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'09 Authors Insider Tips

Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Digital Publishing & Print
Common Myths of Epublishing
Ebook Formats and Devices

by Louisa Burton
Compelling Characters
Point of View, Part I
Point of View, Part II
Learning to Love Conflict
Story Structure
Keep ‘em Guessing
Keep it Simple
Keep Your Writing Real
The Importance of Pacing

Literary Streetwalker
by M. Christian
New World of Publishing
To Blog Or Not To Blog
Meeting & Making Friends
Thinking Beyond Sex
Selling Books
Walking the Line
e-book, e-publisher, e-fun
Still More E-book Fun

Shameless Self-Promotion
by Donna George Storey
Our Journey Begins
Pitches and Bios
Websites, Blogs & Readers
Publicists, Press Kits and...
Viva the Internet
Adventures in Cyberspace
Promoting In the Flesh
Make Your Own Movie
Bigger is Better
Looking Back, Planning Ahead

Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Questions to Ask Yourself...
Tough All Over

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Practice Makes Prefect
5 Books for Fiction Authors
Poetry In Motions
Six Serving Men
Ashley Lister is Anal
Stealing Ideas
Celebrating Poetry

2009 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
A Year of Living Shamelessly
Adultery, Exhibitionism ...
John Updike Made Me Do It ...
Story Soup: Forbidden ...
Lessons from Amazon
Naked Lunches ...
Erotic Alchemy
Secrets of Seduction
Are You a “Real” Writer?
Don’t Fondle My Sentence

Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
The Passionate Taphophile
Havens on Earth
A Knight Without Armor
Magic Carpet Rides
Getting Hammered
Keep It Quiet
Hang Around for a Spell

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Worked Up About Why
Worked Up About Why, Part II
All Worked Up About Porn
The Catholic Church
Purity Movement
The National Crisis
The Future
About Homosexuality
Public Indiscretions

Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Premature Ejaculation
Auctioning Off What?

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Who's Who Around the Table
Ritual Sex
Mixed Legacy
The Spectrum of Consent
Drawing the Line
Marriage without the Hype
The Distracting Smirk
Innocent Guns
Gardens of Earthly Delights

Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Anneke Jacob
D L King
Kristina Lloyd
Lisabet Sarai
Mitzi Szereto
Portia Da Costa
Shanna Germain
Sommer Marsden
Susan DiPlacido

Guest Appearances

Marketing a Self-Published Novel
by Jeanne Ainslie

The East, The West, and Sex:
A History of Erotic Encounters

by Richard Bernstein

Book Review by Rob Hardy


Erotic Encounters

The very words are exotic— think of the harem, the geisha, the Kama Sutra, all of them indicating the exoticism and eroticism of the East.  The sexual culture of the orient (however that got to be defined) has for centuries captivated, first, Western explorers, and afterwards, Western imperialists and visitors.  The erotic allure of the East for Western men is the subject of a grand history, The East, The West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters (Knopf) by Richard Bernstein.  The author has been a foreign correspondent serving in Asia, and himself has a wife named Zhongmei Li, whom he appreciatively calls “my vision of the East”.  The topic, then, is close to his heart, and his book is a spectacular history of peculiarities of culture.  There is some titillation here, descriptions of acts and accessibilities that cannot help but be curious and arousing, but the historical anecdotes are wonderful illustrations of general human behavior, besides often being amusing.  Bernstein has described things as they have been and how things are, with only an admirably small amount of wondering how they ought to be, and certainly without any prudishness.

