Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Macho Dreams - review article

In this review of Kenny Wright's book, I muse on the Alpha Male character.  

Man, what a hot hot hot story.  The sex is sizzling and naughty and fun but that’s not all there is to this expertly crafted work of fiction which demonstrates what makes erotica not pornography. 
Kenny Wright is a finely balanced writer who doesn’t waste more words than he needs to on scenery;  he saves them up for hot action and detailed accounts of the gorgeous bodies rippling around each other in his stories.  That’s not to say he only writes detailed sex.  Character is King for Kenny.  Leap has two male and a female character and, as in Moving Mrs. Mitchell - which is a massive favourite of mine - the two guys are distinctive people not just interestingly different shaped inside their boxer shorts.  In the end, Sarah – the female lead, becomes more a cipher than a character but that’s not necessarily a problem.  It’s about the kind of story that this is.  This is a masculine dream and although Sarah is realistic and her feelings are sensitively explored throughout, she is the pivot around which the story revolves and the story is Jack’s.  That this is a masculine dream means that it’s a muscular, sexy, riproaring ride for women readers as much as for men readers. 
Sexuality is where I believe we constitute much of our identity, particularly slippery gender identity which postmodern feminists such as myself argue we make up as we go along (yes yes, one day I’ll write a blogpost to explain postmodern feminism!).  A piece of erotic writing offers an unparalleled opportunity to iterate and assert gender identity.  Leap does this in a particularly ingenious way. 
To be cuckolded is potentially one of the most destructive ways to have your identity undermined.  When some other man or woman manages to engage your woman or man in sex, you can only wonder what it is that they didn’t find satisfactory about you and the body parts that make you man or woman.  Yet in this story Jack fantasises desperately about his wife Sarah being taken in sex by her younger and physically fit co-worker David.  Kenny plays an exquisitely finetuned torturer’s game with his character, ramping up the pressure by having Sarah do things for David which she has refused to do for Jack in an extraordinary two fingers up  which Jack finds all the more exhilarating because it takes him closer to the jealous edge than he had expected.  Yet he loves the thrill which is offered in flirting with losing the woman who secures his masculine identity by being so beautiful and so his.  The reassuring crux of the story is cleverly situated before the main action, when Jack tells Sarah in a manner which makes plain his physical strength, that at the end of the night she will come home and she will be his again.  This allows the reader to play along with Sarah and David in the comfortable certainty that the core relationship securing male/female (Jack/Sarah) will not be undermined.  David is physically fit but Jack works out too and in the end he proves that the pull he exerts on Sarah is stronger than David’s in more ways than just the physical.  The fun and games of the extramarital sex are just a game in the end. 
The macho ego of the Alpha Male is problematic in its fragility, sometimes in ‘real’ life leading to domestic violence.  However machismo is wickedly sexy because in pretending to masculine superiority it secures both male and female identities.  In Jack, Kenny has created the wide-eyed girl’s dream Alpha Male.  Sensitive and responsive to Sarah’s wishes (although he likes the idea of screwing other women, he never will because it would make her unhappy), the moment when the power glints out of his eyes to say to her:  You’re mine, is super titillating.  Machismo is exciting because it’s out at the extremes of gender identity, offering the delusory promise that it might be possible to be, or fuck, a Real Alpha Man and to be a Real Woman if you are fucking the RAM. 
If this was all there was to the story, Leap would be a nice bit of stuff to put in your Christmas stocking and forget when Kenny turns out his next piece of work.  But at its heart is a moment so poignant that I burst into tears while reading it, when Jack reminisces about all that Sarah is to him, someone who secures his identity well beyond fragile male sexuality in a way that means she may be his because of his strength but he will always be hers.  Forget the multiple orgasms and many moments when Jack and Sarah tease each other physically and mentally in their Leap Day game.  This mundane domestic moment is the climax of the story, reminding us of what in the end is the happiest heart of human life and the end towards which sexuality strives:  home, family, lover/friend, the essence of humanity.   

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