A Memoir and Manifesto
by Zachary Zane
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Pub Date 09 May 2023 | Archive Date 09 May 2023
ABRAMS, Abrams Image
Named a Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Book of the Year by Buzzfeed
A sex and relationship columnist bares it all in a series of essays—part memoir, part manifesto—that explore the author’s coming-of-age and coming out as a bisexual man and move toward embracing and celebrating sex unencumbered by shame.
As a boy, Zachary Zane sensed that all was not right when images of his therapist naked popped into his head. Without an explanation as to why, a deep sense of shame pervaded these thoughts. Though his therapist assured him a little imagination was nothing to be ashamed of, over the years, society told him otherwise.
Boyslut is a series of personal and tantalizing essays that articulate how our society still shames people for the sex that they have and the sexualities that they inhabit. Through the lens of his bisexuality and much self-described sluttiness, Zane breaks down exactly how this sexual shame negatively impacts the sex and relationships in our lives, and through personal experience, shares how we can unlearn the harmful, entrenched messages that society imparts to us.
From stories of drug-fueled threesomes and risqué Grindr hookups to insights on dealing with rejection and living with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s wife, Boyslut is reassuring and often painfully funny—but is most potently a testimony that we can all learn to live healthier lives unburdened by stigma.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 14 members
A potentially valuable book that yet significantly undermines its own value.
Of course sexual shame is as pervasive and as damaging as Zane argues, and much of the information and advice here seems likely to benefit people who take it to heart. Most people probably know at least one man who suffers from “normative male alexithymia,” for example – the problem of not recognizing and being able to express one’s own feelings – and simply having that problem identified might start the process of undoing it. And practically everyone in the world would, in my opinion as well as Zane’s, be a lot happier if we could talk about sex as openly as we talk about, say, tastes in food, or how to cook a particular dish. I agree, too, that sexual shaming is destructive. Plenty of people need to hear that there’s nothing wrong with their fantasies or with their (consensual) sex of any variety.
Three aspects of this book undermine its messages and its value. One is technical: incompetent editing. Whoever prepared this manuscript doesn’t know how “blond” and “blonde” work, or how many exclamation points is too damn many, or how to use hyphens, for starters; also, overall the prose needs tightening up.
The other two aspects are substantive. (1) I agree with Zane’s general point that in principle there’s nothing wrong with depictions of explicit sex, either written or visual. But labor conditions for sex workers are generally suboptimal, and to leave that unacknowledged and unaddressed strikes me as careless, as in uncaring. It wouldn’t have gone amiss to offer tips for how to identify porn producers who treat their actors well, for example.
(2) Zane takes a cavalier attitude toward antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. This is inexcusable. Gonorrhea has already become resistant to one class of antibiotics (https://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea/arg/default.htm), and every avoidable infection now being treated with cephalosporins represents another tiny increment toward resistance to those as well. I’m sorry Zane has a hard time coming with a condom on, but them’s the breaks if he wants to behave responsibly, not only toward his partners but also toward readers of his advice column and of this book.