE THE GIRLS ARE:
Urban Lesbian Erotica
Edited by DL King Cleis Press
$14.95, Trade paper, 200 pp
Dirty and adventurous, the lesbians in Where the Girls Are: Urban Lesbian Erotica are not all city girls but they play the games, go to the parties, do the networking, and put their time in like any of us. The big-city lures of queer communities, play parties, office jobs, and happy hours come out in all kinds in these stories: from feisty grad students new to San Francisco’s dyke scene, to Connecticut frenemies reconnecting years after high school, to flirting across a restaurant and then getting it on in the bathroom. DL King is an experienced erotica writer and anthology editor, and it shows in this collection.