"Sometimes kink feels like sex distilled, the depth of sexuality packed into a word, a gesture, a mood."
With this line, contributing author Laurel Isaac distills the flavor of Shameless Behavior, a fantastic collection of short stories edited by Lana Fox and published by Go Deeper Press.
Indeed, kink abounds. In “Cutter” by Beth Wyatt, a Tom Hardy-esque MMA fighter with a penchant for domination meets a meek shopgirl who regularly retreats into the restroom with a packet of razors. “Stay” by Rion Wolf is a hot trans story about giving and receiving, big secrets and big surprises. Isaac’s “Holding” is a tribute to watersports that ends in a fun crescendo of dialogue between lovers that feels like a combination of madness and poetry.
The theme these stories share is not just shame or kink, but, oddly enough, falling in love. To me, shame—especially deep-seated, chronic shame—feels like an alienation from the self, a wall that separates one part of the self from the other. These stories focus on the removal of that wall so that the two halves can come together and fall back in love.
Sometimes, an individual is able to overcome shame alone. In Lana Fox’s “The Bishop,” a devout Catholic priest—with a little assistance from a woman who looks a lot like the Virgin Mary—liberates himself from the agony of self-denial. More often, as in stories by Sommer Marsden, Axa Lee, and Kyoko Church, strong, gentle lovers break down the walls for people who aren’t able to overcome shame alone.
My favorite story in this anthology by far is “Doll-Faced Lovers” by Laila Blake. Our families often plant shame in us. The two protagonists share a relationship that is funny, tender, and sweet; when they make a magnificent break for the hills, I want to stand up and cheer.
Daniel Burwell’s “Tamar” is a defloration story with a twist; I find Tamar and Gabe so compelling, I wish that the author had skipped all the exposition and gotten right to the core of their relationship. However, Burwell writes one of my favorite lines in the collection:
“She feels dizzy with what is happening, as if she is feeling the rotation of the Earth for the first time in her life.”
Sybil Rush’s “Mesmerized” is a clever parody of an indignant woman confronting her own prudish relationship with sex. Though I enjoy the concept, too many simple sentences make it hard for me to get past the narrator’s voice and lose myself in the narrative itself.
In the foreword, editor Lana Fox writes,
“the stories in Shameless Behavior…belong to every one of us who has known erotic shame.”
Intelligent, steamy, and thought-provoking, this collection celebrates that moment when, no longer alone, we feel safe enough to bring our deepest secrets into the light only to discover how beautiful we never knew they were.