Sexplorations: Journeys to the Erogenous Frontier

Salon Sneak Peek: a daily book review -- Sexplorations: Journeys to the Erogenous Frontier, by Anka Radakovich.

Published April 11, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

In her column in Details -- the men's magazine that most resembles a Gen-X-targeted beer commercial -- Anka attempts a kind of gonzo sex journalism, diving into America's sticky sex culture and emerging long enough to both titillate and repulse less adventurous souls. The fact that a woman is articulating straight-up lasciviousness in a mainstream men's magazine is a simple fact that I, for one, appreciate. That said, this latest collection of Details columns (the first, "The Wild Girls Club," is apparently being made into a movie) showcases Anka's biggest problem: Her writing is as spasmodic, and as inconsistently satisfying, as sex with an over-eager teenage boy.

Anka does possess a strong sense of the absurd; she can be lewdly, deadpan funny. Pieces grouped under the first heading, "Sexual Revolution Resuscitated," find Anka at her most stimulating. She and three single friends attend a couples-only sex club in New York, where everyone is very naked and very friendly. "One superfriendly patron stuck his finger up my towel and touched my snoopy," Anka notes. Anka watches as her cohorts get it on, and offers an admiring, multi-sensory take on the 1970s-style orgy scene. In another piece, while sitting in a hot tub at a nudist colony where she is the unfortunate Only Female, she explains the quality of her hot-tub-mates' attention: "I felt I were about to be boiled and eaten at that night's 'potluck tribal dinner.'" Elsewhere, she goes to dominatrix school and dubs herself "Mistress Spanka," but relinquishes the title after developing "S-M elbow."

There are, however, an equal number of flaccid offerings, seemingly filler columns on flirting ("Eye contact is the essential starting point of flirtation"), first dates, lingerie, Aspen night life and one-night stands that neither forge into offbeat erotic territory nor offer fresh insight on old stand-bys. Two essays in particular highlight the schizo divide Anka tries hard to straddle. In "Win a Date with Anka," Anka comes across as sadly lacking in self-esteem ("let's face it, I'm not exactly a prize"), choosing her man from the 1,000 entries to the Details-sponsored contest. But the dream date ultimately rejects her, explaining with a sneer, "It wasn't just your looks, it was also your personality." Contrast this with sex-flexed Amazonian Anka in the book's most high-pitched and annoying piece, as she and three girlfriends (the "pussy posse") on a visit to Las Vegas proceed to flash everyone in sight. Enthuses Anka, "We were women's libbers of the nineties. We were women, hear us roar, watch us flash!" To me, this sounds suspiciously like a woman faking it, straining to have a good time when relaxing would do the trick. It's an all-too-familiar quality in Anka's often amusing but strangely joyless sexcapades.

By Megan Harlan

Megan Harlan's writing has appeared in the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. She lives in New York City.

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