Finding answers to questions relating to sex and sexuality is easier than ever before. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s likely a sexpert or a podcast or another source to point you in the right direction. There’s even a whole Netflix show, Sex Education, devoted to the filling in the gaps of our knowledge. Still, there’s a (tech-free) resource you’re probably not utilizing to the max that can seriously boost your sex IQ: books.
Below, Well+Good’s go-to sex experts and educators share their favorite sex-education books—including buzzy newer releases and tried and true faves alike—that’ll rock your mind.
Add the following 12 sexpert-approved reads to your TBR pile and boost your sex IQ in the process.
1. The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love, by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton
“This was one of the most transformative books for me. I grew up in a community where having many sexual partners, engaging in kinky activities, or having relationships outside of strict monogamy was seen as abnormal, even immoral. The Ethical Slut changed my entire concept about what sex and relationships can be. It validated my sexual desires, encouraged exploration, and valued sex with consent and respect. Its explanation and understanding of jealousy also reframed my perception of the feeling. I would highly recommend this read for anyone who feels outside the sexual norm (whatever that is), who is looking to explore (whether they’re single or partnered), and/or who wants to transform how they think about relationships and sex.”
—Amy Boyajian, co-founder and CEO of Wild Flower, a sexual-wellness and adult-product online store
2. Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
“This book played a significant role in my journey of sexual self-discovery. The authors target and explain where many staunchly held oppressive beliefs about sexuality originate. They unravel the ways even scientists are affected by personal bias, social norms, and heteronormativity. The truth of the matter is that we all have to figure out what we think about sex, gender, and love for ourselves…through experience!”
—MacKenzie Peck, founder of Math Magazine, a modern pornographic magazine celebrating sex and sexuality
3. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It, by Laurie Mintz, PhD
“This is is a must-, must-, must- read for all vulva owners, and their sexual partners. Mainstream media has taught us that sex = penis + vagina, and that everything else is “foreplay,” or appetizers to the main course that is penetrative sex. The author explains how we’ve been thinking about sex all wrong, all this time, and how as a result, we’ve created a very real pleasure gap between women and men. The key to closing this pleasure gap? The clitoris.”
—Michelle Shnaidman, founder and CEO of Bellesa, a sex-toy company run by women
4. On Chesil Beach: A Novel, by Ian McEwan
“This isn’t a traditional sex-ed book, but On Chesil Beach is a beautiful depiction of how sexual shame can negatively impact your relationships. The young newlyweds think sex is supposed to be easy and come naturally, but it doesn’t. Even though the story takes place prior to the sexual revolution, I believe many couples still suffer from the inability to talk openly to each other about sex.”
—Brianna Rader, founder and CEO of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app
5. The Pursuit of Pleasure, by Lionel Tiger
“This book is my all-time favorite, as it’s really about discovering why pleasure is important and what all the fuss is about. Tiger details our evolutionary entitlement and what we want our pleasure legacy to look like. Sex aside, this book will make you think twice before placing pain as your pathway to gratitude when pleasure is an option (and a far more rewarding one, at that). It’s witty and poignant in explaining that pleasure is impressively normal.”
—Dominique Karetsos, resident sexpert with MysteryVibe
“I wish there were more books that talk about sex education. But since anal sex has always been so taboo, I’ve found that for anal sex and butt-play information, blogs are best. Some of my favorite sex-forward blogs are Tabú (which is super visual) Kinkly (because it’s not afraid to go there and it takes a, well, kinkier approach), and O.school (which uses a more traditional approach, but has a lot of video content).”
7. Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski, PhD
“For those who are more into empirical evidence than abstract theories, Come As You Are offers an excellent exploration of sexuality. This book is a great companion for women who benefit from reassurance that they are perfectly complex and perfectly normal. Dr. Emily Nagoski uses scientific research to prove to women everywhere that they are not defective; there are just some central factors involved for women in creating and maintaining a fulfilling sex life.”
8. The Guide to Getting it On, by Paul Joannides and Daerick Gross
“My go-to sex book to recommend is The Guide to Getting it On. It’s on its 9th edition, because our understanding and research on human sexuality is ever-growing and evolving. I bought the 3rd edition when I was 17, and the 7th edition when I was 27. It’s thorough (1200 pages, and literally looks like a phone book) and is just so honest, so insightful, and cleverly written in modern language and helpful illustrations.”
—Jill McDevitt, PhD, sexologist and author of Fighting the Crusade Against Sex: Being Sex-Positive in a Sex-Negative World
9. The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, by Jack Morin
“In this book, the author unfurls the rationality underlying seemingly illogical desires within most human beings. He presents his readers with what he called the Erotic Equation: attraction + obstacles = excitement. Basically, that means that what we may hold as taboo, naughty or frightening is what becomes the engine driving our erotic curiosity and passion. This is a book for folks curious to understand or embarrassed by what they or their partner(s) find erotically compelling.”
—Sari Cooper, sex therapist and founder of Center for Love and Sex
10.Our Bodies Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective
“A think a good one for anyone is Our Bodies Ourselves for anatomy lessons and open conversation about sex. It’s a literal bible.”
—Remy Kassimir, host of the How Cum podcast
11. Mating in Captivity Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic, by Esther Perel
“This book challenges the concept of maintaining the sense of security in a love relationship and delves into the psychological implications behind sexual desire, eroticism, fantasies, and certainty and uncertainty. Where certain subjects or ideas might be too taboo, insulting, or uncomfortable for partners or individuals to bring up, Esther pitches the importance of erotic intelligence, the space that creates, and bringing that space to life within even a monogamous relationship. Whether single or in a long-term partnership, anyone who experiences points of insecurity in sex and love, dirty secretive fantasies, or simply desires to grasp a different perspective on the “taboo” boundaries established by society in general should read this book.”
—Grace Ho, leading pleasure expert with Sweet Vibrations, an online adult boutique
12. Jewel in the Lotus: The Sexual Path to Higher Consciousness, by Bodhi Avinasha and Sunyata Saraswati
“Recently I’ve been immersed in the book, Jewel in the Lotus: The Sexual Path to Higher Consciousness, which is one of the best books I’ve read about tantric sex. It has excellent breath work instructions and meditations that help relax and free the mind.”
For more sex wisdom, check out what Esther Perel has to say about why sex gets better as you age, and how to bounce back when your sex life becomes “blah”. Oh, and BTW, scheduling sex is actually great for your relationship.
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