People have been fucking since the dawn of their existence, so it makes sense that they started writing about it not long after. Though it’s impossible to consolidate all of the highlights from centuries of literature on the subject, I’ve selected a few for an extremely abridged version. Enjoy!
Sex Tips for Girls by Cynthia Heimel
Written by feminist satirist Cynthia Heimel and published in 1983, this book isn’t exactly well known among the Millennial and Gen Z contingents. This, in my opinion, is a crime. I noticed this weird little book collecting dust at the bottom of my parents’ bookshelf one day when I was seventeen, and I plucked it right off and carted it off to my room. Now, I know stealing is bad, but I have literally no remorse about this incident because Sex Tips for Girls is hilarious and my parents have not once since remarked that their book entitled Sex Tips for Girls has gone missing, so they must not miss it.
I was expecting this read to be full of weird 1980s Cosmopolitan-like sex advice, and this is true to an extent—but it’s also so much more. The writing is matter-of-fact and refreshing, the social commentary is apt, the glimpse into an era gone by is intriguing, and much of it is just downright funny. Take, for instance, the section called “What About Sex and Drugs?” in which Heimel proceeds to narrate each sexual scenario as if she has taken the drug she is evaluating for it.
The book does have its flaws—simply put, it’s dated, heteronormative, and its feminism is pretty much exclusively second-wave. That being said, I highly recommend this read for the experience of a unique cultural artifact and a laugh.
S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College by Heather Corinna
Written by Heather Corinna, one of the earliest sex-positive advocates on the Internet and the founder of Scarleteen.com, this book touches on a range of issues relating to sex, gender, and identity. In all of her work, Corinna has continually worked to be as inclusive as possible, and S.E.X. is no exception. The book assumes nothing about its readers, approaches sex in a realistic manner, and was updated with a second edition in 2016. Although some of the content still covers the reproductive basics, S.E.X. is a good choice for anyone wanting advice who has gotten past the “what is sex/puberty?” stage to which most guidebooks cater.
Karma Sutra by Vatsyayana Mallanaga
One of the most ancient surviving texts on sex, the Kama Sutra has a lot of wisdom to offer not only on all things erotic but also on how to live an emotionally fulfilling life. The text’s popularity has spanned time and space for a reason. The Kama Sutra is also intensely interesting to read from a historically or anthropologically curious standpoint, and may surprise you with how pertinent some parts of it remain to modern life. There’s something in there for everyone; it includes verses on same-sex relationships, methods for regaining an ex’s interest, and respecting sex workers.
The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti
In The Purity Myth, established feminist writer Jessica Valenti takes an in-depth look at how women, even in the Western world and present day, are effectively valued only for their (perceived) sexuality. This book tackles a single issue rather than a general review of everything relating to sex, but it is an extremely important one tying in to how we view and conduct sexual relations.
As previously written, this is obviously by no means an exhaustive list. However, if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to read (about sex or otherwise), these four are an eclectic and representative set to get you started. Happy perusing!
By Calla Selicious