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Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  655 Ratings  ·  132 Reviews
In 'Sugar in My Bowl', Erica Jong and a host of prominent voices answer the question, 'what do women want?' in essays that explore our fascination with sex and the realm of female desire - what it is, what sparks it, and what satisfies it.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Ecco (first published 2011)
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Oct 07, 2011 Melissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminism, essays
This is an abridged version of my review. To read the full thing, click here.

This book. Arrrrgh. This book.

I was initially intrigued by Sugar in My Bowl, a collection of essays edited by Erica Jong, because of its premise. In her introduction, Jong raises a lot of great points about the gender-based double standards when it comes to writing about sex. Jong was surprised that even now, women were hesitant to write about the subject; she was even more surprised at how many contributors felt the ne
Oct 10, 2011 Chantay rated it it was ok
This is the second time that Ms. Jong has disappointed me. Not every feminist agrees or will see eye-to-eye; but we do agree we are willing to support the tribe. This is one of those moments I don't get why Jong is considered part of the Feminist book list? The stories had no rhyme or reason, they where just randomly put together. I was expecting erotica, realization of the body and the mind, overcoming fears, body issues and the like. There is none of that in this book, it's about damaged love, ...more
Jul 22, 2011 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Book club is getting a little wild and crazy this summer!:)

Hmm. First off, I'm proud I finished this one 'cause the first half was awful. Maybe it's cathartic to write about your affairs and multiple marriages, but not so great to read about.
Jong's daughter wrote about how she is a prude and boring and may be this way 'cause she has all the rights she needs.
I think I'm the same.
Oct 01, 2011 Holly rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011-reads
What is the anthology meant to be? Clearly, the contributors were asked to write on "the best sex they ever had," but that's not the anthology title, nor even subtitle. I thought this collection was pretty bad: terribly conceptualized, organized, executed, and with the exception of few pieces, not very well-written. Jong didn't seem to do much work here. I don't even like the title: these are "real" women writing about "real" sex? Real perhaps in the fact that they are all-over-the-board, just l ...more
Aug 20, 2011 Jessica rated it did not like it
Not sure I'd be too quick to call a book like this transgressive and brave, like the descriptions I read about it did. Nearly every story was written by middle-class woman over the age of 50, about completely mundane, heteronormative sexual experiences. I believe there was one essay by a woman of color, and ZERO written about or by any lesbians or bisexuals. There was even a transphobic piece, which was just loooovely to find in a book that's supposed to be inclusive and empowering.

Beyond all t
Butterfly du Jour
Jun 15, 2011 Butterfly du Jour rated it it was amazing
Where to begin? This is a phenomenal read. The stories, personal essays, and confessions of sex, love, sexuality, and all that connect, by women, are real, timeless, and full of life. Real life.

This anthology of “Real Women Writing About Real Sex” is a treasure of experiences and stories by women. These women speak about their lives, They tell us about sex in all its many forms: marriage struggles, love and getting pregnant while abroad in Spain (“A Fucking Miracle” by Elisa Albert), stories abo
May 16, 2011 cheryl rated it it was amazing
This is a book that I'd have picked up, turned over, and browsed through at the bookstore but I'm not sure if I'd have purchased it on my own. I got the opportunity to read it through the folks at Harper and I'm quite glad I did. Erica Jong presents a collection of short pieces by a number of women writers. Some are personal memoirs, others fiction, and they focus on a range of topics relating to woman and sex. The pieces range from budding childhood interest to sexual attraction in a seniors so ...more
Nov 18, 2011 Alexis added it
Shelves: 2011
I'm not going to star this review because I had a weird reaction to it. I really did not want to read the fiction pieces, because I felt that they broke up the collection. If I had been editing this anthology, I would have only included essays. There was also bits of a stage monologue and a comic and those worked for me. I didn't like the fiction in with my essays.

The essays in this collection were great- there was one about casual sex, inappropriate sex, watching as a daughter discovers her sex
This book caught my eye because of the candy in the picture. It was like: "Jellybeans!... No wait, sex!" Then I started wondering if jellybeans have some kind of sexual symbolism I never knew about before. But it turns out they're gumballs in the picture anyway, so apparently not.

I thought this would be a fun book, but of essays selected at random, two were funny, one was hot, and five-ish were depressing. There sure is a lot of bad sex in the world. If this doesn't cheer up soon, back it goes.

