I love books. I mean, I really love books. It’s not just that I enjoy them, but it’s almost like a non-sexual fetish. In my eyes, a life without books wouldn’t be worth it! There’s nothing I love more than the utter excitement I get when entering a bookstore. It’s a hopeful sensation, as though whatever issues I find myself dealing with in life could be solved by one or two (or three) paperback baes that are books. I’ll even have recurring stress dreams that involve me walking through a bookstore trying to find books that promise the answers to my problems.
If you walk into any local bookstore or library, you’ll see many of their bestsellers being flaunted and displayed at the front of their store. You’re looking for your next favorite fantasy? Bam, right there! Want to jump into a gritty murder thriller? Wham, there are entire sections seemingly devoted to it! However, if you’re having issues with your sexuality and want to find the perfect book to expand your mind, those books will be tucked away from view. Even asking the booksellers for their best sex-positive books on human sexuality will have you be met with confused looks or be led straight to a dusty copy of The Kama Sutra.
Do you remember when Fifty Shades of Grey went viral, and every suburban mom was buying a copy as though it were the panacea to their dead bedrooms? Most literary kinksters were horrified, not necessarily at the thought of soccer mom Sharon reading about erotica… but rather if one erotic novel were to go viral, why did it have to be a subpar one like Fifty Shades? There are so many good sex-positive books out there, and especially nonfiction ones. Please, don’t read one boring cisnormative Dr. Phil book, and be done with the whole genre. Let me be your guide!
I’m here to help you bust a nut and get you out of your funk, whether it’s been a decade long one, or just simply quarantine induced. Here are the top six nonfiction sex books ( plus plenty of honorable mentions ) to help stir up your passions. Enjoy!
The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Adventures
Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton, Celestial Arts, 1997
This is a classic. Whether you’ve seen it at the fun queer bookstore or hiding in their cool aunt’s library, most people have taken a peek at it! When The Ethical Slut came out, it was revolutionary and almost a little shocking. Sure, mainstream folks knew about swingers, but opening up a relationship to emotional and physical intimacy was seen as preposterous. What about jealousy? What about the sanctity of marriage, of exclusively two-person relationships? Won’t someone please think of the family?! This book revels in the idea of being a slut without shame or presumptions. What does good sex look like, and feel like to you? How do you manage jealousy when your partner is off hooking up with their FWB? This book is the first stop for most people on their journey to ethical non-monogamy (aka not cheating) for a reason: it’s comprehensive and good.
Dynamic Play: Discovering Sexuality with Archetypes
Sam, Shrimp Teeth, 2020
Yes, I know. This isn’t technically a book, but it deserves a mention on this list regardless! Dynamic Play is a 30 page PDF available on shrimpteeth.com by Cat, a sex educator, and designer. If you’ve ever found yourself turned on by naughty nurse/patient or professor/student dynamics, only to find your excitement fizzle out while roleplaying during sex, this is a wonderful guide to help deepen psychological sensations. Dynamic Play explores kink dynamics from the perspective of archetypes. It’s about infusing honesty into your roleplay and getting your psychological itch scratched. Talk about a two-for-one deal! Archetypes are originally a concept from psychologist Carl Jung, and involved viewing the self through different models and behaviors that he believed were passed down from our ancestors. Trickster, hero, innocent: these were some of the modes he theorized were inherent to human beings throughout the ages. We identify with some of these over others because there’s a universal truth behind each of those archetypes! “Dynamic Play” takes the theory of archetypes and pushes the boundaries a little further: which archetypes do you find interesting with your relationship to sex and how can you be more honest about those needs during kink?
Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
Emily Nagoski Ph.D., Simon & Schuster, 2015
This is a book for nerds who want to get down and demystify sexuality once and for all. Remember sex ed in high school? The birds and the bees, “don’t have sex or else you’ll DIE”, and 101 ways to prevent pregnancy? Well, this is the upgraded university-level course on sexuality. Seriously, Come as You Are takes the bare bones we all learned in school and builds it up to truly be a well-rounded full-bodied understanding. It’s also honest about the science with regards to trans people; Nagoski invites all to learn from her book but admits that the research is mostly around cisgender people. I can appreciate that kind of disclaimer! I especially appreciate Nagoski’s approachable style while exploring some truly cutting edge science on arousal. If you’re not entirely sold on the book just yet (gasp!), check out the author’s Tedx presentation on the subject, which serves up a quickie version of her work. If you’re already acquainted with Come as You Are, did you know there’s a workbook? Just what every (nerdy) sex life needs!
This book is required reading for any adult with a pulse. Seriously. If you were to go through my copy of Pleasure Activism you’d see that it’s mostly neon green from highlighting nearly every word. It’s that good! Like most things in my life, I put off engaging with it out of fear. I bought my copy at a local anarchist bookfair (like Scholastic Bookfair, only queerer and anti-capitalist), eager to take it home and read up about how to fuck like the cool queers. I was expecting a hedonistic guide to sex, like an anarchist Cosmopolitan magazine. Instead, I opened up the book and found it full of poems, interviews, and academic essays on pleasure, racial justice, activism, and where it all meets. Now, don’t let this scare you off! This book is everything I needed, and I’m willing to bet what most people need right now too. It tackles racism, capitalism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and internalized homophobia, while also asking us to address our own shame and privilege.
Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, Limerence Press, 2014
I’ve been reading Erika Moen’s webcomics for over a decade, and for good reasons: she’s a wonderful visual storyteller. Her comic Dar was a visual journal detailing her experiences as a queer woman with mental health issues in a touching and intimate way. She’s incredibly honest, almost to a fault (she received fair criticism for her comics about trans men and Black men). Having said that short disclaimer, if you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’ve definitely come across Erika and Matthew’s webcomic, “Oh Joy Sex Toy”. It is a tour de force, a wonderful chimera of many things. The couple initially started the comic with sex toy reviews, showing exactly how the products could be used and how the toys fell flat. They never hold their punches, even when hyped up products fail disastrously. This is sexy illustrated sex education for adults. Oh Joy Sex Toy has expanded to also include one-shot erotic stories featuring all sorts of body types, including disabled, queer, and trans people. Huzzah!
I have betrayed your trust, dear readers. For the second time, I’ve snuck in a non-book into a list I promised would be exclusively populated by sex-positive books! My apologies and– hey! Who threw that shoe? I promise this one is worth it. Are you a trans man, or a man who’s in a relationship with one? Read this! These 30 pages are bursting with hot and useful tips for queer trans men, from everything like safe hormone injections to fucking, sucking, and fist fucking. It’s comprehensive, non-judgemental, and really wonderful to know that a guide exists at all! Sadly the print version is out of stock, but there’s a free PDF available. So you have no excuse not to read it!
Now, who wants their shoe back? Too bad, it’s mine now.
“Zack, an ace book when I’m looking for help with sex? Fuck off!” Hear me out! This is a phenomenal book that helps demystify asexuality, and what type of sex society can push on us, whether we want it or not. It’s required reading for anyone!
Do you like pretty gay women? Do you like kink? Do you like latex and bondage and rope and–ahem. If so, you’ll adore the erotic graphic novel series Sunstone! Come for the shiny outfits, but stay for the slice of life romance between characters that aren’t just stale stereotypes.
This is all about asking for knowing your wants and needs so that you can better fulfill them with casual hookups. (Casual hookups, remember those?) Sure this might not be relevant to life post-2020, but it never hurts to start studying while the vaccines start getting administered!
Ahh, memories. This was the first sex book I ever purchased, and it’s a doozy. Coming in at over 800 pages, it’s the Oxford English Dictionary but for sex! First published in 1996 but in its 9th edition, it is an illustrated guide to help thoroughly educate yourself. (Or be a useful bedside weapon! Seriously this thing is huge.)