From Issue 3.3 - February/March 1997

Book Reviews

Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About It and How to Do It Safely
by William A. Henkin and Sybil Holiday

Review by Liz Highleyman

Consensual Sadomasochism ably fills a void in the library of books about SM. While many books have discussed SM safety and techniques, this is the first to delve so deeply into the psychology of SM play. The authors -- a psychologist and a professional dominant -- have a wealth of both personal and professional expertise. Henkin and Holiday are bisexual, and the book is addressed to a pansexual audience. After telling how they both got involved in SM, the authors go on to discuss myths, fears and stereotypes about erotic power exchange. There is an extensive explanation of terms -- including ones not typically defined such as "dominant masochist," "submissive sadist," "top's disease," and "bottom's disease." Much of the book is devoted to specific activities such as temperature play, flagellation, and bondage. However, the authors strong suit and unique contribution is the psychology of power exchange, and they include extensive discussions about knowing what you want, negotiation, SM etiquette and social skills, and the potential pitfalls of doing psychotherapy in the dungeon. As aficionados of age play, the authors include a section on the "inner child" and other alternate personae. Finally, the book includes a list of resources and hints on how to find play partners. Consensual Sadomasochism is published by Daedalus Publishing Company, 584 Castro Street #518, SF, CA 94114; phone 415-626-1867.

Leathersex Q&A: Questions About Leathersex and the Leather Lifestyles Answered
by Joseph Bean

Review by Liz Highleyman

Leathersex Q&A, another new offering from Daedalus, is a collection of answers to selected questions the author has been asked during his tenure as editor of Drummer magazine and managing editor at Brush Creek Media. Rather than simply expounding on the usual how-to topics, Bean discusses issues that have been put before him by those who have read his columns and heard his lectures over the years -- issues that the readers of the book are likely to share. Bean includes sections on questions posed by novices, bondage, managing leathersex relationships, safety and health, spiritual issues, and leather history. Bean is a natural teacher who explains his topics in an understandable manner. Although the questions he answers have been put forth by gay men, there is much in the book that will be of value to readers of all genders and sexual orientations.

Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits
by Loren Cameron

Review by Dawn Lewis

Instinctively curious about the subject, I applauded the courage and reveled in the chance to be able to see the transformations of gender that abound in this book of portraits by transsexual artist Loren Cameron. At times I wanted to read more deeply into the subject without the repetition, hoping to see more than the appetizers Cameron has provided us with in his first book. In addition to the subject matter being interesting by almost anyone's standards, Cameron is a fine photographer. The chapter entitled "Distortions" proves to be his strongest artistic statement. The words echoing around Cameron's self portraits suggest sensitivity, confusion, and anguish, and reinforce the moods, the realities, and the conflicts of our society. The transition of the queer community will be broadened by this documentation.

Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism
by Philip Miller and Molly Devon

Review by Liz Highleyman

Although less recent than the above books, Screw the Roses remains well worth a read. The book is presented in an attractive and easy to read large format with plenty of photographs and illustrations. The authors -- a couple active in the SM community -- have aimed their book at readers just beginning to acquaint themselves with erotic power exchange. While the book contains a great deal of basic information, it also includes much that will be useful to more experienced players. Miller and Devon begin by taking their readers through the lingo of SM, a discussion of various types of players, negotiation and communication, why people do SM, finding partners, and safe words and contracts. They then launch into a detailed explanation of various activities such as electrical play, anal training, bondage (two extensive chapters), spanking and whipping, and humiliation scenes, ending with a chapter on how to furnish a dungeon. Miller and Devon are a male dominant/female submissive couple and frequently use examples from their own relationship to illustrate their points; readers that share their proclivities will probably enjoy the book the most. While the authors acknowledge their lack of familiarity with the gay and lesbian leather scene, they have done a good job of compiling an extensive resource list that includes organizations and publications for all genders and orientations. [Editor's note: Philip Miller passed away on November 18th. In addition to being a skilled author, Miller was also active in the Houghton child custody case and was an active member of the leather community.]

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Last updated: 9 March 1997