by Sarah Hilary
anthology owes a big debt to the personal
fantasies compiled by Nancy Friday in her famous collection, A Secret
Garden. This was the first widely available publication to
say it was
OK for women to admit that the sight of Mr Darcy in damp breeches,
while all very acceptable, wasn’t broadly representative of the average
female sexual fantasy.
Dirty Girls would like to take Mr Darcy and rub
him thoroughly in the mud, stick a dildo or two in an orifice or three
and find out what he’s really worth. And not just that. It
show us that women’s triggers are many and varied, safe and
Just another girl on the train
a story about voyeurism. The heroine
spies on couples, male and female, in public and in private. At the end
of the story she decides to become the object of another woman’s
voyeurism. So the baton is passed on, and there is a real sense of the
way in which women can be empowered by sex. The women in these stories
are all after one thing, and they make sure they get it.
Cheesy Boots, the
one story with a classic female dominatrix strutting her stuff, relies
on comic effect rather than hardcore imagery, perhaps because the
anthology as a whole is concerned with breaking down traditional gender
roles and upsetting the comfortable clichés of how much aggression or
submission is 'permitted' to women in the arena of sex. The Garden
of Sinn has no female characters at all. We assume that
Eve’s out having fun while the men in the story pant over the sublime
lines of the gardener, Sinn. Why is a story of homoerotica in an
anthology for women? Because there are women who are turned on by that,
and this collection wants to please women.
most disturbing story,
starts out as the fantasy of Veronica, who dreams "in the house
of love". By the end of the story we are reading about a man who creeps
into Veronica’s bedroom as she sleeps to "spend the night violating
her". This reads more like a male fantasy than a female one but for
shock value the story is hard to beat. If this were a book of fiction
without the agenda of arousal, Dreams
would be one of the best examples
of tension and dynamic –the criteria by which we judge most fiction –
here it becomes hard to separate that criteria from the politics and
gender issues that go hand in fist (their pun not mine) with reading
erotica of this kind.
anthology’s strength lies in the eclectic nature of its content.
I’d have liked more eclecticism, or a shorter volume of stories. It
became repetitive in places, and the desire to shock lost its impact
over 400 pages. Dirty
Girls is so determined to upset the sensibilities
of anyone after a cosy read that they sometimes make the mistake of
numbing the parts they are trying to arouse.
Read an excerpt from one
of the stories
from this collection on TangoMag.
Sarah Hilary won
the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with Fall River, August 1892, and has
two stories in the Fish anthology 2008. She was a highly commended
runner-up in the Biscuit Short Story Contest 2008. MO: Crimes of
Practice, the Crime Writers' Association anthology, features Sarah's
story, One Last Pick-Up. Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly,
Literary Mama, Every Day Fiction, Dogzplot and Zygote in my Coffee.
Sarah blogs at http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/
Publisher: Seal Press
Rachel Kramer Bussel lives in New York City. She is Senior Editor at
Penthouse Variations, and a Contributing Editor to Penthouse. She has
edited or co-edited 20 anthologies. 2008 will see the publication of
her first novel, Everything But... (Bantam). She has written for
numerous publications and wrote the bimonthly Lusty Lady sex column for
The Village Voice and is a rotating interviewer at Gothamist.com.
Marie Lyn Bernard, Saskia Walker, Catherine Lundoff, Kristina Wright
Isabelle Gray, L. Elise Bland, Lillian Ann Slugocki, Tenille
Brown, Kate Dominic, Alison Tyler, Darklady, Teresa Noelle
Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Carol Queen, Donna
George Storey, Gwen Masters, Sofia Quintero, Suki Bishop, Tsaurah
Litzky, Maddy Stuart, Andrea Dale, Madelynne Ellis, Melissa Gira, Sage
Vivant, Gina de Vries, Shanna Germain
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