Well hello there, my pretties, my beautiful bi bookworms, my bi-bliophiles! Today is a very special day. Why, you may ask? Well, because today I am going to review a book that not only features bisexuality, but was written by one of Bi.org's favorite authors: Zachary Zane. (Full disclosure, Zach is also a former co-worker here at Bi.org and a friend of mine.)
Today, we are going to talk about Zane’s bold, fun and funny new book, BOYSLUT: A Memoir and Manifesto, which traverses a wide range of important subjects — all framed by a hilarious first-person perspective.
But first: a few disclaimers. This review will contain SPOILERS for Zane’s memoir — though hopefully not enough to ruin the pleasure of reading it afterwards. Second, BOYSLUT covers many sensitive subjects, including biphobia, sexual shame, drug use, unprotected sex, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This book ain’t for the faint of heart.
Right from the jump, Zane establishes that this won’t be your typical queer memoir — questioning kid in the sticks heads to the big city, finds a chosen family and has a third-act epiphany in which he realizes that he’s queer — at which point, they’ll cue the hopeful music and bring the cameras in for the close-up that’ll get shown during the awards shows, to riotous applause.
Zane scuttles those expectations in the book’s foreword. His story is much more messy and unexpected and much funnier than that. And that’s great because we deserve something more interesting than the same old well-trodden narrative path — both as members of the LGBT community and as readers and lovers of stories.
BOYSLUT is often poignant and moving. It reveals some important truths about both Zane himself and about human nature and especially human sexuality in general. And it contains stories and revelations that surprised even me, although I have known Zane for years.
But there’s very little inside baseball in the story. It’s always accessible. At the beginning of the book, BOYSLUT provides a glossary of relevant terms so that his meaning will be clear to everyone. I was grateful to this: as some of these terms were new to me — and I’ve been a professional queer for over half a decade. Plus, Zane has a background in scientific research and always makes sure he cites studies to back up any and all assertions about demographic statistics.
One of the other joys of BOYSLUT is the footnotes. Zane is an old hand at writing engaging content, and his footnotes add humor as well as information, providing readers with a respite from some of the heavier issues he discusses. It’s a device reminiscent of David Foster Wallace’s writing — but without any of Wallace’s hubris.
Bisexuality is one of the book’s major themes. Zane talks at length about the societal pressures that hindered him from proudly owning and living out his bi identity and about the shame and stigma associated with being bi, especially for men. He also discusses many other familiar aspects of bi culture: from polyamory, STIs and hookup apps to the unique pleasures of queer love. He talks about the various denials, dismissals and discoveries along the way, as well as the joy he felt when he finally accepted his identity and became an openly bi man, while reminding us of the long and arduous journey it took to get there.
As you might suspect from a title like BOYSLUT, there are some racy stories in there, too. I won’t spoil them — go buy the book, folks, or petition your library to carry it — but many of them are likely to make even the most seasoned sexpert blush and giggle.
BOYSLUT contains a lot of controversial takes too. Zane’s stance on condom use is likely to raise eyebrows, and his description of how drug use helped facilitate his self-discovery as a queer man might cause some pearl-clutching, too. But we should remember that everyone’s personal story is different. As a grown-ass reader, you can decide for yourself which — if any — parts of Zane’s journey you would like to emulate or learn from.
BOYSLUT is both a juicy, tawdry, revelatory memoir and a manifesto — or, as Zane puts it, a “confessional call-to-arms” for people who want to defy stigma and cast off the shackles of sexual shame. If you’re brave enough to read it, you’ll find it packed with gems. It’s a wild read. I heartily recommend it.