Every Monday, The CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week we are featuring Sweet & Rough: Sixteen Stories of Queer Smut by Sinclair Sexsmith!
Sexsmith opens their collection of erotica with an essay laying out the conflict that sometimes exists between their work as a sexuality educator and the fantasies they’ve written and collected in this book. In the world of sexuality education, enthusiastic consent is a must and any playing with force requires clear outlines with discussion before and after. But in the world of the written fantasy, they point out — “…these practices that are deeply held values in my personal life aren’t readily apparent. That’s because my stories are fantasies—you know, the things you close your eyes and think about when you’re getting off all by yourself, not necessarily (though perhaps sometimes!) the things you do with lovers.”
The essay sets a thoughtful stage for the steamy series of queer encounters that follow. Starring (though not always stated) Sexsmith themself, the collection moves through vignettes ranging from a hot hookup in an almost deserted diner to a more low key but no less sexy afternoon running into an old flame. While some give subtle nods to others, they by no means must be read in order, perfect for those evenings when you’re most definitely in the mood for something in particular.The chemistry between the narrator and their partners is almost palpable. From long time friends to strangers in bars, Sexsmith deftly navigates the romantic and sexual waters of each. Guiding readers through scenes of alternating dominance and tenderness, Sweet & Rough is true to the title and all the sexier for it.
Nothing about this collection is cliche. Sexsmith is a skilled erotic writer, forgoing the more tired tropes in queer erotica for narratives that straddle reality and fantasy in a way that is deeply in tune with those dirty thoughts we all think in everyday situations, those sexy “what ifs”, following them through to their exciting and utterly satisfying conclusions. Sexsmith’s writing is original without being overly flowery or relying on worn out euphemisms. Some pieces do seem to end rather abruptly, like a lover running out the door half dressed, but for the time they’re in full swing, Sexsmith’s stories are a truly enthralling experience.
The most problematic points are those that Sexsmith touches on in the beginning. There are scenes involving BDSM where the narrator and their partners don’t discuss boundaries beforehand or where consent isn’t clear. And if that has no place in your fantasies then another collection may be better suited to your tastes. But as Sexsmith points out in the opening, “I trust that you and I are adults who understand that fantasy is different from reality, and while we may think one thing to get ourselves off, we probably conduct our sex lives slightly differently.” With that in mind, for the queer and kinky among you, Sweet & Rough deserves a spot beside (or in) your bed.