The Big Book of Bondage Review

Many thanks to Cleis Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review — and for donating a second copy to a lucky reader! You can order The Big Book of Bondage directly from Cleis Press’ product page or from other book retailers, such as Amazon.

bigbookbondage edit

The Big Book of Bondage is edited by the wonderfully talented Alison Tyler and contains 25 short erotic stories penned by 25 different contemporary writers. At well over 300 pages, it’s definitely a large volume — even when you consider its slightly squished format (5×7 vs. the 6×9 of a typical trade paperback). It was published in 2012 by Cleis Press, a prolific company specializing in sexual how-to’s & erotic literature of all varieties.

As both a bookworm & sex geek, I read a lot of erotica. Unfortunately, my standards are pretty high and I often run into the same two problems: horribly tacky sexual metaphors (“His rigid sword pushed its way past her moist petals and plunged deep into her castle.”) and an imbalance between variety & unity (the stories either blend together or they feel too chaotic to fit under one theme).

The Big Book of Bondage was a refreshing respite
from mediocre (and just plain bad) erotica.

Without a lot of cheesy sex slang to disrupt my reading experience, I was actually able to connect with the characters and immerse myself in the plot lines. I was able to get turned on by the fantasies that resonated with my own and appreciate the creativity of the few that just “weren’t my thing.”

Which brings me to my next point: The variety is such that no two stories in this collection are the same. “Bondage” can mean anything from simply following verbal commands to physically being bound by cuffs, ropes, even vacuum beds. Other kinks and fetishes make their way into the stories with ease. (Into exhibitionism? Pain as pleasure? Pet play? It has you covered!) Sexual acts are not limited to “the usual” oral sex or penis-in-vagina intercourse. (Fisting, figging, and anal play all make appearances; sometimes there’s surprisingly little “sex” at all.) If you’re into kink, there’s a good chance that you’ll find at least one story that reflects your own unique desires — and many more that you will be able to enjoy.

The tingling moved through her teeth, sang in her scalp, tickled the ends of her hair. She was limp and weightless, she was floating free. – Vida Bailey, Life Drawing

Thanks to the editor, Alison Tyler, there’s an inclusiveness in The Big Book of Bondage that I appreciate when it comes to the characters & their relationships. Although the majority of the stories feature heterosexual couples with a male Dominant/female submissive power exchange, there are still plenty of stories that break the monotony. Gay/lesbian characters were not forgotten or ignored. Femdom fantasies were given space to shine. And “untraditional” relationships were included in the form of group sex, open relationships, & various arrangements between play partners.

As a big believer of the fact that erotica/porn can be educational and still hot, I was also thrilled to see the occasional mention of safe sex and BDSM practices. (Condoms, safewords, checking to make sure that rope isn’t too tight, etc.) Of course there were some stories that made me cringe (anal sex without any lubricant) and others that made me very uncomfortable (a boss whose behavior I interpreted as sexual harassment instead of sexy fun time), but I understand that others’ fantasies differ from my own.

When I came, someone paused the universe. I shattered into a million little pieces and was blasted across time. – Kristina Lloyd, The Bondage Pig

Overall, I highly recommend The Big Book of Bondage if you’re into kinky erotica. It’s got some great writing talent, a variety of different characters/scenarios, and sexy descriptions that will get your heart pounding. It even offers a pretty good insight into the nature of BDSM & bondage play.

It may just be the best erotic anthology that I’ve ever read.


Book Giveaway: The Big Book of Bondage

Hello dear readers!

Exciting news: Cleis Press has been kind enough to donate a copy of The Big Book of Bondage for a giveaway here at EROcentric!

This beautiful anthology is edited by one of the most talented erotic writers of our time, Alison Tyler. If you’re not familiar with her work, trust me, she knows what she’s doing — especially when it comes to kink! The 25 short stories featured in this anthology explore bondage in a myriad of ways, both physical & mental. Many of them even go beyond the singular topic of restraint, expanding their reach into a wide variety of readers’ fantasies and fetishes.

