Sex is messy.
Yes, in the physical sense, but perhaps more so in the psychological sense: who do we desire, and why? What are the differences between genders when it comes to sexuality and behavior? This next statement might be met with a degree of skepticism, but the science of sex can enhance your relationships in ways only those who have studied it will understand. Sex researchers devote their careers and lives to unpacking the vast complexity that is human sexuality. I can't promise the books will be particularly sexy, but surely learning the science of sex will transform your sex life. Your relationship might be great, but sex and science are the perfect match.
Come As You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski
“Anyway, our fellow apes eat insects out of each other’s fur; maybe bath bombs and body glitter are the modern human equivalent.”
Though we still have plenty of room for improvement, society has certainly come a long way in the past decades in terms of how we talk about sex, particularly the female experience of sex. More and more we are seeing women embrace their sexuality, celebrate their promiscuity, and, most importantly, stop being ashamed to speak about their sexual pleasure. Trouble is, many people disregard that males and females differ so greatly in terms of what brings them satisfaction, which is precisely the premise of Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Dr. Emily Nagoski. The sex expert explores and explains the scientific and mechanical underpinnings of the female anatomy and makes clear that our libidos do not come with an "on-off" switch.
Follow the author @emilynagoski
Sex At Dawn by Christopher Ryan
“Love and lust are as different from each other as red wine and blue cheese, but because they can also complement one another splendidly, they get conflated with amazing, dumbfounding regularity.”
Well-researched sex knowledge brings a whole new meaning to "do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." You are probably aware that our human instincts are a function of evolution, and that sexual desire is, at its very core, nature's way of upping our chances for reproduction. Sometimes the topic of instincts and sexual behavior lends itself to a "can't help it" cop-out for infidelity or polyamory, but author Christopher Ryan very helpfully applies this body of knowledge to transform sex lives with the forward-thinking question of: how can this help us?
In the must read sex science book Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, Ryan presents evolutionary and anthropological research to support his argument that monogamous relationships are in fact evolutionarily favorable. The author offers a profound understanding of prehistoric human sexual behavior, and suggests that even if our primitive sex instincts run counter to monogamy, we must not discount the aspects of our human biology that do promote nurturing relationships; instincts like love, nurture and tenderness are as deeply wired as our sex drives.
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Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein
“We’ve raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment in the home, in the classroom, in the workplace. Now it’s time to demand that 'intimate justice' in their personal lives as well.”
When it comes to achieving gender equality, some sectors are more conducive to implementing change than others. For example, feminist advocacy or legislation can change the world's corporate, political, and social landscapes, but these rulings don't do much for the court of public opinion. There are some deep rooted notions of female sexuality, masturbation, virginity, and sexual violence that are entrenched in the modern world; what exactly is going on, and how can we arm young girls with the information so that they are better off then their mothers were? Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape is a must read book by Peggy Orenstein that will transform your understanding of, well, girls and sex. The sex writer presents a realistic view of what girls are facing now in their late teens and college years, and portrays the hidden truths that will help their transition into sexual health.
Follow the author @peggyorenstein
The Psychology of Human Sexuality by Dr. Justin Lehmiller
"Every single sexual act is the result of several powerful forces acting upon one or more persons... some of these influences favor sexual activity, whereas others oppose it. Whether sex occurs at any given moment depends upon which forces are strongest at the time."
For the majority of people, deciding whether or not to get busy is a simple matter of opportunity, and whether or not you are in *the mood.* But Dr. Justin Lehmiller is not like most people. The sex educator thinks about the topic from a psychological perspective, and presents a thorough and insightful overview of all the most relevant research in the must read science book The Psychology of Human Sexuality. The book serves as a textbook in academic courses on the subject, but it serves well as a reference for anyone fascinated by the science of human sexuality; beyond the nitty-gritty psychological research, Lehmiller theorizes as to the biological, evolutionary, social, and cultural factors that influence our sex lives.
