Pleasure U by Carole Hart
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: August 5th 2008
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Student participation is required at this institute of erotic learning…
In the hallowed halls of Pleasure U, students dress according to the curriculum, in outfits guaranteed to raise eyebrows—and libidos. The elaborately furnished classrooms are set up with one thing in mind: absolute decadence. And one student is about to discover how far she’ll go to make the grade…
Getting dumped by her fiancé, who was sleeping with a stripper, does nothing for Lila’s confidence— in or out of bed. So she embarks on a year of in-depth study at the Babylona Institute, where classes explore every facet of sensuality, and instructors are there to make sure you play well alone—and with others. At first overwhelmed, Lila soon finds herself discovering her true potential in hands-on courses covering arousal, exhibitionism, and orgies. But it’s the guidance of her sexy advisor, Ben, that brings Lila extra credit—and a higher education in what really counts.
Warning: This is less a review and more a rant about this book. It is riddled with spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
When I started this novel, I expected it to be an erotic exploration for a woman not very confident in herself. Unfortunately Pleasure U turned out completely different than I thought. Rather than being left with a sense of satisfaction (ha) over a woman discovering her sexuality, I was frustrated, angry and to be perfectly honest, terribly sad. What should have been a novel of empowerment instead turned out to be a rather depressing look at the darker side of human nature and relationships.
Babylona Institute is basically a place for men and women to go to learn the art of sex so they can pursue a career in the sexual arts. The school was founded by Babylona herself, a sex queen who basically slept her way around the world and became something of a legend for it. Lila arrives with some trepidation but is put at ease by Ben, her adviser. Ben is a former student who decided to stay on as staff and though it’s against the rules for him to sleep with students, he can’t help himself with Lila. They have an instant attraction and before either of them realize it they’ve broken one of the only rules of the Institute.
Turns out it’s a rule because Babylona was married and became extremely jealous if her husband was with another woman. Since he was a teacher at the Institute, she made it a rule that staff couldn’t sleep with the students (this only applied to the male staff, btw) so her husband couldn’t cheat on her with other women. Never mind that she herself slept with anything and everything that caught her fancy. She traveled the world looking for pleasure, while leaving her husband at home.
And that is pretty much everything wrong with this book. The basic underlying theme is that Ben and Lila are attracted to each other and would like to pursue a relationship, but Lila doesn’t want to give up her “schooling” and Ben doesn’t want to ask her to. Lila sleeps with men and women all day, every day as part of her “education” and yet she becomes extremely jealous if she thinks Ben is doing the same. Then she finds out that the stripper her ex-fiance slept with is also a student at the Institute and in fact one of her good friends. Of course that same stripper sleeps with Ben, which pisses Lila off to no end.
This is about the place the author completely lost me. Lila is sulking in the bar over the fact that she’s jealous of Ben being with other women, and she decides to screw two men at once in a broom closet to make her feel better. Lila is thinking about Ben, wishing they could be together when she decides to screw one of her fellow students in front of a crowd of other students. When she’s upset because she isn’t sure what to do about Ben, she screws her roommate.
But when she finds out that Ben is screwing someone else, she freaks out, throws a temper tantrum and storms out of the building. She speaks to one of her “instructors” about jealously and he basically says, “Life sucks. You’re going to be miserable regardless, so you may as well be miserable with the person you want to be with, rather than miserable alone.” Wow, if that isn’t a ringing endorsement for a relationship, I don’t know what is.
Finally Lila is able to speak with Babylona herself, to ask her what she would do. She asks if it’s possible to have a relationship in their profession (Lila was hired as a “star” for the t.v. station Babylona is starting) and Babylona says of course it is. Lila asks, “But what if they don’t want to stay? What if they want to leave?” and Babylona says, “You just don’t let them.” So Lila decides she’s just going to keep Ben, even though he’ll be miserable watching her fuck 10 bazillion other people all the time. Not to mention she’ll be miserable because he’ll be sleeping with other people. But none of that matters, because they’ll be together. In lurrve. Happily ever after screwing everyone and their dog and each other too. Woot!
Just in case you didn’t make it through all that, let me recap the moral of the story for you:
It doesn’t matter if you sleep with 20 different people a day (on cable t.v. or otherwise) or if the person you love sleeps with 20 different people a day, because in the end you’re going to be miserable anyway. So you might as well just be miserable with someone instead of alone.
Not exactly a feel good moral, but there you go.
1 out of 5
This book is available from NAL Trade. You can buy it here.