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If “awkward erotica” is an intentional sub- genre of erotica, it’s not one I’ve encountered before. Awkward personal erotic experiences, however — well, I think nearly all of us have had those.

Less familiar, perhaps, are the vagaries of BDSM, and the unquiet, or even ambivalent steps that might immerse one in that subculture. In Accidental Infantilism, Brian Clarke shares deep thoughts from the inside of BDSM as a “non-monogamous dom-daddy” presented as “awkward erotica” by publisher Pictures and Portraits.

The short, six-page, hand-written zine is marked by disarmingly open self-observation. First of all, Clarke insists that his being a dom does not make him a “‘sex person’ nor do I consider this my life- style.” He has stumbled into it, just as he stumbled into his first orgy, oblivious that group sex was on the agenda.

However, he is not oblivious to the impact his sexual practice has on himself. Two of his most striking observations deal with this kind of self-awareness. First, Clarke acknowledges the difference between the fantasy-laden sex-centricity of pornography and the inevitability of actual feelings and sensations in real-life sex. He says this is “one of the many ways pornography lied to me.” Second, he attests to a certain amount of disassociation in sex, “disconnecting from this body, memory, the expectation to breathe.”

The emergence of Clarke’s self-awareness is made clearer in the story he shares about an early submissive partner. She is an older woman whom Clarke knew previously when he was a college student. She was a manager at work who had groped him, unwelcomely, on several occasions (yikes?) Their dom-sub encounter ends poorly, but Clarke takes away important insights about the stark separation between the disassociated and the real.

The greatest appeal of the zine is Clarke’s clarity of thought. He shows how he has navigated fraught space — awkward space — and come away with better ideas about what works, what doesn’t, and where the appeal of it all may lie, all in the course of just a few paragraphs. (Joshua Barton)

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