A full review of this book can be found here. But in short, I was very impressed with this anthology. If erotic restraint is part of your sexual fantasies, I think that you will be too!The Big Book of Bondage

I am fascinated with the sensation of giving up, giving in, of putting one’s pleasure (and pain) into the hands of another. To me, bondage means ‘I trust you to keep me safe,’ and yet BDSM can also mean ‘I trust you to hurt me.’ – Alison Tyler

This giveaway has ended. 

Congratulations to Shimmer for being the lucky recipient of The Big Book of Bondage!

A big thanks to everyone who participated and to Cleis Press for sponsoring this giveaway! 

Penthouse Variations on Oral

Penthouse Variations on Oral [review]

A huge “Thanks!” to Cleis Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. You can order Penthouse Variations on Oral directly from Cleis Press’ product page or from other book retailers, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

…Oral sex isn’t something to be rushed through or performed out of some sort of duty. –Barbara Pizio, Executive Editor of Penthouse Variations

Penthouse Variations on OralReleased in October 2014, Penthouse Variations on Oral is the first in a series of erotica
published by Cleis Press and Penthouse Variations magazine. Having next-to-no
experience with Penthouse, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this anthology. To be honest, I kind of feared that it would be ‘all blow jobs, all the time.’ But Cleis Press is one of my absolute favorite erotic publishers, and they are responsible for such a wide variety of quality fiction & nonfiction that I was excited to read and review this new book for them.


Penthouse Variations on Oral was not a work of purely male fantasy and pleasure. The 22 stories are evenly split between male & female authors/narrators. Cunnilingus and fellatio both get their fair share of attention, and both acts are equally enjoyed by everyone involved. There were also a lot of good examples for not only communicating with a partner by telling them what you desire/enjoy but also, like in Screaming Orgasm by Chloe Parker, by directly showing them. Overall, I appreciated the normalcy and enthusiasm with which these characters approached oral sex.

There were also a few passages with, what I consider to be, exceptional (and rather hot) erotica writing.

And each time she told me what to do, I granted her request, because each of her demands mirrored my own desire as well. The desire to please her, to thrill her, to hear her scream when the pleasure broke within her and those walls came tumbling down. –Secret Appetites by Adam Vane


I felt that skillful writing was the exception rather than the rule among the authors in this anthology. Most distracting for me was the prevalence of ridiculous sexual metaphors. (If you’ve read my reviews for erotica before, then you know that this is my biggest pet peeve.) Petals, berries, pearls, and nectar were everywhere! Oral sex was related to food, eating, and being hungry until I lost my appetite. (I may have also screamed out “Cannibals!” when author William McLoughlin wrote that his characters were “eating each other…literally” in Icing on the Cake.)

Other prime examples? Thanks to a rather strange metaphor by Gary Holmes in Deep Hunger, I can now say that I have yelled “Your cum is lava!” at my partner. I had to momentarily stop reading Elisa Nolan’s Mouth to Mouth in order to text the terrifying phrase, “buzz-sawing my clitoris.” And Peter Berman’s Cabin Fever sent me into a fit of giggles with, “I vacuumed up her free-flowing honey.” Indeed, I was more amused by this selection of erotica than I was aroused by it.

But beyond the fact that the writing lacked a certain elegance…There was simply no variety to these stories. You may be thinking, “It is a book entirely about oral sex. What more do you want?!” However, if you’re going to make an entire anthology about one topic (oral sex), shouldn’t you find a way to keep things interesting? Shouldn’t you try to approach your topic from several angles, so that every single story doesn’t blend into the next? This is the grand mistake of Penthouse Variations on Oral.

