A Personal History of Best Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition is out now, and I’m part of the blog tour editor Sacchi Green has organized on it’s behalf. The story of mine that is in this collection, Luscious & Wild, is here on Sugarbutch already, so I thought I’d take you back into the Best Lesbian Erotica series in celebration of it’s 20th.

Personally, I started collecting them in 2001. I fancied myself a lover of smut and a sex-focused person, but frowned at my itty bitty erotica collection at home. So I started frequenting the lesbian erotica section of my favorite used book store, Twice Sold Tales, on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, which was an equally itty bitty shelf near the floor. The ‘Gay and Lesbian’ section towered in the shelves above it, but I was looking for the bottom-shelf stuff. The dirty stuff. I bought every edition I could find, eventually filling in my collection by ordering the few volumes I was missing online, and still order the newest edition the minute it comes out.

The series now spans 20 volumes with as many different guest editors. It can be hard to pick just which ones to read, or where to start. So, here are three of my favorites.

Best Lesbian Erotica 1998

ble98The first one that got me really hooked was Best Lesbian Erotica 1998. The story by Karlyn Lotney (also known as Fairy Butch, if you remember On Our Backs and other late 90s sex/dyke activism) called “Clash of the Titans” remains one of my favorite erotica pieces ever, and blasted open what I thought erotica could be or do. For example, it could be complex emotionally, it could contain activism and politics, it could show switching, it could show vulnerability. Not that I didn’t know that, exactly, I just didn’t … realize it until I read this story, and this whole book. (I wrote about it in this week’s new View From The Top column, titled The First Time I Knew I Was A Top.)

She cut a swath through my flat like Moses parting the Red Sea, and made me feel like a man: all big and dumb and panting. I felt my internal butch cock harden and start its invisible levitation, and the part of my brain that concerns itself with floral arrangements, oranges, and perfect living rooms fell away. Another part took over, the part that found its genesis in my father’s collection of late sixties’ issues of Playboy, benches two-ten, and answers to “Daddy.”
—”Clash of the Titans” by Karlyn Lotney, from Best Lesbian Erotica 1998

The other piece that made me speechless (and come) was “Ridin’ Bitch” by Toni Amato. That story—that includes a hard femme who jacks off a butch’s strap-on shamelessly while they ride from the bar to the butch’s apartment on a motorcycle—was part of what completely convinced me that I loved strap-on sex.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2006

ble06Best Lesbian Erotica 2006 included the first erotica short story I ever published. I have read that edition over and over, mostly because my story is in it, and it thrilled me to no end to see my name in print. (It’s under my legal name, by the way, not under Sinclair.) 2006 was the year I started Sugarbutch as well, but that actually came after this publication was accepted, and I thought Sugarbutch would be a little private side-project, not become my next big thing.

BLE ’06 also includes a beautiful story by Peggy Munson, and one of my absolute favorites by S. Bear Bergman, called ‘Silver Dollar Afternoon.’

I fall in love with her when anyone asks her why she doesn’t wear her beautiful long hair all the way down and she says, with just a hint of coolness: “A woman’s hair is for her husband,” which makes me remember every time she has unpinned her hair for my delighted eyes and even if I’m not quite a husband I still shiver in my blue jeans without fail.
—Silver Dollar Afternoon by S. Bear Bergman, Best Lesbian Erotica 2006

Best Lesbian Erotica 2012

ble12The 2012 edition is probably my favorite, but that’s because I’m the guest editor and so I got to pick all of the stories. I actually went back to Kathleen Warnock, the series editor then, to request more stories after I read all the picks she’d sent me and I didn’t have as many as we needed. They just weren’t dirty enough—she’d picked me really good stories, with characters and plots and development and such, but I want that AND a really excellent, dirty, kinky sex scene. It is largely butch/femme heavy, but I tried to get a good mix of other character types and pairings in there, too.

The introduction that I wrote for Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 is about why lesbian erotica is valuable activism, and it’s here on Sugarbutch if you’d like to dive into my thoughts on that more.

These books of lesbian erotica are not fluff. They are not nothing. They are not frivolous or useless. For queers coming out and into our own, they are a path.” —From Why Lesbian Erotica is Valuable Activism

And now: Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition

BLEOfTheYear_approvedSince Tristan Taormino left, the series has gone through a few different editor’s hands, and I’m excited that Sacchi is responsible for this one. She’s edited many of my favorite lesbian erotica anthologies.

Thanks to Cleis Press for keeping this series going all these years!

