Sexuality

Books

Davis, Michele Wiener. The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2003. 

Couples underestimate just how many of their paired-up peers have mismatched sexual appetites. In these partnerships, both the higher-sexed and lowed-sexed partner hurt. Our sexual desires are partly stable and partly influenced by physical and psychological fluctuations (hormone shifts after giving birth, stress) or new realities such as a chronic illness. Davis writes this book to help couples talk about their sexuality more frankly and more productively about their sexual relationship. Each partner, whether the higher or lower-sexed party, has a duty to lovingly and vulnerably state their desires and the same duty to tune into their partner’s wants, needs, and feelings. Davis stresses action plans that can help you and your sweetie both feel safe and more satisfied (in all senses) with the relationship. Sometimes, too, borrowing from Nike, Davis we says we have to “Just Do It” as desire can FOLLOW arousal and not precede it as many people (even the scientific community) have commonly thought .  This easy-to-read book is full of examples of real couples illustrating frustrating mismatched scenarios and accompanying emotions as well as solutions (action-oriented behavior, active listening, etc).

Joannides, Paul. The Guide to Getting It On: America’s Coolest and Most Informative Book About Sex, 9th edition, Goofy Foot Press, 2017.

This book is a textbook-non-textbook on human sexuality! Seriously, this has been used as a textbook for human sexuality courses! It is currently on the ninth edition. Our sexuality is approached with delight, humor, and accessibility for all readers. The “Bed of Contents” has something for everyone, from the purely physical realms of anatomy, all types of non-intercourse (“horizontal jogging”) sex play, including oral sex and manual stimulation, to the psychological and relational, from sexual fantasies to male/female experiences of orgasm to period sex to discussing sex with your partner or in answering children’s questions. The book also addresses abortion, adoption, circumcision, pornography, and making sex work with a disability. There are lots of excellent cartoons that illustrate anatomy or explain concepts. Joannides has inserted lots of additional resources as well – a glossary of human sexuality terms and lingo (online in newer versions, but an older editions will retain a glossary in-house one), organizations, books, and websites for various topics. Resource lists from significantly dated editions may suggest now defunct material, so keep that in mind! This book is also heavily skewed to heterosexual, cisgender sexuality with little mentions of LGBTQ. That aside, this is an enlightening and engaging comprehensive look at human sexuality.

Kerner, Ian. She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. William Morrow, 2009.

She Comes First is to female pleasure as The Elements of Style is to writing instruction: rules and principles, only the former is a guide to the language of cunnilingus instead of English. Most women are unable to orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse due to anatomy. While certain intercourse positions can stimulate the clitoral head, oral sex provides the direct and constant pressure that builds sexual tension and has the potential to tap the entire clitoral network (the clitoral network has 18 parts! 18!), making it a true labor of love for the giver. Instead of being relegated to foreplay, Kerner advocates for cunnilingus as coreplay; that is, a significant and total sexual practice in its own right. Because oral sex can inspire anxiety and insecurity for women, givers should reassure women that oral sex is a gift that they want to give and have all the time in the world to give. The book is divided into three parts: laying out the why for becoming skilled at giving cunnilingus, female sexual anatomy, and taking techniques and principles into specific sexual play routines. The book mimics its own calling for building up sexual tension: short chapters, bursts of technique description before tapering into interludes before a next build-up of technical content designed to take women to the heights of multiple orgasms. Clear illustrations supplement the written anatomy descriptions and sexual techniques. Part sex manual, part remedial sex education, this book is sure to please in multiple respects.

Kerner, Ian. Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man. (Originally titled as He Comes Next). William Morrow, 2008.

