I am a sex nerd. And by that I mean, I geek out about sex. And yes, most people who are sexually-active are enthusiastic about sex, but I geek out in a more academic sense. I like reading and learning about sex, constantly talking about sex. I love discussing anatomy, techniques, social and relationship implications of sex, sex safety, sex statistics, the rights of sex workers, nonmonogamy, sex-positivity, and so on. And I do so loudly. Probably with not enough discretion. I don’t think sex is shameful, so I feel no shame in discussing it openly. This is how we learn, make informed decisions, and overcome the shameful connotations of our varied sexual identities.
I was a sexual late bloomer. Well, that’s not exactly true. I started masturbating early and definitely identified my body as a sexual entity on some level as a child. But I never really “got” the social side of sex. Dating never made sense to me, and I had endless body image issues that made the idea of getting naked around other people seem as likely as frogs falling from the sky. So my panties stayed decidedly on for a long time. Longer than my libido would’ve liked.
Suddenly, I hit my early-mid twenties and while I was more sexually experienced, I still felt like my knowledge was lacking. So what did I do? I did what I always do when I feel intimidated by a topic–I nerded out hardcore and read everything I could get my hands on. I subbed obsessive research for experience. Not only was this empowering and confidence-building, but I also found the topic fascinating. And now I’m hooked.
Talking about sex is taboo in our society. It’s one of the most basic and integral parts of human existence, and yet it’s highly stigmatized. It would be shocking to sit around the brunch table with your besties discussing the best type of lube for anal sex. Everyone is supposed to know what they’re doing, be “good” at sex, but no one is supposed to talk about it.
This is especially true for women, who from an early age, society teaches conflicting concurrent messages of be sexually enticing but be virginal. Talking about sex could “dirty” your good girl image. We are also taught to please men, as oppose to seeking and understanding our own pleasure. These things can act as barriers to owning and understanding your own sexuality.
Thus, it’s very empowering and freeing to be knowledgeable about sex.
From the most experienced to the most novice, everyone can learn something about sex if they’re interested in doing so. I’ve compiled below a short list of podcasts, books, and online communities that I’ve encountered in my sex nerdom. Let’s start some conversations.
I started reading Dan Savage’s column as a freshman in college. It was the first time I encountered someone addressing questions around fetishes and deviant sexuality, such as adult babies and swinging, without inherent judgment. This continues to ring true in his podcast, which like his column, is an advice show where he responds to specific sex and relationship questions. There’s a lot of criticism floating around Dan Savage and his views, a lot of which is valid, but what he brings to the table is a sense of normalizing of sex and sexuality. The ease and familiarity with which he talks about often taboo topics is both refreshing and comforting.
The thrust of this show is sheer enthusiasm. Its through this podcast that I learned about the term “sex nerd” and have since adopted it for myself. Sandra really does geek out about sex–the anatomy of it, the social dynamics of it, the diversity of it, and her energy is infectious. Her show is both hilarious and informative. Each show has a topic and usually one or more guests, so you can easily hunt through the archive if you’re curious about a specific topic like oral sex or a poly lifestyle. She and her guests talk a lot about technique–a surprising amount for a podcast–as well as social, emotional and other factors.
Tristian is an amazing sex educator in her own right, known for her work on normalizing anal sex for both men and women. She’s smart and captivating. Her show is even better, as each week she brings in experts and has pretty in-depth and nuanced discussions. The topics of her shows are more specialized than Sandra’s, as she dedicates full shows to topics such as the chemistry of sex toys and sex-positive parenting. Also, if you’ve never heard about queer feminist porn and you’re curious, she’s all about it and talks about it with some frequency.
This is the go-to intro guide to sex. It’s a thick tome and it used to sit on my group house’s coffee table in college (as I’m sure it did for many). It facilitated a lot of sex conversations, amongst our young crowd of varied experience. If you have basic questions about anatomy or various sex acts, this book will give you a general overview. If you’re new to sex or have just basic questions, it’s a very solid resource.
I put these book together as I sorta consider them the “intro guide” and the “advanced guide” to cunnilingus respectively. I recommend She Comes First with a caveat–you’ve got to ignore the author’s tone. It’s overly reverent, almost to the point of condescension to the reader, but if you can get past that, it’s a great resource on cunnilingus and how to approach it. I’ve personally handed this book to partners who were intimidated by this sex act and they’ve found it illuminating. I will also note that it’s aimed primarily at a male audience.
Blow Each Other Away is a more advanced book with a section on cunnilingus and one on fellatio. This book is so engrossing if you geek out on sex. It’s seemingly endless pages on oral technique with really thorough explanations and some illustration. A great resource for people that want to expand their repertoire.
Anal is in these days, or so they say. The growing enthusiasm around anal sex is paralleled by a lack of accurate information about it, which is scary and can lead to harm. This act is not for everyone, but if you’re curious about it, these books are a great starting point to teaching you how to engage safely. They are part of a series, all written by different authors but in a similar format. Both the anatomy and the social implications of anal sex are different between men and women, so I really like that they’ve created separate books for each (the women’s book was written by Tristian Taoromino, mentioned above). Not only do these books discuss anatomy and technique, but they also go into the psychological effects of this invasive act, as well as the social implications and related hesitations.
While this sounds like a small topic, Dr. Ruthie really is broaching a larger topic than dirty talk in this book. This book is really about confidence, particularly for women. As women, we are taught by society to be “good” and “quiet,” and also “to please” in a submissive sense. Dr. Ruthie seeks to dismantle this idea. Learning how to talk in the bedroom not only empowers, but it allows you to control the scenario more, leading to more fun and varied sex, but also a more safe and consensual bedroom experience.
For those that are interested in kink, this is an excellent introductory resource. Jay Wiseman lays out not just basic techniques, but also discusses safety, social, and relationship concerns. This book is great for the whole spectrum of kink interest, whether your interest in just incorporating a little sensation play into your routine or you’re interested in diving into a whole dom/sub relationship. This book is a great starting point.
So Reddit is not known for its openness and acceptance, in fact, it’s mainly known for its trolls. Surprisingly though, the sex subrebbit is actually frequented by supportive, sex-positive people. They have basic user-generated guides available, and they also answer a wide variety of questions about sex, from specific questions about squirting to general concerns about orientation. This community is surprisingly helpful and on-point.
Fetlife is a social network geared toward the kink community. Like any social network, it is huge and can be intimidating, but it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests. Not just to hook up, but if you’re timid or otherwise hesitant to explore an interest in a specific kink or a kink lifestyle, this is a safe, approachable, and relativity anonymous way to get some questions answered and talk to people in the community.
Photo by Jano Silva