Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 4, February 13, 2001


Book Review

Male Lust: Pleasure, Power, and Transformation

Kerwin Kay, Jill Nagle, Baruch Gould (Eds.) Harrington Park Press
ISBN: 1-56023-981-6, US$49.95; 1-56023-982-4 (pbk.)
US$24.95; 2000

Reviewed by Annette Owens, MD PhD

 Male Lust : Pleasure, Power, and Transformation
click on this link to buy this book

  All three editors have been politically active in various sexuality movements and bring relevant personal experiences to this book. Kerwin Kay is a freelance writer, activist, and graduate student in cultural anthropology at San Francisco State University. He is actively involved in decriminalizing prostitution and has a website about this book, www.mlust.com. Jill Nagle is a writer in San Francisco and has been politically active for many years in Jewish, antiracist, gay, and sex-radical communities. Baruch Gould, a former sex-industry worker, holds a Master of Divinity degree and has a career in public health policy and program development in San Francisco.

  The editors' goal with this anthology of about sixty essays and poems is "…to break through the noisy silence surrounding male sexuality, to challenge the dominant images of men as unemotional sexual predators by revealing the wide spectrum of realities that lies beneath the surface." The many different voices heard throughout the book clearly manage to break the silence, creating a colorful and diverse picture of male personality and sexuality.

  The book is divided into four parts: Challenges, obsessions, politics, and inspiration. We hear about male survivors of sexual abuse, coming-out stories from gays and bi-sexuals, men with physical disabilities, a porn-star-turned priest, and a female phone sex operator among others. Some contributions are heart wrenching and others entertaining, but all of them are thought provoking.

  Despite Kay's disclaimer "…that there are gaps, even large ones, and no pretense is made that this work would offer any sort of definitive statement on male sexuality," few other contemporary books have enriched our view of male sexuality as provocatively and effectively as Male Lust. I frequently encounter men who believe that they should be able to perform sexually as any other "real man." This book provides relief to those looking for alternative male role models aside from powerful men who are expected to be in control.

  The book is also for women. In fact, women have written some of the content. A husband and wife of eighteen years have written one essay titled "The Evolution of a Sexual Masochist."  Each partner presents one side of the story about how the husband's initially secret life as a sexual masochist affected their marriage and how the couple eventually was able to save it with the help of a sex therapist. In "Confessions of a Pregnant Husband" we hear how the husband of a pregnant wife felt that he had lost his lover to his child. Welcome to parenthood. Citing passages from the journal he kept throughout the pregnancy, he describes how and why their sex life ceased despite his continued hunger for sexual satisfaction and gratification. His story culminates with a description of how he witnessed her labor: "…It took forever. My wife labored over thirty hours with that first kid. I lived and died ten times. Labor was like watching God have sex with my wife, and I did not know whether I  was going to get her back dead or alive when He was finished with her." I am sure that a lot of men can relate to this male birthing experience, at least I know my husband can.

  The editors and contributors have produced an interesting and stimulating anthology that challenges Western contemporary views of male sexuality and lust. I recommend reading it.