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by Kenneth Ray Stubbs
J. P. Tarcher, 2000
Review by Heather C. Liston on Oct 15th 2001

Erotic PassionsFor those whose only goal is to sell books, choosing a universally exciting topic is a good first step. Sex, for example, never seems to go out of style. The word alone is guaranteed to capture attention. In the long run, though, it's helpful if the book has something more to offer than a mere hot-button subject. For example, good writing, new information, interesting new presentation of timeless material-something. Sadly, the titillatingly titled Erotic Passions by Kenneth Ray Stubbs and a couple of friends of his, never goes far beyond his pride in having chosen this topic.

On its cover, this book claims to be "A Guide to Orgasmic Massage, Sensual Bathing, Oral Pleasuring, and Ancient Sexual Positions." That's overstating it a bit. You are not likely to come away expert at all of those things if you do buy the book. On the other hand, that description does give some indication of the hodge-podge that follows. An Appendix called "A Philosophy of Pleasure" attempts, in two pages, to explain Zen Buddhism and Chinese Taoism as they apply to sexuality. Oh yeah, and to everything else. A couple more appendices follow, one that we are to read only when we are "feeling academically inclined," and one that cursorily takes on the issue of safe sex ("Another alternative is to be sexually exclusive with one person . . .") But none of those topics are integrated into the body of the book.

Instead, Erotic Passions offers some groundbreaking generalizations: "Even with religious and parental ghosts lurking in the back of many of our minds, we still enjoy sex . . .," some startling news: "Fantasy games are fun," and some trenchant advice:" Use your imagination."

Use yours, Buddy, thinks the reader. You're charging $17.95 for this thin book. Tell us something we don't know.

This is not to say that all of his tips are worthless. Some carefully diagrammed techniques for female and male genital massage may give you ideas you hadn't thought of (if you are new to sexual play), or offer a little refresher in basic anatomy (if you are not). Still, given that there is unlikely to be anything truly new under the sexual sun, the reason to read a new text on the subject would be that it described things in a way that was more beautiful, more creative, more something, than works that have come before. Stubbs's book does not bring such gifts. His list of massage techniques, for example, includes "The Scrotum Ring" and "The Hair Tease," and there's nothing wrong with these activities in practice. How much more intriguing, though, to read of "The Kiss That Awakens" or a method of sensual nibbling called "The Coral and the Jewel," from the Kama Sutra.

Stubbs gives us awkward sentences that often seem confused about how many people are involved: "The greatest barrier to experiencing pleasure is our mind." "To be a better lover, we could linger together a while after making love." Nor does his penchant for self-aggrandizement make the book any more appealing. For instance, the brief explanation of the G Spot may be helpful to the uninformed, but then Stubbs quickly follows that with a story of the "S Spot," named, of course, for himself. (It's in the neck.) Similarly, a note on the dedication page, warns that "Not all the sexual positions in this book are for every body. Some of the positions were accomplished only after years of yogic practice." Aside from a couple of pages, near the end, of unattributed illustrations of cavorting Asians, it is difficult to say what "positions" he is referring to. Nothing in the text seems difficult to achieve, with or without yoga. ("Now quietly cuddle up next to your lover. Softly embrace." ". . . gently slither a finger up and down between the toes . . .") Maybe it took you years of yoga to accomplish these things, but don't pass judgment on us, thinks a reader. The reader may also, at this point, be moved to refer to advice from the Kama Sutra: "The following kinds of men may be taken up with, simply for the purpose of getting their money: . . .Men who are always praising themselves."

The attractive, sensual, if simple, illustrations by Kyle Spencer are the most appealing part of Erotic Passions, but without beautiful language to accompany them, they seem a little lonely. Stubbs's awkward statement about the importance of the mind, referred to above, is well worth his consideration as well as ours. It is the mind that transforms our sexuality into something beyond "The Juicer" (another of his physical techniques) and makes it worth celebrating and savoring. This work of his, unfortunately, delivers little to the hungry mind.

© 2001 Heather Liston. First Serial Rights.

Heather Liston studied Religion at Princeton University and earned a Masters degree from the NYU Graduate School of Business Administration. She is the Managing Director of the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, and writes extensively on a variety of topics. Her book reviews and other work have appeared in Self, Women Outside, The Princeton Alumni Weekly, Appalachia, Your Health and elsewhere.