Book Review: The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge, Edited by Tristan Taormino, Published in the United States by Cleis Press, 2012.
Please refer to the end of this review for a complete list of contributors.

yes Yes YES! Can you tell how much I loved this book? Don’t worry though, now I’ve got that out of my system, I’ll control myself, and give a considered review, rather than just going on about how much fun I had reading this (although it was really fun!)

Tristan Taormino, and all of the contributors to The Ultimate Guide to Kink have done a superb job in creating this highly entertaining, and informative guide to the weird, wild, and wonderful world of kink. A fantastic read for those who are already into the scene, just curious to find out what it’s all about, or considering taking those first tentative steps toward experimentation. A word of advice here though, before I go on; if you’re in one of those latter two categories, and have got yourself a copy of the current best selling novel which covers some of these themes (I won’t name names, I think everyone knows which book I’m talking about), please put it down and go out and buy yourself a copy of this instead, because this is where you’ll find out what it’s really all about.

For those of you who have read my review of ‘The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women’ 2nd ed. (2006), you will probably already know that I am a big fan of Tristan Taormino’s work. In particular the emphasis she puts on being sensitive to, and respectful of, peoples unique psychological, mental, physical and emotional processes, experiences, needs and wants, and the importance of acknowledging, understanding and respecting the boundaries of each individual that you plan to intimately engage with, and this message also comes through loud and clear in The Ultimate Guide to Kink.

I won’t go into detail, as that’s what the book is for, but she sets the scene beautifully right from the start with a comprehensive explanation of key terms, core principles and important preparation for successful play. On a slightly more oblique note, I was also very taken with the emphasis throughout the book on the interplay of body, mind and spirit. This is not just an instructional manual about how to perform kinky acts, or how to behave like a Dom/sub, slave etc. The approach is more holistic; exploring how you can (if you want to) use your scene as a gateway to immerse yourself and allow yourself to feel things in ways that you never have before, sometimes transcending mere bodily sensations.

OK, so that’s the preamble, but let’s get down to it. What is this kink they are talking about, it can’t be that complicated surely? I hear you say.

Well, in answer to that; I consider myself reasonably well read, and research is one of my passions, so I’ve voraciously consumed my fair share of books and academic journal articles about sexuality and different forms of sexual expression, but I’ve got to say this book taught me a lot. I found it was a classic case of sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know. There are so many variations, that if you’re not involved in a particular scene, or haven’t ever spoken in-depth with people who are, there’s a good chance you couldn’t possibly know all the intricacies and nuances of specific practices, simply because these things are not widely talked about in the general community, and resources can be hard to come by unless you know where to look.

Because there are so many branches of kink, and then of course you layer on top of that peoples individual, specific, proclivities, it can become quite complex. However, it’s through understanding these complexities that you give yourself the best possible chance of having awesomely mind-blowing experiences. So it is kind of handy to understand, at least in a general sense what some of those differences and distinctions are.

Enter The Ultimate Guide to Kink. This opens that door for people to embark on that journey of knowledge and understanding, through unique and honest insight from people really in the know. I actually think that’s one of the books greatest appeals; rather than this just being a general guide describing various forms and subtypes of kink, it really takes you into the world of each topic. And, I believe, this has been achieved so very well because Tristan Taormino has sought out some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people for each topic, to talk about their special areas of interest and expertise (I have included a complete list of contributors and the chapters they wrote at the end of this review), giving the reader the feeling that they really are getting a genuine and authentic insiders view.

And what a range of topics there is! From the more mainstream (for want of a better word, but kink, by definition is not mainstream) and widely talked about aspects such as Dom/sub relationships, role play, rough sex, bondage, spanking etc, to the lesser known such as mindfuck, how to train your sex slave, age play, cock and ball play, piercing, and a fascinating discussion on sadism – the problems associated with different ways people define this, and how it can be expressed.

Now, before you start thinking, ‘yes, but it’s non fiction and I don’t want to feel like I’m in a schoolroom [or perhaps you do!], how’s that going to help me get into that lovely hot and bothered headspace that I’m looking for?’ Let me tell you, that yes, this book is certainly educational, and provides lots of necessary, and very important, information about preparation, props, safety and aftercare, but, and I’m letting you in on a little secret here, I have to admit it gave me a little more than that…

As I was reading and taking notes, like a good little reviewer should, I found myself having to, shall we say, pause, to, ahem, how do I put this delicately, release a build up of tension, at one stage. Compelling me to take off my sensible and serious reviewers hat for a moment, and send the following email to a close, open-minded and sympathetic friend of mine, who was aware of my intended reading matter for the weekend, and who I also thought might find my plight more than a little amusing…

‘Fuuuuccccccccckkkkkkkk I love this book! I hadn’t planned on giving myself a good seeing to this weekend, but I think I’m going to have to, well, it’s either that or dash out on to the street and grab the first unsuspecting bloke that’s walking past, and telling him to ‘JUST FUCKING TAKE ME NOW!’ I have just finished the ‘Brutal Affection: Playing with Rough Sex’ chapter and I’m so bloody turned on it’s not funny!

