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Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Suzy Spencer posted a simple online request: ?Need to talk about sex??

Suzy Spencer set out to investigate sex in America?to go beyond the talk and find out what people are really doing in their private (or not so private) lives. What she discovered online, at sex clubs, and elsewhere was truly eye-opening.

She started talking to men and women?from across America of all ages and sexual orientations?who make no ...

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Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Suzy Spencer posted a simple online request: “Need to talk about sex…”

Suzy Spencer set out to investigate sex in America—to go beyond the talk and find out what people are really doing in their private (or not so private) lives. What she discovered online, at sex clubs, and elsewhere was truly eye-opening.

She started talking to men and women—from across America of all ages and sexual orientations—who make no apology for how they fire their imaginations and satisfy their desires. Soon she found herself invited to be a voyeur—listening in on phone sex, reading e-mails describing sexual encounters in graphic detail, and attending BDSM mixers and workshops. It was all astonishing… and enticing. At every turn she felt herself pulled deeper into people’s secret lives and began questioning her own choices about relationships and sex. Secret Sex Lives is an intimate account of a journalist who is seduced by her subject; a woman who sets out to look behind closed doors but ends up on a personal, revealing journey to find herself…

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For author Suzy Spencer (Wasted; Wages of Sin), it all began with a request she posted in 2005 on Craigslist's Casual Encounters: "Need to talk about sex..." What began as journalistic research became a full immersion into the nether worlds of sexual encounters, first as a voyeur, then as an emotional participant. Much more than a racy expose, Secret Sex Lives shows us diverse people in real-life situations. A revealing look at touching encounters; a trade paperback and NOOK Book original. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
True crime writer Suzy Spencer (Wasted) tries a new subject in her latest book: alternative sexual lifestyles. While setting out to research other people's sex lives, Spencer ultimately turns her book into a memoir, chronicling her coming to terms with her own long-held views on sex—and her long-dormant libido. The interviews with swingers, dominatrices, cross-dressers, and more scattered throughout provide fascinating, human faces to the stereotypical leather, whips, and nonmainstream sexual practices. But while Spencer's personal journey ought to be interesting—someone of her sexual inexperience and Southern Baptist upbringing learning the most intimate details of others' kinky lifestyles—she fails to offer the strong personal anecdotes that would make the reader understand Spencer's background and her internal struggle about sex. As a result, her personal reactions to interviewees feel like unwelcome distractions from the juicier stuff. Short on research citations outside of her own interviews, and equally short on Spencer's own life and feelings, this sex book succeeds neither as a serious examination of sexual lifestyles nor as a memoir. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Investigative journalist Spencer expands her own sexual boundaries through the exploration of others'. "Worn out from all the tragedy" of a decade penning true crime books, Spencer (Wages of Sin, 2010) engagingly steers readers through the wonderful world of contemporary sexuality. The pensive, unmarried Texan considers herself sexually ignorant, doesn't particularly like to be touched (never has), and comes from a religious family who shunned the idea of crafting a memoir exploring the sex lives of random Americans. Surprisingly, the project transformed her from lonely, sexually timid 50-something into a woman budding with intimate possibilities. Posting a succession of inquisitive online personal ads probing responders' bedroom activities, Spencer unleashes a battalion of sexed-up soldiers eager to interact and share prurient and often tabooed sex-drenched adventures. Among her profiles are a few hypersexual females, a flirtatious adulterer half her age, horny swingers looking for "more on the side," a parade of randy bisexuals, phone-sex enthusiasts and a cross-dressing father of two. As Spencer exposes the flesh behind the fantasy, she incrementally reveals aspects of her own personal life, which frequently saves the text from dissolving into a blur of America's hot and bothered. Eventually, the book becomes a psychological science project, as the author experimented, challenged her beliefs, and arrived at epiphanies far different from her opening declaration that "it's a lot safer to laugh about sex than have sex." Both a celebration of sexuality and, for the author, an embracive awakening to it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425219362
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,396,211
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Suzy Spencer is the author of four true crime books including Wasted, a New York Times bestseller, and Breaking Point, the story of Andrea Yates. She holds a master's of professional writing and a master's of business adminstration, both from the University of Southern California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 12, 2012

    It is not what you think when you read the title!

