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A Clowncar Named Desire: Sex, Humor, and Ellen Forney’s “Lust”

This review was originally published on ALT.com.

Lust
Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads From Seattle's The Stranger
By Ellen Forney. Introduction by Dan Savage.
Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 978-1-56097-864-8. 168 pages. Hardcover. $19.95.

It's completely hot.

And it's completely hilarious.

That's a hard combination to get right. Sex and humor are a tricky combination. I've written about this before: a big part of sex is about building up tension, and a big part of humor is about breaking tension, so they're two great tastes that don't always taste great together.

But comic artist Ellen Forney makes it work.

Watch me undress
For several years, Ellen Forney has been illustrating the adult online personal ads of the Seattle alternative weekly newspaper, The Stranger. In Lust: Kinky Online Personal Ads, she collects the best of these cartoon illustrations…in a nasty, silly, sexy, filthy, shameless, constantly surprising, and joyfully exuberant display of the unbelievable variety of human sexual desires. From "Pirate Wench" to "Panty Bear," from "Pull My Hair" to "Watch Me Undress," from "Have You Been A Bad Boy?" to "Force This Top To Be A Bottom," from "You Are A Mechanic" to "I Like Knives" to "Erotic Hypnosis" to "My French Maid," Forney's comic illustrations are a hot, hilarious, thoroughly delightful parade of human libido. If you've been playing the adult personals for any length of time, you'll find this book both inspiring and hysterically familiar. And if you've never run or answered a personal ad in your life, you'll still find it… well, both inspiring and hysterical.

Super sluts
Like I was saying, "sexy" and "silly" is a combination that's hard to pull off. But Forney has the knack of it. She has an unerring eye for the overlapping ground between sex and humor — namely, playfulness. What's more, she has the ability to make her subjects seem completely human — imperfect, vulnerable, goofy, hopeful — in a way that's loving and friendly, and that actually makes her subjects seem even more sexy. And the shamelessness and pure adventurous spirit of these advertisers is simply inspiring. (Anyone who runs adult online personal ads absolutely needs to read it… if only to get some new ideas.)

But Forney is more than just an enthusiastic appreciator of the astonishing variety of human sexuality. She is also an exceptionally skilled comics artist, with a distinctive, immediately recognizable style that is a major part of the beauty and eroticism in this book. She has a strong, bold, sensual line that seems like it was born to draw sex. And her drawing and design skills are on proud display here. From the text of the BDSM ad written into the ropes tied around a naked body, to the lush Art Nouveau styling on the "Hairy Girl" ad, she shows inventiveness, imagination, and serious artistic chops. She clearly has a deep respect for sex, and is clearly thrilled to be using her considerable talents to illustrate dirty personal ads.

And the fact that the comics are illustrating real-life sex — or at least, real-life sexual desires, at least some of which must have gotten translated into real-life sex — gives them a tremendous amount of erotic punch. For me, at least. I've always found real-life sex stories to be hotter than fiction: reality gives a sexy story an immediacy that makes it very hot indeed. These aren't unattainable fantasy figures; they're real people, looking for some real action. I love looking at these cartoons and imagining, in detail, what the people behind the ads actually wound up doing. I love thinking about which ads I might actually want to answer, and what might happen if I did. And I love imagining what kind of cartoon Forney would draw if I ran an ad myself. Yum.

Foot fetish
I should tell you that not all of these comics are explicitly sexy or dirty. Many of them are, but a lot of them aren't. And they're not all meant to be. Many of these cartoons are just supposed to be funny. So if you're looking at this simply as a stroke book, you may find it disappointing.

But I found Lust to be not just intriguing and funny and beautiful, but extremely arousing as well. And I found that even the silly, funny, non-explicit cartoons add to the overall eroticism of the book. Ellen Forney has found a way to turn the goofy, absurd, "what would this look like to space aliens?" side of sex into something hot, enticing, and erotically inspiring. It is sexy, it is unique, and it is not to be missed.

(Disclosure: Ellen Forney is a contributor to a book I edited, Best Erotic Comics 2008, as well as the cover artist for that same book. The Lustlab Ad of the Week feature, alas, is no longer running; but you can find many of them in the Lustlab archives on Forney's blog.)

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks, Greta Christina!!!! –And I’m so happy to hear that you found Lust arousing. Sometimes the best turn-ons sneak up on you, you know? For me, ideally, a Lust reader will be laughing or just reading and turning pages, and because of all that time with a book about (playful) sex, the reader gets a happy li’l buzz. Maybe not an explicit fantasy (though: maybe!) but a mood. –And don’t worry, I’ll start a new comic series soon! I’ll let you know! xo!

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