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How to Stay Married by Jilly Cooper

When I was growing up, the 60s seemed relatively recent. I was not old enough to remember them myself, but it was clear that my parents did. It was reflected in their style, their attitudes, their musical tastes. It was familiar ground.

Yet How to Stay Married is the most extraordinary period piece. It’s a heady combination of the deeply traditional:

If a wife feels resentful that she is slaving away…she must remember that it isn’t all roses for him either. He has given up his much-prized bachelor status for marriage, and he probably expects…to come home every night to a gleaming home, a happy wife, and a delicious dinner.’

…and swinging free-love:

‘If you want to dance cheek-to-cheek with the most attractive man/woman in the room, wait until your husband/wife is securely trapped on the sofa in another room.’

Well, maybe not all that swinging. In this book, ‘affaires’ are inevitable, usually the woman’s fault, and to be tolerated; sleeping pills are swallowed willy-nilly; and a ‘slut’ is the keeper of an untidy house. Wives need to be treated with a ‘firm hand’, and men are like little gods who require cosseting and obedience. Women may well work (until children come along, when they must turn to making paper flowers for pin money), but they should tweak their hours so that they can get home in time to tidy up and have dinner on the table.

It’s as if the word ‘marriage’ means something different entirely. Or rather, perhaps the shock lies in the word ‘marriage’ representing a clear set of values and behaviours. Contemporary readers will be used to defining their own ‘marriage’ or relationship, finding a balance of personalities that works for them – or doesn’t. We are certainly not willing to make the level of sacrifices that young Jilly fully expects to make, just to keep our partners quiet.

None of this is meant as a word of criticism of the book – it’s a wonderful, enlightening read. Jilly’s voice is as pert and knowing as one of her characters, leaving the line between seriousness and tongue-in-cheek rather blurry. The all-night sex and cocktail parties sound magnificent. But the best bit is Jilly’s cringing introduction: ‘What a smug, opinionated, proselytising little know-it-all I was then,’ she says.

So, perhaps don’t read How to Stay Married for matrimonial advice. But do read it to giggle and gasp at how much we’ve changed within a mere lifetime.
How To Stay Married by Jilly Cooper, originally published 1969, reissued in 2011 by Transworld.

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Mucky Review – Big Sex Little Death by Susie Bright

Reviewer: Jess Kelley


Big Sex Little Death is a memoir by Susie Bright, a bad ass sex-positive lesbian feminist. As often as I’ve heard her name, I hadn’t read too much of her work until I saw her reading one of her stories on a youtube video. That story, The Best She’s Ever Had, kinda blew my mind. She’s talking about a woman who likes to give blow jobs but shies away from any pleasure of her own. At the time, I was in the middle of outgrowing that stage of my sexuality and to hear someone like Susie Bright describe the Blow Job Queen persona in such perfect detail floored me.

So did her memoir.

Once Susie moves from her mom’s home to her father’s at age 14, she starts to explore sex and socialists with fierce passion. She leaves home for Detroit without finishing high school in California, all in the name of spreading Communism. When that road ends for her, she starts working with On Our Backs, a truth-telling lesbian sex magazine that’s the first of its kind. Their mission is female sexual honesty. No poses designed for men; these women show their own truth about sex in the pictures & articles they print.

That’s so common sense – women being honest about how they feel sexually & posing themselves rather than being posed for a mainstream male eye – but this was the first time I’d really thought about this. And it was mind-bending to think of a pose that wasn’t copied from countless magazine ads I’ve seen in my lifetime.

On Our Backs struggled because the print world wasn’t ready for honesty about female sexuality. Once again, Susie was given an opportunity to reinvent herself & give her passion a new avenue; this time, her ardent advocacy blossomed in becoming a mother. Big Sex Little Death winds down as Susie learns to be a good mother to her daughter Aretha and it’s such an emotionally satisfying ending that I didn’t see coming when I began the book.  Motherhood may seem a neat end Susie’s memoir, like oh she gave up her wanton & controversial lifestyle to be a good mother, like all women should, but it isn’t like that at all. I think Susie Bright’s courage & faith in herself allow her to follow her heart, whether her decisions are considered controversial or old-fashioned. And to me, that’s the whole point of feminism: there’s room for any lifestyle a woman wants to live, if she chooses to live it.

