When he says “my body is yours,” Michael V. Smith means it. In his winding, emotional memoir, the author offers his reader every traceable history of his restless body, a body that causes him as much grief and confusion as it does rapture and revelation. The book consists largely of sex-centric anecdotes; the opening sequence contains two memories that situate his carnal saga. In the first, a 10-year-old Smith flips the power dynamic on a bully who coerces him into naked games. In the second, a wayward, twentysomething Smith allows a porno-ish stud to whisper his way into unprotected sex.
These two forces – an intuitive penchant for sideways seduction and a magnetic attraction to risky, ephemeral pleasures – are the baseline fugue against which Smith relates his personal narrative. Chapters on alcoholism, public cruising, hookup sites, therapy, and a “sliding-scale” experience of gender form a loose portrait of a rocky life: a meandering adolescence in Toronto, a move to Vancouver and subsequent induction into the queer punk and art scenes, a few relationship attempts, and the drawn-out ordeal of his father’s illness and death.
Smith’s lengthy, frank, and occasionally unflattering accounts of an obsessive quest for gay sex would almost be overkill if such honesty weren’t so rare. Public sex, an age-old hobby of large swaths of gay men, mostly remains a hushed, intentionally ignored phenomenon. Smith’s detailed accounts of cruising are at once salacious and instructive, all the while interrogating the complex psychologies of compulsion and excess. Smith captures the dysphoric and perversely pleasurable rush of the experience, complete with all its morning-after echoes.
That his cruising odyssey pairs with a defiant journey “to masculinity from the opposite direction, skipping gaily through a hairy femininity,” feels appropriate. Constantly exposing himself to others (pun intended), these attempts to “invent a self” work in unexpected ways, becoming essential.
The writing is clear enough, though the author rambles a bit, often repeating background information and sometimes over-indulging in nostalgia. But overall, My Body Is Yours is a rare and intimate confession.