Kink tolerance

Bitten: Dark Erotic Stories

Just when you thought you could escape them, there they are: Safe in the aisles of Safeway, having grabbed only Nair and soy milk, you stare straight ahead, eyes fixed on your destination, checkout lane No. 7. Quick glance left, quick glance right, then scurry forward, dumping your prizes on the conveyor belt, winded but victorious. Or so you hope.

Suddenly, there comes a scream from behind which sets your heart skittering. You pivot, hands springing up in twin claws of defense, only to be stricken by the carnage: two very young women, jagged maws agape in overblown emotion. You brace yourself. It’s all you can do.

“The Twilight sequel!” they howl, crumpling the magazine clutched between them like a hapless sacrifice to their orgy of glee. “It’s coming! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!”

This isn’t the first time Edward Cullen and his hairless-chested vamp horde have assaulted your ears. And it won’t be the last.

The seemingly endless straight-female fascination with the vampires of Stephenie Meyer’s blowout book turned film series, Twilight, is by no means extraordinary. Sexual attraction to what should be horrific is common—so common, in fact, that writers have begun to specialize in pushing the limit past slight discomfort into outright nauseating pleasure. Such is the case with Bitten: Dark Erotic Stories, a compilation of 15 horror-erotica pieces, edited by San Francisco-based sex-positive maven Susie Bright.

Bright claims she sought out the range of what can be called “gothic romance,” from perverse fairy tales to what she regards as “daily horror.” It’s a lofty goal. The line between startlingly desirable and just plain perverse is a thin one, and it’s subjective to boot: The fuel for one woman’s single-player sexy times may be the root of another’s Neighborhood Watch reports. Bitten reflects this conflict well. Some of the stories included are gorgeous, interesting pieces that mingle the absurdity of so-called normal life with supernatural elements. Some, meanwhile, are just plain weird, or even worse, boring. Again, what it comes down to is kink tolerance.

For some readers, for example, the exquisitely detailed Victorian flogging scene in Cate Robertson’s “Half-crown Doxy” or the voyeurism described in Donna George Storey’s “The Legacy” could be considered the height of risqué. For anyone lightly versed in the sketchier corners of certain bookstores, though, they don’t even register on the radar, particularly because those elements are the only parts of the stories that could be considered “dark.” In a compilation that advertises itself as being full of “sexy-spooky, ethereal carnality,” they get lost in the shuffle.

On the other hand, when that perfect stomach-roiling blend of the bizarre and the carnal is achieved, what emerges is spectacular. The authors have chosen their words carefully, rendering erotic acts in such precise language that it makes reading Bitten on public transportation the tiniest bit awkward, but in a good way. Sera Gamble’s “The Devil’s Invisible Scissors” is one of these great selections, mixing a snappy, interesting narrative with blatant exhibitionism, along with just a smidge of commentary on the classic definitions of good and evil. In the same vein, Anne Tourney’s “The Resurrection Rose” offers a mini-exploration of sexual taboos from the time of the French Revolution to the present, starring a vampire-aristocrat-carnivorous-flower threesome.

Strange? Yes. Incredibly hot? Absolutely.

The strength of Bitten does not simply lie in its essentials: what with all the Twilight-types out there, finding the eerie exciting is hardly revolutionary. But when the authors use the typical erotic literature formula as a springboard for discussing social issues or confronting what makes people uncomfortable and why, the results are satisfying on every level. Talk about a triple orgasm.