This is a list of the reading I’ve been doing about sexuality, relationships, and related topics.
Zoldbrod, Aline P., Sex Smart: How Your Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life and What to Do about It (Otsego, MI: PageFree Publishing, 2005). It’s looking good so far and I’m only one chapter in. Each chapter has exercises, which I plan to blog as I go. However, I have a bunch of writing to do and I don’t have time for this now, so I’m putting it on the back-burner.
Millot, Michel, The School of Venus (1680); digital reproduction available free online. A (somewhat liberal) translation of the French L’Escoles des filles, ou La Philosophie des dames (1665), which is a type of erotic fiction known as “whore dialogue”. Here, an experienced young woman instructs a naive younger relative about sex. Earthy, satirical and anti-clerical, among other things. Samuel Pepys read the book and (if the Wikipedia citation can be trusted) wanked over it.
James, E.L. Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed (New York: Vintage Books, 2012). On the list primarily for reasons of intellectual honesty. I’m not recommending these books, but I did read them and I didn’t hate them. Discussed here. [summer and fall 2014]
James, E.L., Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian (New York: Vintage Books, 2015). E.L. James’ writing really is mediocre, at best. There’s even less to recommend it than the original trilogy. Through most of the book, Christian just comes across as an asshole. [Nov 2015]
Réage, Pauline, The Story of O. Originally published in French in 1954, first published in English in 1965, the author’s true identity as Anne Desclos (a.k.a Dominique Aury) was not revealed until 1994. A classic novel of female sexual submission. Some of the imagery has become commonplace (such as the collar and cuffs, the triskelion as a symbol of BDSM), while some has not (deep branding, labia piercings bearing a tag of ownership). Not always the easiest read, particularly when it falls into the French academic style involving a series of clauses nested within clauses like matryoshka dolls. Didn’t particularly speak to me in the way it speaks to some. [Apr 2015]
Sacher-Masoch, Leopold, Venus in Furs, trans. Fernanda Savage (private printing, 1921); text available free online. First published in German as Venus im Pelz (1870), this is the novella that led to the coining of the word “masochism”, but as in a game of telephone, the current meaning of the word has drifted from its source. Severin meets Wanda — a young, beautiful and rich widow — and asks her to marry him, but Wanda rejects social norms and is enjoying loving and fucking who she pleases and warns him that she’ll likely tire of him quickly. But she cares deeply for him and proposes that they live as a couple for a year and if she still wants him after that, she’ll marry him. He can’t wait that long, so he makes a counteroffer: marry him now or take him as a slave. Guess which she chooses? So it’s mostly about consensual slavery, the occasional beating, some serious mindfuck. Severin gets exactly what he asked for, doesn’t like it one bit, and concludes that the problem is all women. Jerk. [Mar 2016]
Beckett, Cooper S., A Life Less Monogamous (Chicago: Hump and Circumstance Press, 2016). I was asked to write an honest review of this book, which you can find here. Overall, I thought the writing was strong but there were things about the plot that were problematic and annoying. [Apr 2016]
Nagoski, Emily, Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015). About women’s sexuality. It’s hard to focus on anything in particular because I just really like it. It would probably have been a slimmer volume if the tone wasn’t so chatty, and it’s deliberately repetitive at times, but I suppose that goes toward making it accessible to more people. I’m glad I own it because I expect to reread parts of it. Highly recommended. [Jul 2016]
Brame, Gloria G., The Truth About Sex: A Sex Primer for the 21st Century – Volume 1: Sex and the Self (British Columbia, Canada: CCB Publishing, 2011). A slim volume with two main parts: Section 1 — “Masturbation and Orgasm”; and Section 2 — “Thinking about Sex”, which covers thinking and talking about sex, as well as healthy attitudes toward sex. Not earth-shattering, but provides good foundational knowledge that everyone should get but doesn’t. It helped me reinforce some of the sex-positive attitudes that I’m currently working on. [Feb 2016]
Mottier, Véronique, Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Like most if not all of the Oxford Very Short Introductions, this book provides a solid starting point for the topic. “Sex is a cultural object” and “sexuality is not a natural, biological, universal experience”. [May 2015]
Morris, Desmond, The Naked Woman (London: Random House, 2004). A ‘guided tour’ of the female body by a sociobiologist. Recent, but has a patronizing and benevolently chauvinistic tone. Much info is outdated or inaccurate. [For instance, it asserts that belly dancing “began in the harem, where the overlord was usually grossly fat, hopelessly unathletic and sexually bored. To stimulate him sexually, his young females would have to squat over his recumbent body, insert his penis and then wriggle their bodies enticingly to bring him to a climax” (at 181). You have got to be shitting me. And his one source has been called “cringe-worthy”.] I gave up. Not recommended. [Dec 2015]
Moore, Thomas, The Soul of Sex (New York: Harper Perennial, 1998). A personal philosophy of sexuality, very broadly defined (much of it is really about sensuality). Heavily informed by Freud, and in particular the Freudian concept of Eros, the abstract life force that includes the general creative drive. Interesting food for thought, but not something I’d take as any kind of authority. Discusses, among other things, the poses of Venus. [Dec 2015]
Friday, Nancy, My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. Originally published in 1973 and still in print; there are lots of different editions floating around. A catalog of fantasies, arranged by theme. Useful for both reassurance and inspiration. [Mar 2015]
Cohen Greene, Cheryl T. with Lorna Garano, An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner (Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, c 2012.). Memoir. CTCG was raised strictly Catholic, which conflicted with her strong sense of sexuality. She has been a surrogate partner and Consultant in Human Sexuality since 1973. [Aug 2015]
