||Brief Reviews - Non-fiction
by R Vaughan
TREVOR JACQUES AND HIS cohorts (Dr. Dale, Michael Hamilton, and Sniffer) have constructed one of the most comprehensive manuals for sadomasochistic play I have ever seen. Precise and methodical, On the Safe Edge: A Manual for SM Play (Whole SM Publishing, 251 pages, $24.95 paper) should answer any imaginable kinky question.
I suspect it would be impossible for anyone outside the hardcore SM scene, or the medical profession, to argue with the manual's facts and figures. So I won't. It appears to be written with lots of inside knowledge and a sensible advocacy. My problem with On the Safe Edge is precisely that which is most praiseworthy about the book -- it demystifies the practice of SM sexuality and codifies the games in simple language for the average joe and josephine. But shouldn't there be some mystery?
Isn't it more fun to learn about paddles and tit-clamps from old Harold Robbins novels or Anne Rice's blockbuster porn? Does anyone need an SM manual so obsessed with mapping out the do's and don'ts of sex that it provides elaborate "consent forms" and "partner surveys" in the appendix? Would anyone actually use them?
I could also have done without the cheesy psychobabble: "An idea or fantasy is created in the brain. Do not deceive yourself, fantasies are real. They exist in your brain, so they're just as real as a table." Yikes! Tell me anything about my backside muscles, guys, but stay out of my brain. Equally jarring is the constant shift in tone from medical text snorefest to campy smut talk.
Ultimately, On the Safe Edge is the publishing equivalent of decriminalization. It will lead to a better understanding and acceptance of SM fans and fetishists. It may save lives. It could spice up your marriage. It will mean safer, saner fun for safer, saner people, etc., etc. But every day, the once taboo, secret, and transcendent becomes the proud, open, and hopelessly dull. If Silence=Death, as the AIDS activist group Act Up says, Codification=zzzz.