The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir
By Toni Bentley
Regan Books, 2004
Reviewed By Donald Paneth
Toni Bentley, who says she has always looked good from behind, has written a radical, rollicking book about ass-fucking, The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir.
Bentley’s credentials are interesting. She is beautiful. She was for ten years a dancer with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. As a young dancer, she published Winter Season: A Dancer’s Journal. Later, she co-authored Suzanne Farrell’s autobiography, Holding on to the Air, and wrote still other works.
She relates that she lost her virginity when she was nearly 20. At the age of 23, she marries. After several years of marriage, she divorces her husband.
Her sex life flourishes. She becomes the Queen of Condoms and celebrates the crotchless panty. She finds that the Pussy Hound – the “man who loves to dive” – can mend years of patriarchal ramming.
Then, A-man shows up. He fucks her in the ass, gracefully, slowly, carefully and painfully. “It was here,” Bentley writes, “that I first tasted the experience of moving through pain and fear to… Bliss.” With A-man in her ass, she becomes sweet. “So sweet.”
This is psychologically significant, she explains. He shows her physically where her rage resides – in her ass, which contains yard upon yard of coiled past traumas, “the internal gripping of the emotionally unbearable.” He helps her to release this.
Ass-fucking, Bentley’s term, transcends all opposites, all conflicts. Bentley says it is about cooperation, and the submission in bed of the woman to the man’s authority. A-man imaginatively experiences her submission with her. He is a kind, gentle man.
They pussy-fucked, too, as a warm-up. But she concluded that the back door was the portal to love.
Bentley’s book connects with D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Mellors, the gamekeeper, sodomizes Connie in an episode that Lawrence narrates poetically. Mellors exclaims: “What is cunt but machine-fucking!” He devotes himself to her ass.
Connie says that in a short summer night she had learnt much. She would have thought a woman would have died of shame. Instead, the shame died.
The same outcome is suggested by the Marquis de Sade (a great writer, a great psychologist, and a great humorist), in Philosophy in the Bedroom. Eugenie is initiated. “Go softly,” she says, “I beg of you.” Finally, “Woe unto girls who shy away from such an attack! … What tremendous pleasures they deny themselves at the cost of a little trouble!”
Bentley echoes this sentiment, hailing the power of a still potent taboo in a work that is as independent, rebellious and venturesome as her sexual experience.