When I was a kid, I’d regularly sneak into my parent’s bedroom when they weren’t home.
I don’t remember where my curiosity came from, or what gave me the idea that there was anything to find. But I remember knowing there was something in that room they didn’t want me to see.
I’d go through their drawers, looking for anything that seemed secretive or forbidden.
Perhaps it’s true that some things never change but only take on new forms because lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the sex lives of other people.
What fascinates me is that not only does it keep my level of horniness at a wonderful simmer, it also helps me broaden my sexual horizon. While I love my sex life with my partner, there’s always room to explore more.
And even though I’m a sex-positive person, I noticed that among my friends, we barely ever talk about sex. While I’ve started to change that, I’m grateful that there are people out there who bravely share their own experiences with us.
Here are five books that helped me understand the nuances of our sexual experience in a whole new way:
1. Doing It: Women Tell the Truth about Great Sex by Karen Pickering
If reading about the sex lives of other people is new to you, I recommend starting with this gem. In Doing It, Karen Pickering chose a beautiful selection of Australian female writers with a wide range of topics like “Exploring my disability and queer sexuality,” “Getting it online,” and “The joy of not doing it.” This book gives first-timers a wonderful peek into women’s bedrooms and minds, challenging the idea that women shouldn’t talk about their positive sex-periences, and helping us own our sexuality in a new way.
2. The Sex Lives of African Women: Self-Discovery, Freedom, and Healing by Nana Darko Sekviamah
As a white woman who grew up in Western Europe, I try to be aware of the immense privilege I have in this world. One way of doing that is to look into how women in other cultures live (and, in this case, f*ck). The sex lives of African women tells the stories of women from across the African continent and its global diaspora and gives us insight into struggles many of us will never have to face, but should be aware of.
3. Kink: Stories edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell
This book shows us the different ways people find pleasure in BDSM, pain, safety, domination, and submission. Kink includes stories from acclaimed writers like Roxane Gay, and helps us see that all desires are worthy of being acknowledged. As the only book of fiction on this list, I decided to include it given how some stories touch on physical abuse and challenged my judgement toward other people’s sources of pleasure.
4. Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy by Rachel Krantz
I have the deepest respect for Rachel Krantz, a journalist who truly lets us in to witness her adventure of sexual self-discovery in a non-monogamous relationship. As we’re invited into her life, we barely notice the dysfunctional dynamics of her relationship until she takes us with her down the rabbit hole as they slowly unfold. While this book would also make a wonderful novel, its true power lies in the fact that she not only shares her personal experiences with us, but that she recorded them and backed them up with interviews and resources from experts and therapists in the field of non-monogamy.
5. Every Body: An Honest and Open Look at Sex from Every Angle edited by Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg
This book is truly unique, as all the content comes directly from people the editors interviewed on the street by putting up a sign that read, “Tell us your anonymous sex stories.” Added to this are stories from an online survey, as well as essays. What I love about this book is that it speaks about topics I’d never come in contact with before in my personal life. Some examples include: sex and STIs, being intersex, sex and mental health, group sex, sex work…and many more. There are some stories in this book I’ll never forget. Knowing that these are real stories by real people makes me appreciate our shared humanity and our common curiosity. This book simply makes me feel less alone.
I hope you’ll enjoy these wonderful books. (And please don’t forget to support your local book store when you get them.)
If you have any gems to add to this list, please do so in the comments. I can’t wait to read more.