The only real question is, do I go for delayed gratification (I’ve still got the role playing chapters to read)…or fully submit now? Decisions decisions…’

So, trust me when I say, non-fiction does not have to be equated with boring, this book can take you, and anyone you may be reading it with, on a very exciting, educational and possibly arousing journey, enabling you to not only open up the dialogue about things you might want to do together (or alone), but potentially giving you the rush to toss the book aside for a moment and get down and dirty right then and there. It’s kind of win-win really, killing two birds with the one stone. Education and stimulation combined. Very nice!

And, I think, in a way, my experience actually sums up the ethos of this book; That all sorts of different things, situations, times and places, can be a source of great pleasure if we are open to them, and allow ourselves to explore them in our minds, and of course physically too if we choose.

Now, I can be quite a nerd at times, I fully admit that, so getting turned on while reading some specific chapters of this style of book did not really surprise me. But different things resonate for different people so what floats my boat is not going to float everyone else’s, and one of the most refreshing messages in this book is that that’s good. You don’t need to try and fit into some cookie cutter mold of erotic experience and expression, everyone is unique and has their own personal set of stimuli that works for them. And, not only that, those differences are cause for celebration, something you can revel in, not something to be frowned upon or suppressed. The Ultimate Guide to Kink provides you with the building blocks, and then you can take it wherever you want to go.

Which, of course means that just because you read the book, you don’t necessarily have to actually want to do these things in your reality, that might not be your personal scene, just thinking about those things, or talking about them might be the right stimuli for you. The mind and brain alone can act (in my personal opinion) as the most powerful tool of arousal (just read ‘Poetry’ in the April archive on Distinctly Female, to see what I’m talking about there). For example I did not actually need to go out in the street and grab an unsuspecting guy. For all sorts of reasons that would not have been something I really wanted to do (and would not have been fair on the guy either!), but having that thought and desire stimulated while I was reading, certainly served a purpose, if you know what I mean… (Although it might have been quite nice to have someone handy to role-play the said stranger!).

Then, of course there are the things that might indeed have piqued your curiosity, that you’d like to try experiencing in reality, and with the treasure trove of information and guidance provided in The Ultimate Guide to Kink, you can go about transforming that fantasy into reality, feeling informed and prepared as you go about it, which is going to lead to a better experience for all involved, when you actually do it. Another win!

So, if you do find yourself getting the urge to embark on some wild and wonderful adventures that you hadn’t even ever imagined before, this is a great introduction to the plethora of possibilities out there. But do please use all aspects of the book in terms of the advice provided to guide you through the important basic principles of consent, communication, discussion with your play partner(s), boundaries, aftercare, good practice, safety tips, and importantly what to do if something unexpected happens or goes wrong, as well as using it as a launch pad for trying something new.

And, if all of that’s not enough, it’s topped off with the added bonus of a resources guide at the end for those who are wanting to delve a bit deeper into the subjects covered. Another win!…ok I’m going to call it now, this book deserves GOLD!

Anyway, I know I’m starting to sound a bit evangelical so I should probably stop there, with the parting words that if you have any level of interest in kink, this is the book to read!

Please note: consistent with the principle that different things work for different people. If reading The Ultimate Guide to Kink doesn’t have quite the same effect on you as it had on me, and you are interested in reading some erotic fiction that relatively gently touches on some of these themes to get your own creative juices flowing, you might want to check out some of these stories in the Distinctly Female archives.

‘An Invitation’ – power dynamics
‘My magic curtain’ – fun role play
‘An unexpected pleasure’ – A little bit of rough
‘Voyeur’ – power dynamics and (for some) taboo activities

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge
Index
Introduction: Tristan Taormino
Part 1 Skills and Techniques
1. “S is for…”: The Terms, Principles, and Pleasures of Kink: Tristan Taormino
2. Making an Impact: Spanking, Caning, and Flogging: Lolita Wolf
3. How to Train Your Sex Slave: Laura Antoniou
4. Whole Hand Sex: Vaginal Fisting and BDSM: Sarah Sloane
5. Bondage for Sex: Midori
6. A Little Cock and Ball Play: Hardy Haberman
7. Kinky Twisted Tantra: Barbara Carrellas
8. Piercing Scenes: FifthAngel
9. Brutal Affection: Playing with Rough Sex: Felice Shays
10. Butthole Bliss: The Ins and Outs of Anal Fisting: Patrick Califia
Part 2 Fantasies and Philosophies
11. Stop, Drop, and Role! Erotic Role Playing: Mollena Williams
12. A Romp on the Wild Side: Erotic Human Animal Role Playing: Lee Harrington
13. ForteFemme: The Art and Philosophy of Feminine Dominance: Midori
14. Submissive: A Personal Manifesto: Madison Young
15. Enhancing Masochism: How to Expand Limits and Increase Desire: Patrick Califia
16. Inside the Mind of a Sadist: FifthAngel
17. Age Role Play: Ignacio Rivera, aka Papí Coxxx
18. Digging in the Dirt: The Lure of Taboo Role Play: Mollena Williams
19. The Dark Side: Jack Rinella
20. Mindfuck: Edge