They do sex differently “over there”.  This is a constant theme within Bernstein’s book, and the source of the special erotic fascination men have for North and East Africa and Asia.  The West had a generally Christian morality, promoting monogamy and often stressing the sinfulness of sexual fun even within marriage.  In many Eastern cultures, sex was not tightly linked to love or sin.  It was often assumed that men, especially powerful men, naturally would enjoy sexual favors from many women, and that desires were to be satisfied, possibly by a particular class of women.  The West’s perfect woman was beautiful but virtuous, and the more unattainable she was, the better; the East’s perfect woman was beautiful but was ready (or readied) to put her beauty into the service of male desire and procreation.  “The East therefore presented Western men with a spectacle of difference at the very core of life, the deep zone of instinctual pleasure, and for many men this opened up a vista of exhilarating, sin-free, and irresistible possibilities.”  It almost never went in any other direction.  Western women did not travel to the East for sexual adventures, and any Westerner in any century would have been shocked by an Eastern man who traveled, say, to Europe for the specific purpose of serial sexual enjoyments.  The story instead is of Western men who for centuries have set up some variation on harems.

The difference was spotted easily by the first Western explorers.  When Marco Polo published his travels in the fourteenth century, they described the harem of Kublai Kahn without censure; it seemed to be an extension of home, with the most beautiful women serving sexually.  Polo revealed “that harems existed, that at the heart of power in the East lay a dreamily sensuous establishment where men took their pleasure untroubled by religious or other moral scruples.”  Centuries later, the explorer Richard Burton would roam all over Asia and Africa, his explorations outdoors and in.  Burton admired the Sufi version of Islam, not the more puritanical versions we are now familiar with, and wrote, “Moslems who do their best to countermine the asceticism inherent in Christianity are not ashamed of the sensual appetite; but rather the reverse.”  In Moslem and Hindu lands, Burton found a cultivation of skills in lovemaking.  He translated The Arabian Nights and helped publish The Kama Sutra for the education of his fellow Britons into the pleasures of cultivated sexuality.  He admired the cultures that trained women to enjoy and give pleasure; he was no fan of slavery, but he understood that Arab slave dealers were ready to pay extra for a “kabbazah”, the word meaning “holder”.  This was a woman, Burton wrote, who “can sit astraddle upon a man and can provoke the venereal orgasm not by wriggling and moving but by tightening and loosing the male member with the muscles of her privities.”

Trained sexual masseurs, courtesans, harem girls, and legal prostitutes all come under Bernstein’s broad definition of harem culture.  Imperialists pushing into the East were likely to take advantage of all these institutions they could.  Bernstein explains that empire builders “were more inclined to take advantage of illicit opportunity in the colonies than engage in Christian moral enforcement, which they left to their more conscious-stricken countrymen.”  Those who would not think of visiting a brothel near home did so with glee when on post, and they took native wives even if their legal wives were with them or were back at home.  If they had the money, they would imitate sultans by not only having wives, but dancing girls and teams of concubines.  There was certainly exploitation of the situation and of the natives; Bernstein rightly explains that this was a simple fact of life given that the sexual urge is powerful and that those with wealth and power use what they have to gain sexual pleasure.

The pattern has continued to modern times.  Lt. Col. John Paul Vann was an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army in the 1960s.  He had a wife in the States, two girlfriends in separate households in Saigon, and countless bar girls now and then.  American servicemen didn’t usually have his resources, but all of them knew places to get serviced.  A man who was a young diplomat back then looks back and calls the war region romantic: “The place was absolute heaven.  It was a world of war, drama, politics, and sex. What could be better?”  Many Vietnam veterans are involved in what Bernstein calls “the latest phase of the long erotic adventure of the West into the East,” living in Thailand for warm weather, cheap living, good food, the companionship of fellow vets (they even have official Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters), and of course the accessible women.  “Do the arithmetic,” one of the vets tells us.  “She’s 51 years younger than me. Do you think I could have somebody like her in Pennsylvania?”