    What makes this book radically different from her previous efforts is its label as ‘a memoir.’ Approaching the subject matter as a memoir gives this tome a personality that would otherwise be missing. Were this book written as a strictly investigative report, it would be devoid of the character that makes it compelling to read. A less experienced writer, unaccustomed to the intricacies of dealing with non-fiction, could not have been as successful in capturing the nuances of emotion presented by the “research subjects.” It is apparent that, once she let go of her inhibitions, it is her personal angst, yearnings and desires that fuel the narrative with a level of quality reminiscent of Steinbeck’s TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY: IN SEARCH OF AMERICA. In TRAVELS, Steinbeck discovers an America that fails to meet his expectations. In SECRET SEX LIVES, Suzy discovers herself. One must understand something of Suzy’s background to comprehend the irony of her writing about sexuality. I know this because I have known Suzy since our childhood. Suzy is a product of Bible belt sensibilities. Reared in Lufkin, a predominantly Southern Baptist area of East Texas, she is a graduate of Baylor University. By her own admission, she is not particularly experienced in sexual matters. She grew up in a household without the presence of a male role model. She is not a prude, but neither is she promiscuous by any means. She is, in fact, rather shy and retiring. She agonizes for hours upon hours on those occasions when invited to do an interview (which has been frequently from Good Morning America, ABC World News, Primetime, Dateline NBC, and numerous shows on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and Court TV, as well as on Oxygen, the E! Channel, and Investigation Discovery). She is a private person, who keeps to herself and has never had a serious romantic relationship. Working diligently on true crime stories exhausted Suzy. One of the reasons her agent suggested writing SECRET SEX LIVES was to get away from the genre. The grind of wallowing in the netherworld depths of the sensational, salacious, scandalous, sordid, squalid, sleazy society of criminals and their victims eventually takes a toll on one’s sanity. The intention behind writing about sex was as a break from the super seriousness of true crime. Researching the sexual habits of America was supposed to provide a release of the pent up frustration and tension Suzy was enduring. It took a year and a half for Suzy to prepare the proposal her agent submitted to publishers. The original idea was a book about the variety of sexual activities people partake. It was to deal with alternative sex. Group sex. Same sex. Kinky sex. It was intended as a report about the people who engage in those activities. It was never intended to be a memoir. It was taking the pulse of American Sexuality in the twenty-first century. It was a barometer for our times, an explanation of how far the Sexual Revolution has come. Suzy readily admits not having a clue where the trail would lead when she embarked on her research for SECRET SEX LIVES. “All of my true crime books involved a great deal of sex,” Suzy says, “It seemed like a natural transition. It was similar to writing about true crime because people shared their most intimate thoughts, desires and fears."

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013

    Not what it appears to be!

    With a subtitle like "a year on the fringes of American sexuality", you would imagine the writer actually living the lifestyle, or at the very least watching from the sidelines. I only got through about 120 pages and then deleted it from my Nook, and by that point all she had done is put ads on Craigslist and other sites asking to interview people living alternative lifestyles. And that's all the book is (at least the first third)--her reporting on those interviews. No decent background research or statistics, no first-hand accounts of her experiences. Boring, fairly immature ("ohmygosh, am I flirting with him over email??"), and not even all that well written. I would advise you stay away.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    It was ok

    I thought it was ok at the beginning and the abruptly ended.

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  • Posted April 7, 2013

    Wow....just Wow.

    I normally don't read anything but true crime. However, out of the respect I have for Suzy Spencer as a writer, I decided I would pick this one up and give it a go! I can't imagine the courage it took Suzy to write this book - the courage to meet, befriend and hang out with all these strangers from different walks of life....not to mention the fact that she bares her own soul. Not only is it extremely poignant and well-written, this book will take you on a journey of discovery of your own. Follow Suzy as she interviews, watches and resists temptation while discovering her own hang-ups about sex, making love and all things in between. Trust me, you do not want to miss this one. Here's to hoping there will be a sequel. Oh...and by the way....the ending will shock you!

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  • Posted January 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An enjoyable read. Suzy begins her study of sex in America stayi

    An enjoyable read. Suzy begins her study of sex in America staying professionally detached, ever the researcher. We learn her fears, her cautiousness when it comes to her own sexuality, and we wonder what lies beneath the shell created by her religious upbringing. She sidesteps offers to watch and participate in the activities her sources tell her about. We wince when she isn't approached but breathe a sigh of relief that she is safe. Part study, part memoir (mostly study), this book brings to light aspects of adult life that some folks might either not be aware of or secretly want to know more about. Well done.

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  • Posted January 18, 2013

    Secret Sex Lives is a reviting, fascinating and yes at times sch

    Secret Sex Lives is a reviting, fascinating and yes at times schocking book. Its up close and uncomfortable!

    Its all you wanted to know about alternative life styles of the non vanilla people but was afraid to ask.
    The book is also sexually stimulating either by default or by design. The irony is that this heavy duty sex expose was tackled by an author who claims to have been celibate for at least 10 years by her own account. After all, she is a true southern Baptist! Hardly an authority on sex. Doctor Ruth she is not!