Deanna Dailey
Jun 22, 2012 Deanna Dailey rated it it was amazing
I've been reading other people's reviews, and I agree with most of the negative things that are said. The essays are disjointed, seem to be about varying topics, the fiction and nonfiction side-by-side is kinda weird, all those things are true. But I loved this book anyway. I have a really short attention span for yet another collection of erotica, so I was expecting this to be a quick skim and probably not finishing it. Instead, it was a collection of truly engaged essays about hard topics.

I di
Jul 14, 2012 liz rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Oh, there's something in something, somewhere. Apparently Jong picked the title after Google told her how many other books were already called "Best Sex Ever," which is fine. But the contributors all wrote about their best sex ever, or more specifically, the fact that most of them haven't had it yet. While this may have been an attempt at optimism ("that best sex ever is just around the corner, I know it!"), the combined effect is somewhat depressing. There is not much sex actually happening in ...more
Cliff Sain
Jan 19, 2013 Cliff Sain rated it liked it
I couldn't resist a book that give a woman's perspective on writing about sex (or in this case, the views of many women), especially in the wake of "Fifty Shades of Gray," which seems unreadable just based on the small passages I've read. These are often smart, insightful essays and stories. How the individual writers tackle the subject ranges from raunchy down to "why did you even want to be part of this book?"
Most of the stories are autobiographical. I especially liked "Love Rollercoaster 1975
Jun 23, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok
I got a very strong sense that this book had no real idea what it wanted to be, Some of the pieces were about the writers' best and worst sexual experiences, some were examined writing about sex as a woman, some were coming-of-age stories. It's as if Jong gave out a multiple-choice assignment on the essays (and some are actually short fiction) and then didn't arrange it in any particular order. The pieces feel rushed, too, and very underedited. Which is too bad -- the concept was promising, and ...more
Nov 09, 2011 Joanne rated it liked it
It has a provocative title, but don't expect erotica here. A collection of sexual memoirs in the form of short stories, this book is about sex as a life energy, a charge that is felt throughout our lives. According to these stories, it is perhaps felt earlier in life, and later in life, than you might imagine! There are stories about the first time, and the last time. This is a book about the powerful feelings associated with sexuality: the urgency, the poetry, the pleasure, the pain. In the wor ...more
Jan 06, 2012 Adriana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected this book to be about women showing off about their sexual experiences while trying to be edgy. It was actually more thoughtful and compassionate. I loved that it was honest and without an agenda. Some of these stories could get you hot in the way they described their sexual encounters. I also loved that these women writers are all true lovers of the arts in every form. I can tell by their references. I would love to hang with these gals!
Jul 24, 2011 Kerry marked it as to-read
Don't you want to join my book club?!
Dead John Williams
May 29, 2015 Dead John Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favs, reviewed
Sugar In My Bowl by various women 2 Reviews in one!
This starts when I read "The Devil At Large" by Erica Jong. It is about Henry Miller. If you don't know who either Erica Jong or Henry Miller is then there is no point in reading much beyond this. Sorry.
I was surprised to read Erica Jong taking up cudgels on behalf of Henry Miller. Yes, you read that right. It's funny how you can read something and it is not until years later that someone points out the obvious.
Henry Miller is an unredeemed w
Mar 16, 2017 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Overall, it's pretty interesting that when you ask several women to define their best sex no two answers are the same.
Diverse, scintillating collection of essays & short stories about sex. Marvelous!

"The mockery and dumbing down of sex in America is something I have often experienced in response to my own books. This is a particularly American response. Europeans do not snicker at nudity or “wardrobe malfunctions.” There is probably no other society in which one must argue that sex is an important human drive. Its power is simply taken for granted throughout the world.”
--Erica Jong [introduction]

I became po
Mar 09, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it
opening quote:
Tired of bein' lonely, tired of bein' blue,
I wished I had some good man, to tell my troubles to
Seem like the whole world's wrong, since my man's been gone
I need a little sugar in my bowl,
I need a little hot dog, on my roll
I can stand a bit of lovin' oh so bad,
I feel so funny, I feel so sad
~"I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl," Bessie Smith,

First off, I liked Jong's question in the introduction: "would we be moved to reproduce if we thought we'd live forever?" her answer,
Mar 30, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
Some of these stories contain great insights into the mind's of women and sex and the enjoyment of peeking under the covers of their intimate lives was fairly entertaining. Of course, as other reviewers have noted, there are some shocking entries in the book. However, I feel the work tried to maintain the real thoughts and it would go against the grain of the book to censor. I also thought the added fiction was enjoyable and even fictitious work holds some element of truth about the author. It's ...more
Jan 13, 2012 sandy rated it it was amazing
I gave Sugar in My Bowl five stars in some part because (1) there was no 4-1/2 star option and (2) it's such a unique and necessary addition to the book world.