I felt so sad for this book to end that I started buying other Susie Bright books. Aside from my own personal a-ha’s!, Big Sex Little Death has plenty of adventure & drama, all well told in Susie’s clear voice. Sex, drugs, Playboy bunnies, violence, guns & politics – she’s got it all!

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Guest Mucky Review: Deep in the Heat of Texas

Review by Ruby Redfire, who reviews romance and erotica on her blog.

Reporter, Maggie, is assigned to do a story about the dude ranch industry. Maggie and her two friends, Payton and Sophia stay at the Weston Ranch, with the Weston Brothers to experience ranch life first hand. The friends are each assigned a cowboy (or two) to show them the ropes ;) and the ladies are taken out of their comfort zone in more ways than one.

This book is great if you are new to Erotic Romance the three stories are written by three different writers and are not for the faint hearted. The first story to me was based around giving up control. The second story was based on a ménage relationship. The third story was more about a struggle for balance with two strong characters.

Sophie’s story is the first in the book called Tempted in Texas and written by Alta Hensley.

Sophie is a stressed out control freak who needs to learn to let go and Deacon Weston is the man to entice her to do it. Deacon’s conditions for Sophie’s stay are, she follows his rules!

His rules are:
1. No computer and no work.
2. Sophie allows him to meet her needs and take care of her during her stay.
3. Sophie never questions what he says.

There is an element of dominance / submission to this story Deacon is your typical alpha male in a romance strong, warm, caring and sexy as hell (but to me is a bit a kinky as he like to spank his women). Instead of letting the workaholic work the ranch he makes her relax.

I think a lot of women today can relate to the story especially where in their day to day lives they are in control i.e., at work and at home who wouldn’t in a fantasy world, love for their man to say you know what darling I’m going to look after your needs for a change. I’m sure once she picks herself up off the floor from passing out from shock, she’d drag him to a doctor to make sure he was OK.

I have a soft spot for the Alpha males, I love what I call a proper bloke with a good heart and I loved this story. I thought the sex scenes were brilliantly written and very hot, to the point that when my husband patted my ass the other morning to get me to move out the way I found myself grinning at him.

The only thing I didn’t like was it was too short but then again Novellas are ;) and the fact it’s only available to those who have an ereader or ereader app for their IPOD/phone. The good thing is you can download a sample before buying.

Contains: spanking, light bondage, anal sex, oral sex and lots of sex.

You can buy Deep in the Heat of Texas in paperback or for the Kindle.

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Every Day’s a School Day

Someone very kind (in fact, the lovely Friend of the Blog Jess Kelley) has sent me some instructional DVDs. Wednesday night being Date Night, I suggest them to Herbert.

‘What are they?’ he says.

‘There’s one on vulva massage and one on finding the G-spot.’

‘Okay,’ he says, ‘fine. We’ll maybe leave the clingfilm ‘til next week.’


‘Yes,’ he says, ‘you know. We talked about it. But don’t worry, we can save it for another time.’ Now he comes to mention it, I do remember talking about it, but I must have hidden it behind the door in my brain that says, ‘Eeek’.

We start with Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to the G-Spot. The format here seems to be a factual discussion complete with passion-killing diagrams, a studio demonstration of the techniques by two very game women, and then some captioned porn to watch afterward. We’ll get to that in a minute; but there’s a more pressing concern. After a few minutes of watching Tristan Taormino talking through the structure of the G-spot, I cannot help but say,

‘She looks just like your sister.’

‘Ugh,’ groans H, ‘why did you have to say that out loud? Did you think I hadn’t noticed?’

‘Don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I don’t think she’ll be personally giving any demonstrations.’

H frowns at me, and I take that to mean the discussion is closed. Thankfully, the science bit is soon over, and we move on to the films, which are supposed to show how to put the educational bit into practice. I don’t buy this. The first couple don’t seem to do anything particularly G-spot oriented, although a little caption comes up whenever they get close. The second couple play with G-spot toys for a while before moving on to a more standard shag. We are essentially informed that every known sexual position hits the G-spot. If that’s the case, why am I not getting earth-shattering orgasms from the doggy position? And why do all the actresses seem to need to hold the legendary Hitachi Magic Wand to their clitorises in order to come? I am left a little perplexed at what all this G-spot stimulation is supposed to achieve.

