Here are the books my sex-positive book club has read…and what we’re reading next.
I spent last week selecting the sex-positive books the book club will be reading for the rest of the year.
This is always a tough task. There are so many great books out there and so little time.
But first, a quick overview of books we’ve already enjoyed.
Previously Read Sex-Positive Books
1. Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski
Fun story: the book club didn’t start as a book club at all. Initially, a couple of friends and I simply read Come As You Are together. We’d all had it on our shelves for months but needed some accountability for reading motivation.
I’m so glad we made it happen. Not only did our little group grow into a 200-member book club (as of this writing), but Nagoski’s explanation of the dual control model and arousal non-concordance was a game-changer for my work with clients struggling with arousal and desire.
Feel free to read my full review of Come As You Are.
2. Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel
Sticking with the theme of understanding desire, we moved on to Mating in Captivity. In this work, Perel explains why it’s so hard to feel erotic while living a domestic life. Then, thankfully, she goes on to share various ways to overcome the struggle.
Our book club found this read informative and in some ways amusing. Most of us already prioritize sex in our relationships in the ways Perel recommends.
Additionally, many members (including myself) are kinky and nonmonogamous. As a result, the chapters on creating variety and preventing infidelity felt a little like getting a voyeuristic peek into the private lives of vanilla monogamists.
3. Polysecure, Jessica Fern
After Mating in Captivity, we were craving something for polyamorists. Polysecure was perfect!
In Polysecure, Fern applies Attachment Theory (as described in books like Attached written for monogamous folks) to polyamorous relationships. This results in a book that I consider to be essential reading for those curious about or new to nonmonogamy.
Polysecure helps readers not only understand their attachment style but also where it came from. It then lays out steps for using this self-knowledge to build healthy attachments in relationships—monogamous or not.
We’re reading this book again soon.
4. The Ethical Slut, Janet Hardy & Dossie Easton
You can’t talk about essential reading for polyamorists without mentioning The Ethical Slut. Dubbed “The Poly Bible” by most in the community, this straightforward text lays out all the preliminary steps and considerations before diving into nonmonogamy head-first.
Personally, this is the book that helped me realize I was polyamorous all the way back in 2007. With the recent release of the third edition, it’s an invaluable relationship resource for poly folks and an eye-opening read for curious monogamists.
5. Rewriting the Rules, Meg-John Barker
I saw Rewriting the Rules recommended by a sex educator on Instagram. While I hadn’t heard of it before, as an “anti self-help guide” it seemed worth a read.
It was also more accessible to our monogamous book club members.
Barker provides a sweeping overview of sex, gender, and relationship norms, then challenges us to think outside these boxes. We appreciated her encouragement to question things we take for granted and write our own relationship rules. This is a great primer for those exploring sex positivity.
6. She Comes First, Ian Kerner
“This is required reading for all my partners,” a dear friend of mine said while recommending She Comes First for book club. “I’ve happily given away more copies than I can count.”
If you, too, refuse to accept sub-par cunnilingus, you may want to adopt the same practice. She Comes First spares no details on how to elicit desire, arousal, and orgasm in vulva-owners using just your hands and mouth.
The book club appreciated Kerner’s philosophy on vulvar pleasure. There was only occasional eye-rolling at statements that hinted at fragile masculinity. Heteronormativity aside, this is an excellent instruction manual for eating partners out and doing so well.
7. Pleasure Activism, adrienne marine brown
I was really excited to read Pleasure Activism, and it did not disappoint!
Brown’s examinations of pleasure through the lenses of social justice and feminism feel like sex-positivity itself in written form. The collection of essays, poetry, and writing from other pleasure activists provides a multifaceted perspective all in one book.
This one’s definitely more than a primer on sex positivity. If you’ve already got some reading under your belt and haven’t read Pleasure Activism yet, add it to your list.
8. Unfuck Your Intimacy, Faith G. Harper
As the book club grew, many new members wanted to circle back to reads similar to Come As You Are. I knew just the thing.
Unfuck Your Intimacy is a refreshingly to-the-point take on reclaiming your sexuality when all you feel is discouraged. It’s also shorter than Come As You Are, therefore more digestible for us distractable types.
We really enjoyed Harper’s candid writing style and provided exercises. In fact, we did a couple of the exercises as a group during our in-person meeting for this read. We had surprisingly different experiences despite doing the same activity, which generated a lot of great discussion about our unique experiences with our bodies and sex.
Sex-Positive Books in 2023
9. Open, Rachel Krantz
As we rang in the new year, we decided to open with Open by Rachel Krantz. This was an unexpectedly controversial choice!
Unlike our previous reads, Open is a memoir. The author is a diligent journalist who applied investigative skills to her personal exploration of nonmonogamy.
