Unless you’re a gynecologist, sex researcher, Dominant/submissive, or simply a sex enthusiast, you may not find yourself in the Pleasure or Sexual Health section of the bookstore often. It may be uncomfortable for you to carry and check out books with titles such as Sex For One by Betty Dodson, The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, or Ethical Porn for Dicks by Dr. David Ley, which is understandable. But I urge you not to let these titles or images or the essential information on those pages deter you from your adult sex education.
As a sexual health educator, reading more about the body's response to pleasure and how we have more control over it than we think, has only made sex a better experience. By learning more about how hysteria was diagnosed in women experiencing orgasms, gives me hope that women aren’t crazy, they were just not afraid of their own pleasure, desire and misunderstood. Human sexuality is just only beginning to be tapped into now and we’re discovering so much that sheds shame and guilt and builds more on own understanding and acceptance with sexuality. Everybody has the right to pleasure, so if you aren’t experiencing it or want more, check out these reviews to help you on your journey as it’s never to late to learn more about sex ed.
I have compiled a simple list of ‘cliterature’ that I feel can be foundational for your adult sex education. These books will hopefully pique your interest, leave you titillated, and have you navigating that cobwebbed section of the store more and more as you discover the depths of not only your sexual health but human sexuality as a whole. I’ve got something for the historian, the medically and mental health inclined, and a book we all need to educate the LGBTQ+ ally in you.
A Curious History of Sex - Dr. Kate Lister
First off, I introduce you to the beautifully crafted book based on Dr. Lister’s popular research project Whores of Yore (@more_whores_of_yore). Kate won the Sexual Freedom Award for Publicist of the Year in 2017 for her book, A Curious History of Sex. Lister shares her extensive knowledge of sex history from Colonizing the Cunt, to Testicular Transplants in the Twentieth Century, to A History of Oysters and Sex & Cycling, and oh so much more!
If you’re a historical novice and curious about how we came to groom our pubic hair or learning about Victorians and their vibrators, this book will satiate this urge. Along with her wit and dark humor, Lister sprinkles in photos, for you visual folks, to help you understand the tools used for douching or the toothed urethral ring for treating masturbation. Some look terrifying, others similar to our menstruation methods today and all are fascinating at the engineering involved all created in the name of ‘solving a problem’.
While reading this, you will laugh out loud at the archaic practices Lister details in her accessible and funny manor and the way she displays the modes of thinking that sadly still exist today. You may wince as well when you learn more about the patriarchal tradition that are virginity tests, an out-dated practice only meant to place a monetary value on a girl and define her worth and you
will wonder and yearn for more to possibly explore the history of other sexual health practices and traditions.
Come As You Are - Dr. Emily Nagoski
If there is one book I recommend, buy for friends and family, and drop off copies in my town's little libraries, it’s Emily Nagoski’s New York Times bestseller Come As You Are. Although the cover portrays a vulva, it’s for penis owners too.
Dr. Nagoski uses groundbreaking science and research to unfold secret truths about sexual well-being. She reveals how our brains interpret sexual responses similar to the way we would press the gas or brake pedals of a car; the brain’s perception of its environment and partner which dictates so much of the body’s sexual desires. Nagoski dives deep into how our brain and genital pedals can cause us to be turned on or completely turned off. And the best part is, she provides practical solutions and techniques to help individuals better understand their sexual desire and overall human sexuality. There’s even a workbook!
So, if you feel like your sexual desire is unmatched by your partner or has evolved with time, this book is for you. Or, if you simply want to know how the brain and the genitals are connected and how they work together to bring pleasure, this book is for you too!
The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate by Jeannie Gainsburg
This is an easy-to-understand, beautifully written guidebook for how to be an ally to our LGBTQ+ communities.
Jeannie does a fantastic job of discussing current and relevant information on the identities and lingo used in the LGBTQ+ community. She also advises on actions for creating safe spaces, gives tools for navigating touchy and awkward conversations as well why we should care about the protection and safety of our LGBTQ+ community.
Even if you think you’re an ally, this book is for you. You may have a lesbian cousin and love the gays, but only a marginalized community can decide whether you are an ally in any given moment. At time when attacks against the LGBTQ+ people are increasing every day, their community needs our attention, care, protection, and ally-ship.
It is my wish that after having read these, you will casually be able to bring up at a dinner party how the bicycle was used in the Victorian era to bring pleasure to women. Or upon hearing your friend say they were turned on by the Discovery Channels animal mating scene and think somethings wrong with them, you can correct them and say it was simply an experience of arousal non-concordance. Finally, and most importantly, you will understand just a tiny bit more about the marginalized community that LGBTQ+ folks find themselves in today. It is my hope that you will learn empathy, practice the tools of inclusivity and become fired up and learn how you can stand up for the LGBTQ+ community when trans issues are brought up at your school. You’ll be wiser for it!