“Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year: Volume 5” Brings an Expansive Imagination of Lesbian Sex to Your Shelf

I love a throwback moment, and reading erotica always makes me feel that way. Reading it in the winter months especially adds to it all. Curled up in bed, window open and the cold air creeping under the duvet with a hot drink resting at my bedside. Or perhaps lounging on the couch with the heat on full blast while snow gathers on the window outside. Both eventually bring a different sort of wetness.

That snow starts melting on the window, or condensation forms under the drink. In either position, when reading erotica the hope is that it will bring sweet wetness between my legs as well.

Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year: Volume 5 was, in Shelli terms, hella dope and very fucking hot. Edited by one of Autostraddle’s favorite butches, Sinclair Sexsmith, the book is made up of 17 different erotica stories. From the sweet and familiar (“Max and the Things I Couldn’t Say”) to the purposely slow seduction (“Owning a Cock”). Mr. Sexsmith is the natural choice to curate essays that show the often minimalized world of queer lesbian sex. I complain a lot that so much of the world sees lesbian sex as one-note, assuming we’re all monogamous Uhaulers that only have age “appropriate” masc/femme presenting relationships. Our world is so wide, our relationships and partnerships look a multitude of ways, and the ways we fuck? Well, this collection gives you a peek into that.

My favorite piece in the collection was “Strand of Pearls” by Mary P. Burns. Maybe it’s the power dynamic that plays out in the story, or because it somewhat matches one of my fondest sexual experiences. That’s what I love so much about erotica and about this book; it allows you to imagine (or to remember) in ways that visual porn simply can’t do. When reading this particular story, I was taken back to the experience I’d had and put in this state of arousing remembrance.

“Shave you?” I was confused for the second time in just minutes. She took my hand and put it between her legs. I felt the soft hair there. And it dawned on me. I got very nervous.

One of the most intimate moments in my sexual history (so far) involved shaving. It’s one that I don’t think of too often but when I do it takes a while for me to come back down. I was asked to watch and then to participate but it was nothing I’d ever experienced, and nothing I ever thought I would. The blend of nerves, excitement, and low-key confusion all aided in securing that moment in my memory as one I would never forget. It’s that power of remembrance that I’m talking about that came page after page when reading that particular story.

I was turned on as the character explored and then left to my own thoughts as I continued the story in my mind after it ended. I like porn but the stimulation it gives me is so quick, erotica lets things linger and in that I find pleasure. I like that I can see myself in this erotica series. I enjoy being able to reminisce and recall my own “Aha” moments of when I discovered my fondness for a certain sexual proclivity. That happened to me while reading “Blood” by Anita Cosby. I felt the romance in their story but was also just proud and excited for these characters to have fun and explore. All of the stories are erotic in nature, yes, but while reading I often just felt happy at the sexual diversity that was being shown.

Sexual diversity yes, racial diversity though — maybe not so much. There are a few writers and characters that are people of color but the book still feels overwhelmingly white. I was hoping for more blackness, and not just on the cover. Not featuring many black characters or writers in an anthology such as this, once again excludes black folks from the conversation. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with demanding stories in erotica that are unapologetically black. Simply put, black people fuck too, black people enjoy kink too — there is more to black lesbians than them being the studs that so many white dykes love to copy and steal swag and style from.

Despite being disappointed with the lack of blackness present, I still got lost in not just one story but several, stories that were different tones and that had different intentions. That’s what I like about a story collection; you go to so many places in what feels like an hour. I’d recommend maybe marking your favorite story in the book and giving it to a crush as a gift, or just reading it to explore things you’ve been thinking about but may be too nervous to try.

There’s this one line in Booksmart that always makes me laugh when I rewatch it. Molly is trying to figure out what Amy uses when she’s masturbating, she looks around the room and guesses several things, including books. “Very Freudian, but I’d worry about paper cuts” — it takes me out every time. When reading Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year: Volume 5,  I’m not worried about paper cuts — but I’m worried the brat that is somewhere in me won’t be patient enough to wait a whole year for a hopefully even more inclusive volume six.

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Shelli Nicole

Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Marie Claire. She is terrified of mermaids and teenagers equally.

Shelli has written 195 articles for us.


  1. shelli, this shaving moment!! and thank you, for mentioning this: “Simply put, black people fuck too, black people enjoy kink too — there is more to black lesbians than them being the studs that so many white dykes love to copy and steal swag and style from”

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