Books

Supercharged Sex and Corporate Control in a Queer Erotic Novel

Cover of Lex Brown, 'My Wet Hot Drone Summer' (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Cover of Lex Brown, ‘My Wet Hot Drone Summer’ (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

In Lex Brown’s book My Wet Hot Drone Summer, #4 in the Badlands Unlimited New Lovers series (Hyperallergic previously reviewed #1–3), the artist/writer looks at a world not unlike our own, where sex, surveillance, and loss of privacy are intertwined in a commodified world of power dynamics ruled by a fictional corporation by the name of Céron Solutions. The premise is somewhat simple: A lawyer named Mia breaks up with her cheating boyfriend William, then decides to road-trip with her hot stepbrother Derek from the East Coast to Cerón’s headquarters somewhere in Silicon Valley, where Derek is planning to sell a nanochip that will completely change the way corporate America collects data and information about all people. On the way, they pick up Wes, a mysteriously super-hot dude with a gigantic dick. What ensues is a strangely tantalizing journey that explores sexuality and power dynamics.

This is queer erotica. Sexual attraction happens between basically any willing parties, regardless of gender. Sadly, no threesomes are present — unless you count getting off to watching surveillance footage of two people doing it as a way to distract someone. Part of what makes the sex feel supercharged is the use of the Xeron, a vaginal stimulator dildotron that enhances orgasms by 1 million percent. (Brown told me that this was actually based off of the Zeron, a technology created at MIT.) Manufactured by Cerón Solutions, which is owned by the ultimate M-A-N, Cerón, the Xeron is another method of masculine corporate control over the female body, particularly its pleasure principle. Cerón controls the Xeron when a woman is using it, both making her the object of his gaze and controlling her pleasure. And it’s not just pleasure he’s interested in being in charge of: “Cerón has a massive file of surveillance footage that he is threatening to use as blackmail against me and hundreds of other Americans,” Mia says, at a moment when it’s becoming evident that she must find a way to outsmart him.

Photo credit: Walker Olesen
‘My Wet Hot Drone Summer’ cover interpretation by Walker Olesen (click to enlarge)

Often, this sort of overly obvious discussion about corporate control can feel redundant or just depressing, like when we read about it online, as in the NSA halting Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which previously allowed for random information collecting via phone records. But in Brown’s book, the discussion about anti-surveillance activists defeating corporate control is strangely sexy.

There are also, of course, parallels throughout with the cultishly popular ’80s film Wet Hot American Summer, about a group of teens at summer camp in 1981. In the film, summer is over but there’s a lot more that needs to be resolved, and in the meantime camp director Beth is falling for an astrophysics professor who is trying to save the camp from a piece of NASA equipment that’s falling from space. Similarly, in My Wet Hot Drone Summer, Mia is trying to save the world from the powers of the nanochip that Derek, who is not-so-secretly in love with her, created as a way to earn some real, much-deserved money. Derek’s struggle also points to an issue that members of the creative working class always grapple with: how to make a living in a society that doesn’t value cultural capital or the arts unless they are made profitable or marketable in a mainstream way.

The book is hard to put down, in large part due to the realistic sex scenes, which are especially hot if you’re into a variety of gendered sexual expressions. The great range of sexually heightened situations leads one to further engage with a story that’s very relevant to the times we live in. Brown writes in a believable way about the corporate workplace and the large number of seemingly superfluous people who seem to not really do anything, while also making a lot of money.

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Erotic drawings begin each chapter (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

To further emphasize the book’s sexualized nature, each chapter begins with a delightful little erotic drawing, like in chapter 6, which has a group of strange curved little hairy dicks in a downward spiral maze. The drawings further illuminate the erotic content of the book, which incorporates sex as a nexus of the power dynamics. Ultimately, those who want to save the world must figure out a way to sexually dominate the weaker ones, or otherwise gain power through their sexuality.

Brown’s novel is both engaging and creepily accurate, particularly in its depiction of the power dynamics employed by surveillance culture, and the ways that surveillance functions as control.

In this dick-filled, pussy-and-ass-fucking escapade, the reader is ultimately left wondering: Who’s the bottom bitch now?!

My Wet Hot Drone Summer by Lex Brown is now available through Badlands Unlimited.

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