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In her introduction to Love Not Given Lightly, Tina Horn writes: “These are loves stories. Not the love of default programming, or heteronormativity. They’re stories of the way love transforms us.” Named after a line in a Lou Reed song—“Taste the whip, in love not given lightly”—this book moves toward a certain fierce understanding of sexualities and sexual choices that don’t often get a lot of light shined upon them.
Back in 2006, Tina Horn became a professional BDSM switch; since then she’s performed in and directed her own pornography, cofounded QueerPorn.tv, and hosts the sexuality podcast, Why Are People into That?! She has almost a decade of work as a professional lover under her (garter) belt, and her facility with the language and her familiarity with the community are evident throughout Love Not Given Lightly. These profiles, which, written by anyone else would certainly lose their je ne sais qoui, stand as a sort of subversion of voyeurism—for a set of people so used to revealing and reveling in their physically intimate selves, Horn’s words delve into a deeper, more interior, and possibly more vulnerable, layer. They are love stories, after all, and vulnerability is an important component to any love affair.
The people Horn chooses to include here—James, the transgender porn-star-turned-business-person; Sage, the woman behind The Gates, “Oakland’s premier house of BDSM”; Bianca, the au naturel porn star; Nigel, spanking aficionado; and Quentin, fellow professional lover and Horn’s confidant and bff—become windows through which Horn displays an underworld of people who sell sex for money, but the revelation isn’t what you might expect. This is a strange world, for sure, but it’s a very human one too, full of insecurities and strong bonds and giggles and healing. Horn’s compassionate eye is exactly what a book like this needs. And one of the reasons Horn can write so honestly and with such integrity about this community is because she’s a part of it—she’s the sixth character of Love Not Given Lightly, as scrutinized, exposed, and understood as everyone else she includes.
I should be clear that the world Horn knows and presents is a world I know little to nothing about. And while the subtitle of the book—Profiles from the Edge of Sex—seems to presume a certain shock factor, it feels important to note how little actual shock factor this book contains. This is not a complaint. One of the things Horn does so well is present the gamut of human sexuality with an almost casual assurance, the confidence of someone who just wants to tell it like it is, kink, tears, and all. Maybe, if you believe human sexuality to only look a certain way, this book will shock you. But if you’re possessed of a curious, open mind, it probably won’t. It will probably intrigue you, or fascinate you, or surprise you—maybe all three. And it will certainly remind you how very important it is to have stories like these in the world, especially as a means of fostering understanding for a counter-culture community.
Love Not Given Lightly is compelling and oh-so-readable. Whether you know of and partake of this world or not, Horn’s portraits are deeply moving in their tender look at human sexuality and connection.
Love Not Given Lightly: Profiles from the Edge of Sex
By Tina Horn
Paperback, 9780990557104, 148 pp.