The entire collection can best be described as vanilla & heteronormative. There are absolutely no gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans characters in any of the stories. When you do get physical descriptions of the straight and cisgender characters, words like “thin,” “lean,” and “tanned” are plentiful. They are cookie-cutter depictions of stereotypical beauty standards — and nothing more. There is also a surprising lack of casual sex partners. The majority of stories feature couples, a few follow co-workers who have had their eye on each other, and even some of the stories that start with casual sex end in “finding love.” Talk about conventional.

As for the erotic scenes that these characters engage in? After just a few stories, it was painfully obvious that I was going to be stuck with the same 4 sex acts: cunnilingus, fellatio, 69, and penis-in-vagina intercourse. The most risqué activity that these characters ever engage in is a little outdoor sex/exhibitionism and manual or oral anal stimulation. (Oh, and there was that one time when toe-sucking got included, and I got way too excited that maybe it was the sign of a foot fetish. Anything to break up the monotony!) Perhaps it’s due to my love of fetish/BDSM erotica, but I simply found this collection boring.

My advice…

If you’re really into male/female oral sex with no frills and no deviations from “the norm,” this could be the book for you. (I’d still recommend not reading more than a couple stories at a time, though, so they don’t start blending together.) Otherwise, I’d suggest sticking with some of Cleis Press’ other erotic anthologies.


Penthouse Variations on Oral

Book Giveaway: Penthouse Variations on Oral

Big news, erotica lovers! 

Cleis Press is pairing up with Penthouse Variations magazine for what is set to be a 6-part series of erotic anthologies featuring both new and established authors. Always a fan of themed erotica collections, I was excited to see that each individual book will focus on one specific pleasure — the first of which is oral sex. Penthouse Variations on Oral: Erotic Stories of Going Down was released just last month. Although I have yet to receive my review copy, and I don’t have any personal experience with Penthouse Variations magazine…I can say that I simply adore Cleis Press. Whether gay/lesbian or heterosexual, vanilla or kinky, a reader of erotic fiction or educational non-fiction on gender & sexuality — they have published something for everyone. They are the people to turn to for quality books on sex! Penthouse Variations on Oral

In this collection of short stories, lovers explore the delicious ways oral sex can be an act of affection and tenderness, a testament to devotion, or an expression of pure, hot lust. Going down is an experience meant to be savored… and shared.

Cleis Press has been kind enough to donate a copy of Penthouse Variations on Oral for a giveaway here at EROcentric! The giveaway is open worldwide and the deadline is Sunday, November 30th at 11:59 pm EST. Participants must be 18 years or older. At the end of the giveaway, I will e-mail the lucky winner to enquire about shipping information. If I do not get an e-mail response from the winner within 3 days, another winner will be chosen. 
This giveaway has closed. For a review of this anthology, please click here
A big thanks to all who entered and congratulations to Sand for being the lucky recipient of Penthouse Variations on Oral! 

Thank you, Cleis Press for donating to my very first giveaway! 

The Act Itself

The Act Itself [review]

The Act ItselfI’m a big fan of erotic magazines. As internet porn and e-books increase in accessibility, there’s just something about the old formats that I find alluring. Every time I enter a used bookstore, I’m on the lookout for vintage pin-ups and underground bondage publications. I’m proud of my collection, even if it is still fairly meager.

So when BearManor Media offered me a copy of their new magazine in exchange for an unbiased review, I couldn’t help but give them an enthusiastic yes!

The Act Itself

The Act Itself is an ambitious publication, promising readers three issues a year — each with 150 pages of erotic writing and visual artwork. Unlike the most famous adult magazines, the focus here is on erotica as opposed to explicit pornography.

What Works:

Durability – Upon receiving my copy of the Spring 2014 premiere issue, I was surprised to find that it more closely resembled a large paperback book than a magazine. The cover is thicker, the binding feels more secure, and it’s not nearly as susceptible to wear and tear. In my opinion, this makes the rather high magazine price ($14.95) a bit more acceptable.

