Worthwhile sex books

Written by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

Not long ago, I did a little survey to find out what folks' favorite non-fiction sex books are. Here are the results.

Five people said The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides. I have assigned this book in my class and I am wholly in agreement that this is one excellent starting point for thinking about sex. Here is what survey respondents liked about it:

Four people said Bonk by Mary Roach

Three people said Ethical Slut, and one person said, "Anything Dossie Easton."

Three people said Sex at Dawn. Just because the science is poorly reported and the reasoning is inadequate, which make it the worst book about sex I personally have ever read, doesn't mean it didn't do good things to some people's brains. Here is what people said:

Two people said S&M 101 by Jay Wiseman.

Two people said She Comes First by Ian Kerner

Two people said Hanne Blank's Big, Big Love

Two people said Yes Means Yes! Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti

Two people said The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort

In no particular order, other books folks named, with respondents' comments:

Married Man Sex Life by Athol Kaye. "Taught me a new dimension about sex. A little one-side, but a good corrective for me personally."

The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin. (I never heard of this one, but it looks REALLY good. I'll definitely be reading it.)
"I read it a long time ago so am fuzzy on the details, but I think I recall it felt quite inclusive, was positive about female sexuality, and provided case studies that I found arousing."

How to Make Love to Adrian Colesberry
"It gave me a rich understanding not only of all the ins nad outs of Adrians sexuality but really drove the point home that men are (of course?) not the simple "anything with tits" morons they are often made out to be in the mainstream. THey are quite as complicated as I am. ALso the site where you can make your own version of the book is so so rad. Also, it has graphs! And is funny!"

Female Sexual Fluidity by Lisa Diamond (This one's in my own top five, too)
"I appreciated the mix of personal voices from study participants and analysis, and I appreciated the way that Diamond began with the participants own experiences of desire rather than prescriptive notions of what women's sexuality should look like or how women should behave sexually. While limited by its examination of only women (cis- women if I remember correctly?), I did appreciate its openness to ground-up exploration of human sexual variation. In general, the fewer assumptions researchers make, and the more willing they are to actually listen to individual experience the happier I am."

Dr Tatiana's sex advice to all creation by Olivia Judson (another one on my own list)
"it was really excellent for showing the diversity of sexual behaviors and anatomy across different species. it was also really funny."

Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch (another fave of mine)
"I love that it's about sex and love together, how they are meshed and how they affect each other. And also that the way they work together is not what we instinctively assume."

The Whole Lesbian Sex Book by Felice Newman.
"Very thorough, gives a sense of the range of activities possible. I like the tone, too. It's quite dry/non-judgemental, while still encouraging experimentation."

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Christiane Northrup.
"It teaches women to pay attention to our bodies and honor the body's intuition!"

Night Thoughts by Avodah Offitt.
"Talks about real human issues"

The Big Bang: A Guide to the New Sexual Universe by the writers at Nerve.
"It was readable, playful, not forceful or "judgy" of ignorance and still contained science I could trust."

Sex for One by Betty Dodson

What your mother never told you about sex by Hilda Hutcherson.
"Lots of information and answered questions that would be hard to ask someone about."

Come Hither by Dr. Gloria Brame.
"I like it's thoughtful and humorous tone, it's non judgemental and frank without being graphic. It covered a variety of topics without feeling too brief and inspired me to investigate further into those that were intriguing."

Sex sex and more sex by Sue Johanson.
"The Q&A format made it quick to find information I was looking for on any given subject"

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday.
"Learning that pretty much nothing was out-of-bounds when it came to fantasies. That, and reading the fantasies is pretty fun, too "

The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States by Ed Laumann et al.
"Data data data!"

Women's anatomy of arousal by Sheri Winston
"I liked that she explained how women's sexuality does not function like men. I felt like she gave me permission to slow down, to acknowledge what my body needs, and be realistic about sex. I liked how she explained anatomy in painstaking detail without being boring. And I liked how she used real language alongside "mystical" language, and gave a roadmap to using everything we're given to have sex that feels great. I was also intrigued by her descriptions of yin and yang, and the differences in 'male' and 'female' energy."

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