Bernstein is scrupulous in his understanding that a degree of sexual oppression comes from invading forces, whether commercial or military.  He cannot escape that his subject matter forces him to write about powerful and eager males and compliant, often commercial females, so the subject is rife with political incorrectness.  Even so, there is a practical give and take to both sides.  The Thai bar-girl slang for a foreign man translates to “a walking ATM”.  There is a story that is not unusual about a bar girl who got her besotted Austrian client to marry her and build her a house.  In Thailand, land and houses can only be owned by Thai citizens, so when she moved into the house with her real boyfriend and sought an end to the marriage, he had no claim on the goods.  It isn’t all greed; most of the girls use their earnings to help poorer members of their families.  There might be religious judgments to be made upon the girls or their clients, but it is a clear commercial transaction.  The clients should take care not to confuse compliance and service with love, but at the same time foreigners ought to reject notions that these particular women are merely sex slaves.  There is no dispute that the money is beneficial; a member of the Thai legislature says, “Which is better as foreign assistance, foreign assistance through sex, or foreign assistance through the government that never gets to the people anyway?”  Kipling knew that East was East, and West was West; neither has a monopoly on the “right” way to handle sexual matters.  But with all due respect to Kipling, the two do meet, through the centuries and through intimate sensualities.  Bernstein’s book is a detailed look at the long sexual conversation between two different worlds.

Rob Hardy
September 2009

The East, The West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters
(Knopf, June 2, 2009; ISBN-10: 0674032837)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

© 2009 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

About the Reviewer
Rob Hardy is a psychiatrist who lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife, two terriers, five cats, and goldfish.

He reviews nonfiction for The Times of Acadiana, but has been reviewing books as a hobby for years before that.
WebBio: Rob Hardy

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'09 Movie Reviews

Blame It On Savanna
Review by Byrdman

Cry Wolf
Review by Spooky

Review by Spooky

Heaven or Hell
Review by Oranje

House of Wicked
Review by Diesel

The Office: An XXX Parody
Review by Spooky

This Ain't The Partridge Family
Review by Spooky

'09 Book Reviews


A Slip of the Lip (ebook)
Review by Jean Roberta

Best Women's Erotica '09
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bottoms Up
Review by Ashley Lister

Enchanted Again
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Girls on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed
Review by Ashley Lister

Libidacoria (Poetry)
Review by Ashley Lister

Licks & Promises
Review by Ashley Lister

Like a Thorn (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Mile High Club
Review by Ashley Lister

Nexus Confessions: Vol 5
Review by Victoria Blisse

Nexus Confessions 6
Review by Victoria Blisse

Oysters & Chocolate
Review by Kristina Wright

Playing with Fire
Review by Ashley Lister

Sexy Little Numbers Vol 1
Review by Ashley Lister

Up for Grabs
Review by Lisabet Sarai


A 21st Century Courtesan
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Ages of Lulu
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Amanda’s Young Men
Review by Kristina Wright

As She's Told
Review by Ashley Lister

Bedding Down
Review by Victoria Blisse

Review by Ashley Lister

Brushes & Painted Dolls
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Cassandras Chateau
Review by Ashley Lister

The Edge of Impropriety
Review by Kristina Wright

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Free Pass
Review by Ashley Lister

The Gift of Shame
Review by Victoria Blisse

Kiss It Better
Review by Ashley Lister

The Melinoe Project
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Mortal Engines & The ...
Review by Ashley Lister

The New Rakes
Review by Ashley Lister

Ninety Days of Genevieve
Review by Victoria Blisse

Obsession: An Erotic Tale
Review by Kristina Wright

Sarah's Education
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduce Me
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Lesbian Cowboys
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Night's Kiss
Review by Jean Roberta

Where the Girls Are
Review by Jean Roberta

Gay Erotica

Animal Attraction 2
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Boys in Heat
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Low Road
Review by Jean Roberta

Personal Demons
Review by Jean Roberta

Ready to Serve
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Secret Tunnel
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Review by Kathleen Bradean

Review by Vincent Diamond


Best Sex Writing '09
Review by Kristina Wright

The Big Penis Book
Review by Rob Hardy

Erotic Encounters
Review by Rob Hardy

The Forbidden Apple
Review by Rob Hardy

Hollywood’s Censor
Review by Rob Hardy

Lady in Red
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Licentious Gotham: Erotic...
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Live Nude Elf
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Live Nude Girl
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The Other Side of Desire
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Scripts 4 Play
Review by Ashley Lister