Ten books to read about the diverse world of sex-positivity

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle

These sex-positive books can help you educate and empower yourself

Graphic by Sie Douglas-Fish.
Graphic by Sie Douglas-Fish.

Sex-positivity is the mindset that sex should be healthy and pleasurable for everyone. It gives people the space to empower and explore their sexuality with curiosity, not judgment or shame. Healthy relationships with sex involve a range of factors — sexual orientation, taste, gender identity, societal expectations, ability, religion, trauma, relationships, and intimacy, to name a few.

Sex-positivity pushes us to reflect on what we think about sex, why we think that way, and how we can empower ourselves and others. Both fortunately and unfortunately for us, the sex-positive movement has flooded the publishing market with heaps of sex guides, tell-all biographies, and science-based bestsellers. With so much to choose from, it’s easy to get lost in the taboo of it all.  

Here are 10 books that can help you get started on your sex-positive journey.

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life Emily Nagoski, Ph. D. (2021)

Come As You Are uses the newest scientific findings to explore aspects of sexuality other than anatomy. The recently revised and republished book focuses on things like stress, mood, trust, and body image, and how they can impact women’s sexuality. This book is mostly focused on cisgender women.

Enjoy Sex (How, when and IF you want to): A Practical and Inclusive Guide Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock (2017)

These two authors challenge the idea of ‘normal’ sex and explore how pleasure can look for all kinds of bodies, ages, interests, orientations, and genders. Enjoy Sex is written as a practical guide for navigating the sometimes-confusing world of sex, relationships, and consent.

Queer Sex: A Trans and Non-binary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and RelationshipsJuno Roche (2018)

Transgender activist Juno Roche reflects on her personal experience and interviews voices from the trans and non-binary community in this guide to sex, dating, and desire. The book challenges readers to reflect on their own ideas of intimacy and sexuality, as well as social expectations around gender and sex.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live With Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and IllnessMiriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, Fran Odette (2003)

This book is designed as a self-help sex guide for people living with disability, chronic pain, or illness. The authors include practical information like positions, sex toys, communication strategies, and building a positive self-image, as well as a resource guide with suggested readings, websites, and organizations. 

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling GoodAdrienne Maree Brown (2019)

Pleasure Activism connects issues of social justice and activism with our ideas around pleasure and sexuality. Brown examines how embracing emotional and erotic needs can help free people from oppression, exploring issues like sex work, climate change, race, gender, and drugs.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of SexAngela Chen (2020)

Angela Chen uses her own experience with asexuality to explore what it means to be asexual in a society that expects otherwise. Using interviews with other asexual people and memoir, Ace offers a cultural examination of sexuality and identity, questioning what is expected of people and how it is imposed on them.

Girls and Sex / Boys and Sex Peggy Orenstein (2016 / 2020)

This suggestion is technically two books, but they are a two-part series focused on youth sexuality. In the first book, Orenstein interviews 70 young women about sexuality and speaks to psychologists and academics to reflect on the landscape of young women and sex. In the second book, Orenstein focuses on young men. The books cover issues of hookup culture, campus assault, gender expression, sexual orientation, toxic masculinity, and sex education. The books interview people from diverse backgrounds and orientations, but are not as inclusive of transgender or non-binary experiences.

Oh Joy Sex Toy Vol. 1Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan (2014)

This book is a collection of comics created by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan from their weekly online comic, published on ohjoysextoy.com. Entertaining and educational, the comics cover all things sex: sex toy reviews, sex education, safe sex practices, sex work, and sexuality.

How to Have Feminist Sex: A Fairly Graphic GuideFlo Perry (2019)

Flo Perry writes a witty and honest book about what it means to be a feminist and embrace sexuality. Including many illustrations of women with hairy legs, wonky boobs, and belly rolls, this book is a light read about sexuality as a modern woman.

The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, Second EditionSonya Renee Taylor (2021)

While this pick is not technically about sex, body positivity, and self-love are important factors of sex-positivity. This book is about using radical self-love to interrupt systems of oppression and liberate readers from body shame. Taylor argues that radical self-love can free us from shame and self-loathing as well as dismantle systems of injustice. 

Regardless of whether you see yourself reflected in these books and the perspectives they explore, reading about sexuality from diverse perspectives is important. Through this, you can learn more about your own sexuality and sexual partners, or reflect on the intricacies of society and sex.