Confessions is a foray into the sexy worlds of voyeurism, promiscuity, dominance, and threesomes. While the stories are all engaging and hot, they’re different from what I’m used to seeing from Xcite publications. Although the collection is a reflection of Xcite’s commitment to quality fiction, it also strays from the company’s vision of empowered female sexuality.
Confessions only consists of four stories, but that doesn’t mean the collection is lacking. Each of these pieces is long, meaning that you get plot, tension, and character development. While I understand the value of a quickie (both in fiction form and in sex itself), I also appreciate writers who can write sustained stories and keep the sex compelling for twenty or more pages. Editor Miranda Forbes did an excellent job of selecting works that could go the distance.
While reading Confessions, I could not shake the feeling that something didn’t feel right, and I could not quite figure out why. After all, the stories were all good in their own right. But as I was reading “Miss Prissy,” the problem suddenly dawned on me. One of the things I like about Xcite is the company’s focus on empowered female sexuality. In fact, they make a point of emphasizing this in their writer’s guidelines: “These stories are aimed at female readers so must celebrate female sexuality in all its forms and never denigrate women.” However, none of these stories really put much of a focus on female agency or empowerment in the bedroom. All of the stories are written by men, and all four have male protagonists as well. None of the women are well-developed characters; they serve as objects of male gaze and satisfaction, with little emphasis on a woman’s pleasure. Even “Coming on Command,” a story about a man who states “My thing is making girls come,” does little to focus on women. After reading this story, I could not remember any of the women characters’ names, nor much about them; they were so flat that they faded from my memory after the narrator was done with them.
But the story that seems most detached from Xcite’s sensibilities is the final story, “Paris.” From the first page, we find out that the narrator is completely possessive: “I like a girl to be mine, if you know what I mean.” He doesn’t like that his girlfriend, Lucie, flirts or even interacts with other men (he gets upset if she even talks to someone else): “As far as I was concerned I was the one she went to bed with at the end of the day and that should have been enough.” But what makes the story truly appalling is the transphobic attitude the story takes in the end. After they break up, Lucie arranges for two transpeople, Mirella and Samara, to pose as ciswomen and seduce the narrator. As a result, the story makes transpeople less than full humans, objects to be used for revenge, things that inspire revulsion. Further, we even see the word “shemale” mentioned in the story, a word that is highly offensive within the trans community. While “Paris” actually ends on a positive note, this does not exoneration or justify the transphobia.
Confessions is a great collection if you’re looking for a variety of sexy stories that can capture and keep your attention over the long haul. However, it does not appear to be “aimed at female readers or celebrate female sexuality in all its forms.” Rather, this collection seems focused on men and their desires, and occasionally descends into insensitivity.