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Girl Crush: Women’s Erotic Fantasies edited by R. Gay


This collection of stories about women’s crushes on other women occupies a space that often seems groan-worthy or unbelievable. As the editor explains in the introduction, “crushes” are fantasies about unlikely relationships:

“There is something irresistible about a crush, about wanting someone you can’t have, seeing someone you can’t touch; about unrequited desire and how it quickly grows into a steady burn under your skin.”

Quite a few of the crushes in these stories involve women who seemed strictly heterosexual before being overwhelmed by unexpected desire for another woman, or by a lesbian seduction. Are we convinced? In a surprising number of these stories, yes.

Some of these stories have a certain noir flavor because they involve love/hate rivalry between women. In “Mirador” by Teresa Lamai, the narrator is a woman ballet dancer who is still in shock after finding her live-in boyfriend, a musician named Jed, serenading a naked woman the narrator had never seen before. The dancer moves out, then obsessively watches the new couple from the grimy night streets of Portland, where she and Jed had moved in search of artistic success. The dancer learns that her rival’s name is Christine, and that she needs more than Jed can give her, something the dancer can provide. In Lamai’s stories, the world of professional dance has an edginess that spills over into the personal relationships of dancers.

In “Running Away and Running Home Again” by Annabeth Leong, the narrator is having an affair with Kevin because she is attracted to his male roommate, Dave. Why? Because the moans of Dave’s girlfriend, Barbara, coming through the thin wall between bedrooms, give Selma the narrator the impression that Dave knows what to do in bed. Before long, Selma is fascinated with Barbara, and deliberately comes over when she knows that Barbara is alone in the house. Barbara enjoys being admired, and encourages Selma’s crush. Will the two women become a couple despite the complex, ambivalent sexuality of both? The conclusion of this story is somewhat surprising, yet it looks as inevitable as the ending of a Greek tragedy.

In “One Eighty” by Carrie Cannon, rivalry between women looks hilarious. The narrator, a self-confessed klutz of a homemaker, obsessively watches her neighbor Madison, who is maddeningly gorgeous and accomplished: “Madison went to Smith. Madison was trilingual. Madison and her husband kayaked waterfalls in Venezuela every year.”

The narrator thinks that Madison undresses in front of her bedroom window every night because “It doesn’t occur to the Beautiful People to be modest.” When the narrator has a meltdown while trying to replace her kitchen taps and Madison comes to the rescue, it comes out that Madison admires her for her honest, spontaneously passionate nature. And Madison has been showing off because she has noticed the narrator watching her. Hate turns to lust in a flash.

“Cecily” is a more conventional (or sweetly romantic) take on the theme of married neighbors. In this story, Mary and Cecily are close friends who become something more when they brace themselves for a separation; Cecily’s husband has found a new job across the country. Things work out a little too neatly to be believed.

Geographical separation is a poignant plot element in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s “Great Lengths.” In this story, the physical distance between two friends-with-benefits represents other differences that eventually pull them apart. In “Call Me Cleopatra” by Gabrielle Foster, a fascinating young woman uses her power to create a look and a mood both to attract and to repel.

The hard edge of the sex trade in two of these stories bumps up against the pink icing of girl/girl crushes in the rest. “The Leopard-Print Menace” by Melissa Gira Grant points to a kind of last frontier of feminism. In 1970, lesbian author Rita Mae Brown and her friends shocked the heterosexual members of the National Organization of Women by calling themselves The Lavender Menace and spontaneously demanding lesbian visibility within the women’s movement. In the 1980s, Gayle Rubin coined the term “The Leather Menace” for the perceived threat of BDSM to “vanilla” lesbian-feminists. In Grant’s story, the culture of the sex trade (in which leopard-print anything is shown as a kind of uniform), unites two college dropouts who are back on campus to “speak to the sex worker’s experience” in a Women’s Studies class. The narrator says: “We never have a first date. We have a full-on fucking engagement.” One of themclaims to have joined an aspiring “anarcho lesbo ho collective” which requires a knowledge of the fictionof Michelle Tea.For those who catch the references, this story is fall-off-the-bed funny.

In “I Told a Stranger All About You Yesterday,” the narrator is so obsessed with the object of her crush that she hires a sex worker who looks like her, or close enough for the acting-out of a fantasy. Eventually, the narrator realizes that the scene really has little to do with “you,” the woman who is the intended reader.

Among the more unusual stories in this anthology are “An Introduction” by G.G. Royale, in which a young Indian woman in an arranged marriage is brought to a sex club by her fiancé, who hopes to bring out her submissiveness. At first she is very reluctant to watch the action, let alone participate. When she meets the right woman, however, her fiance’s mission succeeds all too well for his taste. In “Craving Madeline” by Shanna Germain, the largely-feminine world of self-help groups for those with eating disorders is the setting for a mutual crush which is against the rules on several levels.

These stories range from classic ménage fantasies through poignant realism to social satire. No one reader is likely to enjoy them all equally, but there is something here for almost every taste.

Girl Crush: Women’s Erotic Fantasies
(Cleis Press, June 2010; ISBN: 1573443948)
Available at: Amazon | Amazon UK

© 2010 Jean Roberta. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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