Follow the author @JustinLehmiller
How To Think More About Sex by Alain De Botton
“Without sex, we would be dangerously invulnerable. We might believe we were not ridiculous. We wouldn't know rejection and humiliation so intimately.”
At some point or another, most of us will have to come to terms with the uncomfortable reality that sex is often at the root of life's greatest physical and emotional pleasures, but also the source of our greatest pain, frustration, and heartbreak. How to Think More about Sex by Alain de Botton is part of The School of Life, a series that unpacks "the philosophy of everyday life"; Botton's work focuses on developing emotional intelligence in all aspects of life, everything from finding meaningful work to achieving financial health and in this case, thinking about our sex lives in a productive and realistic way. This book challenges long-held beliefs and assumptions about relationships, fidelity, pornography, and intimacy and calls for readers to be more mindful about the pleasure and pitfalls of sexuality.
Follow the author @alaindebotton
The Truth About Sex by Dr. Gloria Brame
"As the social narrative goes, if civilization is the sum of our intellectual achievements, then sex is the shameful burden of our primal roots."
There's no denying that the giggly, awkward lecture about "the birds and the bees" is an essential part of human development. The trouble lies in the fact that sex education should not just be about what sex is, it should be about the role of sex in our everyday lives. Think about it, once we learn the ins and outs of sex (no pun intended) at a relatively young age, we are more or less on our own to figure out how to utilize that information. Dr. Gloria Brame gives us the education we didn't know we needed in The Truth About Sex: A Sex Primer For the 21st Century. Dr. Brame speaks candidly about the vast and intricate fields of sex, orgasm, and masturbation. Her must read three-volume series is not designed to sensationalize, but to inform—and will transform your sex life for the better.
Follow the author @DrGloriaBrame
Bonk by Mary Roach
“Hormones are nature's three bottles of beer.”
As much as people discuss topics like relationships, love, and sex, most of the conversation contains mere speculation or opinion and can never be definitively known: Is she into me? Am I good in bed? Do I watch too much porn? Some mysteries, however, can be solved, and science writer Mary Roach does just that in Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Roach delved deep into absurd world of sex science, and the fascinating experiments of past and present that aim to understand the physiology, chemistry, and underlying processes that control when, how, why, and what brings humans sexual satisfaction... and throws in things you never knew you wanted to know, like whether or not a dead man can get an erection.
Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering
"You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through. Now, now, don't get so defensive."
Those in the pornographic loop may know that "Rule 34" refers to the fact that pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject or predilection. Jesse Bering writes the Rule 24 rulebook with Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, and gives readers a look into the "abnormal" side of sex, ultimately concluding that there is no such thing as normal on the vast spectrum of human desire. Using established sex research as a basis for his exploration, Bering delves into preferences you've heard of, like BDSM and voyeurism, and some you haven't—like the woman who fell in love with the Eiffel Tower. He'll transform your sex life simply by virtue of opening your eyes to what people really do behind closed doors (and sometimes out in the open); it turns out that as normal as you might think you are, we're all just a bunch of freaks.
Follow the author @JesseBering
A Billion Wicked Thoughts by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam
“Here are the ten most common professions of the hero, derived from the titles of more than 15,000 Harlequin romance novels: Doctor Cowboy Boss Prince Rancher Knight Surgeon King Bodyguard Sheriff.”
Men are visual creatures. Women love to be swept up in a romance novel. It seems that men are always ready for sex, while women require a specific set of circumstances; these are common tropes in sex discourse, whether or not people actually understand them. But there's a seemingly infinite body of empirical evidence that support (or debunk) these notions of gender and sexuality, but most researchers have yet to tap into the goldmine sitting right in front of their eyes: the internet. Neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam tell us what's really going on in the bedroom in A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships, in which they provide context and meaning to the vast data living online from online entertainment and traffic around the world. The science behind the researchers' approach will transform sex lives for men and women alike, and enhance our understanding of human behavior.