Edited by Cole Riley
2020 (Cleis Press)
"Polyamory—the custom or practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned."
In mainstream pornography, there are countless examples of scenes depicting group sex play, sometimes framed with aggression or dubious consent, and frequently lacking any kind of context as to who these characters are. They are just sexual acts, not people having sex. How do people negotiate having meaningful erotic play as a threesome or as a foursome? As consensual non-monogamy becomes increasingly popular, is there an opportunity for writers to create fictional fantasies involving multiple people with more intelligence and nuance?
In her Foreword to Hot to the Touch: Views from the Polyamory Lifestyle published last year by Cleis Press, artist and activist Kitty Chambliss emphasizes that the purpose of this erotic anthology is "to create more awareness of alternative lifestyles and forms of love, intimacy, and healthy sexuality." The satisfyingly sexy stories assembled here by editor Cole Riley run the gamut of tone, place, and activity, all linked by the thread of people in some kind of committed partnership or marriage having consensual sex with one (or more) people outside of their primary relationship. It is a rich and rewarding series of erotic literary fantasies, and a refreshing introduction to a range of talented writers pushing the boundaries of contemporary erotica.
Some of the stories in Hot to the Touch highlight varying expressions of the emotional and sexual dynamics within the primary partnership itself, frequently a heterosexual-appearing couple where one or more of the individuals are bisexual. In M. Christian´s sensual "Bob & Carol & Ted (but Not Alice)", bi wife Carol gets turned on when her bi husband Bob talks about his first homoerotic experience from when he was in college, so much so that she surprises him by inviting their bi-friend Ted over to have some threesome fun. In Jeremy Edwards´ excellent story, Deb shares with her straight husband Paul about getting a "reminder" of her bisexuality when she encounters an attractive woman while running errands; and in "Homecoming," writer Teresa Noelle Roberts details with sensitivity and insight the re-formation of an intimate triad, from how they reconnect sexually to how they realistically express their emotions.
Other stories emphasize various kinds of voyeurism, where a key feature of the arousal is having one partner being observed having sex with others. In the steamy "Meet My Husband", writer Janine Ashbless has Cassie invite her boyfriend Jeff over to meet her husband Andrew, who enjoys watching them have sex in front of him. In Kristina Wright´s hot "One Last Fling", a bride´s bachelorette party involves three groomsmen in the backseat of a limousine driven by her husband. In Sommer Madsen´s fascinating "Him", the voyeurism is tactile and conceptual, as Adam chooses the clothes his wife Katherine will wear for her date night with John, an act which turns all of them on in different ways.
There are also tales within this collection which are delightfully exotic and fresh. Set within contemporary Vietnam, Remittance Girl´s "The Dinner Party" features a young translator entering the highly charged sexual world of a small community of European expats, a story which is exceptional in capturing its sense of place, as well as one of the sexiest entries within an already exciting collection. Anne Tourney´s sensual "Snakefruit" features a married pregnant woman who discovers her husband´s unusual collection of pornography in the garage, and goes to her brother-in-law´s place to enact some of the fantasies that they have caused. And as the title of Amanda Earl´s warm and sexy story "Ghost Swinger" suggests, some sexual partners connect with others from beyond the grave.
Most of the characters within this collection identify as bisexual, and reading positive representations of this group is always a pleasure for this reader. Some of the stories contain more humor than others, but the writing throughout Hot to the Touch is consistently sharp, sexy, and smart. Whatever the specific act or situation, these characters all seem like real people, possessing minds and emotions as well as insatiable sex drives. A highly recommended collection for readers interested in intelligent erotica exploring the realm of polyamory and consensual non-monogamy.