The Future of Erotica

Smutburger Editions is a series of experimental erotica booklets edited by Tamara Faith Berger and Courtney Toderash, growing out of their larger Smutburger project, a speaking series that’s covered topics like sex apps, sex ed, sexual healing, abortion, and trans masculinity since its inaugural iteration in January 2020. Each booklet, of which so far there have been two, features two stories by two different writers — each one gets a cover thanks to the flipbook format — and a color photo centerfold of a poet in varying degrees of undress. Volume one shows Ariana Reines in just a thong and sneakers sprawled over an animal skin rug, her curly hair mostly covering her signature glasses. While in the series’ next edition, Aisha Sasha John’s under boob commands the spread, the image suggesting we’re looking at a selfie the poet took pointing the camera up at her topless body, braids falling across her chest and partly obscuring her face, the blur of a hand holding the camera bleeding into the frame. Both mysterious and hot.

“There is often a stair-building structure in erotica, a predictive progression from one scene to the next. The climax is earned in the lookout up top, or waiting in the sludge for us down at the bottom,” explains Berger in the introduction to “The Sun” by Christine Davis, from Smutburger Editions’ first volume. Berger underscores how these expectations are upset in this story about a fuck appointment set at an artist’s studio, in which a body “does not mount and descend,” but rather “perceives and penetrates. This perception/penetration, no top/bottom dialectic is the story’s whole premise.” 

The stories each feel unexpected in their own way, contemporary and exploratory, finding new forms for textual seduction. “At the center of Cason Sharpe’s ‘The Original Gentleman,’” Toderash contends, “is the question of how technology works and fulfills us. Do androids dream of chafed handjobs?” The second volume’s two stories both feature religiously-inflected titles. Kawai Shen’s “Missionary,” a work of “climate kink” which implies, according to Berger, that “the people’s fight against greed and climate change might need a higher power in the picture.” While Whitney Mallett’s “Deliverance,” which reads like “Dude Where’s My Car? but as a chamber play for sluts,” according to Toderash, is about a narrator wide open to “sexual signs from the heavens.” The stories are all fun and horny, but also astute provocations that suggest how important the erotic mode is to searching for higher truths about ourselves and our realities.

Order Smutburger Editions Volume 1 & 2 here.