I originally wrote this review [found here] for The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health‘s blog. Enjoy! I have less than a month left as an intern there and will start “generating new content” (as they say) for this site again in January.
Edited by prolific erotica writer/editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, Curvy Girls is a collection of short and sexy stories celebrating lust at larger sizes, and serves as a delightful introduction to feminist erotica as well as an addition to an already-established library.
Plus-size, curvy, generous, fat; women in these stories describe their bodies in different ways, and they have very realistic and at times very nuanced self-perceptions. It’s a fallacy too often seen in popular culture and pornography that plus-size women have only a few personality types. The women in this collection are neither sexless jester nor hopeless sidekick—they’re runners and exhibitionists, kinky and bewitching, confident and shy. Their body shapes vary as well: there are women with big and small breasts, pear-shapes, post-pregnancy bodies, and women who are just simply “large”, and their lovers desire their bodies for what they are, free of the shame that we’re often taught that people who have sex with larger women are supposed to feel.
Just like in erotic writing where body size is not mentioned or is assumed to be small, Curvy Girls’ readers are treated to a wide range of sexual encounters and possibilities in the collection’s 20-odd stories. In some of the stories, women are convinced by a partner that they are indeed desirable, while in others they know they’re hot and are ready to prove it. Though most of the stories deal with slightly naughty but basically vanilla sex, there are a couple kinkier reads: for instance, “Big Girls Do Cry” is an excellent little tale of a girl craving a spanking who finds her perfect dom in an unexpected location. It’s great that there are race, class, and culture dynamics at play in some of the stories, and it’s clear that they were carefully chosen to reflect this type of diversity in addition to body-type diversity.
Much of the pleasure of erotic writing and sexual fantasy in general comes from being introduced to new possibilities, something that Curvy Girls delivers in terms of sexual positions, locations, and diverse female characters. However, although all of the women in the stories have personalities and bodies that are described differently, the male partners in the stories—when men are involved—most often fall into a “smaller than the woman” category. This might not appeal to readers who aren’t themselves attracted to smaller people, but then again there is a lot of erotic tension in any scenario where one person believes the other to be somehow “out of their league,” and many of the women in the stories initially believe this about these smaller men. A second theme that appears often in the book is in sexual encounters with relative strangers, a common fantasy that will appeal to many people.
Curvy Girls could be sexy for many people to read, however it is written specifically for women. I believe it will appeal to many women, even if they don’t consider themselves “plus-size” or “curvy.” There is not nearly enough body affirmation in popular culture to make up for the body-negativity that women encounter every day, and a collection of stories that treats “imperfections” such as bellies, thighs, and largeness in general as sexy, desirable, and beautiful without fetishization can only do good for the collective cultural psyche.