Surrender: An Erotic Memoir


Few women do it and even fewer will admit to it. But in Toni Bentley's daring and intimate memoir, The Surrender, she pulls the sheets back on an erotic experience that's been forbidden since the Bible and celebrates "the joy that lies on the other side of convention, where risk is real and rapture resides." From Story of O to The Kiss to The Sexual Life of Catherine M., readers have been enthralled with sexually subversive memoirs by women. But even those erotic classics didn't navigate the psychosexual terrain ...

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Few women do it and even fewer will admit to it. But in Toni Bentley's daring and intimate memoir, The Surrender, she pulls the sheets back on an erotic experience that's been forbidden since the Bible and celebrates "the joy that lies on the other side of convention, where risk is real and rapture resides." From Story of O to The Kiss to The Sexual Life of Catherine M., readers have been enthralled with sexually subversive memoirs by women. But even those erotic classics didn't navigate the psychosexual terrain that Bentley does when she meets a lover who introduces her to a radical and unexpected pleasure, to the "holy" act that she came to see as her awakening.

The Surrender is a witty, intelligent, and eloquent exploration of one woman's obsession that will be sure to leave readers questioning their own desires.

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Editorial Reviews

Leon Wieseltier
"A small masterpiece of erotic writing."
—New York Times Book Review
—The New York Observer
—Leon Wieseltier
“A small masterpiece of erotic writing.”
—Time Out New York
“Revealing and witty.”
—Entertainment Weekly
“Stylish and amusing.”
Time Out New York
"Revealing and witty."
New York Times Book Review
The New York Observer
Entertainment Weekly
"Stylish and amusing."
Entertainment Weekly
“Stylish and amusing.”
Time Out New York
“Revealing and witty.”
New York Times Book Review
The New York Observer
Zoe Heller
The Surrender is a brave book -- although not because it tackles a ''taboo'' or because it is frank. (Candor is surely too epidemic in the popular culture, these days, to qualify any longer as courageous.) Its bravery lies rather in its earnest attempt to do justice to the transcendent dimension of a profane act. Sex, it is always claimed, is immensely difficult to write about. But that's not quite true. To recount the embarrassments and alienation of lackluster coitus is a relative doddle. It is good sex -- or great sex -- that presents the real challenges for a writer.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
"I am sitting on the threshold. Perhaps this is the final paradox of God's paradoxical machinations: my ass is my very own back door to heaven. The Pearly Gates are closer than you think." Bentley is writing of her rhapsodic experience with sodomy. So some will call this memoir blasphemous, others spiritual; some pornographic, others erotic. What it is, is wonderfully smart and sexy and witty and moving, a tale of unbounded passion that leads to transcendence. The tale is paradoxical in more ways than one: aside from Bentley's ass leading to heaven, she finds that submission leads to freedom a freedom she had never known as a dancer with the New York City Ballet (about which she wrote her first book, Winter Season), nor in her failed marriage, nor in any of her other polymorphously perverse sexual experiences. While deeply serious, Bentley is also hilarious as she describes the delights of crotchless panties ("they come in many different styles each with its own je ne sais quoi") and touching in an imagined obituary for her lover, A-Man ("He was the only one who took time to be friends with my cat.... He was the one with whom I couldn't tell whose pleasure gave me more pleasure"). Bentley's honesty about the most intimate of subjects is daring and delightful for those willing to follow her to, so to speak, the end. First serial to Playboy. Agents, Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu. (Oct.) Forecast: Sodomy may, as Bentley writes, be the last taboo, and this book is very graphic, which might keep some readers away. But this could and should generate the buzz and sales that The Sexual Life of Catherine M. did two years ago. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060732479
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 270,271
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Toni Bentley danced with George Balanchine's New York City Ballet for ten years. She is the author of Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, Holding On to the Air: An Autobiography (by Suzanne Farrell with Toni Bentley), Costumes by Karin-ska and Sisters of Salome, all of which were New York Times Notable Books. She has written articles for numerous publications including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Allure, and Rolling Stone.

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First Chapter

The Surrender
An Erotic Memoir

Chapter One

This pleasure is such that nothing can interfere with it,
and the object that serves it cannot, in savoring it, fail to
be transported to the third heaven. No other is as good,
no other can satisfy as fully both of the individuals who
indulge in it, and those who have experienced it can revert
to other things only with difficulty.

His was first. In my ass.

I don't know the exact length, but it's definitely too big -- just right. Of medium width, neither too slender nor too thick. Beautiful. My ass, tiny, a teenage boy's, tight, and tightly wound. Twenty- five years of winding as a ballet dancer. Since age four, the age when I first declared war on my daddy. Turning out the legs from the hips just winds up that pelvic floor like a corkscrew. I worked my gut all my life standing at that ballet barre. Now it is being unworked.

His cock, my ass, unwinding. Divine.

As he enters me I let go, millimeter by millimeter, of the tensing, pulling, tightening, gripping. I am addicted to extreme physical endurance, the marathon of uncoiling intensity. I release my muscles, my tendons, my flesh, my anger, my ego, my rules, my censors, my parents, my cells, my life. At the same time I pull and suck and draw him inward. Opening out and sucking in, one thing.

