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Review: First Time by Sibylline

First Time. Written by Sibylline, with various artists. Eurotica (NBM Publishing), 2009. 112 pp. $19.95.

Reviewed by Gayle C. Straun

First Time is an object lesson in not judging a book by its title. In a culture that essentializes and festishizes virginity, those two little words evoke not just mystery but also a rite of passage complete with the dreaded or desired ontological change to a “have had” from a “have had not”—end of story. What G. K. Chesterton said of Puritanism might apply here, for once the Puritan realizes that he is of the elect, then all the future stretching before him is robbed of meaning, no actions either good or evil ever changing his ultimate destiny. Just as the Puritans drew an indelible line between the elect and the damned, so do we still draw that line between “virgins” and “non-virgins,” as if those categories had any meaning whatsoever, as if one’s “first time” was anything but the first step of an ongoing exploration of self and other.

Fortunately, Sibylline’s collection of stories expands the meaning of “first time” beyond mere transition into a study of what Zen Buddhists call “beginner’s mind,” though one augmented with strap-ons, threesomes, and light spanking. A range of ten firsts is on display here: the woman determined to cross that line who invites over a colleague from work for dinner (“Of course, I hadn’t put on the menu ‘zucchini soup, beef tenderloin, and fresh hymen’”); the woman who goes to buy her first dildo at the neighborhood sex shop; the first time at fantasy play in a bar after hours; a first one-night stand; a first threesome that happens when a woman answers a married couple’s advertisement; a man’s trial run with the real doll just delivered, though narrated by her (“He fucks badly, because you always fuck badly when you think only of yourself”); a first visit to a club; a first experience with submission, with pegging, with videos. The stories run the gamut of emotions, from humor to despair, and the artists wisely do not aim for too great a realism, for first times are soon memories—memories shaped by regret or celebration, by the regular self-editing that magnifies certain aspects while diminishing others, so that we become, in each other’s dreams, just like these cartoons. And maybe that is why graphic novels have long been such a fertile medium for erotica, for not only are we visual creatures, but our memories represent events of our lives rather like a comic book.

In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suziki wrote, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Even at advanced levels of training, one should approach everything with the same attitude of openness and eagerness that the beginner has. Such is the lesson of this delightful package called First Times, which celebrates the reality that one’s first are not condemned to be but memories, for many more lie always before us, waiting to be discovered, if we but advance with an eagerness to explore again and again.

Mirrored from Circlet Press: Welcome to Circlet 2.0.

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