                Did a man come or come really hard? Kerner delves into male anatomy, arousal, and orgasm to explain the difference. Male sexuality is often centralized into the penis and its hardness when in fact relying on erection to indicate arousal is as naïve as taking female lubrication as guaranteed sexual arousal. A more global route to male pleasure lies in (initially) avoiding the penis and facilitating relaxation and arousal all over the male body. Kerner first discusses the body and how men learn from a young age to be constantly protective of their genitals. This literally closes the pelvis into itself and locks out intensity of sexual pleasure. Kerner also discusses how hormones, long term relationships, and fantasy can affect male sexuality. Because the pelvis is protective of itself, men need to focus on the entire body to have “out-of-body” climaxes, and that’s where Kerner spends the rest of his time. While some of the early chapters in this section (like Sexual Health) seem to be better focused in Part 1 (The Male Body) or unnecessary for the purpose of the book (Kerner judges real fantasies), readers can still get mostly techniques from Part II. Passionistas are ladies who take concern for their and their male sexual partner’s pleasure and don’t just give orgasm away easily! Many men masturbate quickly with a routine often involving rhythmic stokes, but passionistas take time to arouse all over the body and avoid focused penile attention early on. Specific techniques (massaging, kissing, oral or manual stimulation) and orders of techniques are provided to provide maximum arousal and avoid the point of ejaculatory inevitability to heighten the intensity of eventual release. These techniques can be a great place to start, and it’s also important to discuss together what individually feels the best for the couple. Readers also need to keep in mind that this is written from a heteronormative perspective. Overall, this is an engaging read able to intensify a man’s sexual pleasure if the emotional climate of the relationship is secure enough for sexual play. An additional bibliography for further reading is provided.

Klein, Marty. Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex – And How to Get It. HarperOne,2013.

Sex therapist and marriage counselorKlein writes an incredibly down-to-earth and refreshing work on human sexuality. Instead of lamenting our changing sexuality as we age, Klein invites people to accept the changes and roll with the punches. Acceptance is a prominent theme: acceptance that sex changes as we age, acceptance of our own sexual preferences and ignoring what prominent researchers like Master’sand Johnson define as “normal”, and acceptance of your partner. We become sexually intelligent when we accept sexuality won’t always be the same throughout our life cycle (and doesn’t need to be). When we avoid the”shoulds” for ourselves and our partners, we become sexually intelligent. Great work in the field of human sexuality. Klein’s principles can help couples in and out of the bedroom. I would love to see society take this more laissez-faire approach to sexuality.

Lehmiller, Justin. Tell Me WhatYou Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your SexLife. Da Capo Press, 2018. 

Social psychologist Lehmiller (research fellow, Kinsey Inst.; The Psychology of Human Sexuality) looks at American sexual desire on a large scale to see what people want to do with whom and how. When it comes to sexual desire and fantasy, we quickly judge what is acceptable and deviant. Incomplete or inaccurate sexual knowledge mixed with a society that pathologizes desire outside the narrow window of”normal” keeps people from fully enjoying sexuality consensually, legally, and ethically. After unpacking survey methodology, the author discusses common sexual fantasies and explores gender differences.Readers also learn the risks (STIs, rocky emotions) and benefits (greater intimacy and acceptance in our relationships, greater sexual satisfaction) of disclosing and acting out our passions so long as they are consensual and legal. Lehmiller closes by encouraging readers that their sexual interests are probably normal but that professional help exists if our desires cause us angst. He also advocates for comprehensive sexual education and suspending judgment on ourselves and others. VERDICT An excellent choice for readers wanting to know more about their own fantasies as well as those who are simply curious about American sexual desires in general

The above review was published in Library Journal and reproduced here with permission from its owner, Media Source Inc.

Murray, Sarah Hunter. Not Always in the Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex, and Relationships. Roman & Littlefield, 2019.

                Consumed with sex. Always initiating and begging for sex against the always lower-desire female in heterosexual relationships. Impervious to sexual rejection. These myths in addition to others obliterate the best, most healthy sexual relationship between couples in heterosexual relationships. Inaccurate pictures of male sexuality lock men into a gendered prison where authenticity and intimacy surrounding sexuality is blocked.  These inaccurate pictures have sadly not been limited to popular media…Murray developed her doctoral research based on seeing gaps in the academic literature on men’s experiences and discussion of their sexuality. Not only were men not being asked to discuss their sexual desire, most of the research was being done on 18-25 year old men. Murray found her niche in interviewing men from all decades of life about their qualitative experience of sexual desire. These interviews have yielded rich information and normalcy for the authentic, nuanced view of male sexuality as compared to the our culture’s mythology. After the introductory chapter, Murray devotes each subsequent chapter to reality-checking each myth. Each chapter cites scholarly research, insights, and profiles a real (or composite) couple Murray saw in therapy that dismantled the enduring myth. The quickest summation would be that men are susceptible to stress and fears in expressing and acting on their sexual desire. They also need to feel loved for who they are as people in order to truly have the best sex. They need to feel desired and aren’t happy to just be desiring of another. This book opens up the possibility of freedom and integrated human sexuality for men and couples who open this book.

