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In Porn Anthology ‘Smut Peddler,’ Women Spin Sexy Stories For Everyone [Review]

Womanthology may have gotten the bulk of the press, but there’s another woman-driven comics anthology that fired up Kickstarter this year. Smut Peddler collects more than two dozen pornographic comics by women (and a handful of their male collaborators). These are sexy tales of the unexpected: a pair of xenobiologists stranded on an unexplored planet, a pair of buskers scheme their way into a gender-bending sex party, a couple uses virtual conferencing software for a bit of long-distance hanky panky, a disgruntled employee uses a body-swapping spell to have a little fun with her boss. There’s even a story about the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit that manages to beautifully blend the sacred and profane. In other words, there’s likely something for everyone who likes a little story with their smut.When I interviewed Spike Trotman, the anthology’s publisher and one of three managing editors, about Smut Peddler a while back, she explained that she was looking for story-driven porn, comics that would show not only the sexy bits, but also how those bits came to rub against one another. It’s fitting, then, that Smut Peddler features stories that are about sex: why characters decide to have sex with one another, why they decide to do it a certain way and, sometimes, what the consequences are.

Some of the stories are light and fun. In Trisha Lynn and Erin Basie’s “Meet Cute,” an uncle tells his nephews and niece the story of how their parents met, but they weren’t expecting the tale of latex and dungeons he spins. Magnolia Porter’s “Computer Love” features a long-distance couple who use futuristic teleconferencing software to scratch their sexual itch, but get caught up in a scheduling snafu. Leia Weathington and Erika Moen’s “Easy” is a simple, no-strings-attached romp featuring a safe-sex ménage à trois between two committed men and the lovely lady they take home for the night. “Asteroid!” by the apparently pseudonymous M. Magdalene and Mr. Darcy features a sex scene not only between two space travelers, but between their spaceships as well. Carla Speed McNeil and Karate McDanger’s “Extended Version” takes us on a brief trip to the Finder future where the sexy business comes with a punchline.

But other comics are a bit stormier, filled with joyful sex but confused feelings. The book’s opening salvo, Rebecca Ruby and Megan Furesz’s “Just Friends,” typifies Smut Peddler‘s thesis: sex is wonderful and fun and potentially healing, but it involves real people. Two friends, one recovering from a crippling injury, fumble around in the dark one night, but they don’t feel quite the same way about the experience. Jess Fink’s “Busking Beguiling” is on one level a fun trifle about a sexy party and on another an earnest story about gender and sexual identity. Shari Hes’ “French Vanilla” zooms in on a committed relationship, examining how trying something new in bed can teach a couple things emotional truths themselves that they never would have discovered otherwise. In fact, the few stories in the collection that fall flat do so because they don’t invest enough in the characters and the worlds that they’re building. In a book that’s running its tongue over every surface, a furtive hand tucked between the legs and a head thrown back in passion simply aren’t enough. That isn’t to say that there aren’t some great pieces that let their art do the talking. Argets’ “Oil for Water” doesn’t contain a word, but is so visually rich that I just keep staring at it (for the, ahem, art, of course).

Trotman and her fellow editors, Trisha L. Sebastian and Johanna Draper Carlson, have made an effort to select stories from a variety of genres, putting a fair amount of science fiction and fantasy into the mix. Similarly there is a buffet of genders and sexualities on display that go beyond gay and straight. We get genderqueer characters, group sex acts, solo masturbation, humanoid robots with attachable genitalia and a tentaclebot that does precisely what you think it does. And, while the sex acts prove ultimately consensual, it isn’t all hand-holding and happy couples. Some of the Smut Peddler stories play with power dynamics, including older and younger partners, a mistress and her servant, and, in one memorable case, a young girl and her god.

Ah yes, and that brings me to what I suspect will be Smut Peddler‘s most controversial piece, Trotman’s own “The Annunciation.” The piece is about precisely what the title says it’s about: the Biblical Annunciation of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and, subsequently, the Word made flesh. I’ll admit, growing up Lutheran, I always paused at that line in the Nicene Creed that explained that Jesus Christ was “begotten, not made,” but Trotman takes the phrase to its logical conclusion, with a tender encounter between Miryam and the ruach hakodesh. Some will be turned off by “The Annunciation” based on its premise alone, but Trotman’s take is beautiful: her archangel unnerving and alien, her Miryam empowered.

It’s not all high-concept sex stories, though. Sometimes, Smut Peddler just fills the eyeballs with love. Some of these encounters are just passing spaceships in the night, but some of them are about people finding love or enjoying the physical side of their relationship. In these stories, we may be peeking in on the characters’ sex lives, but we’re also rooting for them to make it. These are comics to get the blood pumping below the waist, but toward the heart as well.

Smut Peddler is available for download at Gumroad.

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