5 Books That Have Shaped My Sexuality

I don’t read as many books as I’d like to. This is partially due to the fact that I spend zillions of hours a day on the internet, reading blogs and articles and other web resources. Still, though, I owe a lot to the books that I’ve read on sexuality, and I wanted to profile some of them today.

1. Butch Is a Noun (S. Bear Bergman)

Bear is perhaps my all-time favorite queer author. At the time that he wrote Butch is a Noun, he still identified as a butch and used gender-neutral pronouns (he’s since started identifying as a trans man and uses male pronouns now, from what I’ve seen). Bear visited my high school at one point and read aloud from Butch at one of the first Queer-Straight Alliance meetings I ever attended, and I was immediately enthralled. His writing is richly descriptive and often hilarious. This book helped me refine my ideas and fantasies about what I, as a queer femme, am looking for in a partner: a chivalrous, old-fashioned gentleman (though not necessarily male-bodied or male-identifying), who is nonetheless well-versed in new and progressive ideas about gender and sex.

2. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships (Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá)

The “polyamory bible” used to be The Ethical Slut, but ever since Sex at Dawn came along, it’s pretty much reigned supreme in poly circles. It presents countless fascinating arguments for the idea that monogamy doesn’t come naturally to humans, using plenty of evolutionary psychology and bonobo research to prove its central point. This one is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in delving into consensual non-monogamy or have already made that plunge.

3. The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler)

In a world that shames, commodifies, and minimizes vaginas, it’s unspeakably refreshing that a play like this could get so popular and be talked about so often in the public eye. This piece is a must-read if you, like so many of us, suffer from vagina shame, or just don’t think about your lady-parts all that often (although, if you’re reading this blog, I doubt that’s an issue of yours). I also encourage men to read this, if just to gain some perspective on the pussy.

4. O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm (Jonathan Margolis)

I’ve never heard another person talk about this book. It’s just not very well-known, which is a shame, because it’s brilliant and quite possibly my favorite book on the topic of sex. Margolis, with a surprisingly balanced and empathetic attitude for a straight cis guy, leads us through the history of the human orgasm. Of particular interest is his in-depth description of the Victorian era’s stuffy attitudes about sex, which hid all the suppressed, lascivious shit that was going on under the surface. His main hypothesis is that testosterone has been the most influential hormone in our history, and he may well be right.

5. Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation (Elissa Stein and Susan Kim)

As you might expect from a book about menstruation written by two women, this book has a serious feminist bent and leans heavily toward anti-establishment. Stein and Kim write about the male fear of menstrual blood, the various products that have been invented to make it disappear (often at the risk of women’s health), and alternatives to these sometimes crippling “solutions.” Definitely a book for the hippie-mama within, but still a great read if you’re tired of the world telling you to stuff a “dry wad of fuckin’ cotton”* up your vag every month.

*This is a quote from The Vagina Monologues about tampons. Yet another reason to read it.