Sex Criminals, an ongoing comic book by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, is dedicated to everyone who has had sex – or is curious about it.
The criminals from the title are Suzie and Jon, described by Fraction as a mix of Masters & Johnson, the pioneer research team on human sexuality, and Bonnie & Clyde, the legendary bank robbers from the 1930s. That’s what they are and that’s pretty much what they do. They have sex and they rob banks. Maybe even both at the same time.
But they’re also much more than that. Because Suzie and Jon share a common secret: when they reach orgasm, time stops. Literally stops. They each enter a private world of silence, solitude and exploration, a world Suzie calls “The Quiet” and Jon calls “Cumworld”. When both have an orgasm at the same time, they get to explore this world together, not so silent and lonely anymore. That’s their superpower.
Guilt, shame and curiosity. That’s sex and crime in a nutshell. Which brings us back to the title: what’s Suzie and Jon’s real crime? The bank-robbery or the sex? They only rob one bank, and they have good reasons to do so. They’re not exactly Most Wanted for doing that. That only happens after they start exploring their sexuality together.
Which activity is more transgressive? Which couple is more dangerous, Bonnie & Clyde or Masters & Johnson?
Suzie and Jon aren’t the only criminals in the story. Each character in the series is introduced by their sexual history, which defines them and makes them who they are.
Rach, Suzie’s roommate/best friend, defaces a toilet stall to teach Suzie of possible sexual acts:
Robert Rainbow, Suzie’s gynecologist and Jon’s childhood friend, talks openly about the different kinds of birth control methods:
Jazmine St. Cocaine, ex-porn actress and Jon’s teenage crush, responds to prejudiced comments against the nature of her former occupation:
The other criminals are the creators of the series and their loyal readers. We’re all part of this open relationship called Sex Criminals. Fraction & Zdarsky have created such a delicious story that their readers get to ask questions about sex and share sex tips on the letter’s column.
The comic itself is part of that experience. It shows and tells unashamedly of penises and vaginas, oral sex and masturbation, sex shops and pornography, S&M and prostitution, rape and contraceptives, dildos and sex toys, slutshamming and dick pics, drugs and therapy.
Sex Criminals is a very mature comedy series. It can be extremely provocative and reader-friendly at the same time:
Did you notice it’s Suzie, the woman, not Jon, the man, experiencing oral pleasure? Can you see Suzie’s discomfort at her first gynecological visit? Do you understand Robert’s embarrassment when hearing the words related to his profession?
None of that is by chance. And the crime is exploring this language together. Suzie, Jon and the reader. Time stops all around us. Each panel, in its fixed and timeless moment, is a post-orgasmic experience of reading.
And how can a couple of white men portray sex in such an inclusive way? They research about it. And they aren’t afraid of asking for help. “I ask Kelly”, says Fraction, talking about his wonderful feminist wife. Simple, effective and something all creators should do to reduce the effects of their own privileges.
Please, do not miss this one out. It makes you laugh and it gives you pleasure.
What else could you ask for?
For more information on the single issues and collected editions, click here.