Book Review: Show Yourself To Me by Xan West

I’m not even going to pretend to be unbiased — I love Xan West‘s writing.  I have been a fan since discovering Xan’s work ages ago.  My fandom is mainly based on Xan’s ability to write hot, nuanced sex scenes involving characters with complex gender and sexual identities.  After getting partway in, I already knew that this collection was going to be one of my favorites.  My standard bearer for how to do kinky erotica right has been Macho Sluts by Patrick Califia.  Show Yourself To Me gets to sit right next that classic on my ‘must haves’ list.

West has written some of my favorite BDSM scenes and has a special knack for Daddy/boy scenes. Diversity isn’t thrown in as an afterthought or as something to gawk at.  The characters in these stories represent a broad spectrum of the real people involved in kink and BDSM — this isn’t an amplifier for mainstream media representations of what is attractive, this is a mirror on reality with a healthy serving of non-cisgender characters of color, size and varying abilities, all rendered lovingly and fully by this writer. These are hot stories involving consent and respect for real, complex identities.  Queer erotica indeed.

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I am reviewing this collection of 24 stories, Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, as a part of a blog tour that started on October 1st and winds up at the end of this month.  The truth is, I’d have bought it and reviewed it anyway even if Xan hadn’t sent me a review copy.  Xan’s stories are tender and hard, unrelenting and sweet, honest and genuine and revealing.  I especially appreciate the natural and authentic way gender is treated and how the characters are revealed physically.  No neon signs pointing to the trans character or over-emphasizing the physical bits being sexed up.  The author treats sex, variations of gender, body parts, abilities and desires respectfully and matter-of-factly – which is still rare enough in erotica that it’s a refreshing surprise.

The stories in this collection share a variety of perspectives – Daddies and boys, bottoms and tops, Femmes and butches and queers of all kinds.  We get insights into the vulnerability of Daddies and tops, as well as the strength and resolve of boys and bottoms, all of which adds up to a rich stew of sexiness that invites queers of all kinds to grab a bowl and enjoy.

Some highlights:

Starting off with a bang, the first story is Missing Daddy, a lovely and hot reminiscence by a Daddy remembering being a boy.

I hated canes. They were evil invasive sting, and that kind of sensation just felt wrong. My body rejected it. Canes were an ordeal path to surrender filled with constant doubt. When I made it through to the end, I always felt powerful in some way and deeply proud. But the road there was horrid, and it just felt awful. Canes had nothing to do with my pleasure. They were about accepting Daddy’s will and feeding his sadism.

The Tender Sweet Young Thing is a hot, kinky gang bang by a collection of queers representing different sizes, shades and abilities.  West weaves mundane human moments with vivid visuals to tell the tale:  “Rebecca had laced a white boa around the handlebars of her scooter and slid her midsized curves into the tightest shortest thing in her closet, omplete with fishnets, dramatic purple eyes that matched her glasses, and flats because her fibro had been flaring all week and heels were not fucking possible.”

First Time Since is bittersweet as we follow a Daddy getting back into the scene after the heartbreak of losing his boy.  The story is as emotionally filling as it is sexually satisfying.

It was at this conference that I felt myself start coming back to life. I ached with new sensations, electric shocks of warmth moving through me. I felt my stride deepen in those boots, the sensation winding up my legs to my cock. I was conscious of it swelling as I moved through crowds, claiming space with the strength of my walk.

We dance on a razor-sharp blade. That’s how humiliation play works.” — so begins My Precious Whore.  ”There’s something so perverse about using misogyny as a sex toy—the same misogyny that nearly destroyed me as a girl.

The following passage from this story hit me square in the chest, because it speaks to a moment I know so well — the moment just before I begin to verbally assault my own precious slut:

The first time the weapons are about to leave my lips, I tremble with it, feel slightly nauseous from the fear and adrenaline. I need her to hold me up, to get me through the push to go there. Every time I approach this edge, I need her close, need her body, her warmth. Need to feel her cheek against mine. Need to know we are in this together.

I can relate to so much of what Xan writes, to the emotions, the contradicting desires, the heat generated by just the right combination of circumstances.  And Alleys.. damn, this one gets to me,

It’s like you know the same stories. You’re standing there against the wall, strategically placed to watch for danger. You’re a cocksucker’s dream, every inch the leather Daddy of my fantasies. At first you pretend you don’t even see me, as my eyes devour you in your leathers, big butch bear, built just how I like my Daddies to be. – Alley Obsession

It’s like we are tapping into the same deep lake of dark desire, though from different shores, plenty of the same current runs past our vantage points. Queer bodies turn me on, queer kinky sexy juicy painful amazing sex turns me on.

What about you?  If the idea of risky public sex, of being used by more than one person, of belonging to someone, of pain as a gateway to self-discovery and deeper pleasure, of queer bodies and queer desires that refuse to be neatly and easily categorized by mainstream ideas — if that’s the kind of thing that gets you off, you’ll enjoy this book.  If smart writing and interesting characters and depth are what you fancy, you’ll love it.

Yes, this is erotica and it’s kink and it’s also really good fiction writing. The emotional truth of these stories stands out — these stories are good reading even without helping us toward a ‘happy ending’.  But yeah, they’ll do that too.  I recommend you get a copy, get some private time and dive in.

I’ll leave you with one more quote, from the last story in this amazing collection:

For both of us, gender is complex identity and elaborate sex toy. But not just that. It is not easy to grow up breaking the gender rules, to live lives visibly nonconforming. Gender is a dangerous and delicious edge in which we play, knowing that we may inadvertently step on the minefields of our gendered histories and present struggles. Part of the thrill is that danger. We push gender to its own edges, play its sharpness against our throats, fear in our mouths, ache in our guts, building armor against becoming what we fear. — Strong

Show Yourself To Me by Xan West is available from Go Deeper Press as well as major online retailers.  And check out Xan’s blog, King Praxis.

This hot collection gets six boots for “BUY THIS TODAY!”

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This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported license.

This entry was posted in butch/femme, butch/trans/genderqueer, exploring gender, gender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, reviews, turn ons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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