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Topping From Below

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According to a recent American sex survey, we’ve become a nation of fairly tame monogamists. In several new erotic novels, however, promiscuity still rules — though it makes men crazy and drives women to self-abasement and suicide. Just like the Puritans said.

The sadomasochism in Laura Reese’s Topping From Below is as hard as it gets. After her sister is found tortured to death, Nora Tibbs, a California journalist, determines to expose the man she feels certain was responsible: an urbane college professor with a penchant for bondage games. But ”M.” proves as wily as he is charismatic, and he seduces Nora into embarking on a ”sexual odyssey of uncommon pleasure.” Painful pleasure. Even readers willing to believe that a strong-minded feminist would submit to an endless succession of whippings will find it incredible that she’d do so with somebody she’s fully convinced is a killer without a conscience. No matter how authentic and grisly its scenarios, Reese’s tale seems ultimately flaky and dishonest. It’s not the sex here that’s bogus, it’s the psychology. B-