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition at your local queer, feminist, women-centric, activist-oriented bookstore, or, only if you must, from Amazon.

Here’s the rest of the blog tour, which features the different authors in the book and our story titles. Click around & follow along!

Feb 10, Sacchi Green, Introduction
Feb 11, Rose de Fer, “Dust”
Feb 12, Louise Blaydon, “Ascension”
Feb 13, Megan McFerren, “The Royalty Underground”
Feb 14, Harper Bliss, “Reunion Tour”
Feb 15, D.L. King, “Hot Blood”
Feb 16, Jean Roberta, “Tears from Heaven”
Feb 17, Sinclair Sexsmith, “Luscious and Wild”
Feb 18, R.G. Emanuelle, “Smorgasbord”
Feb 19, Rose P. Lethe, “A Professional”
Feb 20, Anna Watson, “Easy”
Feb 21, Valerie Alexander, “Grind House”
Feb 22, Annabeth Leong, “Give and Take”
Feb 23, Frankie Grayson, “Mirror Mirror”
Feb 24, Cheyenne Blue, “The Road to Hell”
Feb 25, Emily L. Byrne, “The Further Adventures of Miss Scarlet”
Feb 26, Sossity Chiricuzio, “Make them Shine”
Feb 27, Teresa Noelle Roberts, “Tomato Bondage”

PS: Comment on any of these posts for a chance to win a free copy of Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition. The drawing will be held by February 28th and the winner announced by March 5th.

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

12 thoughts on “A Personal History of Best Lesbian Erotica”

  1. S. Lagace says:

    I’ve loved this collection so much. Every year since 1997 I’ve taken a special trip to a larger city to get the latest edition, usually for my summer vacation read. These stories have helped me embrace the person that I am. Thank you Cleis Press for continuing to support queer literature and thank you Sinclair Sexsmith and all of the contributing authors for making my dreams and reality that much sweeter.

  2. Anne E. H. says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by this collection of books and always fingered through them [ no pun intended ;) ] at the bookstores, but was never bold enough to actually buy them. I think after reading this brief history of the series with great commentary, I might find myself purchasing a copy. Or if I’m really lucky, winning a copy! Thanks for the wicked awesome walk through (:

  3. Kimber Wolfe says:

    Oooh I didn’t know you were the editor for the 2012 one. I personally didn’t enjoy the stories in 2010, not my thing, no judgement, so I stopped buying the series after that. I will have to check out the one you edited!

  4. Caryn Diamond-Gottlieb says:

    Ah, takes me back to Mills College, in the mid 90’s, and coming to the realization that reading with a fun friend and exchanging quotes, on the floor of a bookstore, was pretty perfect.

  5. Tony says:

    I remember going into twice sold tales when I was a babydyke in Seattle in the late 90s, half for browsing the books and half for petting the cats.

  6. Shannon says:

    You make me want to go out and hunt down the whole collection – thank you! I have one edition on my shelf (and yes, your story in it is a frequent go-to for me “…that’s what faux-hawks are for…”). I’m looking forward to poking around the other sites for the blog tour!

  7. Susan says:

    Thanks for the walkthrough! The books sounds amazing

  8. Kara says:

    It’s funny but two of your favorites are my favs too! The first is 2006 edition when I first came out. I came out a little late, I was 24 so basically once I figured it out (being a femme, and all, it took me a little longer) but I came out guns blazing and was massively into erotica and that was one of my first ones I bought. My other fav is the one you edited because it was so butch/femme and that’s not as easy to find. I still have almost every year for the last 20 that I’ve been out and a few I’ve been able to pick up used from before that. Even when I don’t like every story, I appreciate the series because it’s lesbians writing about lesbian sex and in my book…it doesn’t get much better than that! (Especially when it’s fantasy or not but always hot for someone!)

  9. Caryn says:

    I feel that a lot of erotica is poorly written. Either because it is explicit without substance (stroke story) or because few people seem capable of truly expressing desire/titillation to an audience without visuals. The work noted has neither pitfall.

  10. Pete S says:

    Currently looking for something to give my new girlfriend for her birthday, (she’s bi, I’m straight), and thought to give one of these books a try.

  11. April says:

    OMG!!! I’ve got to find “Ridin’ Bitch” cause ain’t nothing hotter than a butch on a Harley….well….other than the feel of leather, the throttle of the bike between your legs, and your arms wrapped tight around her waist. Makes this lipstick femme ALL hot and bothered just thinking about it!

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