What book on sexuality do you think should be required reading?
I think everyone has to read The Joy of Sex. Written in 1973, it is a classic and even though it is a bit outdated, it is simple and informative. If you can get past the overgrown bush on the men and women, the pictures are sexy and give you a full range of options in the bedroom. I think it is important for us to understand the evolution of sex and how far we have come in understanding sex, as opposed to years ago when people wouldn’t mention sex unless it was related to conception. The Joy of Sex was the first revolutionary book that broke out of the concept that sex was taboo and meant to be kept behind closed doors. This is the perfect book for beginners; Lord knows you don’t want to foray into books about S&M and swinging before you learn the basics. Baby steps, people, baby steps.
—Wise Young Mommy
Everyone should absolutely read the complete works of Marquis de Sade, twice if you are either one of those people who is ashamed of some of the ‘extreme’ sexual situations in which you’ve taken part yourself, or, at the other end of the spectrum, if you are one of those people who is under the delusion that simple acts like oral sex are the most disgusting things a person could do. Believe me, you’re going to feel like a prude once you’ve read this one from cover to cover. You…have…no...i…dea! Word of caution. Make sure to read it after you’ve already experienced mind blowing sex at least once and are a big fan of the act as you know it, because this one could leave you a scarred virgin for life.
—Daniel W. Kelly
Goes without saying girls and boys, peruse a tried-and-true guide. Study the lay of the land, familiarize yourself with native customs, note must-see attractions, and take heed of travel conditions and safety advisories. Then, confident with the basics, hit the back stacks and discover what the locals like.
The intrepid willingly stray into the shadows, but for the cautious and conditioned rest of us, that first step off your mother’s map may feel dangerous and daunting. Recommended, but not required, I remain grateful to Anaïs Nin and her literary classic, Delta of Venus, for leading me to the bi-way. Safe between the covers of a book, wandering through a foreign time and place, I sampled exotic erotic delights that forever altered my palate for passion. Newly defined, naughty and nice now had me thinking twice.
SM: Sex Magic by Patrick Califia. There are a million decent vanilla sex textbooks out there, but finding a good introductory text to BDSM is difficult. This one is a gentle, frank overview with an ingenious structure: each concept is introduced in a short piece of erotic fiction, followed by a nonfiction chapter exploring the concept in practical detail. No judgment or encouragement is levied throughout the text, and care is taken to demystify and normalize BDSM behaviors, undoing the shock-tactic techniques of mainstream media. It’s a great way to learn about the full spectrum of BDSM activities and understand that most of us are included in it. This is the book I recommend most frequently, both for people just beginning to explore BDSM, and those who don’t quite get why they liked it when their boyfriend slapped their rump last night. All genders and orientations are represented both in the fiction pieces and the nonfiction text, truly making this a book easy to recommend to everyone.
The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. It’s really mandatory reading for sexual active adults, regardless of whether you’re polyamorous or a serial monogamist or whatever you may be. This book is so good, I bought my therapist a copy. Cliffs Notes for The Ethical Slut would be: 1) Know what you want. 2) Ask for what you want. 3) When you get what you want—take care of it! The rest of the book is filled with the how to(s) of finding and maintaining multiple relationships. But the relationship advice is solid for even for pair-bonded duos. Slut is defined as “a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” Runner up books: Exhibitionism for the Shy by Carol Queen. Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving by Betty Dodson.
I’d have to go with one that hasn’t been out long enough to be a classic yet: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach. I mean, c’mon—where else are you going to get the inside story of Napoleon’s great-grandniece’s surgically relocated clitoris or learn the real ins and outs of Danish pig insemination? This book is chock full of sexual goodies! Give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.
Betty Dodson’s Sex for One. I firmly believe that masturbation is the key to a fulfilling sex life. If you can’t satisfy yourself, how can you expect to be satisfied by a partner? You need to know what turns you on when you're alone so that you can communicate your desires to a partner when you have one.
I also think that many people rush into sex too soon because they're horny and desperate, which can really put a strain on a new relationship or keep people in bad relationships for fear of going without sex. As a result, I’m convinced that frequent and vigorous masturbation can be a fabulous cure for co-dependence!
For education and info: Our Bodies, Ourselves; for the imagination and cultivating the erotic: Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin; for insight into relationships: The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm.
Anything but Anne Rice or Laurel K. Hamilton. Seriously.
I don’t think it matters which book so long as people have books. Why pick one when you can have three? Why focus one author’s views when you can experience six? If sexuality is important to you, and you want to broaden your horizons there is no single book that is going to do it for you. There is no single book that is going to give you all the information you want on gender, on fellatio, on the G-spot and squirting, on bondage or S&M. It’s the variety, the vast amounts of information you can acquire by reading a lot and keeping up to date that are important, in my opinion. I can’t think of a single book on sexuality I would say is required reading and I can't think of a single book on sexuality I wouldn’t read.
The requirement is to read, to learn, not to read and learn from a particular source. How else will you be able to decide what resonates as right for you unless you take a peek at more than one thing?
Absolutely, positively Our Bodies, Ourselves for anyone who is or is in a relationship with a woman. This book went a long way towards helping me as a teenager to understand that my interest in intimacy with women and men was okay, and to realize that masturbation wasn’t something that was dangerous or shameful. As an adult, I’ve found it a great resource for information about my body, a way to bring up conversations and educate partners, and a way to learn new ways to touch and be touched. A close runner up is Tristan Taormino’s Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women – not just because it talks about anal sex and play but because it’s frank, open, and compassionate focus on pleasure is applicable to any form of sexual experience.