Nagoski, Emily. Come as You Are: The Suprising New Science that Will Transform you Sex Life. Simon and Schuster, 2015.

Nagoski rattles against the men-as-default model of female sexuality that sustains enduring inaccurate myths about female sexuality. These myths rest on the presupposition that how men’s sexuality operates is the appropriate model for women’s. Therefore, if women don’t orgasm during intercourse, something is wrong. If they don’t have a spontaneous sex drive, something is wrong. If they are physically lubricated but don’t subjectively feel aroused (nonconcordance), they must not know how to interpret their body’s signals, and those women are doing something wrong. Nagoski splices all the ways (the three domains are medical, moral, and media messages) women and men receive and hear reinforcements of these messages, and then unpacks how they are both incorrect and do a lot of damage toward women’s relationship with their sexuality (and hence the relationships with their partners). The book is organized in a logical flow and lots of research to back up her points. Nagoski discusses anatomy, sexuality in the content of emotions (stress, attachment) and culture (body dissatisfaction, porn, unrealistic images). Readers are introduced to the dual control model of arousal: our sexual accelerators (sexual excitation system) and our sexual breaks (sexual inhibition system) which give people unique sexual personalities as the systems interact in different ways. It then switches to sex play itself. Genital lubrication is an indicator of something is being seen in the mind as sexual relevant to the body (we expect sex) and not as commonly understood as not being an indicator of subjective arousal (enjoyment and eagerness). Nagoski’s echoes the common refrain that the most important sexual organ is between the ears (the brain!), and she illuminates how. Just as valuable as the sexuality information is the notions of meta-emotions and emotions coaching as it relates to sex. The biggest thing women can shift to is mindfulness and compassionate non-judgment with themselves and their sexuality. Composite patients based on real people Nagoski has helped also feature throughout the book, and readers see their successful sexual stories. This is an excellent work that educates and gives women a framework to have a healthier sexual wellbeing.

Nelson, Tammy. Getting the Sex You Want. Quiver, 2008. 


Couples, lacking a framework for discussing sexuality and possibly even comfort with tackling the topic, can drift along with a routine sexual playbook. What is delightful (knowing one another’s bodies) runs the risk of becoming stale, leaving little room for sexual diversion, play, or expansion. Interia precludes new ways of acting in the bedroom as time persists. Nelson looks to puncture the balloon of the mundane with the Imago couple’s therapy method scaffolding a couple’s discussion of sex. Once she illustrates the mirroring, validating, and empathizing structure that is an Imago conversation, she segues into using Imago to explore one another sexually. Nelson shows readers how to find previously unknown delightful touches – where on the body and how can slowly be uncovered. Discussing and holding space for sexual fantasies often boosts emotional closeness which in turn boosts desire. Rating our sexual curiosity level on fantasies allows us to understand where our partner enjoys a fantasy and where their deepest desires lie (and how it merges with ours). Anatomy, often the beginning of learning about sex, is the last chapter, an apt reminder that our brain is our most important sex organ. If we can communicate what feels good and support one another’s sexual interests, we can use that as a scaffold for using understanding of anatomy to our advantage. At times the structure of each exercise is going to sound repetitive, but it emphasizes how critical holding space for our partner’s sexual attitudes is to our sexual blossoming as a couple and a key to erotic passion.

Solomon, Alexandra. Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want. New Harbinger, 2020.

Solomon argues that bereft of complete sex education and bombarded with outside-in cultural messages about female sexuality, despite all women have achieved in equality and opportunity today, a profound and healthy relationship with their own sexuality is needed.  Sexual scripts, such as her sexual fire must be tamed while at the same time making her mate’s pleasure of utmost priority, fracture women’s desires from themselves. Harsh messages about sex as unclean, irreverent in all but the most perfunctory of purposes, and relational/sexual trauma set fear and shame ablaze in a woman’s heart. Where shame lives, love and self-compassion cannot coexist.

Getting in touch with our sexy means we understand how our sexuality functions (from anatomy to sexual desire), and we springboard off that understanding for a pleasurable expression of our sexuality that is authentic to who we are. Honoring our sexy means we renounce outside-in messages about our sexuality. Society, the media, family, friends, sex education; none of these entities can tell us what is ultimately authentic and healthy for us. Through self-awareness, we need to connect with our emotions and live out our sexuality from what Solomon calls an inside-out manner; that is, our values and fundamental authenticity drives how we express and act with our sexy. Love guides our actions when we are in sync of our sexy. Worrying about rejection or teeming with insecurity and acting-out sexually clue us into fear-based use of our sexy.

