Chicken Soup for the Cock

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Chicken Soup for the Cock  

Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men: What Every Man Wants to Know About Making Love to a Woman and Never Asks

By Jamie Goddard and Kurt Brungardt

learned how to have orgasms with my first girlfriend. Later, with my next boyfriend, I couldn’t apply the skill I had attained rolling around with that soft-skinned, busty twenty-three-year-old. Nor could I ever really have an orgasm from subsequent hetero romps — it took special solo work from me after the fact. This never really bothered me, but it did teach me that some experiences don’t translate. For instance, if you learned to come by masturbating under the warm water tap in your bathtub, you will have a hard time replicating that technique on a date.

Which, considering this orgasmic gender gap, made me wonder what the new book Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men intended to teach. LSSFM comes after the cute, cartoon-y Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, published in 1997. The apparent trend makes one wonder whether the apparent sexual cluelessness of breeders warrants its own publishing niche. It seems potentially offensive to all parties — like writing a book called Dancing Tips for White Guys from a Black Brotha. I learned on the opening page, though, that the authors’ faith in their ability to enlighten is due to their observation that lesbians “not only have experience making love to women, but they also live inside female bodies. They know [them] from the inside out.” This is the same premise as in self-help gynecology (that women are the experts on their own lives and bodies, so we could and should control abortion, pelvic exams, et cetera) — okay, I’m sold. Bring on the Sapphic sex secrets!

Jamie Goddard (lesbian sexuality educator and activist) and her coauthor Kurt Brungardt (performance artist and journalist of “men’s issues”) gathered hundreds of surveys with lesbians and bisexual women about their sex lives. The book really does deal with the ABCs — describing the multi-parts of the clitoris, the urethral sponge (G-spot), the inner and outer labia, providing detailed instructions about how to kiss (softly but dynamically) and making the point again and again and again that female ejaculation is not her peeing. But the first hot lesbian sex lesson we get is “how to process.” Readers are exhorted to use “I” statements, to listen actively, to avoid making comparisons to other lovers and to engage in follow-up conversations, as if the only thing coming between a woman and her pleasure was a little Dick Cavett–caliber conversation skills. “If women tend to be more verbal in general, then two women together is going to mean more discussing, communicating and mouth-to-mouth action,” the authors write. “Women want partners to connect to their whole person, not just to their genitals. Our genitals are wired to our hearts.”

It sounds about as erotic as a NOW meeting. What I’ve learned from being in bed with women is the hot stuff: how to have dependable orgasms, not how to connect emotionally during lovemaking. Goddard and Brungardt’s advice seems so stereotypical (which, to their credit, they acknowledge). What’s the next lesson — where to buy Birkenstocks? Mid-scoff, I went out with my best friend and asked her what she wants most from her (male) lovers. “More talking,” she said immediately. “Connecting on an emotional level rather than just going at it.”

Okay, I stand corrected. But as the title indicates, the book isn’t for me anyway — I’m just here to fact-check. LSSFM is ostensibly targeted toward straight men, but what kind of straight man would buy this book? Apparently, ones who take advice from lesbians — which means that (A) they are evolved, (B) they are emasculated or (C) they are Howard Stern. While one might have expected a lot more of the fake, Penthouse-inspired lesbian sex most men have in mind, the format and tone of the book is more like feminist self-help. Its authors cite radical sex revolutionaries like Betty Dodson, Annie Sprinkle and Good Vibrations founder Joani Blank. They address male responsibility for birth control and defending against STDs and entreat him to listen to her and make sure she comes.

Actually, it’s not that hard to think of men wanting to find ways of having sex with women that don’t involve intercourse, but cunnilingus, anal play and vibrators are no more specifically lesbian than hetero. When it comes to lesbians, I suspect most men would still prefer Brandee and Ginger doing it on the Spice Channel to real lesbians like Ellen and Anne. In principle, I like that this book exists and that the authors believe there is an audience of sensitive, feminist men who will want to read it. In practice, I think it will have the same audience that Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man has — that is, women. Of course, it is possible that women will buy LSSFM for their male partners, which suggests a pragmatic use for the book. Picture this: Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men (a book that he wouldn’t buy but you wish he’d read) wrapped under the tree along with the red satin teddy he bought for you. It wouldn’t be greater understanding between the sexes, but it would be equality.

Jennifer Baumgardner is the co-author of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future and Grassroots: A Field Guide to Feminist Activism, as well as the forthcoming Look Both Ways: Sex, Power and Feminism. She writes frequently for The Nation, Glamour, and many other magazines, is a columnist for Alternet, and is the producer of the documentary Speak Out: I Had an Abortion. She is at work on a photo book about women who have had abortions.

©1999 Jennifer Baumgardner and Nerve.com, Inc.