    To be honest, I expected the book to be more on the clinical study side. instead I found the author, who is shy and somewhat introverted, immersing herself way over her head in the stories of the people (sex freaks) she interviewed. Not before long did I realize that the book is not only about alternative sex practices of the "others" but also about the author's journey into her own psyche. Suzy, it appears, was living her sexual fantasies vicariously through her subjects. The more she interviewed her "sex freaks" the closer she got to understanding her own sexuality. Suzy got too close for comfort with some of her subjects and as such, she lost her objectivity at times. Especially with Coyote, the guy who was having indiscriminate sex with anyone that had a pulse, men, women, couples and trying to justify his own behavior to himself. But his wife is really a good woman and he doesn't want to hurt her so he cheats on her behind her back. What you don't know wouldn't hurt you as they say! If only his wife would understand him and his needs!! Given the opportunity I think Coyote would have had sex with the author! The guy is an equal opportunity sleaze ball. But somehow he gained the author's trust and became one of her closest, most trusted and reliable subjects.



    What I loved about the author in tackling this very tough subject is that she kept her wits about her at all times (well, may be not at the end though) and maintained her shy and subtle sense of humor throughout the book. I found myself smiling as I was reading some of her anecdotes especially when she was on the way to visit the Trapeze (a swinging sex club in NYC). All in all, its a very unique and delightful book. Once you start it, you wouldn't want to put it down. Believe me you would want to know what happens in the end and I'm not going to tell you! you'll have to buy and read the book. You know what, I think the book would make a great dark comedy script for someone like, let's say Woody Allen?!

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  • Posted December 14, 2012

    SECRET SEX LIVES A year on the fringes of American sexuality B

    SECRET SEX LIVES
    A year on the fringes of American sexuality

    By Suzy Spencer

    Spencer, a New York Times best-seller of True Crime Fiction, takes a journey into the the reality of Americans who search for love, sex, acceptance or companionship. Her journey began by typing these words, “Need To Talk About Sex,” on Craig’s List. She explained she was writing a book and wanted to learn details of a person’s sex life if they were willing to talk.
    It was not suggested that their sex lives had to be anything out of the ordinary or not normal.. However, what is normal? If consenting adults choose to engage in bondage or wife-swapping and their spouse participated why would that be frowned upon? Or if the opposite were true and the non-participating spouse didn’t know was that wrong?

    Spencer does not seek to judge and yet her insight into her own sexuality came into play the more she delved into the subject. She eventually discovered a whole world online, listened in on intimate telephone conversations was invited to sex clubs and what she learned was truly eye-opening. She heard from people of all ages, from all over the country, of different sexual orientations and through it all her own journey to learn more of her own personal relationships and more about herself.

    This book educational, funny, haunting, revealing, but most of all, a book which explores how we all seek something that might be missing from our life. A touch, a hug, love, companionship, a deep need for communication. A deep need to be accepted by our spouses, our family, our friends, our significant other. A deep need to connect and somehow know that we are NOT alone. That there might even be someone, somewhere who longs for intimacy too.

    If you’re looking for a different, yet outstanding present for that hard-to-buy-for person or better yet buy it for yourself.

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    "Secret Sex Lives" challenges beliefs. Suzy's words, o

    "Secret Sex Lives" challenges beliefs. Suzy's words, observations, and revelations makes one question the very essence of their soul while at the same time reminding us to be gentle with one another as we are all fragile beings. Change is supposed to be uncomfortable, right? Suzy's book changes perceptions and prompts conversations. This is never a bad thing. Buying the book will lead you to fall in love (or disgust) with the real-life characters contained inside, but it will also leave you wishing for more. I highly recommend the book and that if you ever get a chance to hear Suzy read from her book live, don't miss it!

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    I just finished Suzy's new book, Secret Sex Lives & it's off

    I just finished Suzy's new book, Secret Sex Lives & it's official....she is my new favorite author. I wanted to immediately read it again, & can hardly wait for the sequel. I felt safe traveling with her through the thoughts, words & deeds that create sexual energy all around us. Sex is the most sensitive subject ever and I appreciate how she shared her own raw human revolution with me, the reader!

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  • Posted November 11, 2012

    As one who grew up, experiencing many of the things Suzy wrote i

    As one who grew up, experiencing many of the things Suzy wrote in the book, as as she was learning more about herself, I even learned more about myself, reading thru the stories of life's experience. If you have ever questioned you attitudes about sex I would highly recommend this as a truly educational read. If you have ever wanted to see yourself in a mirror as Suzy has in this book, you will find who you are looking for......

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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