Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica

Table of Contents
Tristan Taormino
“They discarded convention to move into the most forbidden territory of all—the minefield of an individual's singular sexuality—and once there, they didn't tiptoe around, but tromped right through and let things explode.”
In 1995, Michael Thomas Ford and I traveled to San Francisco, where we met with Frédérique Delacoste of Cleis Press. I can still remember nervously sitting in Frédérique's living room after eating the amazing gourmet lunch she cooked for us. Michael and I were relatively unknown writers and editors at the time, but we both had a similar vision of erotic writing. I had been reading some hot, fierce, sexy fiction and poetry in small publications and homemade zines; I was also impressed with the erotically-charged work of new writers I had heard at literary events and open mics in New York City. Because of the carnal content of their work, these writers weren't being published in mainstream books and magazines. There was an
entire body of work waiting to be tapped into that was not only arousing but also made you think.
We pitched the idea of a yearly erotica anthology series to showcase established and up-and-coming writers. Frédérique and Cleis decided to take a chance on the two of us, and
Best Lesbian Erotica
Best Gay Erotica
were born.
“The stories I've chosen speak to me as a writer and as a sex maniac.”
I collaborated with guest editor Heather Lewis on the first collection, and we worked hard to spread the word about the new series. I wanted to especially encourage writers from all walks of life to discard established notions of lesbian erotic writing, and break new ground with us. Published in 1996, the virgin anthology was suspect in the eyes of reviewers—it was called too dark, too S/M-oriented, not literary enough to be reviewed with the
fiction, too literary to be porn, not enough sex to be called erotic. We had a long road ahead of us.
In the beginning of the series, it was also a challenge to gather the best erotic writing of the year. I can remember constantly emphasizing to writers that I was looking for a whole range of work. Send me literary fiction you think doesn't qualify as erotica. Send me smut you think is more like porn than erotica (a false distinction, of course). Send me the stuff everyone else won't touch.
“It is in their radically eclectic depiction of lesbian desire that their power lives.”
Well, finally I can say: we've come a long way, baby. Not only has
Best Lesbian Erotica
taken off, but in the past five years, the erotica genre has exploded. All this growth means more stories for hungry readers, more opportunities for sex writers,
and more diversity in the field overall. It also means that my mailbox is flooded with hundreds of stories that are entertaining, seductive, funny, surprising, and compelling.
“The overt exercise of power, gender-fuck, dominance, and surrender are everywhere in your face.”
As the
Best Lesbian Erotica
series editor, I have worked closely with five of the most prominent lesbian writers in our community, Heather Lewis, Jenifer Levin, Chrystos, Jewelle Gomez, and Joan Nestle. We have published 138 erotic stories and poems by 110 different writers. We've received work from over 450 writers, and I have read nearly 2500 submissions of lust, love, and longing. And, as I peruse submissions for
Best Lesbian Erotica 2001
, I can honestly say I have one of the best jobs on Earth.
“But it is not only I who have traveled so far, so has lesbian erotic writing…The stories in this collection are freer, fiercer, more touched by both gender-specific erotics and gender play than any I have read before.”
Choosing the very best stories from five years of
Best Lesbian Erotica
was both exceedingly difficult and a piece of tasty cake. The task was so hard because I love each and every one of the stories, and didn't want to exclude a single one. But on the other hand, it was simple since I was choosing from such a fantastic array of smart, diverse, provocative, and titillating stories.
Inside you'll find bar stories, war stories, ghost stories, initiation stories, and one night stand stories. Stories full of knife-wielding tops, cocksucking femmes, basketball-bouncing butches, greedy bottoms, budding porn stars, naughty
nuns, Jewish newlyweds, hungry boydykes, and courageous FtMs. They are players in dark fairy tales, femme-on-femme fantasies, transgressive tales, and personal ad encounters. This all takes place in movie theaters, bubble baths, gym locker rooms, S/M play parties, gay male sex clubs, hotel rooms, and martial arts dojos. As they rub up against one another, these erotic pieces boldly contemplate, demonstrate, and celebrate the complexity, uniqueness—the muff diving mélange of lesbian sexuality.
