Book Review: “What Color Is Your Jockstrap?” Edited by Jennifer L. Leo

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what-color-is-your-jockstrapFrom the series titles alone you might gather that Jennifer L. Leo has an underwear fetish. Beginning with “Sand in My Bra“, then “Whose Panties are These?” next came “The Thong Also Rises” and in 2006 riffing on “What Color Is Your Parachute” Leo delivered “What Color Is Your Jockstrap?”. Billed as the fourth book of a travel anthology trilogy, “What Color Is Your Jock Strap” holds up Jennifer Leo’s tradition of assembling quirky travel tales and spoofing literary classics. Only this time since the stories are skewed towards males instead of females topics focus heavily on sex and bodily functions. Urination and penis envy rank highest followed by phallic frustration as common (mis)adventure themes. Sexual desires, sexual innuendo,sexual failures and macho displays such as getting your gun off in foreign lands, negotiating local mating practices and souvenir shopping in poverty-war zones follow close behind. And not to be forgotten are defining cross cultural erotica, under the counter aphrodisiac sales and gastric distress.

But while Leo claims to have assembled a rebuttal of testosterone fueled travel epics for her three previous female based anthologies this is a bit misleading if not a stretch of her concept. In truth, in reading and comparing the first three books, WCIYJS seems to dangle at the end as an afterthought or attempt to breath a new angle- the wanna be international male travel tale teller into the series. Where the concept looses track is in that it is not exclusively the writing of men- of 35 essays only 22 are written by males or “those with the bulge in their pants” or “ our traveling smellier half” as Leo lovingly refers to them. One story “ Pumpkin” is written by an openly lesbian individual and another “The Butt Reading” implies that the writer is an African American female. Most are classic fish out of water tales in which White male westerners are faced with culture shock or seen as the inverse tourist entertainment for the ethnic locals. It almost seems as if the idea is to top its predecessors in the Travelers Tales Publications “underwear empire” by providing a XX chromosome vs XY chromosome presentation of but can you beat this gross out story of travel misadventure.

Several of the writers are repeat performers from Leo’s previous publications or she uses excepts from other equally popular travel humor series. The trend of the writer’s bios seems to be that of semi-professionals, those who have published essays: with most serially contributing to travel websites and magazines if not successfully authoring their own blogs. But mixed in among these are some pretty heavy hitters in the travel writer’s world; Susan Orlean writer of “The Orchid Thief” “The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup” and in this case an except from “My Kind Of Place” Also included is Tim Cahill author of “Jaguars Ripped My Flesh”, “Pecked To Death by Ducks” and “Pass The Butterworms” and J. Maarten Troost known for “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” to name a few. Leo even squeezes in pop up excerpts from the fecal tome “How To Shit Around the World” by Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth.

And while not officially paying homage to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy WCIYJS travelers definitely walk in its editorial shadow. The reader like Adams’ famous protagonist Arthur Dent is cast across the globe while wondering what could possibly go wrong for the traveler next and what details should I pay attention to so I won’t befall the same fate. Overall the tales presented are slightly crass but somehow poignant in the same story. However some of the recountings are abit cliche- a belated honeymoon couple in Mexico suffers dueling Montezuma’s revenge and two of the stories set in Paris deal with !quelle surprise! flirting and fashion. Yet “Your Ambassador to Butaritari” offers the quintessential fart joke but doesn’t make light of the importance of following local customs in sacred places. “Trying Really Hard To Like India” addresses the western contradiction of conscience when the author Seth Stevenson honestly describes semi-guiltily zigzagging around impoverished sections of Mumbai to reach his luxury beach side resort. In short WCIYJS provides a decent airport read if not an excellent bread crumb trail of other travel books and travel blogs to put on your frequent flier reading list.

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by Tracy Gross

Tracy’s travel addiction led her to contribute as a columnist for SoulOfAmerica.com, I'm Black And I Travel, and EthicalTraveler.org. She serves as a photo journalist and travel commentator specializing in the ethnic and female travel experience. Tracy is also in development of a heritage travel series entitled Black Diaspora Travels.

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