Seven domains map out the  journey to inside-out sexuality and self-awareness: readers explore their sexy among relational, developmental, physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and cultural realms. None of the chapters is very long, but the brevity belies the value of hope and experience provided. Solomon blends personal disclosure with clinical wisdom. Solomon’s Name-Connect-Choose and the great love equation (my stuff + your stuff = our stuff) provide easy-to-remember frameworks of self-growth and emotional and behavioral influences and bi-directional dances in a unique relationship based in individual influences. Powerhouse relationship and sexuality researches and clinicians such as Justin Lehmiller, Sue Johnson, John Gottmnan, Emily Nagoski, and Tammy Nelson are well cited in endnotes. Solomon closes out her book with a final chapter to men supporting the women in their lives who are working on more intentional, authentic, and self-compassionate relationships with sexuality. This last chapter was quite a surprise and fully appreciated as a facilitation to spur on dialogue between a couple as well as keep goodwill close.

Women seeking healthier and more integrated sexuality who also want a book to feel a little like hanging out with their most down-to-earth friend but with the expertise of an experienced psychologist specializing in relationships need to find a copy of Taking Sexy Back.

Articles

Most of these articles are going tobe free online. If the article is not freely available, Iwill indicate that. In that case, check with your local librarians! Please first ask your librarian at your local library before buying online – many times youcan get an article at no cost through one of your library’s databases orinterlibrary loan.

Aristone, Carolynn. “When the Urge is Uneven: Understanding the Universe of Sexual Desire.” GoodTherapy, 6 Feb. 2018, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/when-urge-is-uneven-understanding-universe-of-sexual-desire-0206185

Castleman, Michael. “The 9 Keys to Great Sex in a Relationship.” Psychology Today, 15Nov. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201711/the-9-keys-great-sex-in-relationship.

Fugere, Madeleine A. “Why Marital Satisfaction is Closely Linked with a Woman’s Sexual Desire.” Psychology Today, 5 Sept. 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dating-and-mating/201909/why-marital-satisfaction-is-closely-linked-women-s-sexual-desire

Gaspard, Terry. “How to Nurture Emotional and Sexual Intimacy.” Patheos, 18 Dec. 2019, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/terrygaspard/2019/12/how-to-nurture-emotional-and-sexual-intimacy-and-fall-in-love-again/

Johnson, Sue. “Attachment and the Dance of Sex: Integrating Couple and Sex Therapy.” Dr Sue Johnson, 14 March 2016, http://drsuejohnson.com/attachment-sex/attachment-and-the-dance-of-sex-integrating-couple-and-sex-therapy/?fbclid=IwAR3pJNdRUwF7wM8GGG_PnzcD1K9THZakMp_TKeEakDQyxtwOqVUYU_Ae1BI

Johnson, Sue. “What Does the Sex Recession Tell Us About Today’s Sexual Landscape and Emotional Isolation?” Dr. Sue Johnson, 17 Jan. 2019, http://drsuejohnson.com/relationships/what-does-the-sex-recession-tell-us-about-todays-sexual-landscape-and-emotional-isolation/

Lehmiller, Justin. “How Many Sexless Marriages Are There & Why Do People Stay in Them?” Sex & Psychology, 22 Nov. 2013, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2013/11/22/how-many-sexless-marriages-are-there-and-why-do-people-stay-in-them

Lehmiller, Justin. “How to Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Fantasies.” Sex & Psychology, 25 Jan. 2019, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2019/1/25/how-to-talk-to-your-partner-about-your-sexual-fantasies

Ley, David J. “3 Ways to Meet Your Partner’s Sexual Ideals and Why You Should.” Psychology Today, 15 June 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-who-stray/202007/3-ways-meet-your-partner-s-sexual-ideals-and-why-you-should

Perel, Esther. “4 Ways to Reignite Passion in Your Relationship.” Mind Body Green, n.d.,https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-29967/4-ways-to-reignite-passion-in-your-relationship.html

Weiner-Davis, Michele . “My Husband Is Not Interested in Sex.” Divorce Busting, 2006, http://divorcebusting.com/a_my_husband_not_interested.htm

Weiner-Davis, Michele . “Sex Drives: His and Hers.” Divorce Busting, 2009, http://divorcebusting.com/a_sex_drives.htm

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