I concluded the introduction to the very first collection with these words, and I stand by them six years later:
For me, the best erotic stories closely resemble the people who make my skin flush hot pink and send my head into overdrive. They're fiercely intelligent, confident and intricate. They can sweep me off my feet or catch me off guard. They are tender and nasty and just a little bit dangerous. They are not always what you expect them to be.
Tristan Taormino
New York City
March 2000
Taking Rita Hayworth in My Mouth
Joan Nestle
I sit on the edge of a couch in a dark room, the dark is the dark of night. This nearly empty apartment on the edge of the Village is lit only by the street lights of Soho and the red and green lights of late night traffic. Muffled sounds of a summer city night float into the room. I am a person waiting for something, waiting in near darkness, sitting on the edge of my seat. I am a customer awaiting the appearance of a dream I had ordered. She is in the other room, getting ready to make an entrance. It is a rare thing in life to be able to call into being the haunting mysteries that have followed one since childhood. If I tell you I am almost sixty when this night dawns, this night of apparitions, will it make it harder to hear what follows? An aging woman waiting on the edge of her seat for the dream only another woman can give her?
I smell her perfume before I see her. She comes out of the darkness, and I turn my gaze from the direction of the windows to take her in, her steady even progress towards me. Her red hair falls down around her shoulders, her face is marked by the redness of her lips, the hard blue gray brightness of her eyes; she has the slightly worn look of a woman who has seen
it all. A small smile plays around the edges of her large mouth. Her broad shoulders push the darkness open.
I hear nothing now but the sound of her approach. She stands before me for a minute, a tall, broad woman in a black blouse opened at the throat so her breasts swell above me, a short leopard-printed skirt rides high on her thighs, all done to my order. “Is this what you wanted?” she says, half amused, confident that this is exactly what I wanted. I cannot take my eyes off her face, off the world of work and experience she is radiating in the darkness. I see again, as I did as a child, my mother dressed for work and, at the same time, dressed for her lovers. My mother in that erotic blend of self-support and desire on the prowl, her costume, the black dress, the small hat with its veil of stars, the nylons with their seams down the back of her legs. I watched her dress, saw her arms raise before the mirror. I saw that mix of pain and pleasure that came to my mother, her beauty, her leaving.
I cannot drop my eyes from my dream's face. I do not want to. She sits in the chair we have placed right in front of me a few inches from the edge of the couch. Still smiling, she raises one leg and tucks her toes under the sofa's pillow. Her skirt is now a band around her lap, and she sits, waiting for me to drop my eyes. She grows larger in the darkness, in her solid angular position, waiting for me to do what I must, what I have waited all these years to do. I am hardly breathing; I have lost all sense of what sex I am. The dark night has become illuminated by the power of myth, the power of legend. “Go ahead,” she encourages. My breath escapes me now, and I lower my head, taking my eyes from her large, strong face with its worldly, cool welcome, to what she is exposing to my view. It is only a small distance to travel, but I am terrified of the journey.
Right in front of me now, I see a second face, its red lips flaring in a nest of hair, drops of liquid caught in its strands, its own perfume opening up to me, right in front of me, the
naked center of a woman. I raise my eyes once again to the public face, and I reel with the contrast. I cannot keep the two faces in the same place, on the same body. It is as if I am being allowed to see below the surface of all the days, all the mothers. I almost plead with her, don't let me go under, again but she says nothing, just watches. I feel the pull of her other face and give in to its ancient world. I let go of all pretense and gaze totally at the sex right before my eyes, smell it, hunger for it. And then, I fall to my knees, onto the pillow we have arranged in just the right place to catch my weight as I fall to my knees before this gleaming mask that is as real as hair and bone and flesh can be. I push my face into the one between her legs, my mouth as wide as a whale's, my tongue pulling all of this dream into me, I swallow, I hunger, I drink, I eat. She allows it all, giving herself to my relentless hunger, to this beggar on her knees. My tongue swirls, finding hidden passage ways, pushing at the confines of her wet, red walls. I am nothing but this exploration, kept from me by so many years, by so many laws. Above, I feel tremors and know that in some other place, the country has shifted. Somewhere on what remains of the surface, I know she is coming. I have sucked pleasure into her, but that is part of the more common world, the one I have known for all the past years. Where I am now is somewhere else, somewhere beyond gender, in the labyrinth of myth and legend, where mothers are falling stars and shame sprouts wings.

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