Some of the stories were absolutely wonderful. My personal favorites: Gail Collins' "Worst Sex," tales of surviving Catholic school (as a survivor myself I nearly always love when writers share these memories) and Jean Hanff Korelitz's "Prude" wherein she reveals a secret she is sure will astonish all who know her. Coincidentally, the boo
Nov 06, 2015 Shante rated it really liked it
Reading women speak candidly about good, bad and everything in between sex is super empowering. Sex, in general, is seen as a man's sport. Women are not supposed to even enjoy sex, much less WRITE about enjoying sex and what it means for them. So for me, even now in 2015 (and me being the furthest thing from a prude), reading this book felt like a big deal. It's just really bold. I was reading sex stories, as told by everyday women in their own voice, in the middle of the day most times. Delicio ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Emily rated it did not like it
Shelves: essays
I wanted this book to be what it claimed to be: real women writing about real sex. Now, maybe I'm in the minority here (though I sure hope not), but when I hear "real women", I'm expecting to get essays written by a variety of women from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, orientations, etc. Instead, we get essays written by almost solely white women from a completely cis, unfortunately narrow, and often offensively heteronormative perspective (including a hideous trans*phobic piece th ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Apparently "real" women are shallow and narcissistic. And "real " sex is boring and lifeless. This book was neither empowering nor "feminist." The ghost of Andrea Dworkin even overpowers normally incredible Susie Bright. I finished it, but I can't figure out why.

It seems that after all the authors asked "permission" to write about "sex" from their male husbands or lovers, they did so as if Sister Helen, their second grade teacher, was the intended audience. Even the good Sister would hav
Jan 05, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was a lot more about relationships and self-discovery than I expected. I suppose I was hoping for more raunchiness (surprise surprise). I think we all forget how integral sex is to our personal development. Surprisingly to me, my favorite story was the one about the elderly couple in the senior living community. I loved reading about their past relationships, and it gave me hope that love (and lust!) can last for many, many years, and when it's lost or taken from y ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it
This eclectic collection of short pieces, written by impressively talented female writers, showcases the enormous range of experiences women have with their sexuality. While each chapter is well written and each is about sex, that's about all they have in common. There's fiction, non-fiction, memoir, humor, parody, and even a graphic chapter (as in, with graphics). Overall it's a fitting way to present the subject: at turns tender, embarrassing, raw, wistful, boastful, poignant, ridiculous, but ...more
Let’s start off with what I liked: the diversity of content. Each story was unique and not every woman talked about the “best sex they ever had” (which was the original title of this anthology). The pieces are refreshing and honest, some sexy, some funny. Some standouts for me were Ariel Levy’s “My First Time, Twice” about how she lost her virginity “twice” because in fact, she didn’t actually have sex the first time, J.A.K. Andres’ funny piece entitled “The Diddler” about her six year old daugh ...more
Morninglight Mama
Jan 16, 2016 Morninglight Mama rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, self-help
A topic as broad as this elicits a wide variety of writers' perspectives- from the descriptively detailed to the more generally vague, and from the "raunchy" to the "modest," though those words most likely have a wide range of meanings, themselves. I found some essays laugh out loud funny, while others had me much more pensive. Some were simply wacky and went beyond my own personal understanding, but then there were the ones with which I could relate. I applaud each author, though, for having th ...more
Nov 01, 2013 Susanna rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I liked a lot of this book, and some of it I really didn't like. I thought a few of the essays were poor, and like many reviewers, didn't love the inclusion of fiction and non-fiction. Mostly it felt like it presented the experiences of a bunch of "edgy women" in the spirit of Jong's work, so in some ways, what you see is what you get there. So they were all "edgy," but not necessarily diverse views, and that got old for me after a while. But some of the essays really were thoughtful and thought ...more
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Erica Jong—novelist, poet, and essayist—has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 21 books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, and the New Yor ...more
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