Bliss, I learned from being sodomized, is an experience of eternity in a moment of real time. Sodomy is the ultimate sexual act of trust. I mean you could really get hurt -- if you resist. But pushing past that fear, by passing through it, literally, ah the joy that lies on the other side of convention. The peace that is past the pain. Going past the pain is key. Once absorbed, it is neutralized and allows for transformation. Pleasure alone is mere temporary indulgence, a subtle distraction, an anesthetization while on the path to something higher, deeper, lower. Eternity lies far, far beyond pleasure. And beyond pain. The edge of my ass is the sexual event horizon, the boundary to that beyond from which there is no escape. Not for me, anyway.

I am an atheist, by inheritance. I came to know God experientially, from being fucked in the ass -- over and over and over again. I am a slow learner -- and a gluttonous hedonist. I am serious. Very serious. And I was even more surprised than you are now by this curiously rude awakening to a mystic state. There it was: God's big surprise, His subtle humor and potent presence, manifested in my ass -- well, it sure is one way to get a skeptic's attention.

Anal sex is about cooperation. Cooperation in an endeavor of aristocratic politics, involving rigid hierarchies, feudal positions, and monarchist attitudes. One is in charge, the other obedient. Entirely in charge, entirely obedient. There is no democratic, affirmative-action safety net swinging below ass-fuckers. But they'd best be of firm action, very firm. You can't half-ass butt-fuck. It would be a travesty. There are no understudies, no backups, for anal Cirque du Soleil. It's a high-wire act -- all the way up.

The truth always shows itself with the ass. A cock in an ass operates like the arrow on a lie-detector test. The ass doesn't know how to lie, it can't lie: it hurts, physically, if you lie. The pussy, on the other hand, can lie at the mere entry of a dick in the room -- does so all the time. Pussies are designed to fool men with their beckoning waters, ready opening, and angry owners.

I've learned so much, maybe the thing of most importance, from getting fucked in the ass -- how to surrender. All I learned from the other hole was how to feel used and abandoned.

My pussy proposes the question; my ass answers. Ass-fucking is the event in which Rainer Maria Rilke's hallowed dictum to "live the question" is, in fact, finally embodied. Anal penetration resolves the dilemma of duality that is introduced and magnified by vaginal penetration. Ass-fucking transcends all opposites, all conflicts -- positive and negative, good and bad, high and low, shallow and deep, pleasure and pain, love and death -- and unifies them, renders all one. This, for me, is therefore The Act. Butt-fucking offers spiritual resolution. Who knew?

If I were asked to choose for the rest of my life only one place of penetration, I would choose my ass. My pussy has been too wounded by false expectations and uninvited entries, by movements too selfish, too shallow, too fast, or too unconscious. My ass, knowing only him, knows only bliss. The penetration is deeper, more profound; it rides the edge of sanity. The direct path through my bowels to God has become clear, has been cleared.

Norman Mailer sees the sexual routes in reverse: "So that was how I finally made love to her, a minute for one, a minute for the other, a raid on the Devil and a trip back to the Lord." But Mailer is a man, a perpetrator, a penetrator, not a recipient, not a submissive. He hasn't been, I assume, in my compromising position.

My yearning is so large, so gaping, so cavernous, so deep, so long, so wide, so old and so young, so very young, that only a big cock buried deep in my ass has ever filled it. He is that cock. The cock who saved me. He is my answer to every man who came before him. My revenge.

I see his cock as a therapeutic instrument. Surely only God could have thought of such a cure for my bottomless wound -- the wound of the woman whose daddy didn't love her enough. Perhaps the wound is not psychological in source at all, but truly the space inside that yearns for God. Perhaps it is merely the yearning of a woman who thinks she cannot have Him. A woman whose daddy told her long ago that there is no God.

But I want God ...

The Surrender
An Erotic Memoir
. Copyright © by Toni Bentley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 10, 2009

    Don't bother

    I tried to like this book...I really did. I have as much a deep prurient interest as the next guy, and a woman who compares anal sex with finding god sounded too good to be true. It was. All I really took from this rambling tomb was how screwed up mentally so many artists appear to be. I can't explain it, don't know why, but this book is a perfect example of so many of them apparently so unable to cope with daily reality.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer


    One of the most sensual books you will ever read. Bentley speaks about anal sex like finding God and is as erotic and honest a book as it gets. Worth picking it up.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2004

    Too Tedious to be Erotic

    This book sounded really good and I like reading erotica so I got it. But it was not very erotic really. There was too much analyzation or something, it just didn't work for me. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of there being more to the sex than just sex, that's why I prefer erotica over porn. But this felt more like head games than bedroom games. Maybe I misunderstood what it was supposed to be. For me, erotica is the stuff in books like Bedtime STories for Women by Nancy Madore, or The Sleeping Beauty Novels by Ann Rice

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2004

    A Brave and Very Erotic Work

    This 'erotic memoir' is well written and extremely interesting. The author is a woman who has no fear, shoots from the hip and tells it like it is. A very interesting read, highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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