Anyhow, H and I should not be allowed to watch porn together. We commentate in the most unhelpful way possible.

Me: ‘Look, she’s giving one of those weird swivel-headed blowjobs that only porn actresses can do.’

H: ‘That woman is really angry about something. She’s probably hiding a pair of scissors behind that cushion.’

Me: ‘Never, ever do that to my clitoris. Ever.’

H: ‘Did you see his ball-bag? Oh my god, that’s the weirdest ball-bag I ever saw. Look: it’s flapping all over the place.’

Me: ‘What I love about porn is that you get to see people naked. Not in a sexy way. Just that you get to see what other people look like.’

This continues apace until the female ejaculation film. The couple talk for a while about the woman’s propensity to ‘squirt’, and then get down to it.

Me: ‘Good Caesarean scar.’ I like scars.

H: ‘That’s not squirting, she’s just getting a bit wet…oh my god…I take it all back.’

Me: ‘That’s seriously impressive. Bloody hell…and again…and again. Where is she storing this stuff?’

We move on the to The Best of Vulva Massage, Vol 1, which is all about erotic touch. There’s a tantric/spiritual aspect to the selection of clips that I fear will bring H out in hives, but it turns out he’s just quite keen on watching footage of lots of vulvas.

From my point of view, I vastly prefer the techniques on display for touching your lady parts. There is an absence of clitoral prodding, and I’m delighted to see Betty Dodson showing one woman how to masturbate just like I do. I mentally award myself a gold star for getting it right. However, I’m disturbed to hear that this woman is a medical student and doesn’t know how to find her clitoris. Please tell me she skipped that class.

We finish by watching an erotic massage therapy session taking place. I’ll confess we snigger a bit at first. I really must stop finding moustaches funny. The subject of the massage comes off as a bit needy, but I think that’s possibly because we’re not used to watching sex in a therapeutic context. After the therapist brings her to a series of seismic-looking orgasms, though, H gazes admiringly at the screen and says, ‘He’s good at his job.’ And then he thinks for a while and adds, ‘I don’t suppose they have therapists like that for men, do they?’

What did we learn?

Well, although the Tristan Taormino DVD didn’t quite convince me of the value of a G-spot, it did teach me an interesting trick: when G-spot stimulation makes you feel like you need to pee, release down your PC muscles (rather then clenching them as you would to stop yourself from peeing), and this seems to relieve the sensation. The Vulva Massage DVD was not a turn-on (I don’t think it was supposed to be, although this wasn’t always clear), but was genuinely informative about different approaches to touch. It certainly gave H some ideas to try out later.

And, it turns out, that G-spots are rather fun when you’re not worried you’re going to wet yourself.

As they say, every day’s a school day.

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Fair Squared Condoms – Reviewed!

After last month’s feature on Fair Squared condoms, a reader, Tom, offered to carry out a consumer test. Here’s his review. Thanks, Tom.

The first thing to say about Fair Squared condoms is that they are excellent value for money. I ordered the special offer from their website, this consists of a pack of 12 ultrathin, 12 ribbed and a sample 3 pack containing one each of Ribbed, Ultrathin and Aroma (the Aroma variety are not available separately until later in the year). All of this costs £14.99 with free postage. Cheaper that my usual brand and delivered within 2 days.

I’ve tried many condoms over the years and have settled on Durex Featherlight Ultra, mainly due to being available everywhere, their thinness and a reasonable but not perfect fit. I more and more frequently get a packet of Featherlights, which seem to be impossible to unroll, in some cases requiring me to abandon one and unwrap another. It can also get messy when the end is full of lube* and I’m in danger of ripping it or bruising myself in the process. The Fair Squared Ultrathins are their equivalent to Durex Featherlights. In comparison the Ultrathins were so easy to apply, it could be done with one hand, meaning it did not interrupt our lovemaking to any great extent. The feel of the rubber, on all parts of our anatomy was superior to Durex’s latex and the condom did not feel like it would slip off, as a badly applied Featherlight sometimes would. Fair Squared Ultrathin condoms are superior to Durex Featherlight in feel, application, sensation and smell.