Fair warning: this book is chock-full of insecure cringe, starting with the very first few pages. The theme persists throughout, with both the author and her partner making huge missteps in their efforts to avoid addressing clear issues in their relationship.
Take this real-world account as a great example of how not to do nonmonogamy. Maybe read The Ethical Slut and Polysecure first, then make a game out of identifying all the ways things go wrong in Open.
10 & 11. The New Bottoming Book & The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton & Janet Hardy
You may recognize these authors from The Ethical Slut. Easton and Hardy are truly prolific sex-positive authors. Honestly, their whole library is fantastic.
We dedicated separate months to The New Bottoming Book and The New Topping Book, starting with The New Bottoming Book. This was the first book of the pair published. In fact, they didn’t even plan to write a topping book until fans demanded it later.
Both books contain invaluable insights for those interested in BDSM. However, even the most recent editions are a bit outdated. A section about the internet mentions email listservs as the primary way to connect with others interested in D/s, for example. Read these, but supplement them with something more current.
12. Sex From Scratch, Sarah Mirk
Sex From Scratch circled us back to a lot of the themes in Rewriting the Rules. Mirk reminds us that we can call the shots when it comes to how we have sex, and interviews a diverse array of people on topics like being single, building feminist relationships, gender, and more.
Admittedly, some of these interviews feel less helpful than others. Reading takes from sex educators and authors like Tristan Taormino and Betty Dodson was empowering. However, the author’s musings on topics like being childless by choice left some of us wanting more.
If you’re looking for perspectives rather than a how-to guide, though, this is your read.
13. The Right to Sex, Amia Srinivasan
As I write this, we’re reading The Right to Sex. This feminist text is probably the heaviest read we’ve had since Come As You Are.
I’m about halfway through, listening to the audiobook and pausing often to think about the way porn has shaped modern sexuality.
When I finish it, I’ll make a point of sharing a short summary and review.
Top Picks: The Sex-Positive Books We’re Reading Next
That brings us to the inspiration for today’s post: I’m ready to announce the rest of our sex positive books for 2023!
Though I haven’t read most of these, their descriptions and reviews stood out enough to land them priority spots on my reading list.
Here’s what the sex-positive book club is reading for the rest of the year.
14. Open Monogamy, Tommy Nelson
I’ve been doing a lot of work centered on boundaries lately, especially boundaries for happy polyamory.
Having a clear sense of your individual boundaries is a prerequisite to forming healthy and meaningful relationship agreements.
For those interested in “rewriting” the rule of monogamy in their relationships, I’m hoping this book about creating agreements will prove useful.
15. The Multi-Orgasmic Man, Mantak Chia & Douglas Abrams
If She Comes First, perhaps she and he can both come multiple times!
I plucked this book off the shelf while shopping at Dynamo not too long ago. It’s been a while since we’ve read a practical skills book, and since the last one was for vulva owners I figured it was fair to give penis owners some book club love.
And, I mean, how cool is it to have multi-orgasmic men in our lives?
“Shannon, I bought this book because you said we’d read it and we still haven’t!”
If there’s one thing my book members do, it’s hold me accountable. I read this book back in 2020 as part of my sex coach certification program. It stuck with me for its trans-affirming, non-judgmental approach to embracing sexuality.
Touching on everything from anatomy and safer sex to porn and sex toys, McLaughlin provides the sex ed we should have gotten in school then builds on it to achieve similar results to Come As You Are and Unfuck Your Intimacy.
17. Queer Sex, Juno Roche
This book has been on my list for a while. It’s another one recommended by a fellow sex educator, though unfortunately I can’t remember who.
In any case, the reviews are good and the description is promising:
In this frank, funny and poignant book, transgender activist Juno Roche discusses sex, desire and dating with leading figures from the trans and non-binary community.
Calling out prejudices and inspiring readers to explore their own concepts of intimacy and sexuality, the first-hand accounts celebrate the wonder and potential of trans bodies and push at the boundaries of how society views gender, sexuality and relationships.
18. The Body is Not an Apology, Sonya Renee Taylor
I’ve seen this book recommended in so many places by so many people, I kind of assume it’s required reading now.
Guess I’d better get on it!
Body image one of the top reasons behind struggles with desire. Loving our bodies in a highly critical culture is a truly tall order.
I can’t wait to read this book and exchange thoughts with the book club members.
The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies.
Free Sex-Positive Resources
If you’d like to read along with the Sex Positive Book Club, join us on Facebook.
Membership and virtual meetings are totally free and we keep tickets to our New Orleans meetings low-cost.
You can also find most of us in the private Sensually Sourced Community, where we don’t have to worry about Facebook’s algorithm cracking down on our conversation.
As always, visit my resources page for free sex-positive content you can apply to your life and relationships.