Just before Christmas, I was contacted by William Rand, an American expat who has happily settled in Mexico with his Latina wife. He asked me if I’d like to take a look at a book he wrote, telling me it was an erotic novel for men. Although I don’t have much experience with this literature, it piqued my curiosity, so I agreed. Having no idea what it would be about, I thought it might be something like a romance novel, a few of which I’ve glanced through just to get an idea of what they are like.
Boy was I wrong. There’s nothing feminine about Rand’s writing. His latest book, By Any Other Name, is suffused with male sexuality; it is every bit as graphic as the male imagination. It was a surprise to see those vivid images that run through a man’s mind right there in words. It rivals some of the more obscure erotic oriental texts that sent shock waves through the Victorian world when they were published in English. It happens that one of my favorite historical figures was a linguist (among many other roles) who put a great deal of effort into translating eastern erotica. He was Sir Richard Francis Burton, the notorious British imperialist spy who snuck into Mecca on the Hajj, scouted Somalia when it was every bit as dangerous as today, discovered Lake Victoria with John Hanning Speke, and served in the Afghan war of the 1840s. Burton was a real man of the world and left a lot of written work behind, but some of his most treasured material happened to be of a sexual nature. Unfortunately, his wife Isabel burned a great many of his papers when he died, destroying many texts in the name of “Christian decency.”
So I approach this material with an open mind, recognizing that it has value and is an important part of culture and the human experience.
What Rand appears to have done is create a distinctly American form of erotic literature. He draws from the different ethnic, religious and cultural strains of our society, creating contrasts of pleasure, desire and pain as well as guilt, resentment and deprivation. In the world he creates, true depravity is slavery, unfulfilled desire and hatred of natural male sexuality — not sex itself by any means.
By Any Other Name takes issue with much of what might be considered traditional morality in the US, comparing Latin mores favorably to the puritan values many Americans hold. The book also draws parallels between feminism and other supremacist – both racial and religious – movements of the past. Rand clearly sees feminists for what they are, and he pulls no punches in his portrayal of the brutal, repressive reality so many American men face today.
And yet, despite the strong political message of the book (Rand quotes political thinkers liberally at the beginning of each chapter), a man can easily lose himself in the erotic fantasies, the imagery and the heat of his prose. I suspect that women, too, might find themselves drawn in by the power of Rand’s imagination, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they enjoyed it every bit as much as men.
Not everyone will like the political messages of the book; feminists, naturally, will be enraged, but some Christians might take offense as well. However, if you’re a fundamentalist Christian, erotica probably shouldn’t be on your reading list in the first place. Even so, I think some self-reflection on the part of Christians could be a good thing, as it often seems as though sexual repression is higher on some Christians’ (i.e. feminist Christians) agenda than the Commandments, which are routinely ignored in favor of ordering men to submit to thinly-veiled feminist dictates.
For sex-positive MRAs, the book is just right, as is its timing. I am amazed to see the alacrity with which Rand responded to the contemporary American atmosphere with a book that addresses so many of men’s concerns. Despite living in Mexico, he has his finger right on our cultural pulse, and he didn’t waste time in giving a diagnosis.
I look forward to more of Rand’s virile prose in the future. Through his characters, he brings us liberated men and women, and it turns out that they are adamantly opposed to the feminist straitjacket imposed not only on our sexuality, but our society at large. It’s a real pleasure to see that men like William Rand are adding their own voice to literature to let us know that yes, there is another, better world out there: a world without feminism.