Monday, November 17, 2014

A repost of my review of Kink: The Shocking Hidden Sex Lives of Americans by Susan Crain Bakos

Here's yet another old review reposted for your pleasure and edification.

If you're looking for cheap erotic thrills, skip this book and surf the net instead

Jul 18, 2003 (Updated Oct 22, 2011)

Rated a Very Helpful Review by the Epinions community

Pros: It's a book about kinky sex.

Cons: It's not a very interesting book about kinky sex.

The Bottom Line: Kink is what some folks might call a tease. It promises to get you all hot and bothered but ends up leaving you cold. Skip it.

I think I bought my copy of Susan Crain Bakos book, Kink: The Shocking Hidden Sex Lives of Americans (1995) back in 1999, when I was waiting for my first semester of graduate school to start. It was hot, I was bored, and let's face it, reading a cheap paperback book about kinky sex looked like it might be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Shoot, it was a non-fiction book and I could even justify it. I was, after all, getting my education in the health field, wasn't I? So I plunked down my $7 and took the book home to my little apartment.

Bakos interviewed single people and couples in cities nationwide. She got in touch with most of the people she interviewed through advertisements she placed in bondage publications.

After an introduction in which Bakos tries to give a history and commentary about kinky sex, Bakos divides the book into five parts. The first part details what Bakos seems to consider "garden variety" kink. It's entitled "Almost Every Sexually Adventurous Person Has Tried...", and there are three chapters. They include topics such as spanking, basic bondage, and most telling, "What's the One Thing He Says She Won't Do That He Really Wants To Do? Heterosexual Anal Sex" Sigh... Well, that title alone sort of implies that only men are kinky, doesn't it? Read the book and you will find that it's certainly not true that men are the only sexually kinky people out there. In each part of the book, Bakos details interviews she had with different people who answered her ads. In each interview, she is very descriptive about the surroundings and the mood of the occasion. Each meeting, especially those with the men, seems to have an underlying sexual conquest theme to it-- the men all seem to be trying to get into Bakos' pants (if she says so...). I found myself getting bored just reading the first part, but I kept reading because I had nothing else to do.

The second part of the book is entitled "Pushing the Limits". Hmmm... Bakos is getting more daring now, so I read on. The chapters in this part include such subjects as S/M as foreplay, advanced bondage, Master/Mistress and Slave, Homosexual S/M and Lesbians, and one telling title, "Who's Really in Charge? Topping, Bottoming, Bottoming from the Top-- and the Switch". Sound juicy? Well, it should have been. But to tell you the truth, like the last part, I found the writing pretty dull. Bakos includes more interviews from people she's found through ads she placed in bondage publications. Throughout them all, however, there's no sense of wonder or fascination on her part. Instead, there's an overwhelming aura of arrogance. I wondered why she bothered writing on the subject because she didn't seem to learn anything from it; what's more, she seems to think that everyone wants her.

Part three is entitled "Getting it Your Way" Oooh! Now we're going to find out how we're going to get kinky sex! Well, this might be the part of the book everyone should skip to, right? The two chapters in this part are entitled "Finding a Partner" and "S/M for Sale: The Doms". In this part of the book, Bakos writes of the Dominatrices she meets who discipline men for a living. There's not as much about men who discipline women, although there are do seem to be a surprising number of a men who are into being dominated. Bakos theory is that they have so much responsibility on the job that they need to give some up for awhile to a Dominatrix. Apparently, these ladies make good money, too... Maybe I ought to supplement my Eroyalties... (kidding!). She treats this subject as though it were some kind of really bizarre sickness-- as it perhaps these folks belong in a side show at a circus. Yet in her own introduction, she writes that sex is getting kinkier all the time. If it's so bizarre, why are so many people kinky?

Part four is entitled "Other Kink". This is by far the "kinkiest" part of the book. Here we have chapters that address videos, fetishes, gender bending, body piercing, and multiple partners. Part four consists of inane discussions offering explanations as to why people indulge in kinky behavior. Was it child abuse? Do they pierce themselves for some kind of weird endorphin rush or is it a throwback to an African rituals? What makes a man decide to wear women's clothing? A special relationship with mom, maybe? Why would a man want to be dominated by a woman? Does he have too much responsibility on the job and need someone to take the control out of his hands for awhile? The discussions would be interesting if they were well thought out and developed, but Bakos doesn't bother with trying to answer those questions. Instead, she is heavy-handed with lurid details and light on providing the reader with any kind of intelligent analysis that might lead people to believe that she really is the "expert on sex" that she is credited to be on this book's back cover.

Part five wraps up this appalling piece of trash. It's entitled, "The Therapeutic Opinion" and contains the following chapters: "Working Within the Kinks", "The Dysfunctional Perspective" and "How Far Will It Go?" It is in the part of the book that Bakos offers the opinions of so-called sex experts-- that is, people with PhDs. In this section, there's more speculation that the kinkiness is caused by child sexual abuse or parents that taught their children that sex was somehow dirty or wrong. As a reader, I was left with the impression that Bakos feels that kinky people are sickos that really need a lot of help. Bakos concludes that as a sex writer, she thinks about sex all the time. However, though she claims she was titillated by what she saw and heard at the bondage clubs she visited and the people she interviewed, she also claims that writing this book did not turn her on because the subject matter was too weird for her. Then why does she write about sex?

I got the feeling that Bakos was looking down her nose at anyone who veered from the straight and narrow path of "vanilla sex", although she was apparently trying hard to convince her readers of the contrary. She seemed to think that all of the men were lusting after her (although if you look at her picture in the book, you will most likely be inclined to think otherwise) and all of the women, especially those who were submissive, were worthy of nothing but pity and shame. YAWN... Why buy a book when you could go to a conservative church for that attitude?

While the book is a quick read that offers a few interesting facts and stories, there's nothing here that you can't find for free on the internet. In fact, you'll probably find better written and much more interesting free articles about sex on the net. Do yourself a favor. Save time and money. Surf the net and leave this book on the shelf. It promises a lot but doesn't deliver.

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