The Aroma variety, I guess, are comparable to various manufacturers of flavoured condoms, primarily designed to be used during oral sex. Fair Squared Aroma condoms make no claim to taste of anything other than rubber, but the one I tried smelled pretty strongly of vanilla. It was a pretty natural smell as well, unlike flavoured condoms I’ve tried in the past, which do not taste of the advertised flavour or smell much like what they’re supposed to either. Not a fan, but they beat the competition, in my opinion for their more natural aroma.

The third variety Fair Squared produce are Ribbed. Neither my partner nor I are a huge fan of ribbed condoms, as they don’t do a huge amount for either of us. Fair Squared’s version is no different, in this regard, as they do not stimulate to any great extent. They are a bit thicker than Ultrathins, about the same thickness as Durex Ultrasafe condoms, which mean there is a reduction in what you feel when you have penetrative sex, I suppose this is compensated by having ridges and dots but I can’t really say it made a huge difference. The only thing they do improve on is in the softness of the rubber, which is much better than most other brand’s latex. I did try one brand’s ribbed condom once and had to abandon them, as they were actually painful to use. Fair Squared Ribbed were pleasant enough, just not as enjoyable to use as the Ultrathins.

I will continue to order Fair Squared, rather than buy Durex, in future but I hope they offer individual varieties separately rather than in an offer that includes all three.

* CONDOM TIP: putting lube into the tip of a condom means it is nearly impossible to tell you’re wearing one.


Blogger disclosure:the reviewer did not receive any free samples or payment for this review; he initiated it himself.

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Shameless by Pamela Madsen

When confronted with a similar problem to the one I faced at the beginning of the seductions (long marriage; sex feeling a little bit, well, absent), Pamela Madsen comes up with a very different solution: sacred erotic massage. She doesn’t want to cheat on her husband, but she craves the touch of another man. After a couple of false starts, she finds a gifted therapist called Markus who transforms her sexual identity, filling her with new-found assurance about her body and what it craves.

I defy any woman to read this book without secretly hoping that Markus’s number is printed on the back page. Sadly it is not. But Madsen’s approach is completely engrossing, because she de-couples sexual pleasure from the notion of faithfulness. It’s refreshing to see someone exploring their own erotic identity without assuming that her partner must provide it.

I imagine that this book will raise a few eyebrows amongst those who think that marriage is a sexual exclusion zone. But it’s hard not to be seduced by Madsen’s rumbustious voice, with its echoes of hysterical conversations with girlfriends. The world is out there for exploring, and what Madsen learns is that authenticity is the best medicine for whatever ails you.

Perhaps because of that, I found the book’s epilogue quite shocking – without giving too much away, it’s horrifying to see that we still can’t accept people who pin their sexual identities to their sleeves. But then, I get the sense that it would take more than a little social disapproval to keep this wild woman down.

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Dare…the Have Anal Sex by Coralie Trinh Thi

When I told Herbert I’d bought this book, his response was: ‘Why do you need a book? It’s obvious, isn’t it?’

Well, he has something of a point, but I don’t think I’m alone in wanting the security of having a book in my hand whenever I try something new. I mean, I put the book down when it gets to the sex bit, obviously. You know what I mean.

Either way, Dare… seems to try very hard to put me off altogether. I sympathise with the author, who has to get a whole book out of ‘use lots of lube’ and ‘go a bit easy the first time, eh?’ but the material she uses as padding leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is that Trinh Thi seems to find it hard to let go of the mystique of anal sex. She wants it to be extra-special, exclusive, dirty. When this attitude is applied to a ‘how to’ book, it results in a lot of mixed messages.

For example, a quote:

“Some people feel that participation in anal sex makes them feel ‘used’ or is something only prostitutes would do…The truth is, however, most prostitutes flatly refuse anal sex.”

Which leaves me…where, exactly? And that’s without even going into the chapters on the mystical and historical aspects of anal sex. I skim-read those.

The most basic things I want from a ‘how to’ book are clear facts and guidance, and reassurance that I’m not doing something dangerous. This book fails to even make those offers.

Perhaps you could recommend a better ‘how to’ guide for anal sex? I’d love to hear your tips.

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