Hands up if you’ve received sex education that left you feeling confident in your sexual wellness and in touch with what brings you pleasure and how that interacts with others around you? If this is you, don’t read on — you’re already golden. If you’re feeling like 2022 is the year to re-write your pleasure script, may we suggest to clear your bedside table in preparation for the following reads — all of which are guaranteed to challenge everything you thought you knew about sex, pleasure and what it means to feel good in your body.
A few important notes on the following recommendations:
- Research in the sexual wellness space is still incredibly limited and most of what exists has been conducted on cis, heterosexual people which doesn’t represent the full spectrum of sexuality and sexual experiences.
- At the time of publishing, these authors have attempted to use the most inclusive and accurate language but it may not always represent individual readers' experiences over time. Most of these authors use “women” to refer to people assigned as female at birth.
If you have one you think needs to be added to the list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
#1: Come As You Are
Author: Emily Nagoski Ph.D.
Best for: For people with vulvas that are looking to discover their own sexual landscape from a place of curiosity instead of comparison or shame.
Summary: Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.
Author: Chantelle Otten
Best for: Those looking to get the shame-free, sex-ed fundamentals. A great book to start with before moving on to some of the others on this list.
Summary: For too long, talking about our anatomies and our experiences have been taboo. Normal functions have been seen as embarrassing and even shameful, impacting people's mental and physical health. In this amazing and comprehensive guide, Chantelle refuses to leave these conversations languishing on the fringes any longer.
From breaking myths about reproductive health to exploring ideas of consent, The Sex Ed You Never Had will teach everyone something new about their body, and the fun and pleasurable ways to use it.
Authors: Julia Heiman and Joseph LoPiccolo.
Best for: People with vulvas who have never or may have challenges with experiencing orgasm.
Summary: Directed for people who have never had an orgasm, this is the quintessential guide for people with vulvas who are looking for more knowledge and/or guidance on the ins and outs of the female orgasm.
Author: Adrienne Maree Brown
Best for: Those looking to explore the role of pleasure in life and how it can make the world a better place.
Summary: How do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience? How can we awaken within ourselves the desires that make it impossible to settle for anything less than a fulfilling life? Adrienne Maree Brown finds the answer in something she calls "pleasure activism," a politics of healing and happiness that explodes the dour myth that changing the world is just another form of work.
#5: Sensual Self
Author: Ev’Yan Whitney
Best for: People looking for an interactive sexual wellness reading and reflection experience.
Summary: Over several years, sexuality doula Ev’Yan Whitney blogged their own sexual liberation. They documented the experiences of untangling themselves from sexual shame, discovering their unique sexual identity, and learning to take up space. And they decided pleasure was less about sex than about sensuality: waking up to your body and tuning in to what feels good. Whitney’s first book, Sensual Self, is an interactive journal that invites you on the same journey.
Author: Vic Liu
Best for: Those looking for a quick, easy and inviting guide to things that likely weren’t part of your sex-ed curriculum.
Summary: Want to know how to masturbate? Here's your guide. Masturbation doesn't have to be a taboo topic! This straightforward, unapologetic illustrated guide to self-pleasure will teach you what you need to know to get to know your own body. This inclusive manual covers basic anatomy, techniques, mindsets, orgasms, troubleshooting, and a wide range of the tools and toys.