Engaging Erotic Awareness

Jameson Currier brings wit and wisdom to the erotic genre

Fans of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” might remember Mary Richard’s horrifying epiphany about her romantic life: “Two THOU-SAND dates!”

For some gay men, the dating process feels like it takes “2,000 years,” Currier joked in a recent interview.

Writing “Desire, Lust, Passion, Sex” was Currier’s therapy for braving the rigors of swimming in the dating pool, much as his Book of Job-like novel “Where the Rainbow Ends” allowed him to deal with his losses to the AIDS epidemic. His latest book also serves as proof that Currier has a comic side.

Between “Rainbow Ends” and a collection of AIDS-related short stories, “Dancing on the Moon,” he’s been pegged as an “AIDS writer.”

“I’ve wanted to lighten up a bit, and I turned to the erotic to do that,” Currier told Gay City News.

Among Currier’s more successful efforts at humor are “A Date with Dracula, a Trick with Tarzan,” and “Flash Gordon at the Exclusive Dating Service for Men.” In another story, when a blind date asks, “Are you a vegan?” the hero is thinking, “I could be, for the right guy.”

Currier thinks that the difference between porn and erotica is a cerebral one.

“Porn propels you to a physical climax, whereas erotica brings you to a literary climax, where what lies behind the sex is there—the mental climax,” he said.

And in this literary ejaculate (if you will) are not just the characters’ sexual connections, but broader issues of how they connect to each other, and to themselves.

“All my characters seem to be a student; he’s learning something about himself,” Currier said.

All of the anthology’s stories read as a cohesive unit, but they were each were written at very different times, Currier explained. Green Candy Press had seen Currier’s stories in anthologies over the years, and approached him about doing a book. He sent them between 60 and 70 stories, and the editor at Green Candy picked up some of those and asked Currier to write another half dozen new ones. Most of the stories, Currier said, are either autobiographical or based on “germs of truth” from his and his friends’ dating experiences.

The stories often emphasize the sense of solitude or aloneness that occurs before, after, and even during a sexual encounter. In “What Counts Most,” the epiphany is that a relationship is over. “Snow” takes place well after the sex has been transacted between a traveling businessman and a hustler, while the two men are holed up in a hotel due to a blizzard. The traveler just wants the rent-boy to leave, so he can enjoy some peace and quiet.

“Fearless” looks at a sero-discordant couple of different generations who have trouble with intimacy and experience their sexuality from distinctive, even foreign perspectives. “What You Find” shows how one man, reminded constantly by his boyfriend that he is “not the perfect lover,” brims with a palpable hate that radiates inward and outward and onto the reader as well, so oppressive is the experience of dating someone who drives him to self-dissection.

Primarily set in New York, these tales reflect a wide range of gay experiences and issues. Some feel older, like a story you would have read in the 1980s, whereas others, like “Grownups,” have all the trappings of a new millennium story—Internet dating with multiple screen names, and barebacking too. But regardless of the era different stories reflect, they are all united by the physical drive that leads these men to seek each other out, usually, it seems, leaving the emotions to be sorted out some time later.

Currier explores some territory that might not be all that familiar for many readers. In “Expatriates,” an ostensibly heterosexual guy who lives in eastern Pennsylvania finds himself involved in a “men who have sex with men” relationship that happens without a lot of discussion or fuss. In “Lessons,” we get a rarer look at sexuality and older men; the protagonist answers an ad headlined “BUTT PLAY 101” placed by a sexagenarian, and winds up expanding his mind as well as his fortitude as a bottom.

“Even when you think you’ve found the right guy, you find he isn’t the person you thought he was,” Currier said, by way of explaining the genesis of “The Man of My Dreams,” a story about the divergence of words and actions.

For fans of Currier’s writing, and for newcomers as well, “Desire, Lust, Passion, Sex” offers a full range of wit as well as wisdom. As always, his writing gives full voice to the internal world of emotions, without floating too far into solipsistic self-pity or greedy literary showmanship. If you love great writing and erotica, what you will appreciate here are not Casanova’s “moment of anticipation” but rather the moments of self-discovery that bring understanding, or propel someone in a new direction. It is precisely this sort of informed awareness that will excite, enthrall, and enrich any reader who takes up Currier’s new volume.

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