Confessions of a Sex Addict: Part 1
72 pages • Kiss and Tell Press • November 21, 2011 [PB]
“This Columbian guy comes over to me, a bit younger than me, all smooth and brown and compact, a mix of Turkish, Welsh and native American, that typical fusion you find in South America, or the Caribbean.”
The opening sentence of Michael Wynne’s extraordinarily warm and affecting memoir of a prolific sexual adventurer (I shrink from applying so judgmental a word as ‘promiscuous’ to such a frank and generous narrator) establishes the author’s prospectus from the outset. This will clearly be a graphic, no-holds-barred account of a cosmopolitan exploration of male beauty, physicality, sexuality and, yes, love – even where that may be only fleeting.
The result is an astonishingly honest first book; an uninhibited, clear-eyed portrayal of a self-confessed sex addict – although one sees him more as a connoisseur, a collector of man-on-man sex who revels in a positive cornucopia of sensuality. There is not a shred of reservation or reticence when it comes to minute observations of the sheer physicality of gay male sex – although there may be a tinge of regret, even guilt, about some of his perceived emotional shortcomings or failures of empathy on occasion. However, the work is self-conscious only in the sense that Wynne appears acutely, almost detachedly, aware of, and fascinated by, his own sexual and emotional motivation throughout.
The look, feel, sound, taste and smell of men engaged in sex (or lovemaking), in every position and permutation, is unashamedly evoked and forensically (though never cruelly) explored. As Wynne writes, “I love sex and I like a lot of it and I like to get into the whole body of someone, not just his arsehole and his mouth. Kissing and fucking is great, but there’s more to sex than that.” But the resulting narrative is itself so much more than a mere catalogue of male sex in all its anatomical, animalistic, even cloacal, detail. Whilst far from shrinking from the bodily exudations and exhalations of piss, shit, sweat, spit, spunk and breath – indeed Wynne positively revels in and celebrates them all as part of the natural male attraction and mystique – there is sentiment (if little sentimentality) and affection aplenty here too, making what could otherwise have been a bleak, alienating and nihilistic tale an engagingly honest and really rather charming one.
Certainly there is nothing sanitised, much less deodorised, about this narrative, but there is real tenderness and sensitivity, giving the lie to the tired cliché of emptiness and dissatisfaction supposedly inherent in the lives of aficionados (or addicts) of casual gay sex. It is this aspect of the book which one finds so utterly upbeat, positive and life-affirming, even where one may squirm in some discomfort at the detailing of particular sexual predilections and fetishes. There is little obvious angst here either, much less guilt, and it is all the better for that – spare us that pseudo-psychological, post-Freudian trope, we cry – and Wynne obliges us by doing so.
In the sheer matter-of-factness of his descriptive style, Wynne offers his reader little opportunity for sexual arousal, despite a plethora of erotic scenarios. This work is not, one feels, ultimately a masturbatory or titillatory so much as a philosophical one, a meditation on the human condition in fact. And it is a kindly one – of one casual encounter in a sauna he writes: “We were kind to each other, gentle and loving. In that box, naked, the two of us, all there was was life.”
The subtitling of The Confessions of a Sex Addict: Part 1 implies that a second part might be imminent. If this is indeed the case one hopes one might be permitted the impertinence of stepping down from the Olympian heights of the reviewer to extend some practical advice. This is that the author might give us something substantially longer for his second offering than the seventy pages currently on offer here, splendid though they undoubtedly are.
Some passages in Part 1 put one in mind of Alan Hollinghurst, and a similar intelligence, if less cool detachment, is clearly detectable here which, if worked up to greater length, could bring us something really rather wonderful. The work to hand gives us the flavour of the talent and measure of a writer who, by indulging himself more, could give us all even greater pleasure – referring here solely to his literary prowess, of course!