SUNDAY JULY 23, 2017

I first met Claudia Dey at Toronto’s Bar Italia in 2002, back when the print version of TORO Magazine was in its ramp-up stage, and we were looking for a sex columnist. At the time, she told me that writing a sex column for a men’s magazine was something she’d always wanted to do – and her four-year run of smart, funny, provocative pieces still stands as a model of the form.

I recently sat down with Dey to discuss her new book, How To Be A Bush Pilot – an informative, tongue-in-cheek field guide that is, in many ways, a book-form extension of the original TORO column.

“After I’d finished my novel, Stunt, HarperCollins approached me with the idea of elaborating upon these columns,” Dey explains. “And I was ready to do something comedic and non-fiction after having finished the novel. The novel was this Herculean task and the energy of the purely imaginative as opposed to non-fiction where I could include a lot of other opinions and experiences. But what surprised me was that those became a kind of narrative as the writing emerged.”

Dey amassed a great deal of research and she peppers the book with quotes from men and women speaking candidly about their experiences – changing their names and occupations to protect the innocent (i.e., Babe, a black belt and burlesque performer). But her primary source of research came much closer to home.

“My mother was my research assistant,” Dey says with a mischievous smile. “My terrifically smart, tenacious mother who went around to every sex shop in the city, to all the libraries, who incidentally started wearing leather pants and cowboy boots in the process, who found herself at the Toronto Reference Library one day spelling anal to a librarian.”

The research paid off: How To Be A Bush Pilot offers a veritable treasure trove of useful advice on everything from lubes to cock rings to rear entry and (as they say) much more. But the real triumph of this book is the voice. Dey has not only resurrected her “bossy madam in a men’s locker room” persona, but perfected it; her voice offers a beguiling combination of expertise, camaraderie, affection, and – perhaps most importantly – humour.

“The tricky thing about sex instruction is that it can be intimidating,” Dey explains. “People might feel like they are being corrected, or doing something wrong ... and that’s why I tried to crack myself up every single day for 16 months while I worked on this book, because I think that humour is the great equalizer. And sex, when it comes down to it, is about play. So I really wanted the book to have that sense of rambunctious, loving, playfulness.”

While never breaking the tone, or the central conceit, the book does have one underlying serious point that it wants to make – something that only appears in the final chapter. It’s the idea of the multi-orgasmic male, a new model of the ideal sexual man– one who, through deep breathing exercises and the discovery of his own pubococcygeus muscle, is able to have orgasms without ejaculating.

“It’s a new model,” she admits. “For women as well as men, ejaculation and orgasm are two totally separate and distinct things and you can, through training, learn to separate them ... It’s a massive re-calibration of how you think of your own body. But the same is true for women. Women don’t realize what they’re capable of necessarily either, so it’s just permission to investigate and see what’s actually there.”
How To Be A Bush Pilot is a book that’s destined to sit on the bedside tables of a new generation of red-blooded men. Even the design of the book seems tailor-made for this purpose; it’s a handsome volume with the appearance of a vintage manual, but one that’s been updated for the 21st-century man.