Honest, reassuring sexuality from a woman’s perspective in a literary format. That was Paula Derrow’s goal in compiling Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It (Delacorte Press, a division of Random House), a frank, often uproarious anthology released on Dec. 30. The collection features 26 of today’s most accomplished female writers, including Susan Cheever, Lauren Slater, Julie Powell and Valerie Frankel, whose unflinching accounts explore everything from the joys and risks of one-night stands to the frequently hilarious accidents that occur in the bedroom or the backseat or any other imaginable place.
In assembling her first book, Derrow, who is 45 and single, looked for “brave, ballsy, smart, searching” women who could capture the emotional side of copulation, the boring and embarrassing aspects of the too-often taboo subject that she had always enjoyed discussing with friends in her West 96th Street apartment.
“I had lots of great talks about sex with women friends who I invited over and plied with cocktails and treats from nearby Gourmet Garage,” she says.
After toiling for more than 20 years behind the scenes at Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Lifetime Television and Self, where she is currently articles director, the Harvard-educated Derrow took a two-month sabbatical to work on the book in Rome. She discovered that while she loves working in the background and cultivating new voices, she is excited to finally be in the spotlight. The self-proclaimed “half therapist, half editor” designed the book for “regular” people, those “who aren’t doing crazy sexual things portrayed in magazines like Time Out: New York. This is ‘real life,’ the truth about sex without being exploitative.”
As she read stories from women old and young, lesbian, bisexual and straight, Derrow had a number of personal revelations about lovemaking.
“Sex changes all the time,” she writes in her introduction. “It swoops, soars, occasionally stalls, always evolving, happily often for the better, as we learn what we love and what we won’t tolerate, what we can give and allow ourselves to get in return.”
While the book is geared toward women, Derrow hopes it will be shared with their partners.
“Men will relate to it,” she promises. “They’ll be astounded to learn that coital expectations are neither male nor female.”
In fact, she hopes that all people, regardless of gender, age or orientation, will realize upon reading her book that sex is an unpredictable, distinctly human gift that has progressed well beyond the proverbial birds and bees and needs to be talked about candidly.
So far, the book has been well received. Publisher’s Weekly said Derrow “has selected essays that explore the wealth and variety of female sexual experience, making for a gender-transcending tale of sex lives that manages to be philosophical, poignant—and a great bit of naughty fun.”
Derrow will be reading from Beyond the Bedroom Door at Barnes & Noble (2289 Broadway at West 82nd Street, 212-362-8835) on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m., and as part of a pre-Valentine’s Day panel on writing about sex and relationships at Borders (10 Columbus Circle and Broadway, 212-823-9775) on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
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