Fertility advocate Madsen recounts her midlife sexual self-reclamation.
The narrative begins with the 42-year-old mother of two telling her colorfully neurotic women friends that she feels “trapped in [her] own life” and sexually unfulfilled. Refusing to break matrimonial vows in pursuit of an extramarital affair, she sought out gay erotic-massage therapists in hopes of easing the sexual restlessness that a steady diet of “fantasy, romance novels, and porn” could not. The experts she met reawakened her senses and helped her learn to love a body she viewed as overweight, aging and inadequate. Though generically—even stereotypically—handsome as men, they, like most of the other narrative figures, are somewhat flat and serve limited textual roles—in this case, to initiate a nervous but determined middle-aged woman in the ways of “sacred sexuality.” With the help of her teachers, Madsen explored her most forbidden desires, including a fondness for erotic games of bondage and domination. In so doing, she was transformed from “a bundle of missed opportunities” into the envy of all her adulterously “liberated” friends. Not content to savor her experiences alone, she went on to earn online notoriety for daring revelations she made under the name “Riverdale Goddess.” The more she comes to terms with her sexuality, she writes, the more she finds that other issues—in particular, those pertaining to weight and food—fall by the wayside. Madsen even found renewed zest in her marriage and in the “freakish” monogamy that seems so out of step with the disregard for marital commitment she sees around her. The language is at times clumsy and some of the dialogue slightly wooden, but the edgy quirkiness of the story, combined with the author’s honesty and character-saving ability to laugh at herself, make the book an engaging read.
Flawed, but bold and surprisingly moving.