Variety – I was also impressed with the variety of content that The Act Itself has to offer. I was expecting mostly erotic literature and photography, but was pleased to find drawings, poetry, and non-fiction essays as well. Some of my favorite submissions were those that challenged the idea of what is “erotic”: the fictional account of a man who wakes up one day and decides to stop wearing clothes (One Day Naked by The Mrs.) and a photo collection of an adventurous & shirtless female, exploring the wilderness (Topless Tourism by Lilah Rose). 

What Needs Work:

Design – Although we like to say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” the truth is that the cover is what draws in potential buyers. The premiere issue of The Act Itself is not something that would have piqued my interest. The layout is awkward, with a lot of empty gradient space on the front and several unattractive end-of-line hyphenations on the back. It screams “self-published,” and if the exterior doesn’t look professional, I can’t help but assume that the contents won’t be either.

There was also a small-but-annoying design flaw with their subscription forms. Instead of using inserts, they printed the form on actual pages of the publication. If you do want to subscribe via mail, you have to either cut out part of a submission on the reverse side or go through the hassle of copying the page.

Print Quality – Despite the high-quality feel of the cover and binding, the interior pages of The Act Itself are thin and matte. The poor quality allows for visible print lines, the occasional distracting bleed-through, and most importantly, a lack of crisp detail. While none of these problems are excessively noticeable with text or line drawings, it made even the most beautiful photography submissions difficult to appreciate.

Typographical Errors & Crediting Sources – While reading through the first issue, I was extremely distracted by errors in the text. Words were mistyped, names were interchanged (a character from one story is referred to as both Laure and Laura), and sentences were at times poorly worded and confusing. A story which is credited to an anonymous writer from 1880 on the title page is also credited to a contemporary contributor on the contents page. Many of the photographs and other artwork that appear to be examples of early visual erotica simply go uncredited altogether.

My Overall Opinion:

Unfortunately, the premiere issue of The Act Itself neither impressed nor aroused meEven if I could look past the poor design and textual errors, much of the subject matter left me feeling bored. My personal tastes lie in the realm of BDSM and, with the exception of one cuckolding story and a few bondage photographs, most submissions were pretty vanilla. (In fact, the submission criteria states that only some “light” fetish-oriented material will be considered for publication. I’m not exactly sure what topics would be considered too heavy, but taboos such as sibling incest have passed the test.) Several submissions also appeared to be pulled from the middle of larger stories, making them seem random and unfocused.

Call me picky, but I also have an absolute, seething hatred for tacky genital references and poorly chosen metaphors — even in small doses. I do not want a vagina to be called a “castle.” I either want the intelligent, anatomical terms (penis, vagina) or dirty-talk slang that will get my juices flowing (cock, cunt). Some phrases were so absurd to me that I was completely removed from the story. (Ex: “Her lips were full like diapers,” being used to describe an ugly girl in The Pumping of Little Janie’s Cunny by The Mrs.) I recognize, however, that I have some pretty high standards for erotica. Blame the fact that I have a history of working in bookstores, a love of reading that borders on obsession, and a romantic partner that is a freelance editor.

My suggestion for The Act Itself team would be to rethink their goals for this publication. Although this was a surprisingly substantial first issue, quantity is not nearly as important as quality. I feel that reducing the 150-page publication to a smaller size might be beneficial. Ideally, this would create funds for a more professional appearance. Plus, more stringent submission standards would allow the good art to shine rather than be overshadowed by the mediocre and unpolished. The way it is now, a lot of content in The Act Itself seems on-par with the free content on Literotica — without the ability for readers to choose topics that appeal to their sexual tastes.


A big ‘Thank You’ to BearManor Media for giving me the opportunity to review this publication.

If you’re curious about The Act Itself, you can still purchase a Kindle version of the premiere issue on Amazon (at a discounted price of $6.99). The second issue is scheduled to be released sometime this month, although I have not seen any recent updates on their Facebook or blog.