Summary: Few women do it and even fewer will admit to it. But in Toni Bentley’s daring and intimate memoir, The Surrender, she pulls the sheets back on an erotic experience that’s been forbidden since the Bible and celebrates “the joy that lies on the other side of convention, where risk is real and rapture resides.” From Story of O to The Kiss to The Sexual Life of Catherine M., readers have been enthralled with sexually subversive memoirs by women. But even those erotic classics didn’t navigate the psychosexual terrain that Bentley does when she meets a lover who introduces her to a radical and unexpected pleasure, to the “holy” act that she came to see as her awakening.
The Surrender is a witty, intelligent, and eloquent exploration of one woman’s obsession that will be sure to leave readers questioning their own desires.
The Surrender, by Toni Bentley 8.25
“My pussy proposes the question; my ass answers.” -Toni Bentley
Anal sex. At the turn of the new millenium, it was hardly on everyone’s lips (!). It might have been raised in hushed tones in (im)polite company, but it wasn’t commonplace. Fast forward to 2016 and people are talking about it openly, if not doing it (some stats suggest that as much as 40% of women have practiced anal sex in their adult lives!).
Enter Toni Bentley.
In 2004 she published a memoir. An erotic memoir. In it she recounts the journey that took her from her first sexual experiences to the practice of anal sex. The regular practice of anal sex, that is. It’s a devotion for her. Maybe even a sort of religion. Essentially, she’s an anal zealot: in ‘The Surrender’ she preaches the virtues of anal sex.
She’s preaching to the converted.
But she is preaching. In the opening, she speaks of anal sex in religious ways: of meeting God, of finding her nirvana through sodomy. She also tries to justify her passion for rear entry in pseudo-intellectual ways. “Ass-fucking transcends all opposites, all conflicts… and unifies them, renders all one”, she claims, in her opening statement.
Eventually, one realizes that she feels the need to explain it not just to us but to herself. She is wounded. She doesn’t know its roots, exactly (she surmises that it has something to do with the humiliation that her father subjected her to when she was a child), but it’s her attempt to make sense of why turning to the backside has changed her life.
It wasn’t always this way; she had many sexual experiences before becoming a convert. In the second part, “Before”, she shows us how all of those experiences lead to her back door. And it’s during this personal journey that it becomes interesting (And hot. Really, really, damned hot!): everything that she shares with us explains why it makes sense.
And it makes up for the pretentious opening salvo.
When she returns to anal, in “During”, her near-religious musings do too. By then, though, we understand what’s going on, as her self-examination is rather good. Although it feels exhibitionistic, her memoir is more of a psychological exploration than a physical one: it focuses mostly on the life-changing rapture that she feels during anal sex.
For her, it really is a spiritual, healing, journey.
This may sound all new agey, but ‘The Surrender’ is more than that: Bentley also briefly explores hygiene, prepping, rules, technique, safe sex, U.S. laws (in which there’s interesting facts and commentary). She also includes journal entries from many of her encounters with A-Man, counting up to the nearly 300 times they did it over the course of three years.
Honestly, I was quite taken with her testimonial – not just by how bold it is, but also by her passion: The affair she was having with that man was so profound, so deeply affecting that she basked in the love she felt during their encounters. And yet it wasn’t even a romantic relationship; they didn’t spend time together outside that context. It was pure sex.
And deep love.
Enough to transcend all her pain.
Sadly, it had to end: They were both seeing other people (it wasn’t an exclusive relationship) and the other woman he was sleeping with suddenly became troubled by his love affair with Toni – even though it had never been a secret. Bentley empathized with her, which lead to obsession and jealousy. Another woman had entered her bedroom, figuratively.
So she had to close the door on the most profound, transformative sexual relationship of her life. There was no other way: before then, she could pretend that she was the only one. Now she no longer could. This affected their encounters, tainted them. Sometimes, the less you know, the better. This is one of those times. It’s a damned shame. A real loss.
And I truly feel for her.
The kind of passion she describes is rare. It’s about getting completely lost in one’s self and in an other. It’s not about getting off, although much pleasure comes of it. Whenever she was with this man, she forgot all her external and internal concerns. It all got stripped away: all that was left was pure pleasure. Losing this must have been devastating.
She stated that her pussy had collected too much baggage through the years but that her ass only knew bliss. No wonder it turned her on so. But it made me sad to think that she hadn’t taken care of those wounds. Not because I think she should leave anal sex behind. Never. I say this because escape resolves nothing. She should have resolved this.
Then savour everything.
‘The Surrender’ is a sexy tale of submission – to deep pleasure. It’s full of fascinating observations that didn’t always convince me, but that I still found noteworthy (ex: “Disappointment is a great teacher – if one survives the lacerations to one’s romantic ideal.”). I would love to have a conversation with Toni Bentley, to pick her brawny brain.
And commend her for having the guts to let us into her private pain.