If you're the sort of person who enjoys your smut in literary format, there's a good chance that Rachel Kramer Bussel has helped you get off at least once. The editor of dozens of erotica anthologies, she's penned countless steamy odes to all manner of delicious perversions (including a very memorable tribute to the lovely Monica Lewinsky). But Kramer Bussel's pen is capable of more than just pornographic tales – she's also a thoughtful and accomplished essayist who enjoys exploring all manner of topics relating to sexuality (most recently as the sex columnist for Philadelphia's City Paper). And in her latest ebook (which, unlike previous anthologies, is entirely written by her), she offers a delicious sampler of essays that paint a lovely picture of a complicated, compelling sex writer.
As the title suggests, Sex and Cupcakes has a lot to say about sex (and, in one charming essay, cupcakes – but we'll get to that shortly). Kramer Bussel holds forth on a wide variety of topics, including being a sex writer whose orgasms aren't always easy and plentiful, the brave new world of sex tracking apps (of which, it should be noted, she is not quite a fan), falling for fat guys, and committing to monogamy (sort of) after a lifetime of open relationships. And, yes, there's also a bit about cupcakes: when she's not titillating readers with erotica or challenging their preconceptions about sex, she co-runs a blog about the wild world of cupcakes (about which there is apparently a lot to say, as the blog's been going strong for almost a decade).
Given Kramer Bussel's choice of career, city of residence, and dessert; it's tempting to compare her to a certain fictional sex columnist from New York City with a taste for cupcakes – and, it should be noted, she does not shy away from mentions of Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw (everyone's favorite TV sexpert makes multiple appearances throughout the collection, most notably in an a essay about Kramer Bussel's career in which she self identifies as "an alternative Carrie Bradshaw"). But Kramer Bussel is far more thoughtful, complex, and, to be honest, interesting than the role that made Sarah Jessica Parker a household name. Want a taste of the difference between the two? Kramer Bussel puts it pretty well in a passage from essay "Sex and Cupcakes":
I can safely say that almost no aspect of my life resembles Carrie’s: for 13 years, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It didn’t have closets. I now live with my boyfriend in a leafy suburb full of families. I can’t afford designer clothes. I prefer dive bars to the latest clubs, and one of my favorite restaurants is called The Meatball Shop. My photo has been on Gawker, but it hasn’t been on the side of a bus. But it’s not just the shoes or my income level that the show got wrong.
My sex writing didn’t grow from a place of wanting to be the next Candace Bushnell; instead, I was inspired by my feminist foremothers like Susie Bright, Lisa Palac, Sallie Tisdale, and Carol Queen. Yes, writing about my personal life has been my own personal form of exhibitionism and catharsis, but it’s also been more than that; it’s been a way to touch on how ideas about sexual freedom impact our society.
And it's safe to say that Carrie Bradshaw never wrote anything as fierce and feminist as "I'm Pro Choice and I Fuck" (if she had, Sex and the City might have been a good deal more controversial). Or as interesting as "My Boyfriend's Fat," in which Kramer Bussel talks about what it's like to be partnered with a man who's a bit overweight, and why she's less concerned about the number on the scale than by the quality of the relationship (which, for the record, is very, very good.). Or as beautiful as "Wearing My Tattooed Heart on My Sleeve," in which Kramer Bussel offers an emotional account of the series of heartbreaks that led to her second tattoo. (Honestly, HBO really missed the boat by not making Sex and the City about Rachel Kramer Bussel – maybe there's room for a follow up series with a much more interesting protagonist?)
After over a decade of using her pen to titillate and educate, Rachel Kramer Bussel's learned a great deal about sex – and even more about writing thoughtfully on the topic. Sex and Cupcakes is a fantastic read for anyone interested in insightful essays about human sexuality (which, if you've read this far, is most definitely you). Do yourself a favor and download a copy to whatever futuristic device you do your reading on these days – and get ready to fall in love with Rachel Kramer Bussel. You won't regret it.