Taormino, Tristan, The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation (Beverly, MA: Quiver, 2011). Informative text, but I personally didn’t find it all that useful. Lots of photos, sometimes illustrating a specific position, but often gratuitous and simply intended to be hot. Lots of “porn star gurn“, which some people find off-putting. [Feb 2016]
Levine, Amir & Rachel S.F. Heller, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2010). A bit self-help-y, but based on current research. Solid, insightful and useful information. It seems so spot on that I’m a bit surprised that this info appears to be so new. Has given me valuable insight into my current and past relationships. [Oct 2015]
Cori, Jasmin Lee, The Emotionally Absent Mother (New York: The Experiment Publishing, 2010). I’ve also been reading on personal growth topics, which is not something I’d ordinarily post here. I’ve included this book on this list because it has provided me with all kinds of valuable insights, some of which have helped me to understand how I relate to others, including romantic partners. [Feb 2016]
Perel, Esther, Mating in Captivity (New York: Harper Collins, 2006). “Reconciling the erotic and the domestic.” Why do many happy relationships become sexless? Perel’s theory: “our cultural penchant for equality, togetherness, and absolute candor is antithetical to erotic desire… Sexual excitement doesn’t always play by the rules of good citizenship. It is politically incorrect. It thrives on power plays, unfair advantages, and the space between self and other” (from the dust jacket). Well written and engaging with a pleasantly fresh viewpoint. Touches on and validates BDSM. Highly recommended. [Jan 2016]
Easton, Dossie & Janet W. Hardy, The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, 2nd ed. (New York: Celestial Arts, 2009). Thought-provoking, amusing, technically well written. Even the layout, fonts, and paper are nice. Read it and loved it – more detailed comments forthcoming. [Feb 2016]
Benson, Peter, The Polyamory Handbook: A User’s Guide (Bloomington, IN.: AuthorHouse, 2008) [self-published]. Merely OK. [Jul 2015]
Anapol, Deborah, Polyamory in the 21st Century: Love and Intimacy with Multiple Partners (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010). Interesting and insightful. At times it seemed to me that the author referred to her own experiences too much for a book that is intended to be not a memoir. Still, there doesn’t seem to be much material currently available on the topic, and this was the best one I’ve read so far, even with the issue of tone. [Sep 2015]
bdsm, kink, etc.
Peakman, Julie, The Pleasure’s All Mine: A History of Perverse Sex (London: Reaktion Books, 2013). Weighing in at 1330g (just shy of 3 pounds), this really is a doorstop of a book. In reviewing the history of some sexual practices that are currently considered more or less perverse, Peakman demonstrates the eternal truth that things change and many value judgments are ultimately arbitrary. [Jun 2015]
Ortmann, David M. & Richard A. Sprott, Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, c2013.). Solidly written for an educated general audience by authors with academic training. A fairly short book, but quite good. [Aug 2015]
Brame, Gloria G., Different Loving Too (British Columbia, Canada: Moons Grove Press/CCB Publishing, 2015). About BDSM. Different Loving was originally published in 1993, and this edition is essentially all new. Interesting, but not what I was expecting, which I suppose would have been Brame’s words supported by research in the form of interviews with very experienced players, which might have been seen in the odd quotation. In fact, most of the text is in the words of the players themselves, with Brame providing chapter introductions and occasional conclusions. It’s sort of a written panel discussion with Brame as moderator. [Apr 2016]
Jaiya, Cuffed, Tied, and Satisfied (New York: Harmony Books, 2014). Written by a sexologist, this gentle introduction to kink seems to be aimed at those who are after hot sex but may find the idea of BDSM intimidating. She offers tools for self-analysis and exploration in areas where other resources (or at least the ones I’ve run across) seem to assume you already know what applies to you: “erotic wiring” (patterns of sexual needs and wants, turn-ons and turn-offs); vanilla-kink scale; and erotic personas. [Dec 2015]
Taormino, Tristan (ed.), The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge (Berkeley, CA: Cleis Press, 2012). A series of essays written by experienced practitioners on some of the basic (and some more advanced) aspects of BDSM. A solid introduction. [Aug 2015]
Easton, Dossie & Janet W. Hardy, The New Bottoming Book (Emeryville, CA: Greenery Press, 2001). An introduction to BDSM, from the bottom’s perspective. Bottoming is an art requiring skill and ethics: “bottoms are beautiful, … powerful … alchemists who magically transform suffering into sex.” Has given me food for thought about power and its flow. [Aug 2015]
Easton, Dossie & Janet W. Hardy, The New Topping Book (Emeryville, CA: Greenery Press, 2003). This book (along with The New Bottoming Book) suffers from editing and proofreading that isn’t up to the standard that I would expect. But I can forgive this because the publisher is very small and the substance of the book is very good. [Sep 2015]
Warren, John, The Loving Dominant, 3rd ed. (Emeryville, CA: Greenery Press, 2008). This book features on many basic BDSM reading lists. Given the title, I expected a substantial discussion about the “loving dominant” in contrast to other types of domination but little space is dedicated to that topic. The book is most useful to inexperienced doms as an introduction to technical skills and tools/toys. I respect the notion of the author’s unique voice, but I found the tone irritatingly casual and jokey. The proofreading is quite poor (much worse than The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book from the same publisher), which is a bit of a surprise given the fact that this is the third edition. [Feb 2016]
Keenan, Jillian, Sex with Shakespeare (New York: William Morrow, 2016). Memoir. [Jul 2016]
[last edited 2016-12-30]