Some of you will lean in closer after you read the title of this blog, and some of you will lean away. Guess what, both are normal reactions to talking, reading, or discussing anything related to female sexuality. Any woman knows that female sexuality is something that everyone has an opinion about. Morality of what is “appropriate” or good or bad often stop women from getting to know their sexuality in a deeper way. This is a detriment to ourselves and to our partners. If you can, for the remainder of this article (and maybe beyond), gather any self-judgments or opinions from your family, friends, and community and put them on a shelf as you learn a little more in one of these books.
I remember in Highschool during a biology dissection we had to go up to the teacher and label where the female genitalia was located on whatever poor creature we were dissecting. Only one woman in the room got it right, and it wasn’t me. The teacher marvelled out loud that so many women got it wrong. For many women, this story will probably not shock you in any sort of way, because we were never encouraged to become friends with our anatomy. If you grew up in a school that promoted abstinence (like mine), then this experience was probably even more likely. Can you think of any positive stories about female sexuality shared by family, educators or in the media growing up? I can’t think of a single one. That is highly concerning.
Sex and the City Cheatsheet
For fun I’ve put each of the Sex and the City characters with each book to give you sense of what you might be drawn to. I miss that show.
- Come as You Are: Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, & Samantha
- Pussy: A Reclamation: Samantha
- Three Women: Carrie (and Miranda combined) – I’ve thought about this haha!
Come As You Are – Emily Nagoski
If you want me to choose one book for you to read, start with this one. This should be required for any person coming into their sexuality.
“What it comes down to is that a lot of women trust their bodies less than they trust what they’ve been taught, culturally, about their bodies. But culture has taught you stuff that is both incorrect and just wrong.” Emily Nagoski (p. 164)
Emily is a sex-educator in the USA with a plethora of degrees and experience. This books is based on science and psychology. There is way too much in this book to give a summary that will do it justice, but here are a few nuggets. This book is not heteronormative and includes discussion about experiences for someone who is intersex. Her examples are inclusive of the LGTBQI community.
- There is less range in the range (low to high) of sexual desire between men and women than there is within a gender.
- We all have things that arouse us (our accelerator) and we all have things that turn us off (our brakes). We all have different combinations of both and often feel both the brakes and the accelerator at the same time.
- Stress can be an accelerator for some individuals and a major brake for others. When we don’t know what our partner’s accelerator or brake is (or they don’t), or if we don’t know what our accelerator or brake is so that we can share it with our partner, problems happen between couples.
- Emily spends a lot of time repeating that whatever your sexual temperament is, that you are NORMAL.
- There are many written exercises and self-reflective questions that are provided to explore different problems. I saw that she also has a workbook.
Pussy: A Reclamation – Regena Thomashauer
This book is not going to be for everyone, first because you’ll probably have a reaction to the title that again will have you lean in to read more or lean away because of your judgment about the word pussy. The author too started her journey cringing at the word pussy and over decades Regena decided to reclaim this word. She fully embodies a woman who owns and takes pleasure in her sexuality. She was tired of the patriarchal world-view of sexuality in which someone who has “balls” is someone who has courage and someone who is a “pussy” is a wimp. She takes the word pussy and reclaims it in a powerful and provactive way. She is highly regarded by such feminists as Christine Northrup, Eve Ensler, Kris Carr, & Gabrielle Bernstein, and it’s easy to see why.
I felt nauseous after reading the first half of this book because her reclamation spoke to me as truth and how polar opposite it is to the current patriarchal worldview and my experience growing up. Like the book Come as You Are, this book encourages women to get to know their anatomy, explore their desire and own their sexuality. Regena gives many ideas for women to start relaiming their sexuality at the pace that is right for you.
Three Women – Lisa Taddeo
This non-fiction book is one of those rare books that gives you a glimpse into the lives of female sexuality of three different American women. All are heteronormative relationships. One is the experience of a woman who was seduced by a highschool teacher when she was a teenager and all the different emotions she felt during and after she brought him to court and he was found to be not guilty. Another is the experience of a conservative woman in a relationship with a man who does not want to be with her sexually. She reconnects with a married man who she dated in highschool. The third is a woman who is in an open-relationship and enjoys sex on a daily basis. She is empowered in some ways, but in many ways it is a big challenge for her to own her actions and be with the judgment she experiences from herself and others.
It is saddening, but not surprising that none of the women are sexually empowered in this book. All of the women have the context of living in a patriarchal society and experience the invalidation that occurs to women by both the men and women in their lives.
It would’ve been great to have a one of the women be in a relationship that wasn’t heteronormative or if the author could’ve written about a female who was empowered in her sexuality like Regena Thomashauer (author of Pussy: A Reclamation). Maybe Lisa Taddeo could write a sequal?
All of these books gave me food for thought about my own sexuality, validation for my experience living in a patriarchal culture, and gratefulness for those times when I feel like I’ve embodied my sexuality. Three Women is a great overview of what it is often like to be a woman in a patriarchal culture. Come As You Are will encourage you to change that world-view with concrete suggestions and 21st century information about female sexuality. Pussy: A Reclamation is the frontier of what is possible for a woman to experience when she reclaims her sexuality and power. Have you read any of these books? Or what book will you start with?