I got an unexpected package in the mail recently. Because I’m a book reviewer, I somehow ended up on the list of folks who get review copies from Cleis Press, a publisher of feminist erotica. Imagine my surprise when I opened my package at the counter of the local post office (where all the clerks know me) to find a brand-new copy of The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge

As my post office pals snickered at me, I opened a page at random and read,  “Missionary never felt so good. He’s fucking you hard as you lie on your back: you pound on his back with your fists.” (Trust me to be so vanilla that I can open a kink book to the only  “missionary position” page.) Farther down the page I read, “While spanking him, throw in a few punches—the thudding sensation is a perfect counterbalance to the sting of the slap.”

Punching my sweetie had never struck me (HA!) as a good time. On the other hand, when he does something that drives me nuts, waiting till we’re between the sheets, then popping him one might work better than trying to reason with him. (That almost never works.) If nothing else, smacking him in the name of sex play could be a nicely passive-aggressive way for me to work off a little steam.  

Or not.

Glad to have done my part to amuse the hardworking employees at my post office, I took The Ultimate Guide to Kink home. There was no question in my mind that I could get an essay out of this. What happens when an edgy sex manual falls into the hands of a mild-mannered librarian?

Dipping into the book again, I read, “Bondage has its own risks. As I tell my rope bondage students “Dead bottom, bad bondage. Bad top, no biscuit!”  

Wow. Rope bondage students? Really? Where exactly is this class offered? One hopes that it isn’t the local middle school. But I was intrigued by the book’s tone—it was knowing and funny, not Penthouse Letters smarmy. Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn what actually goes on in all those wilder bedrooms? I’m a librarian. I love to read. And I love sex. Why wouldn’t I enjoy reading about sex? 

The Ultimate Guide to Kink is actually a collection of essays, edited by sex educator and “feminist pornographer” Tristan Taormino, and written by experts on a variety of topics from  “Kinky Twisted Tantra” to “How to Train Your Sex Slave.

The illustrations are mostly of rope-tying techniques strikingly similar to the ones in The Boy Scout Handbook. (Just what were those youngsters being trained to do anyway?) The writing is clear and informative enough to bring joy to my librarian’s heart.  And there’s an eye-opener on every page. If you’ve been reading (or have heard about) Fifty Shades of Grey and you’re curious about how those kinky games are actually played, this book’s for you. Even if you don’t want to tie up your partner, you’ll learn how to do it right and why it appeals to the folks who play that game. Sure, there were sections that I found icky, offputting, or downright scary. I skipped them. It’s not as if I was studying to pass the Kinkster SAT. As with any good how-to book, you use what works for you.  

Here’s something that did work for me: 

 “Dressing up is FUN. Even mundane objects can be imbued with a sexy vibe. I had a very intense sexual encounter that was kicked up a notch when my partner and I dared each other to keep our glasses on during the entire fuck. You will not know how difficult it can be to keep your specs on while pounding the headboard until you’ve tried it.”

Is this a scene totally made for a librarian, or what?

I’m still vanilla at heart. But I’m glad I read this book. I dare you to read it too! It’s fascinating. It’ll open your mind up. Actually, unless you’re into this stuff already, it will probably blow your mind a little. Which isn’t a bad thing. Sure, you too will probably find some of it just too weird or scary.  Skip those parts. On the other hand, if your partner ever asks you to spank him (or her), instead of freaking out, you’ll know enough to respond, “Sure, honeybunch, I‘d be happy to help you discover your “spanking sweet spot.”

Or not.